The Argentinian gun maker Bersa has a cult following. And for good reason. While I’ve never found them to be particularly good looking guns, I’ve shot a few of their Thunder .380ACP pistols in the past. I’ve found them to be good, simple guns at a relatively low price points. The Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT is a step up in power and features. Is it still a great value?
Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT is the “competition” version of Bersa’s Thunder Pro 9/40 duty gun. You can see the lines of the High Power in both firearms, but the XT’s controls look kludged. All of the levers are oversized, stuck right next to each other. They look like they were designed by the guy who makes electronics for toddlers.
The Pro XT’s frame is an odd match of flats, edges and curves, with cut-outs and angles deployed with near random abandon. I generally like two-toned guns, but the light grey Cerakote of the XT’s frame looks cheap next to the dull black slide and grips. The all-black model (not shown) would be the more elegant choice.
The Bersa guns I shot previously were all based on direct blow-back actions, completely suitable for smaller cartridges. The Thunder Pro 9 XT is based on the now ubiquitous Browning/Petter action. When I look at this gun, I see High Power-CZ75-Beretta 51/92-FNX. And that’s what it felt like too, but in many ways even better.
While it may not be a looker, the Pro XT feels great. (There’s a lesson in there for you.) The Argentinean handgun snuggled into my oversized hand like a well-worn catcher’s mitt. The grip isn’t pretty, but it fills my hand with plenty of room to spare at the bottom. Serrations both fore and aft help lock my hands in place.
That Pro XT’s trigger’s oddly angled trigger well looks wrong, but works right. It gives the shooter plenty of room for a gloved finger while still allowing for a deep undercut. The serrations in front of the Pro XT’s trigger well are a welcome tactile index point for my trigger finger.
Other cuts in the Pro XT’s frame bring the controls below and out of the way of my support hand. Those big, sharp, ugly controls grabbed my thumb and made manipulation quick and sure, with a bare hand or a glove. The Pro XT’s light recoil obviates the need for an extended beaver tail.
The controls are mostly ambidextrous, with the safety/de-cocker on both sides along with the slide lock/release. The magazine release can be swapped to either size. I found the short distance between the safety/de-cocker and the very large slide lock/release to be more of a bug than a feature.
Opening the Pro XT up, I discovered obviously signs of wear on the internals. This is a T&E gun, so it’s not the firearm’s first rodeo. More importantly, the Pro XT’s put together very well. Lock-up is good, despite the wear, and there are no tool marks or gross chattering in the gun.
If you look in the slide, it’s pretty obvious why this gun reminds me of both my Beretta 92s and my FNX-Tactical. They are extremely similar — once again proving that there’s been little new in popular handguns in the last 60 years.
That big safety is also a de-cocker (more like the Beretta 92FS than the FN America FNX). With the safety on and the hammer down, nothing happens when you pull the trigger. Take the safety off, pull the trigger and a long trigger pull levers the hammer through its motion. With the hammer back, push the safety back up and it safely drops the hammer, de-cocking the pistol.
Since I never use the safety on my Beretta (I had it shaved flush), and I’m so used to my 1911s, STI 2011s and my FNX-45 Tactical, I continually put the hammer back and attempted to safe the weapon, de-cocking it. That’s exactly what is supposed to happen, but I never quite got used to it again.
The Pro XT is set up as a racier version of a duty gun. It’s about half an inch longer than the duty version, with a corresponding distance between the sights.
The Pro XT’s sight set-up consists of a red fiber optic front sight and a fully adjustable serrated flat ledge rear sight. I’ve been a fan of this set up since Dave Dawson put one of his Dawson Precision front sights on my Ruger SR1911. For a range/competition gun, it can’t be beat.
In fast fire — and this gun will fire fast — the small amount of rise in the muzzle falls down quickly. The bright front sight stays visible the whole time. The Thunder 9 Pro XT’s thin but bright front sight is easy to track and pops right out, but it’s small enough for accurate work in either fast or slow fire.
With my size large hands, a good high grip on the gun with my thumb on top of the safety meant my thumb was riding the slide lock/release. using my standard grip, the slide never locked back on an empty magazine. I asked a few other people to shoot the gun. No one else had thumbs that reached that far; the slide locked back for them, as it did for me when I used a thumbs down grip.
Although there’s no real magazine feed well for the pistol, the magazine well itself is slightly beveled. I’d have to work to miss it. Insert the magazine carefully and the slide stays back, but slap it in at all and the slide automatically came forward every time.
The Pro XT’s trigger reminded me of my struggles with my duty Beretta 92FS (before Wilson Combat’s gunsmiths breathed on it). That’s because the Pro XT is a Double-Action/Single Action (DA/SA) firearm.
The first, double-action pull clocked-in at 7 lbs. 10 oz. on my Lyman scale, with about 25mm of travel. Although fairly long, the DA pull’s quite smooth with no grit or hang-ups throughout the process. The reset, and subsequent single action pulls are short and very crisp. The single-action pull has only 5mm of travel, and breaks at a light 3 lbs. 7 ozs.
That’s a BIG difference between the two pulls. Mastering them both requires some serious training.
As usual, I sprayed Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Lube through the gun about an hour or so before I went to the range. At no point after that did I lube or clean the gun in any way.
The pistol like a champ. I put 500 rounds through the Thunder Pro XT: several varieties of 115gr and 147gr FMJs, as well as JHP rounds from a few manufacturers. It shot standard pressure as well as +P rounds well. At no point did I experience any failures to fire, feed, load or eject. As far as accuracy is concerned, none of the rounds were particularly erratic or big outliers.
Accuracy throughout the cartridge spectrum was consistent and very good. The Team Never Quit 100gr frangible round scored the best group, averaging a two-inch five-round group from a bag at 25 yards. Cap Arms 115 grain FMJ, 147gr HP and Remington Golden Saber 124gr +P rounds scored an average of 2 ¼”. I shot 60 rounds to test accuracy with a total average of 2.16”. Not bad at all.
The Pro XT feels a lot like my duty Beretta 92fs. The Pro XT is not as pretty as its Italian cousin, but the Argentinian has better sights and a better grip. It’s more accurate and completely reliable. In fact, the Pro XT shoots and runs just as well as my Wilson Combat Beretta 92G.
The same applies when I stretch the comparison to include the Smith & Wesson M&P C.O.R.E and Performance Center guns I’ve tested. All of which makes the $750-or-so Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT an outstanding value for a gun that’s range and race-ready right out of the box, complete with five magazines.
Specifications: Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT
Barrel Length: 4.96 inches
Front Sight: Fiber optic
Rear Sight: LPA Fully Adjustable
Grips: Checkered Black Polymer
Construction: Aluminium 7075-T6
Safety: Manual, Auto Firing Pin
Length: 8.27 inches
Height: 5.6 inches
Width: 1.46 inches
Price: Found online for $750 and less
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
To put it kindly, Bersa spent their time and money on making the gun run, not making it pretty.
Accuracy * * * *
Two- and 2.25-inch five-round groups at 25 yards is fine shooting. Extra credit for consistent performance across ammo brands, weights and types.
Reliability * * * * *
Eats anything and spits it right back out. Zero issues of any kind.
Overall * * * *
If your biggest concern is what you can do with the gun, not what the gun looks like or who’s name is on the side of it, it’s hard to beat the Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT. A great value.