By Mike Cumpston, GUNS Magazine
The Bersa company, located in Ramos Mejia, Argentina is the heir of Ballester-Molina the well-known Argentine arms firm. Its founders migrated from Italy where they were involved in the Gardone Valley arms industry. By the mid 1990s, when the “Shall Issue CCW” movement caught fire, Bersa .380 pistols were in wide distribution in the United States and had developed a significant following because of moderate price, reputation for reliable function and likely, their resemblance to the Walther PPK.
About that time, political events took the very popular Russian Makarov pistols out of the best buy category. In this area, Concealed Handgun Instructors associated with retail gun shops began promoting the Bersa to bargain-conscious applicants. The pistols are still brisk sellers among the growing crowd of concealed handgun licensees.
Larger caliber Bersa pistols include the Argentine service pistol now called the Thunder 9 Pro and variations in .40 S&W and .45 ACP. In keeping with the market that now demands pocket-sized concealment arms of major caliber, the Pro series includes the downsized Ultra Compacts in all three calibers. In the fall of 2012, I examined and fired a Thunder 9 Ultra Compact at a writer’s conference. It was well made, accurate and completely functional with the full metal jacket ammunition supplied. I liked its appearance and handling qualities and decided to explore the larger caliber versions.
The Thunder 40 Pro Ultra Compact comes in flat black and duo-tone with the alloy frame finished in black and the slide nickel-plated. The slide width is about 1 inch, while the widest measurement is across the ambidextrous safety and slide releases at 1.46 inches. In my medium-sized hand, the grips are just about ideal—hand filling and providing an ideal reach for double- and single-action shooting in transition. The grip, at its widest point, is virtually the same width as the fire controls, housing a staggered column 10-round magazine.
Both front and rear sights are Patridge profile with white dots. They are dovetailed into the slide and moveable for windage adjustment. Safety features include a trigger actuated passive firing pin block, inertia firing pin, a hammer-drop-safety that disconnects the trigger and locks the slide when left in the upward position but affords safe carry hammer down with the ambidextrous safety disengaged. There is a key-actuated storage lock just under the disassembly lever. When engaged, it locks trigger, hammer and slide tighter than the south end of a northbound mallard. Metal treatment, fit and final finish, contrary to some user reports, are without flaw on the examples I have examined. Either those elements have improved or reviewers are just searching in vain for some explanation for the relative low price. Some observers have complained that the grips on these pistols are too wide for concealment. I find them unproblematic in that regard. The 27-ounce pistol rides comfortably and completely concealed in my CCW Breakaway slacks (not pictured). The recoil of the most vociferous loads seems very mild compared to several large caliber pistols of the same size.
While retail prices of the Ultra Compacts are in the $500 range, real-world prices are closer to $400 recommending them to the same demographic that sustains the success of the Thunder .380.
The .40 UCP has considerable extractor tension and, at the onset, most loads were presenting frequent failures to fully enter the chamber. The only completely reliable rounds were the loads from CorBon, Buffalo Bore and Black Hills using the Barnes Lead Free hollowpoints. The nose profile of each round fed smoothly without compromising the necessary slide velocity to assure complete chambering. After about 100 rounds, the Bersa became completely reliable with my full selection of ammunition, and the feeding issues disappearing rather abruptly along with my initial sick feeling of dread.
While my bench groups are nothing to brag about, the .40 Ultra Compact is very easy to shoot over the Texas Concealed Handgun demonstration course. Double- to single-action transitions at about half a second stay reliably inside the 9-ring of the B27 target a few yards beyond the maximum 15-yard range. The trigger reach and single- and double-action trigger pulls seem ideal for the various timed drills that extend from 3 to 15 yards and encompass a good number of initial shots delivered double action. Shooting single action at a reasonably fast clip, I put nine out of 10 Black Hills 155-grain JHPs on a 12×15-inch steel clanger from 30 yards then repeated the performance with a magazine full of CorBon Power Ball.
The Thunder 40 Ultra Compact delivers all the performance reasonably expected from a deep concealment carry gun. A high standard of human engineering promotes shooter comfort and brings out the full potential of the handgun. The Bersas come with a lifetime warranty and are serviced by Eagle Imports.
CCW Breakaways LLC
1619 Lowell Ln.
New Cumberland, PA 17070
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