Bersa Thunder Review [2021]: CCW Disappointment

by Justin Fields

January 4, 2021

12 comments

4.3
(13)

If you’re in the market for an affordable carry gun and shop around long enough, sooner or later you’ll run into the Bersa Thunder.  Looking a bit like the PPK and carrying an attractive price-tag it can be tempting but remember the adage, “buy once, cry once.”

Bersa Thunder Specs

  • Capacity 8+1
  • Caliber .380 ACP
  • Sights Blade Integral with Slide (Front), Integral with Slide (Rear)
  • Action DA/SA
  • Length 6’’
  • Barrel Length 3.2″

Bersa Thunder Background

The Bersa Thunder is an all-metal, single-stack, DA/SA pistol most commonly chambered in .380 ACP (a .22 LR version is also available).

Manufactured in Argentina and imported by Eagle imports, the Thunder is available in over a dozen different variations, not including some distributor-exclusive variations.

Most of the variants are simply variations of the color scheme, but a few have some substantial changes.

The Bersa Thunder is exactly the type of handgun that normally draws my eye in the gun shop.

I love off-the-wall, metal guns that deviate from the current striker-fired/plastic SOP.With its clear homage to the Walther PPK/S, the Thunder never fails to catch my eye.

Unfortunately, in practice the Thunder falls just a bit short of my expectations.

The version we reviewed is the “CC”-model which is, in my humble opinion, the poorest execution of a gun that I would already consider marginal. The “CC” stands for concealed carry.

Its most notable features are…well, a reduction in its features. No features have been taken away but most of them have been considerably downsized.

The Thunder CC has a thinned safety, thinned slide release, and sights that are, well, vestigial at best. Let’s take a look.

Bersa Thunder Features

1 8+1 Rounds of .380 ACP

It’s enough rounds to get the job done.

2 Traditional DA/SA action

The external hammer makes the gun inherently safer.

3 Safety / Decocker

Makes for a much safer concealed carry.

Bersa Thunder Variations

There are several different variations of the Bersa Thunder including different caliber options. And while the main differences are listed below, you can these in different colorations from Bersa and other retailers.

Bersa Thunder – Our Take

So, let’s start digging into the ins and outs of the Bersa Thunder and why there are a bunch of better options available.

Reliability

The Bersa Thunder was something of a disappointment in the “reliability” department. For the most part the gun ran OK…except on the last round of the magazine. The rim of the last round would be held in place by the feed lips, and the round itself would be vertical into the action, fouling it. This was a fairly easy malfunction to clear (just pull out the magazine and the round comes with it) but is certainly suboptimal.

I experienced a malfunction roughly every third or fourth magazine. I fired 200 rounds of ball ammo and didn’t really feel the need to test beyond that, as the problem didn’t seem to abate with time. I used two magazines – both with under a hundred rounds on them – to rule out the possibility of a single bad magazine.

This is the only kind of malfunction I experienced with the Bersa. It’s not the worst malfunction in the world but it’s certainly doesn’t instill confidence. I have heard of some extremely reliable Thunders from some trusted people I know, and maybe one day I’ll run across one…but this one wasn’t it. Since reliability is THE number one criterion for a carry gun, this rules the Bersa Thunder out (or at least this one) for me.

Accuracy

The Bersa Thunder is a reasonably accurate pistol. I’m not going to lie: I got much better accuracy out of it than I expected. The accompanying group shows a (very) slow-fire, 8-round group fired at seven yards. Considering the miserable sights, I don’t think this is too bad at all. Which brings me to the sights…

Most models of the Bersa Thunder have sights in dovetails. Bersa chose to go a different route with the CC. Instead of dovetails, sights are milled into the slide. Calling them “sights” might be a little charitable considering how tiny they are. They are extremely difficult to align in any kind of hurry and don’t provide much precision beyond about seven years.

Which is a shame. This pistol has much more potential than the sights allow for. On top of that, I’m really don’t see what good reducing the sights has done. The net effect on the pistol overall is minuscule, but the effect on shooting is massive. I wish I had gotten my hands on a standard model Thunder.

Ergonomics

This thing seems like a panoply of bad ergonomics. I think a lot of that is due to getting the CC model rather than a more typical Thunder. First, the grip: the built-in finger grooves are just terrible. They place my fingers at a weird spot that never felt comfortable. As I mentioned in my Sig P238 review I don’t mind a pinky handing off the bottom of the grip.

The Thunder is the exception, though. The spot where my pinky fell was right at the corner of the grip and was terribly distracting. It felt like my finger was neither on nor off the gun. As big as this gun is I should have been able to get my whole hand on the grip like I can with the similarly sized S&W Shield 9 [insert link]. In fairness I didn’t have an issue shooting this gun. I think the size and weight are such that the .380 cartridge is right at home and not unpleasant.

The ergonomics of the controls also aren’t great. I’m not sure why Bersa chose to thin down the safety lever on the CC model but boy, did they. Though it might modestly reduce the risk of the gun snagging, this dubious benefit pales in comparison to the chances of missing the safety. It is very thin, and very difficult to actuate quickly.

Miscellaneous Things to be Annoyed By

There are two other things that bug me about this gun. The first is the action lock. There is a “key” hole on the left side of the frame with an “F” for fire and an “S” for safe. This isn’t a huge problem and I had no major malfunctions with it. But with the already suspect design and reliability I’m understandably skeptical.

Secondly, there is a magazine disconnect. If the magazine is removed the trigger is dead and the gun is inoperable. This isn’t the first and only gun I own with a magazine safety…but I don’t like it.

Ok, one more little nitpick and I’m done – I promise. the magazine release is in a non-traditional spot. Most magazine releases – at least on guns of this size – are at the base of the trigger guard. This one is up much higher on the frame. Every other pistol I’ve ever shot appreciably has taught me to go one place, now this one is teaching me to go another.

Final Thoughts

For an MSRP (and, seemingly, street prices) around $300, you can probably do better than the Bersa Thunder. Again, I know there are Thunders out there that will run and run and run, but I think the odds of getting one are lower than they ought to be. And even if you get a good one there are some ergonomics issues that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

If you do decide to go with the Bersa Thunder, go with something other than the CC model. Get a model with actual sights, a safety lever that hasn’t been thinned down, and a non-grooved grip panel. Or better yet save another $100 and get an M&P Shield.

Bersa Thunder Pros and Cons

  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable shooter
  • Unreliable
  • Poor ergonomics

Report Card

Reliability

Couldn’t make it through a box of ammo without two or three malfunctions. Some are better than this one but reliability is important.

F
Accuracy

Actually, not too bad considering the terrible sights.

A
Shootability

The gun is relatively comfy to shoot–when it decides to.

B
Ergonomics

Safety that is extremely difficult to disengage, poorly designed grip

D
Value

If the gun was reliable, yes. Since this one wasn’t…no

C

Our Grade

C

Reviewed by Justin Fields

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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Added To Our Reader’s Score

Bersa Thunder Starter Pack

If you do end up with one of these Bersa Thunders, you’re going to need some essentials to make sure that you can fire your gun safely and efficiently.

Bersa Thunder Gun Deals

If you’re hellbent on getting one of these Bersa Thunders for yourself, be sure to pick up the best deal around. Check out the following sites to find yours!

Upgrades and Accessories for the Bersa Thunder

When it comes to areas to upgrade on the Bersa Thunder, there’s quite a few that could use improvement. But the areas that the shooter has the most control over are the terrible sights and the near non-existent grip. The following accessories provide some relief in those departments.

Best Accessories for the Bersa Thunder

AccessoryDetailsCheck Price
Meprolight Night Sights
  • Cheap
  • Dovetail Fit
  • Leaps and Bounds Better than Original Sights
Check Price
Crimson Trace Laser Grip
  • Bright, Powerful Red Laser
  • Decent Grip Option
  • Huge Sighting Enhancement
Check Price
Talon Grips
  • Provides an Actual Grip
  • Easy to Install
  • Affordable
Check Price

Best Holsters for the Thunder 380

Once you’ve got your Bersa somewhat shootable, you’re going to need a quality holster if you plan on using it as your carry. Here are two options that we’d recommend if you decide to do so.

Best Holsters for the Bersa Thunder

HolsterDetailsCheck Price
Muddy River Tactical Bersa IWB Holster
Muddy River Tactical Tuckable IWB
  • Genuine Leather
  • Fully Adjustable Cant Angle
  • Metal Belt Clip 
Check Price
Cconcealment Express IWB Kydex
  • Kydex
  • Adjustable Posi-Click Retention and Cant
  • CLAW Compatible
Check Price

Best Ammo for Your Bersa Thunder

There are several reasons why your Bersa may jam up. It could need a thorough cleaning. Or you might just be limp wristing it. Maybe there’s a problem with the magazine itself. And it could just be that it’s not broken in fully.

In any situation, you’re going to want to head to the range and put at least 200 rounds through it. And we don’t recommend spending all your money on HPs. Instead, grab some cheap ball ammo to starting bringing your gun up to snuff.

Range Rounds

MagTech 380 ACP 95 GR LRN Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $0.37
Brownells $0.38

Working Ammunition

Remington Ultimate Defense 102 GR BJHP Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $1.15
Brownells $1.20

Other Budget CCW Pistols of Its Class to Check Out

So…if my review didn’t make it abundantly clear that there are better CCW options available, I’ll say it again. There are much better options available. But here’s the thing. The Bersa Thunder may be an attractive choice based on the budget alone. That doesn’t mean it’s the only low-cost choice though. 

#1 S&W M&P Shield 9

S&W M&P Shield 9

I mentioned the Shield 9 in my closing remarks, and I stand by what I said. Sure, it’s $100 more. But honestly, the M&P Shield performs like a (if not better than many) premium priced CCWs. It’s super reliable, super accurate, and something you’ll be happy you saved for.

Check Latest Price

  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Shootability A-
  • Ergonomics B
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Justin Fields

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

How to Care for Your Bersa Thunder

If you are a Bersa owner, you’re going to need to learn how to care for your gun. And if there’s anyone I’ve seen truly get down and dirty with the Bersa Thunder, it’s Paul at Heavy Metal Guns & Outdoors LLC.

Important Links and Manuals for Your Bersa Thunder

Well, after seeing Paul’s video on the Bersa Thunder, you might want to get a little more research on the Bersa Thunder. Here’s some different resources for you to check out in order to best guide your opinion.

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About Justin Fields

Justin is a former MARSOC Marine, former government contractor, former special operations instructor, current student of paramedicine, author of digital security books, and blogger at SwiftSilentDeadly.com. Justin prides himself on being a generalist with a heavy emphasis in firearms and their employment.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. My 380 CC has at least 1000 rounds and I can’t ever remember a malfunction. The slid lock got bad, I sent in in for a free repair (about 1 week turn around). Now it is as good as new. Free life time service for $300 I am good with it. However my gun works, I under stand your opinion as you had a problem. I also have a PPKS 380 that cost a lot more and never has fired a full mag with out a malfunction of some type. just my 2 cents.

  2. You have more stuffing with you than a Christmas turkey,one bad pistol and you condemn them all.I have been shooting since i have been twelve,now i am seventy-seven and still shooting.I own a gun shop and could write off a carry gun no matter the cost.My choice is the Bersa CC for everyday day concealment If i had a crystal ball,and knew ahead, i would have a bad day i would lug around my Sig 220.The one i own,and have sold the like to countless, satisfied customers,is flawless.Limp wrist,different loadings in the magazine,after market MecGar magazines,we tried everything and could not make it malfunction.Never had a failure to feed,fire or eject–ever.

    1. How many versions of each model of firearm do you recommend we test before sharing our experience? Would you similarly complain if we tested one and it was a good one?

      1. No, because in general, “good guns of the same make and model always far outweigh the bad ones”. Given that fact, yes, when you got a “bad” one you needed to obtain another one to verify your findings before condemning all such makes and models to the scrap heap. Having said that, many of the things you disliked won’t change even if you tested 100 guns because they relate to physical characteristics such as mag drop placement, safety physical size, etc, but as for the jamming on the last shot, yes, you needed to test another gun. You said you tested another mag but you didn’t test another gun….

        Also many of your comments had to do with you not personally liking the grip size, the sights, the size of the safety, the mag release placement, and so on, so before you condemn a gun based on that you needed to more heavily caveat the fact that these were personal preferences and that readers mileage may vary.

        Final comment: you said the sights weren’t much good for beyond 7 yards (you actually wrote “years”) but if you shoot someone beyond a few yds you’d have trouble justifying the shooting anyway so seven yards isn’t bad.

      2. Forgot to add: the one you should test is the Bersa Thunder Plus 380 in 15 1 shot capability. This is probably one of the highest capacity 380’s in the world. It has bigger grips, bigger controls, much better sights and it has a de-cocker.

  3. I’ve had just about the exact opposite experience with my Bersa CC (I agree regarding the accuracy). I haven’t had a single functional problem. I also don’t like magazine safeties, so I removed mine. It takes about five minutes and is very easy. You must have gotten a bad one, which can happen with any gun.

    Your ‘fact box’ at the top isn’t correct. Yes, the capacity is 8 1, but the dimensions are from the standard Thunder 380, not the CC. The CC is 6” long, not 6.6”, and has a 3.2” barrel, not 3.5”. The rear sight on the CC is part of the slide, not dovetailed. This review is obviously very biased, for some reason, but you should really figure out what you are reviewing first. You didn’t even go into the takedown. Seriously, this isn’t so much a ‘review’ but a lazy excuse for another page to dump a bunch of other stuff to sell.

    A pro tip regarding decockers: you don’t carry the gun in the ‘safe’ position. That defeats the purpose of the da/sa with a decocker. You load the camber, decock to drop the hammer, and then flip it back up to hot, so that you have a safe first shot in da. If you are fumbling to put it into hot when you draw you are doing it wrong.

    1. Thanks for catching the stats! We’ll update them.

      As far as not being happy with the review of this pistol, we’re sorry to read this. However, I imagine that no review will ever take everything into account. For example, covering how a firearm “takes down” might be something we include if we think it is relevant to the review – in this case we didn’t. If you need help knowing how to disassemble your firearm, please let us know.

  4. Out of the box, my Bersa Firestorm had trouble running Fiocchi FMJs. They kept stovepiping. I had zero issues with Aguila FMJs or Sig defense rounds. After I’d put about 100 rounds through it of a combo of those two, it now firs those same Fiocchi (I’d bought 150 rounds of it) FMJs with zero issues. Mine runs great with no failures no. I think it just needed breaking in. Same could be said for your copy. Did you try multiple types of ammo through it before discounting it?

  5. It’s 2/27/21 and I’ve owned by Bersa now since the beginning of 2021.

    In the two months or so I’ve owned it I’ve put about 400 combined rounds though the gun.

    The only weird malfunctions I had was with Winchester white box that was more flat shaped than round nose. After 100 rounds of the round ball ammo it shot the others fine.

    One FTE in 400 rounds beats not only my Glock but also my M&p shield EZ.

    I think by reading these comments it’s easy to deduce that you got a lemon of a weapon.

    Sorry that you had a bad experience with your gun but as far as .380s go I would put my money on this being one of the most reliable ones out there.

    1. Who does a gun review and only uses one type of ammo apparently gunUniversity / Walther marketing

  6. How can be? You test a gun that is more than 15 years old or the photos you are using are not from the pistol you tested, in those photos you can see serial number starting with E that says that is at least 15 years old.

  7. Sorry to hear about your poor experience with your Bersa Thunder 380. I had a bad initial experience with mine too. I dropped off at a warranty service provider in PA and in a couple weeks I got back an excellent little pistol. I love this little thing. I don’t recall having any malfunctions since and I can shoot tight groups with this gun at 25 yards. I’ve had mine for about 12 years now. I would have no qualms about recommending a friend or family buying a Bersa, not as your primary CCW but definitely a good secondary. I would definitely not recommend it as your first carry gun without a lot of practice. A small Sig, S&W, or Glock would be a better option due to the simplicity of the operating systems, manual of arms.

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