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 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.
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
Along with the Beretta 84 Cheetah, the CZ 83 was among the first high-capacity 380 Auto pistols. We find the workmanship on the used CZ pistol to be good, despite wear and cosmetic problems. The pistol is all steel. The plastic grip had checkering, but there was no checkering on the front or rear strap. As a result, the surface could get slippery with sweat or in cold weather, but the pistol did not present any control issues during our firing test. A military-grade feature is the trigger guard, which was so large it would easily accommodate gloved hands. The rear sight was drift adjustable. While the front sight is pinned in and changeable, we were at a loss to find replacement blades. Thankfully, it was properly sighted.
|Action||Semi-auto, blow back; double action first shot|
|Overall Length||6.8 in.|
|Overall Height||5.0 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.4 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||28.8 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||32.0 oz.|
|Barrel Length||3.8 in.|
|Magazine Capacity||12 rounds|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.25 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||3.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.25 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.5 in.|
|Front Sight||White bar on post, fixed|
|Rear Sight||Rear notch blade in dovetail|
|Trigger Pull Weight Double Action||10.0 lbs.|
|Trigger Pull Weight Single Action||5.5 lbs.|
|Trigger Span Single Action||2.4 in.|
The pistol featured an ambidextrous magazine release and an ambi safety as well. The safety may only be placed in the Safe position if the hammer is cocked. The magazines were easy to load save for sharp edges on one. We obtained two magazines. While each worked well, the original CZ magazine held 12 rounds. An unmarked aftermarket magazine held 13 cartridges, and the floorplate edges were uncomfortably sharp.
The pistol gave good results on the combat course. The double-action trigger was smooth enough for center hits to 10 yards or so. In single-action fire, the pistol was downright docile. After all, the steel frame made for the heaviest gun of the test program. The pistol was pleasant to fire, a pleasant diversion from the 45 ACP and 357 Magnum cartridges we often test, as one rater noted.
Takedown is like the Walther PPK. Push the trigger guard downward and then run the slide to the rear and up and off the barrel. Nothing difficult there, just different.
The pistol was the only one of the three that never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The CZ 83 380 was accurate enough with a 2.4-inch 15-yard group as the best effort.
Our Team Said: We could not find anything wrong with the CZ pistol. While it did not have grip-strap checkering, it did not need this feature, per our test results. Still, we hesitate to promote the Model 83 because the CZ has been out of production for almost 10 years. Spare parts and magazines are getting difficult to obtain at a fair price, but there are plenty around, and it is a good pistol.
380 ACP Range Data
|Fiocchi XTP 90-grain HP 380XTP25||Tisas Faith||CZ Model 83||Bersa 380 Thunder Plus|
|Average Velocity||933 fps||945 fps||921 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||174 ft.-lbs.||178 ft.-lbs.||169 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.45 in.||2.6 in.||2.5 in.|
|Average Group||2.9 in.||2.95 in.||3.0 in.|
|Hornady Critical Defense 90-grain FTX 90080||Tisas Faith||CZ Model 83||Bersa 380 Thunder Plus|
|Average Velocity||922 fps||930 fps||927 fps|
|Energy||170 ft.-lbs.||173 ft.-lbs.||172 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.0 in.||2.4 in.||2.5 in.|
|Average Group||2.4 in.||2.9 in.||2.9 in.|
|SIG V-Crown 90-grain JHP||Tisas Faith||CZ Model 83||Bersa 380 Thunder Plus|
|Average Velocity||899 fps||917 fps||904 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||161 ft.-lbs.||168 ft.-lbs.||163 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.3 in.||2.6 in.||2.5 in.|
|Average Group||2.7 in.||3.1 in.||3.0 in.|
Value Guide: 380 ACP Semi-Auto Pistols
|Glock 42 UI4250201 380 ACP, $360||Nov. 2020||A-||Best Buy. The Glock 42 handled well and offered the best accuracy of the test.|
|Colt Government Model MK IV Series 80 380 ACP, $400||Nov. 2020||A-||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, $300||Nov. 2020||B||The Ruger LCP II is reliable, reasonably accurate for short-range use, and not difficult to control.|
|NAA Guardian 380 ACP, $350||Nov. 2020||C-||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, $384||Aug. 2018||A||The Shield is EZ-ily among the most useful and attractive 380 ACP pistols we have tested.|
|Springfield 911 Bi-Tone PG9109S 380 ACP, $559||Aug. 2018||A||The Springfield 911 is suited to carrying hammer down instead of cocked and locked.|
|Walther PPK/S 4796006 380 ACP, $700||Aug. 2018||C||Not 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, $356||Aug. 2016||A||Combat shooting with the Baby Rock gave good results. Accuracy was excellent for a pistol this size.|
|Ruger LCP 3701 380 ACP, $229||Aug. 2016||B+||We would pay more for the LCP Custom, which has better sights and trigger.|
|Remington RM380 Micro 96454 380 ACP, $341||Aug. 2016||B-||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, $419||Oct. 2015||A||The Ruger’s sights and trigger are great improvements over previous versions of the LCP.|
|Taurus Curve 180CRVL #1-180031L 380 ACP, $380||Oct. 2015||C||The bottom line is that a pistol without sights isn’t useful, in our opinion. Pass on the Curve.|
|Kimber Micro Carry Advocate 380 ACP, $796||Sept. 2015||A||The Kimber was well finished and demonstrated excellent reliability and accuracy.|
|Browning Black Label 1911-380 051904492 380 ACP, $620||Sept. 2015||B||The Browning is a reliable handgun with familiar operation. Less accurate than the smaller Kimber.|
|Glock 42 380 ACP Subcompact Slimline, $480||Nov. 2014||B||With 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, $419||Nov. 2014||B||We didn’t like the Kahr’s sights, the short grip, or the long DAO trigger pull.|
|Colt Mustang XSP Pocketlite O6790 380 ACP, $649||Nov. 2014||C+||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, $710||Nov. 2014||C||Its controls should have produced a 1911-like feel, but the P238’s inconsistent trigger pull affected accuracy.|
|Ruger LCP-CT 380 ACP, $559||Jan. 2014||A-||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, $419||Sept. 2013||B||The Bodyguard had the best integrated laser sight of all the models tested, easy to turn on.|
|Ruger LCP 380 ACP, $379||Jul. 2013||B+||The LCP performed with any ammo we loaded into it. The sights are minimal.|