My first everyday all day gun was a 380 Colt Government. For a while, the .380 ACP was the cool guy’s gun. Small, discrete, and just powerful enough. Until it wasn’t powerful enough. Until apparently nothing less than a double stack 9mm could be trusted. Then, in 2008, that all changed . . .
Ruger bucked the trend and came out with the LCP, the coyote killing machine that launched the .380 back into common carry. Since that time, we’ve seen .380 ACP models emerge from most of the major brands, many of which abandoned the little capable caliber long ago.
Does this gun remind you of anything? Perhaps a smooth Scottish baritone and very particular martini? One desperate man, and apparently a whole lot of desperate women? Yup, the Bersa Thunder 380 CC is essentially an alloy-framed clone of the famed and fabled Walther PPK.
The Argentinian company straight up copied the German wunderbabypistole. Same lines, same size, same make and function. This newer “Concealed Carry” version simply changes the finish and sights and one-ups the original sidearm for capacity.
The Concealed Carry Thunder 380 comes in either a matte black, like the test model, or two-tone black and brushed aluminum frame. It also features an ergonomic grip frame with finger grooves. A loaded chamber indicator is standard, as is a de-cocking lever. Neither version boasts a bright steel finish like the old school PPK. Nothing is bright polished, but the finish is smooth and even throughout. None of the sharp edges have been rounded but the elegant lines and great style that made the PPK a classic are still there.
The stock grips are cheap and plastic, but functional. They provide a good grip on the gun. They’re clearly made to not snag or rub on the body during deep concealment. They aren’t particularly attractive and they are surprisingly thin.
It’s ideal for IWB concealed carry, even in Texas summer shorts weather. I’d actually prefer this ccw to be a little thicker, as with a single-handed grip my thumb gets in the way of my trigger finger as it comes back.
Well ask and you shall receive. Bersa makes quite a few different grips for the tiny self-defense pistol, including a walnut set that’s just a tad thicker. Also, some in hot pink. Get what you need, Chef don’t judge.
Just like the legendary PPK it came from, the Thunder 380 CC takes down just as simply. Press down on the right disassembly lever on the right side of the pistol’s frame above the trigger guard, pull back on the slide, lift it up, forward, and off. It’s just that easy.
What you are left with is three parts: the slide, the return spring, and the frame, to which the barrel is attached. It’s a design not seen often in other firearms; one that’s withstood the test of time in over 80 years of production.
Unfortunately, the Thunder 380 CC does include a magazine disconnect.
For those of you not familiar with the worthless and dangerous “life saving” device, that means that the gun won’t go off if the magazine isn’t in the gun. With the magazine out, you can pull the trigger all you want, just ain’t nothing going to happen to the hammer.
The Thunder 380 also comes with a trigger lock built into the gun, and a tiny key in the cardboard box.
I think if you want to keep someone from shooting your gun, you should go ahead and lock up the gun, but I guess the trigger lock serves as a secondary line of defense should someone untoward get a hold of your gun when you are away.
As it is completely unobtrusive and never malfunctioned, I don’t see it as a problem and only a potential added safety feature.
Many of you will immediately recognize the slide-mounted safety and despair. In this case, it’s also a de-cocker. Unlike the Berretta 92 series it is on the left side only.
Also unlike the 92, since this gun is so much smaller, pushing the safety forward with your firing hand thumb is no problem at all. Putting it back onto safe doesn’t require any acrobatic dexterity or the use of your support hand either.
You can carry the semi-automatic Bersa Thunder 380CC in a holster with the hammer down and the safety off for immediate deployment. (That’s how I carried my 92FS in combat.) If you had additional safety concern, you could carry it in a holster with the hammer down and on safe as well.
Take note, at least on this particular pistol, I can have the hammer back and push the safety down so that it looks like it is on. In fact, it is not quite yet fully deployed and if you push it back just a little bit farther it decocks the hammer.
Me, I’d choose Inside the Waistband carry with the safety off and the hammer down. Carried that way, I’d feel completely confident there would be no negligent discharges, and I could still deploy the gun and get it a round on target quickly while under stress.
I shot a total of 500 rounds through this gun. The first 440 were in a single outing. The only thing that slowed me down: The single magazine that shipped with the gun.
I shot both hollowpoints as well as FMJs and the Freedom Munitions RNFP (use coupon code “TTAG” for 5% off everything on the Freedom Munitions website) through the Bersa Thunder with no problems of any kind. I never had any issue loading the magazine or getting it to lock 8+1 into the gun. The magazine never failed to fall. The pistol never failed to cycle well or fully enter battery.
When it comes where it matters most, the little gun performed spectacularly. As always, I lubed the gun, this time with the Rem Oil available at The Range at Austin, prior to shooting. After that, I didn’t clean, lube or disassemble the gun until all firing was done. We had no malfunctions. Perfect reliability.
Simply locking the slide back on a loaded magazine and it’s fairly obvious why the budget gun cycles so well. There’s very little angle on the round as it enters the chamber. The slide coming forward pushes the bolt in line with the cartridge and almost in line with the bore. Since the bore isn’t tilting, it’s part of the frame, there’s just not much to go wrong, so it doesn’t.
Walther has been well known for a good trigger for longer than just about any TTAG reader has been alive, so Bersa started with a good design in the first place with the PPK. I’ve shot the heck out of the PPK, and now I’ve shot a pretty good amount of rounds through the Thunder 380 CC, and the latter is every bit as good as the former.
This little DA/SA especially excels in double action, with a smooth, fairly even and pull all the way back, with very little stack. The single action is a little disappointing, and the reset is not particularly fast or light.
All of those subsequent shots are in single action, and it’s that first shot in double action that’s so impressive. The gun feels good to shoot, and keeping the muzzle flat and still during the pull is just no problem at all.
Size wise, it’s 1″ wide, about the same as a Glock 43, and in length and width right there between a G42 and a G43, just maybe a little closer to the G43.
Given weight and size, I recoils a bit more than I though the little Bersa 380 would, probably because of the fairly high bore axis. Still, it’s a simple blowback operating .380ACP, so there’s not really much recoil to be concerned with in the first place.
Unlike most carry pistols of this size, the Thunder 380 CC is a true 8+1 capacity firearm. I had no problems loading the full round count every single time. Nine rounds in a gun this size is great, and plenty for EDC and personal protection. (If you feel you need more, consider the 15-round Thunder 380 Plus.) But still, carry a spare magazine. Again, always.
In this case, those magazines drop just fine, but without any bevel or funnel at all on the magazine well, they tend to get snagged pretty easily on the way in. Owners need to take special care inserting the magazine.
I took some time to drill magazine changes with this gun, and even still I had many times during speed reloads where the front lip of the magazine got caught on the mag well during insertion. Just a bit of file work on the internal edges of the mag well would fix this problem.
The pistol ships with just one magazine. Other’s can be purchased online from Eagle Imports for under $40. Take note, there is more than one Thunder 380, but just one Thunder 380 Concealed Carry, and only one magazine type fits it.
The sights are one of the very few disappointing aspects of this little pistol.
Sights might be too strong of a word, but I don’t think there’s any other word for these tiny little bumps on each end of the slide. Bersa’s website bills them as “extra-low profile” and man they ain’t kidding. They’re certainly snag free, but that front sight is so small that it is almost impossible to pick up in fast fire.
Both sights are so short that aligning the front sight between the rear sight is akin to seeing the last sliver of the sun before it sets on the horizon. The result is that, in fast fire, when I could visually see the front sight it tended to actually be just barely above the rear notch. That caused all of my shots to end in tight group, just about 4 inches above the target at 15 yards.
Unfortunately, the sights are integral to the slide, so swapping them with your favorites from Crimson Trace or something else is out of the question, at least not without expensive machining work into the budget pistol.
On the other hand the general design of the gun is that just sighting down the bore will get you Minute of Bad Guy up to 15 yards or so, just don’t expect to fit your rounds center-mass that way. At least not at any speed.
Slowing down, way down, and getting the gun rested on some bags shows what this little gun can do, precision wise. It’s a lot more than I’d thought.
At 25 yards in single-action fire, off bags, the Freedom Munitions 100gr RNFP round shot 2 3/4″, five round groups on average. The Remington HTP 88gr rounds shot just a little bit worse, at 3″ on average. That’s far better than just Minute of Bag Guy, and proves that the gun is plenty accurate, if you have time to see the micro sights.
Precision is one of the places I usually find budget guns give up a lot to their more expensive competition. Not so here. This gun hangs right in there with larger, much more expensive guns.
The Bersa Thunder 380 CC is an impressive little carry gun. No, it’s not gorgeous. Especially not in-box. The worn cardboard box it comes in makes the Glock plastic lunchbox look practically decadent. But get past the packaging and you’ll find an great gun built on a great legacy and good workmanship.
As a matter of course when writing a gun review, I intentionally don’t look at the specifications or price of a firearm until after I have fully investigated it. I want the gun to stand on its own, and then let you decide if it is worth the money. I knew this was an inexpensive gun. I didn’t realize it was this inexpensive.
I can find the Bersa Thunder 380 CC through several dealers for less than $300. I don’t just mean online dealers. I found two local gun stores that sell this gun for about $280. On the used market, I can find them in a price range less than what it costs to take my family out for a nice meal. For a rock-solid reliable EDC that shoots fairly accurately, that’s an easy decision.
Specifications: Bersa Thunder 380 Concealed Carry
Caliber: .380 ACP
Barrel Length: 3.2″
Front Sight: Blade Integral with Slide
Rear Sight: Integral with Slide
Finishes: Duotone, Matte Black
Grips: Checkered Polymer
Construction: Alloy Frame / Steel Slide
Safety: Integral Locking System, Manual, Firing Pin
Weight: 16.4 ounces
MSRP: (none listed on website, but on Brownells for $279.99)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance * * *
It has the classic lines of the original PPK. There’s nothing shiny, nothing polished, and the cheap plastic grips are cheap and plastic.
Customization * *
The sights are integral to the frame, and there are few aftermarket parts available. There are, however, several different models available that would fit most needs.
Reliability * * * * *
Perfect with any round.
Accuracy * * * *
With sub 3″ groups for a 3.2″ barrel and tiny sights, I got much better accuracy than I expected in such an inexpensive gun.
Overall * * * *
The overly diminutive “sights” and the lack of a beveled magazine well are the only significant issues. But the solid reliability and great accuracy of the little pistol propel this handgun to a better than average rating. At under $300, it’s an exceptional buy.
Ammo for this review provided by Freedom Munitions. Visit www.FreedomMunitions.com and use coupon code “TTAG” for 5% off site-wide on dozens of brands of ammunition, accessories, parts, optics, and more.
Check out other TTAG coverage of similar pistols:
The Best Pocket Pistols in .380 ACP For Concealed Carry (Sig Sauer P238, Springfield Armory 911 in .380 ACP, Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380, Kahr CW380, Ruger LCP II, Taurus Spectrum)