Bersa 380 Thunder Plus THUN380PM15 380 ACP

The Thunder Plus carries on the tradition of the affordable Bersa Thunder. The pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. There was a single tie up involving the slide lock that may have been shooter related. The pistol is a good double-action-first-shot mode.

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When shooters look for a personal-defense firearm, they are sometimes swayed by reports of what are basically range pistols, those with a light trigger, no safety, and a heavy frame. But a practical personal-defense pistol is easy to carry, might have a heavier trigger than a Bullseye gun, and it might be quickly shoved into the waistband or pocket without tearing fabric or skin. Also, a practical pistol might be carried in the hand as you travel to a vehicle or placed safely at home ready. The handier practical pistol may be more desirable than a big, heavy pistol that homes every round into the X-ring at 25 yards.

We liked the selective double action pistols’ performance. Some would prefer the Bersa’s hammer drop safety.

We recently tested a trio of practical medium-sized 380 ACP handguns that offer light recoil, good accuracy, and generous magazine capacity, the last characteristic being an advantage over old-style double-action-first-shot 380 pistols, such as the Walther PPK or SIG P232.

We tested the Tisas Fatih, a straight-up clone of the Beretta 84 Cheetah. The second modern test gun is the Bersa Thunder Plus, a high-capacity version of the long serving Bersa Thunder 380. Because there are not a lot of affordable high-capacity 380 ACP pistols around, we also obtained a used CZ 83 in 380 ACP. The Model 83 has gotten very good grades in the past.

The Bersa’s primary advantage is a 15-round magazine. One reason we enjoyed good reliability is proper loading of a high-capacity magazine. We loaded three to four rounds, tapped the back of the magazine to seat the cartridges, and continued loading.

All three are simple blowback-action handguns. Each has a double-action first-shot trigger. After the first shot, the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. Two of the pistols are selective double-action pistols with manual safeties, allowing cocked-and-locked carry, and the other is a decocker-type with a manual safety.

For test ammo, we used Remington and Aguila loads of the 95-grain FMJ type, Fiocchi’s 90-grain XTP, Hornady’s 90-grain XTP, and the SIG 90-grain V-Crown. We fired 45 rounds in each pistol in combat firing off hand. We used the three hollow-point loads in accuracy testing.

Let’s look at the differences in performance.

Gun Tests Grade: A- (BEST BUY)

$352

The Bersa Thunder Plus offers no surprises. This pistol is the Bersa Thunder with a high-capacity magazine. The Bersa line has consistently proven reliable, useful, and a good buy for those on a budget. We prefer the Bersa to several high-priced double-action first-shot pistols.

ActionSemi auto, blow back; double action first shot
Overall Length6.6 in.
Overall Height4.9 in.
Maximum Width1.35 in.
Weight Unloaded20.5 oz.
Weight Loaded23.7 oz.
Barrel Length3.5 in.
BarrelSteel
Magazine Capacity15 rounds
SlideSteel
FrameAluminum
Frame Front Strap Height2.0 in.
Frame Back Strap Height2.65 in.
GripsRubber
Grip Thickness (maximum)1.45 in.
Grip Circumference (maximum)5.6 in.
Front SightSingle white dot on post, dovetail mount
Rear SightTwo white dots, notched bar, dovetail mount
Trigger Pull Weight Double Action9.5 lbs.
Trigger Pull Weight Single Action4.5 lbs.
Trigger Span Single Action2.75 in.
SafetyLever, slide mounted
Telephone(833) 476-1547
WarrantyNon-transferable lifetime
Sales E-MailSales@Bersa.com
Made InArgentina; imported by Talon Distributing
Disassembly of the Bersa is simple enough using the proven Walther-type system. The Bersa Thunder Plus pistol is well made, with good fit and finish and a key-lock safety system. The pistol also features a trigger stop molded into the trigger (arrow).

The slide was well machined and finished. Anodizing was good on the aluminum frame. The pistol featured a Pachmayr-like grip that offers an excellent balance of abrasion and adhesion. Part of the rubber grip covered the front strap. The trigger action was smooth enough and allowed good double-action first-shot hits. In combat shooting, the pistol fell slightly behind the other two pistols, but the score was close. In bench accuracy, the Bersa was accurate, with a best 2.2-inch 15-yard group. The 15-round magazine offers the highest capacity of any of the handguns tested. We suspect most buyers will not carry a spare magazine as a result. Because spares, when obtainable, are around 40 bucks, high capacity is a good thing if you rely on the load in the gun to get the job done.

In common with the other pistols, the Bersa has small but useful sights.

Performance between the Fatih and the Bersa was similar. The primary difference will be a preference in safety systems. The Fatih and the CZ require that the pistol be loaded, and the hammer lowered manually by controlling the hammer as you press the trigger. The Bersa features a Beretta 92-type hammer-drop safety. Apply the safety, and the hammer is safely lowered without touching the hammer or trigger. The handgun may be carried on Fire or Safe as preferred. For most shooters, the Bersa is the preferred safety, but then many shooters do well with the Beretta 84/Fatih type.

We suffered a single malfunction. During firing, the slide locked open during a string. Perhaps the shooter allowed his thumb to bump into the slide lock. The slightly wider frame of the Bersa Thunder Plus compared to the standard Bersa may account for this.

Our Team Said: We rated the Bersa down a half grade due to the malfunction. A plus for some is that the Bersa featured a key-activated action lock that rendered the pistol inert if activated. If you own and carry the original Bersa Thunder, this pistol is a nice upgrade. It is also the Best Buy of the test.

380 ACP Range Data

Fiocchi XTP 90-grain HP 380XTP25Tisas FaithCZ Model 83Bersa 380 Thunder Plus
Average Velocity933 fps945 fps921 fps
Muzzle Energy174 ft.-lbs.178 ft.-lbs.169 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.45 in.2.6 in.2.5 in.
Average Group2.9 in.2.95 in.3.0 in.
Hornady Critical Defense 90-grain FTX 90080Tisas FaithCZ Model 83Bersa 380 Thunder Plus
Average Velocity922 fps930 fps927 fps
Energy170 ft.-lbs.173 ft.-lbs.172 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.0 in.2.4 in.2.5 in.
Average Group2.4 in.2.9 in.2.9 in.
SIG V-Crown 90-grain JHPTisas FaithCZ Model 83Bersa 380 Thunder Plus
Average Velocity899 fps917 fps904 fps
Muzzle Energy161 ft.-lbs.168 ft.-lbs.163 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.3 in.2.6 in.2.5 in.
Average Group2.7 in.3.1 in.3.0 in.
All groups were fired at 15 yards from a braced benchrest position using an MTM K Zone pistol rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity. The first chronograph screen was 10 feet from the muzzles of the firearms.

Value Guide: 380 ACP Semi-Auto Pistols

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
Glock 42 UI4250201 380 ACP, $360Nov. 2020A-Best Buy. The Glock 42 handled well and offered the best accuracy of the test.
Colt Government Model MK IV Series 80 380 ACP, $400Nov. 2020A-Because of the Glock’s availability as a current product, we would pick the Glock before the Colt MK IV.
Ruger LCP II No. 3792 380 ACP, $300Nov. 2020BThe Ruger LCP II is reliable, reasonably accurate for short-range use, and not difficult to control.
NAA Guardian 380 ACP, $350Nov. 2020C-This NAA was well made, and its fit and polish were good. Accuracy was poor even for a pocket pistol.
S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ 180023 380 ACP, $384Aug. 2018AThe Shield is EZ-ily among the most useful and attractive 380 ACP pistols we have tested.
Springfield 911 Bi-Tone PG9109S 380 ACP, $559Aug. 2018AThe Springfield 911 is suited to carrying hammer down instead of cocked and locked.
Walther PPK/S 4796006 380 ACP, $700Aug. 2018CNot reliable with a modern load designed to maximize the cartridge. We would not buy the Walther PPK/S.
Rock Island Armory Baby Rock 51912 380 ACP, $356Aug. 2016ACombat shooting with the Baby Rock gave good results. Accuracy was excellent for a pistol this size.
Ruger LCP 3701 380 ACP, $229Aug. 2016B+We would pay more for the LCP Custom, which has better sights and trigger.
Remington RM380 Micro 96454 380 ACP, $341Aug. 2016B-Heavy stacking of the trigger led to poor accuracy. The RM380’s sight regulation was also badly off.
Ruger LCP-C Custom No. 3740 380 ACP, $419Oct. 2015AThe Ruger’s sights and trigger are great improvements over previous versions of the LCP.
Taurus Curve 180CRVL #1-180031L 380 ACP, $380Oct. 2015CThe bottom line is that a pistol without sights isn’t useful, in our opinion. Pass on the Curve.
Kimber Micro Carry Advocate 380 ACP, $796Sept. 2015AThe Kimber was well finished and demonstrated excellent reliability and accuracy.
Browning Black Label 1911-380 051904492 380 ACP, $620Sept. 2015BThe Browning is a reliable handgun with familiar operation. Less accurate than the smaller Kimber.
Glock 42 380 ACP Subcompact Slimline, $480Nov. 2014BWith a Viridian green laser on it, we’d bump up the Glock 42’s grade to an A- and probably buy it.
Kahr CW 380 No. 3833 380 ACP, $419Nov. 2014BWe didn’t like the Kahr’s sights, the short grip, or the long DAO trigger pull.
Colt Mustang XSP Pocketlite O6790 380 ACP, $649Nov. 2014C+The XSP costs a lot of money, and there are many pistols that work better for less money.
SIG Sauer P238 238-380-NBS12 380 ACP, $710Nov. 2014CIts controls should have produced a 1911-like feel, but the P238’s inconsistent trigger pull affected accuracy.
Ruger LCP-CT 380 ACP, $559Jan. 2014A-Ramp-up time was nil, but firing the LCP-CT pistol without using the laser was a feat.
S&W Bodyguard 380 109380 380 ACP, $419Sept. 2013BThe Bodyguard had the best integrated laser sight of all the models tested, easy to turn on.
Ruger LCP 380 ACP, $379Jul. 2013B+The LCP performed with any ammo we loaded into it. The sights are minimal.

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