January 10, 2012

Bersa Firestorm .380 ACP, $307

Back in April 2006 Gun Tests magazine tested three .380 ACP pistols, one of which was the Walther PPK, as made here in the U.S. under license by Smith & Wesson. They loved the well-built little PPK, even though it had to go back for rework before they gave it a clean bill of health. It had failed in DA shooting, but a stiffer spring gave it the equivalent of their Grade A appraisal. They recently found a gun that looked a lot like the PPK, the FireStorm by Bersa ($307 MSRP), from Argentina. Here’s what they found.

Their first impression of the Argentine-made FireStorm was that it sure looked like a PPK. The lines were mighty similar, but the finish in this case was all business. The entire gun was matte black except for the white marks on the huge sights and the red dot under the safety lever. The finger-grooved, hard-rubber grips gave excellent traction and good control to the gun. They thought the magazine extension was an important part of the grip. It would help get the magazine out of the gun if the mag happened to stick, and also provided a good rest for a finger.

The sights were very good. The front blade was thick and prominent, with a slightly sloped rear face that held a huge white dot. They’d have liked more room between the sides of the front blade and the edges of the rear notch, but this setup worked. The rear was dovetailed into the slide with no provision for elevation adjustment. The rear-sight notch was outlined with a highly visible white band. The FireStorm had a smooth front face to the rear sights to permit practicing clearance drills without having to visit the doctor. In fact, the gun was free of all sharp edges where it counts.

Gun Tests February 2008


The FireStorm isn't the cleanest design as far as its controls go, but it was an efficient one. Note the roomy trigger guard. This gun worked very well.

The FireStorm’s controls were a bit more complex. The hammer could be easily cocked, and that’s advisable if you have time. The safety was on the left side of the slide. In front of that, and slightly below, was the slide release. This popped up to lock the slide back when the gun ran dry, and could be used to lower the slide after inserting a loaded magazine.

On the right side of the frame near the front of the trigger guard was the takedown lever. When turned downward, this permitted drawing the slide back far enough so that its rear end could be raised, and then the whole works could be eased off the front of the barrel, much like the PPK’s system. Most of the testers preferred this setup.

The left side of the frame also held the magazine release. The magazine held seven rounds. Only one magazine came with the gun. Extras are $27. There was also a key-lock for the frame, located on the left just above the trigger pivot. This was for those who feel a need to secure the gun from firing in a positive manner. The gun would not shoot with the magazine removed.

Gun Tests February 2008


Those front finger grooves are part of the rubber wrap-around grip panels. The lever just above the front of the trigger-guard bow (arrow) is the takedown lever. Rotate it 90 degrees down and the slide can be drawn back far enough to be lifted off the rails and eased forward.

Inside the FireStorm they saw decent workmanship throughout. There were some sheet-metal parts in the Bersa where other guns used machined pieces. The Bersa never failed to feed during the testing. The Bersa also had an automatic firing-pin lock that required the trigger to be fully pressed before the pin could reach the primer, much like the unit found on recent Colt 1911s.

The FireStorm was normally double action for the first shot, if you’re in a hurry. There was no way to get around that, because applying the safety—which took significant effort—would drop the hammer. So carrying the gun cocked and locked was not possible. The FireStorm’s DA pull started out soft, then increased in force—commonly called "stacking"—and then broke cleanly at about 10 pounds. With a little practice they found the DA pull to be highly workable. However, the second shot is always single-action, and shooting fast pairs requires thorough familiarization. Most seasoned shooters don’t much like that state of affairs.

Gun Tests February 2008


The easily seen white outline and dot stand out even in dim light. We wanted a wider rear notch, and that's easily achieved with a file. The sights were mighty close to being right on the money, and were entirely workable as is.

Gun Tests Report Card: At 20 ounces the FireStorm weighed 10 ounces less than similar guns. Still, recoil was not a problem even with the Cor-Bon loads. The excellent grips made the gun easily controllable and comfortable. They had no failures of any sort with this handy little gun. It shot to its sights for elevation with the hardball, and the Cor-Bon loads landed a touch higher. The groups were an inch or so to the right, indicating the need for a slight drift of the rear sight to the left. This gun was more friendly to smaller (female) hands, and also a lot lighter and much more easily concealed than others. The single-action trigger was mushy, but there was some final creep before the break. You could lock the slide back without using an empty magazine, and of course reloads are faster because of the slide-lock lever. They liked this gun a lot, and they thought everyone would, too.

Comments (23)

I've had a Thunder .380 for about three years and have never had a hiccup after thousands of rounds of all brands. Accurate, too, my favorite range gun. Prints little bitty groups on paper.

Posted by: Colorado Trailblazer | August 24, 2012 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Had a Bersa Thunder last year for about 6 months and loved it. Sold it to a friend because his home had been broken onto and 10 days later I bought another Bersa (I do own another 16 handguns ranging from .22 mag to 45 1911 and XD) but I still love my Bersa..It is a tack driver at 7-10 yards, easy to carry concealed and very little recoil. For $300.00 you can not go wrong with this sweet pistol.

Posted by: manisonenmi | July 29, 2012 8:29 PM    Report this comment

Love my firestorm 380, is my CCG, no missfire, work great. I test my with more that 300 round all mix diferent kind, with ammo that have more that 8 years old, and no problem.

Posted by: jorge6123 | January 16, 2012 7:55 PM    Report this comment

I noticed the negative comments about the spare mags for the Bersa. Trust me, $27.00 is a good price for a mag that never hangs up and always feeds properly.
I spent nearly twice as much for another "big name" mag for my 1911 and had to send it back because the follower kept jamming at round six and wouldn't let me load rounds seven and eight.
$27.00 for a good magazine is a decent price when you consider you're potentially trusting your life to it...

Posted by: KMacK | January 16, 2012 1:12 PM    Report this comment

I've had Bersa Thunder 380 for about 13-14 years(?) Bought it from a friend that needed the money. But neither he nor I paid
$307 for it! I've always liked it, never had a failure to do anything it's supposed to do.
Always one of my favorite discrete carry guns,
as is it's big brother, an earlier Bersa in .380 having a high capacity capability.

Posted by: sgtdepewusar(RET) | January 14, 2012 9:15 PM    Report this comment

I'm a Certified Gunsmith and own a Bersa Thunder 380 Duo-Tone for about 8 years. I carry it all the time and shoot it very much, reloads as well as factory and have never had any problems. The only issue I would like to see changed is an Ambidextrous safety, being a lefty it's difficult to remove the safety. Other than that it's a great all-around pistol, much nicer than a PPK or PPKS especially the price.

Posted by: Mark L | January 13, 2012 1:25 PM    Report this comment

I have to agree with the laudatory comments, above, concerning the many reasonably priced models of Bersa pistols that are available in gun shops and at gun shows. The .380 and .22 LR models are obvious copies of the Walther Model PP, but Bersa seems to have gone Walther one.....or two.....better in terms of the features of these pistols. Our neighbors to the south are definitely coming into their own in terms of economic and industrial capabilities. If their firearms are any measure, we'd be well served to watch for other products emanating from these awakening giants.

Posted by: canovack | January 13, 2012 12:49 PM    Report this comment

I own a thunder .380 and love it been doing my best to keep the better half from shooting it because she already loves how it fits her hand and it's weight, amd if she shoots it it will more than likly end up in her gun safe, kinda accendently on purpous and I will have to go a buy me a new one. I know it is going to happen sooner or later, I just want to get some more money built up first.
Butterfingers, I have lived here in Commiefornia most of my life, except for my shot time in Oregon and time in the Military and I think most of the Gun Laws stink and are rediculess. I am for common sence laws, but most of them here are down right stupid.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath Locked Loade and Keeping My Powder Dry.
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN Out of the US.

Posted by: bear1 | January 13, 2012 12:31 AM    Report this comment

$ for $, it is hard to beat Bersa. I love the feel of this gun in my hand. But I have also had problems with it. The decocker broke after only a few months (2 or 3). Bersa was quick to repair it. I have now put at least a 1,000 rounds down the barrel and then all of a sudden I started to get some jams. The jams were a real problem on some types of ammo. Took gun apart (easily done) and did a detailed clean. However, reassembling the gun was a bitch [this was not a problem when I initially got the gun]. Now jams are less frequent, but they do happen. I have lost confidence in this gun for selfdefense [replace with Khar K9] and would not feel comfortable in selling it to someone else. Perhaps I will send it back to Bersa for their reworking of the gun as they claim to have a life-time warranty on it. By the way, my gun was the "thunder" not the "firestorm" buy am told that they are basically the same gun. However, the thunder is approved for sale in California and firestorm is not, Also, the PPK has been off the approved California list for some time. Please don't laugh at what you think are silly California rules, here. The state has high standards for safety and even when I didn't live in California, I always checked their approved list.

Posted by: BUTTERFINGERS | January 12, 2012 6:34 PM    Report this comment

I have several Bersa pistols. The basic 380 with a 7+1 capacity is great for dropping in your pocket. There is an identical version in 22 LR. Those two are the wife's favorites. There is also a Plus that is a 380 15+1 similar to the Beretta that is a 13+1. I haven't had any problems with my Bersas. You can also get a 9 round magazine for your slim 380. It increases the grip comfort as well as adding 2 rounds.

Posted by: RICHARD H | January 12, 2012 6:32 PM    Report this comment

I have 5 Bersa pistols. 1-380 Ultra Compact, 1-380 Duo-Tone, 1-9mm Thunder 17+1 Nickel, 1-40 cal Firestorm nickel, and 1-45 cal 7+1 Bersa Ultra Compact Nickel. I have never had a jam or misfire. I have shot 4 or 5 differant brands of ammo thru each one. I trust my life with them. They are as dependable as the $1000.00 guns at 1/3 of the price. Best gun for the money.

Posted by: dstiebs | January 12, 2012 3:30 PM    Report this comment

My Thunder 380 was all-nickle, and I loved it. My sweat eats blued and even Stainless finishes. The nickle proved 100% durable and actually made the action feel "slick." LEO friend also had an identical piece as his backup and loved it, too.

Posted by: Slipstick | January 12, 2012 3:24 PM    Report this comment

We shot a bersa 380 last weekend,very nice shooting little gun, then wifey seen one all stainless with orange dot sights, and had to have it, we pick it up friday, LOL

Posted by: Rocketgeezer | January 12, 2012 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Reading the testing and posts, it seems that this 380 may be worth a look.

Posted by: E. GEORGE B | January 12, 2012 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Have owned a Series 90 Bersa since the early-mid '90s. I carry it all the time. It is virtually a mirror image of the gun in this report. It is the only gun that I can point and shoot with outstanding accuracy.

Posted by: BigAl59 | January 12, 2012 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Iown and occasionally carry an older Bersa .380. Mine is about the same design but has wooden grips, nickle finish and thirteen round magazine capacity. It was made prior to the "assault wepon" ban on full capacity magazines. Probably a couple of thousand rounds overall through the gun of all types of ammo (mostly the least expensive for practice) without a jam. Mine odes not have the slide release, locks back on empty magazine.
I am very impressed with the piece and have compaaraed its performance to .380s costing much more, including PPK and found the Bersa superior at a reasonable cost.

Posted by: jimcozort@hotmail.com | January 12, 2012 1:01 PM    Report this comment

I just bought a Bersa .40 cal ultra compact and I love it. It shot good right out of the box and it is extremely well made and easy to clean. My only complaint our the hard plastic grips which hurt my hand a little when I shoot. If somebody made rubber grips for this gun it would be absolutely perfect. Take heed aftermarket people. A lot of gun sights have people wanting the same thing for the Bersa 9 and 40 UC models, which use the same grips.

Posted by: CRAZYMIKE | January 12, 2012 12:59 PM    Report this comment

I owned a Bersa Firestorm .380ACP and it was a very good pistol. I gave it to my son because I found, like Gun Test Magazine, that the BEST PPK type of firearm was the CZ 83! It has ambidextrous Safety, and magazine controls, has a magazine capacity of 13+1 in the pipe, is very controllable and is very accurate, and is of all steel construction.
I now own a CZ82 in 9x18 Makarov chambering and it too is an extremely accurate pistol. The CZ 82 & CZ 83 pistols are identical except for the barrel and the CZ 82 has a lanyard ring on the butt of the grip.

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | January 12, 2012 12:25 PM    Report this comment

Talk about value ! ONLY around $ 300.00 for this great little pistol. A keeper !

Posted by: Muzzlepuncher 7 | January 12, 2012 12:06 PM    Report this comment

I have the Mini Firestorm in .45acp. It is as reliable as gravity, having never choked on anything I have fed it for lord knows how many rounds--easily well into the 1000's. It shot low out of the box, but a little filing on the front sight cured that and otherwise I have never had a problem with it. I carry it and a 4" 1911 as my two CCW pieces--the Bersa hides a little better. It is an inexpensive weapon, but not a cheap weapon...there is a difference.

Posted by: Jack921-3 | January 12, 2012 11:57 AM    Report this comment

I have a Bersa Thunder CC .380 and it is the best handling and shooting gun I have of that caliber. Compared to the CZ83, which has a recoil twang like hitting a hammer handle on a log, and the Seecamp, which scrapes skin off the top of my thumb when I fire it, the Bersa is comfortable and shoots anything I put in it.

Posted by: WHITHAM R | January 12, 2012 11:47 AM    Report this comment

I have found that Bersa products represent the "best bang for the buck" in affordable handguns. I have owned both a Thunder .380 and a Thunder Pro 9 and love both. I have found that Bersa products seem consistently overlooked and underrated in the gun press. I feel both of mine are 'keepers.' I also like that repair and customizing parts are readily available online. The only gripe I have is overly ex$pen$ive extra mags.

Posted by: Slipstick | January 12, 2012 11:40 AM    Report this comment

The Firestorm and Bersa .380's are some of the best of the class and also some of the most affordable. I also like that there is an identical model in 22LR. Anytime you can get such accurate, reliable pistols at a reasonable price, what's not to love?

Posted by: obxned | January 12, 2012 11:27 AM    Report this comment

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