Comparing the Bersa Thunder 380, Makarov, Sig P230, and Walther PP 32


September 19, 2006, 09:02 AM
This is a review and comparison of the following pistols that I own and shoot. These pistols are the Bersa Thunder 380, Makarov, Sig P230, and Walther PP. I own the pistols reviewed and carry them on occasion. I am sorry that I do not own a Walther PP in .380; I used my 32acp version of the PP for this review.

Many feel the 380 is low on the power ladder but I feel as well armed with a 380 as a 38 Special in a snub nose revolver and I have more shots with the 380. The 32acp is a strange situation because its actual performance is much better than it should be.

All of these pistols are accurate and the reason for this is they all have fixed barrels. Accuracy from a fixed barrel is a known plus but failing to a Browning style barrel increases felt recoil. What do I mean? I find my Kel-Tec P32 as easy to shoot as my Walther PP 32acp, which is a much bigger and heavier handgun.

Bersa Thunder 380
§ Caliber: .380 ACP
§ System of operation: Semiautomatic
§ Length: 6.61 inches
§ Height: 4.92 inches
§ Width: 1.34 inches
§ Barrel length: 3.5 inches
§ Weight: 20 ounces
§ Rear sight: Notched bar, dovetailed
§ Front sight: Blade, integral with slide
§ Magazine capacity: 7 cartridges
§ Grip: Polymer
§ Finish: Blue/ Nickel/ Duotone
§ After firing the last cartridge, the slide remains open

I have well over 500 rounds through my Bersa since I bought in March of this year. I find the factory plastic grips comfortable and the sights easy to see. My pistol has an excellent factory trigger and I shoot this pistol well. If I have any complaints about the Bersa, they are the decocker works in the opposite direction from a 1911 and the finish could be better.

My pistol came with one magazine but I bought two extra ProMags from CDNN at a very good price. These magazines lack the finger extension found on factory magazines but that is not a big deal to me. I am sure the Bersa Thunder is one of the best buys available in the current handgun market.

§ Type: Semiautomatic, fixed barrel, straight blowback
§ Caliber: 9 x 18 mm.
§ Length overall: 6.29921 inches
§ Weight: 23.47 oz.
§ Barrel length: 3.66142 inches
§ Capacity: 8

Another current best buy is the Makarov pistol. These were the pistols of the Soviets and they are built like T34 tanks. I own three Makarovs and I like them, two of these are East German (EG) and the third is a Bulgarian. The Makarov is a little bigger and heavier than the other pistols in this review but with a good holster, carry and concealment are not an issue.

To me my main concern is the small factory sights that come standard on Maks. I replace the sights on my Bulgarian with Novak Night Sights and it is now a dream to shoot. A word to the wise is sight replacement is not cheap. This runs between two and three hundred dollars. With the current price of Maks, you may consider the Mak as a point and shoot gun if you so desire. I can squint and do okay with the factory sights on my EGs but the Novak’s are a joy to use.

The triggers on all thee of my Maks are good with the nod going to the EGs. I do not feel unarmed when I carry a Mak. The Mak is a lot of value for the price.

Sig P230
§ Type: Semiautomatic, fixed barrel, straight blowback
§ Caliber: .380acp
§ Length overall: 6.6 inches
§ Weight: 20.8 oz.
§ Barrel length: 3.6 inches
§ Capacity: 8

My Sig P230 is a used stainless steel pistol that is in very good condition. I bought it used from a dealer I respect; the dealer said it was a police officer’s back up gun and used little. My impression of the P232 is it ranks up there with the best but it should as it costs a lot.

This compact pistol came with a problem. The gun jammed the first time I shot it and continued to jam. The jams were like no other I have ever seen before. The spent cartridge ejected properly but the next cartridge went straight at the top of the chamber and lodged there. To make matters more interesting the third round then faced downward at the front of the magazine. I am bull headed and kept trying to figure out the cause of these jams. I tried all types of ammunition including full metal jacket bullets. Nothing helped the situation.

I called the shop I bought the pistol from, the shop owner said bring the pistol in, and he would make good on it. I put off taking the 90-mile drive and continued to ponder the situation. I asked anyone with Sig experience ad called the manufacturer. In the end, I ordered a new recoil spring, magazine spring, and magazine from Sig.

I installed the springs and I did note the new springs have much more power than the old ones. I took the Sig P232 to the range and guess what happened with the first round? A jam just like the prior jams. I cleared the jam and reloaded the pistol. Before I fired the next round I remembered something the Sig gunsmith said to me: “Hold the pistol high and with a firm grasp.” I tried this and the jams are now gone. Lastly, the P232 is accurate shooting orange sized groups from a modified Weaver stance at 10 yards.

Walther PP 32acp
§ Type: Double Action
§ Caliber: 32acp
§ Length overall: 6.81102 Inches
§ Weight: 21.9268 Ounces
§ Barrel length: 3.89764 Inches
§ Capacity: 8

My Walther PP is a West German police trade in excellent condition. This pistol is the one all other compacts are judged by. My PP exudes quality and shoots to point of aim. I have only one complaint with Walther PP pistols and that is the bite the web of my hand. A final note on Walthers is they tend to hold their value better than any pistol I have owned.

After evaluating the four pistols, my conclusion is all will serve you well but the true sleeper is the Bersa Thunder 380. This little pistol has great sights and a very good trigger. In the end, it is my choice over the Makarov due solely to its superior sights. The Bersa is one-third to one-half as much money as the Walther or Sig pistols. It is a truly great buy.


Richard :D

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September 19, 2006, 12:03 PM
Those are all good defense picks. Carry what you will. The sights on my Mak are just fine. Sights can also be changed on the Makarov if one wants to. For those who are considering the change go and look for the sight FAQ. Step by step info and the types one can put onboard. Carry Makarov, Ruger P series,Taurus Pt 111,or a snubbie when on the property. Any of those and usally only one of them.

September 26, 2006, 03:35 PM
Short and sweet, he 380 acp is a lame rnd. you are right the 32 acp performs a lot better than expected 32 acp 71 gr. FMJ penetrats bone and tisue matter better than the 380 acp, the 380 acp bounces of bone matter when the 32 acp plows through bone matter polverises the bone cousing fractions very interesting.

September 26, 2006, 08:56 PM
Short and sweet, he 380 acp is a lame rnd. you are right the 32 acp performs a lot better than expected 32 acp 71 gr. FMJ penetrats bone and tisue matter better than the 380 acp, the 380 acp bounces of bone matter when the 32 acp plows through bone matter polverises the bone cousing fractions very interesting.

40jjb, I'm very interested in the performance difference between the 32acp and the 380acp.

Could you tell me where you found this information, or where I can find it?

September 26, 2006, 09:10 PM
40jjb, I'm very interested in the performance difference between the 32acp and the 380acp.

Could you tell me where you found this information, or where I can find it?

I think he found it here:

September 26, 2006, 09:12 PM
If I have any complaints about the Bersa, they are the decocker works in the opposite direction from a 1911 and the finish could be better.

How does a 1911 decocker work? :confused:

September 27, 2006, 12:08 AM
Easily on of the best buys on the market today. I like it cause the sights are very similar to my cz and switching between the too is easy.

I like mine better than the mak but there sure is a lot of mak stuff to be had.

I can go anywhere and buy .380 acp but finding 9x18 and .32 in a pinch is more difficult.

I like .32 mag but not .32 auto.

I would not kick a sig, walther, or a mac out of my bed for eating crackers but bersa was the girl I wanted to take home the most.


Green Lantern
September 27, 2006, 12:23 AM
ProMag has Bersa mags WITHOUT the finger rest?


I love my Bersa Thunder .380, though for me it's a tad big for effective pocket carry. A flat bottom magazine would probably help. But I have a P3AT now, so I guess it's a moot point! ;)

(But I STILL don't have the heart to get rid of my Bersa!) :D

September 27, 2006, 02:10 AM
I do feel that the .380 is somewhat underpowered for carry.. primary carry that is. I bought the Bersa 380 purely as a backup gun to the .45 I carry every day. I really didn't want a makarov, simply becuase ammo wasn't quite so common. And as far as the walther and the sig, they were just too far out of my price range for a backup. The bersa was the right size ( for me , may well be too big for others tastes in a .380 ) , and it was the right price. I ordered the fobus kydex holster for the bersa a couple days ago. It hasn't come yet, but I'm anxious to try it out as I don't have any other plastic type hosters.

September 27, 2006, 09:19 AM
I own Walther .32 acp pistols and have always found them to be more reliable than the .380 versions.

There are some FMJ .32 acp choices on the market that are very near the .380 fmj in everything but bullet weight, notably GECO and Sellier and Bellot.
I have no use in hollowpoint bullets with the .32 acp.

Bersa pistols are very good guns and the brand I recommend to people looking for a decent handgun at a decent price.
They have only one real fault and most gunsmiths know what it is, they are a nightmare to repair.
Thankfully they are not generally purchased by individuals with heavy shooting in mind.

I like Sig 230s but they are extremely hard to find in .32acp and so close in general function to the Walther PP why would anyone want to buy one when you can buy a .32 PP for less than $300.00?
The .380s are a different story and can generally be found for a cheaper price than a PP in this caliber.

I own a Kel-Tec P32, it's my mousegun but I still miss my Beretta .25s that I sold after I aquired it.
I may yet buy another 950, or better yet a Walther Model 8, if I can find one for a decent price.

I sold the heck out of Makarovs when Chinese, East German and Russian guns were available.
My wife had a Chinese version that was frankly extraordinary.
We should have kept that gun too but didn't.
She latched onto my 4th model Target Hand Ejector Smith in .38 Special.

September 27, 2006, 03:25 PM
I got this information from variuos test i ran on my own to see the performance as a re asurance. The 380 acp Cor bon, 32 acp FMJ 32 acp 71 gr Remington, the 9mm FMJ UMC 115 gr. and the 9mm EFMJ. Media I used to do this test was as follow: Short jeans folded ones, Pack of Pork ribbs, Pack of Pork shoulder and a regular phone book, Taped together using my Kel tec P32, Kel tec P3AT, And Kel tec 9mm using the same amount of media. Performance as follow: 32 acp stopped in page 189, the bone on the pork shoulder was penetrated in such fation it was shadered, With the 380acp Cor bon the rnd tumbled not expanding but smashing against the bone of the pork shoulder bouncing off to the back of the pork shoulder none of the 380 acp came into the phone book poor penetration approximately 7 inch only, Now thw 9mm EFMJ from federal is a class of its own, Expanded every time to a 50cal,ended in page 356 of the phone book, Shaderd the pork bone great performance. The 32 acp was a very respectable and great performer. I have video of these test but I am unable at this time to link to the computer with it.

September 27, 2006, 03:28 PM
Thanks, very interesting.

September 27, 2006, 03:32 PM
He he, the Walther does not even have a slide release. Maybe if they modernized the gun I would consider it.

September 27, 2006, 03:37 PM
I don't go just by what I read , I like doing test on my own to find out the truth, as you now CORPS> never tell the truth same as manufactures. So the info is facts that I experimented and seen not read and emitated. Try the test if you have the facilitie it will be an eye opener for many of you guys with dought in youre minds of witch ammo to use. Granted jellatin is a good media if the BG doesn't have any bones or is not dressed. All though the media used is not human, WE ALL KNOW pork is the closes animal with the same dencity of humans, also Aliving body reacks diferent than dead meet, LIVE MUsCLES when shot tens to contract trying to inhibit more damage to it. But you new this already VAROADKING or are you showing youre lack of expiriance on the matter. Are you a dower or follower, Do the test on youre own then write back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

September 27, 2006, 03:42 PM
I like informing my findin, if you have any more questions aske and i will answere to the best of my observations. Talk to everyone tomorrow. 40JJB

Desk Jockey
September 27, 2006, 04:00 PM
How does a 1911 decocker work?

On a 1911, you put your thumb on the hammer and ease it down after pulling the trigger with your finger.

On the Bersa, you put your finger on the hammer and ease it down after pulling the trigger with your thumb.

Clearly, the Bersa system is more awkward. :D

Interesting write-up, Richard. Thanks for taking the time.

September 27, 2006, 04:35 PM
Desk Jockey, thats not true. perhaps it was true of older bersa .380s ? I'm not sure, but mine has a decocker.... and it must be operated with your tounge :p

Desk Jockey
September 27, 2006, 07:00 PM
mine has a decocker.... and it must be operated with your tounge

Ah! Must be the new 'Hands-free' system! :eek:

I'm sure you can tell that I was just being a smart-aleck on my previous post. I don't know anything about the Bersa's decocker or lack of such; only what I read here.

September 27, 2006, 07:20 PM
You guys are killin' me. :)

September 28, 2006, 12:07 AM
If you want info on 32ACP or .380ACP, check out The Gun Digest of Combat Handgunnery 4th or 5th edition by Mas Ayoob. Rather than try to quote many pages of text I will let you look at book stores,libraries, or on the internet for this. This info is on the real world experience use of these cartridges and the updated data on loads and how they perform. I use a Makarov myself with Hornadys XTP 95 grain JHP load or Silver Bear 115gr.JHPs. That is by choice. Nothing wrong with Bersa and a decent JHP. Hot and humid weather and the fact I am short to begin with makes me look toward using smaller and easier to hide pistols than the P series Rugers I would usually carry. Each to his own. If you like it, carry it. Just use some common sense research and pack a respected JHP.

Big Gay Al
September 28, 2006, 12:24 AM
My only complaint about the Bersa Thunder .380 is the decocker is also a safety. If all it did was decock the gun, I'd be happy. As it is, and how it currently works, when I carry it, I carry it with the safety off, and the hammer down. Trying to push the safety into the off position is too difficult to do when not in a stressful situation for me to consider carrying it with the safety on.

Of course, your mileage may vary. ;)

September 28, 2006, 01:54 AM
I like the Sig 232 Best. I don't have any experience with the older 230 but I have heard others complain of jamming. The Sig is a good shooter and very sleek. The down side is price.

Next I like the Bersa. It seems to be a good all around gun for the price.

Third I like the Makarov. The FMJ ammo is very cheap and performs very well (for FMJ). Mine is Russian and very accurate. The FMJ tends to tumble when it penetrates which is okay with me. Mine also does just fine with truncated cone and hollowpoints. I also replaced the sights on mine. The one bummer about the makarov is the rails are very short and while my gun was tight when I bought it, it loosened up quite a bit after 500 rounds. It's still a tack driver.

I don't have a problem with the .32acp but I don't care for the Walther. I think it's overrated and unreliable. I have heard the new ones made by S&W are better but I haven't shot one.

September 28, 2006, 08:54 AM
40jjb, while you obviously took the time to see how the .32, .380, and 9mm performed for yourself, I'm curious why you didn't use either all fmj, or all hollow points? Every round was fmj except for the Corbon .380, as a hp it's not realistic to expect it to penetrate as deeply. Which is why many people only carry fmj in .32 or .380 subcompacts And a 9mm will obviously penetrate more than a .380, same bullet diameter, but it's fmj, and much higher velocity. At best your are comparing a pocket pistol/round to a compact service pistol/round. I'm not defending the .380, or discrediting your test, just noting the inconsistencies.

September 28, 2006, 03:55 PM
Actualy I will not use any hollopoint, I have tested from Fed, Remin., Winch, Cor bons and many more, all when fire through media Phone books, Leather wallets, Bone matter, dry wall, cloth and many more, only very few expand with makes them unreliable for expantion, Yes you could shoot throu jelatin all you want and water botles, But we now the bad guy also wears cloth he is not clothless, Barier. All hollow points act throu hidrolics, the hollow fills with liquid and then you get expantion, Fill it up with matter and it becomes a FMJ, The only round that expands everytime is the FEDERAL EFMJ in 9mm, 40, 45 acp all cal. This is why I carry my 9 with EFMJ and my 32 acp-380acp with FMJ only.

September 29, 2006, 12:36 AM
I was refering to the test results you posted, CorBon .380 hp vs. .32 and
9mm ball ammo.

September 29, 2006, 01:39 PM
I agree. The Bersa Thunder 380 is a great little handgun. I have had mine for almost a year and you can't beat the price. I shoot Corbon JHP in mine.

September 29, 2006, 06:11 PM
I love my bersa, but I'm a little mad at it right now. It took a little nip at me at the range today. :p

October 1, 2006, 07:37 AM
I will go this coming week end to test the 380 acp, I will post it then after the resuts. On the first test I did with 380 acp I only shot through dry wall, Water mellons, 2x4, aluminium sheets, clothe with watermelon attatched behind. NO test with pork shoulder. it was a good performer in these media but have to do the tishue test.

October 1, 2006, 11:11 AM
I have done test with 380acp FMJ, using as media plaster boards 4, 1inch thick, 2x4, aluminum sheets, jeans, botles, But i yet to test it on pork, This round performed good up to 2x4, started having some penetration problems, The 32 acp FMJ and the 380 acp FMJ did not penetrate a door fromm an old model chevy truck. I have to test in in pork media dressed up. This week end comming I will try to.

October 2, 2006, 09:50 AM
I did some test with 380acp FMJ UMC yesterday after noon couldn't wait to the week end, Some resons I am not getting better results than the 32acp FMJ, Yes the 380 acp FMJ did stop at page 138 of the phone book when it did not strike any bone matter, 2 rounds hitt the bone of the pork, cracked the bone, did not penetrated it, bounced off then landed in page 97 of the phone book, same test that I did with the jean folded, Pork ribbs, pork shoulder, phone book in back. 32 acp still penetrated the bone shadering it stopping on page 129 of the phone book. 32acp still better performer.

Greg Dunn
October 2, 2006, 10:58 AM
My wife actually bought one for herself, she didn't like my Sig 226 or 1911's.

I have taken it to the range a couple of times and it's a nice shooting little pistol, big sights. I loaded it up for her with Win Silvertips, but have a box of FMJ for it too.

Great little gun even if it is a "mouse gun".:evil:

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