S&W 642 vs Bersa Thunder as next purchase


September 7, 2011, 09:52 AM
There are various posts about the merits of both of these weapons and each is fine in it's own way. The question I have to answer is which do I buy? Each has pluses and minuses relating to capacity, muzzle energy, sight radius, etc.

The revolver is a bit more expensive. It has a lower number of rounds however they can be +P. 5 158 gr LSWCHP +P from Buffalo Bore (1040 fps - 379 ft. lbs. from a 2" barrel) will put a crimp on most situations. I already own 2 .38/.357 4" revolvers so there is little difference from a training perspective and I am getting set up to reload both .38 Special and .357 Magnum. It is current S&W production and does have an internal lock. That does not bother me and even if it did, I know how to remove it.

The auto is somewhat less expensive. It has a larger capacity of somewhat lower energy rounds though I don't believe that .380 is sufficiently lower to be of concern and, once again, there is a Buffalo Bore loading (380 Auto +P Ammo - 100 gr. Hardcast F.N. (1150fps/ M.E. 294 ft. lbs.)) that evens things up a bit. Slightly larger it has a better sight radius however it is a semi-auto and so has a more extensive malfunction drill to consider. I intensely dislike the super compact semi-autos and this, about PPK sized, is as small as I care to go.

I'm inclined towards the 642 at this point, but am curious if anyone has any arguments to make pro or con for either of these. If my budget permitted, I'd probably be looking at a 3" Model 60 vs a blue steel Walther PPK, but I am budget constrained to this level instead.


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September 7, 2011, 09:55 AM
Hard choice to make. I have both and switch back and forth. So I can't tell you which one I like better.

September 7, 2011, 10:03 AM
You mention reloading. 38 special is much more enjoyable to reload than the tiny little 380 auto cases. Might be enough to tip the scale?

September 7, 2011, 10:15 AM
Either would be a good carry gun, but since you are getting set up to reload for the .38, that would get my nod. I carry a 649 quite regularly, and believe it to be just about perfect for civilian self defense carry.

Doug S
September 7, 2011, 08:39 PM
For me the decision came down to reliability. I've owned two Bersa pistols (380 & 45), but neither were reliable. My 642 is reliable. The Bersa' have been sold off, but I regularly use the 642. I know everyone and their brother claims to have reliable Bersa handguns, but that wasn't my experience.

September 7, 2011, 09:22 PM
Thank you folks, I appreciate all information.

September 7, 2011, 09:54 PM
I'm with Ed. Though I know longer carry the Thunder due to having since acquired a Kel-Tec PF-9, I still own it, and it was/is always a great shooter. I carried it for about a year. I also own a .38 snub (two, actually), and frequently switch from the PF-9 to one of them for nostalgia reasons, or simply because I do also like them.

September 7, 2011, 10:39 PM
the 642 would be my choice.

September 8, 2011, 11:10 AM
I'd take a 642, unless your other option was a small 9mm.

Edit: http://hunting.about.com/od/guns/l/aast9mmv380a.htm

It's not about what is comfortable for you to carry, but is what you carry even worthwhile.

Samari Jack
September 8, 2011, 11:23 AM
I have both and carry both, depending on my mood and intended purpose. The 642 isn't as much fun to put a box of 50 though, at least to my somewhat arthritic hands. I have grips that came with it. My goal for either is head shots at 7-12 ft for CC. Lately, I have been loading the first up round with a .38 shot shell. Reason being if surprised, that first round hopefully wouldn't have to be perfect at 7 ft to blind, distract or slow 'em up enough for a rapid second short with a Hornady HP. That first shot, while walking my dog in the woods makes a heck of a snake round too.

September 8, 2011, 11:37 AM
Sheesh. Tough choice.

I would choose the Bersa. not because either gun is better or worse, but because I am set up to reload .380 already and really like my autoloaders.

You can imagine my recommendation to you, right. 8)

September 8, 2011, 12:05 PM
Keep in mind that the Bersa is a boat anchor, some see that as a positive with lower recoil, but for a CCW it's too heavy for some.:cool:


September 8, 2011, 01:11 PM
I'm a revolver guy so I carry a M442 but if I were to carry a semi-auto it wouldn't be a Bersa. I would rather carry a Kel-Tec P-3AT, S&W Bodyguard, Kahr P380 or a Ruger LCP in 380.

September 8, 2011, 01:15 PM
The 642 is the answer.

September 8, 2011, 01:21 PM
One more vote for the 642. I love mine and love the .38 round compared to the 380.

Both the Bersa and the S&W are highly concealable. But the revolver is as close as you can get to trouble free reliability, and is extremely light. In CCW those are the three main concerns.

My 2%... :)

September 8, 2011, 02:06 PM
Well, I went out to my FLGS today and fondled both again. I was reminded that I really like revolvers better than autos, though the Bersa is a really nice weapon that handles well and feels nice. The 642 is just a bit easier to fit in my pocket - with a decent holster, it fits nicely in my jeans front pocket and looks like a set of car keys. The tipping point, ultimately, is the reloading. Since I'm getting set up to reload .38 anyway, it makes more sense just to buy a bunch of 158 gr LSWCHP (until I can cast my own) and load up some +P and be happy.

Once I have the downpayment to spare, I'll put a 642 on layaway.

Thanks for your thoughts.

September 8, 2011, 03:57 PM
Being of a conservative bent, I would opt for the 642 for its utter reliability. I also prefer .38 special over .380. Just my .02.

September 8, 2011, 05:27 PM
Add a Kahr CW9 to your mix. They can be bought new for around 410 bucks new . Weight is 17oz empty and can carry 7+1 rounds of 9mm with 8 in an extra mag and will shot +P ammo. Flatter than the revolver byfar and about the same profile as the snubby. Ammo is cheap enough to able to shoot alot. Also a very controlable handgun. A bit smaller still the cm9. After that the 642 for sure.

Deaf Smith
September 8, 2011, 07:50 PM
While I'm a J man, I have to say the Bersa I highly recommend. Especially the CC one.

But if you do go the .380 route, make sure you have some ammo stashed away just in case another shortage (in fact that's a good idea for ANY gun you keep for defense.)


September 8, 2011, 10:46 PM
I think you've made the logical choice in the 642: You like revolvers, you already have and shoot two revolvers, you are getting set up to load your own for that caliber, so, for muscle memory, reloading simplicity, etc, the small revolver makes all kinds of sense.

September 8, 2011, 11:46 PM
Go with the 642. I've owned two Bersa .380's. They were both reliable and fun to shoot, easy to clean. But they are a little big for a .380 in my opinion. The .38 642 is more versatile in terms of ammo and carries soooo comfortably. It is more difficult to shoot but it can be figured out with a little time at the range.

September 9, 2011, 09:17 AM
The 642 is the answer.
What a great site! Thanks for posting oldschoolguns.blogspot.com

September 10, 2011, 09:15 AM
I have a S&W 642 and a kel-tec 380, I carry them both.
I like the kel-tec for its small size and I like the 380, I reload it and I have pushed the 90g. xtphp to almost 1,000fps.
I do not like the bersa as it is as large as a j-frame(it is thinner) If it was down to one or the other I would go with the S&W. With pound for pound the S&W is lighter, it may hold less ammo but it is lighter and after a long day of CC. I would go with a lighter firearm any day. There is nothing wrong with the Bersa, IMHO it is too large for its own good as you can get a smaller firearm for the round. I think that a 380 is as good as a 38sp. if loaded right. The advantage goes to the 38 as you can use heavier bullets, But the 380 will most of the time carry more of the lighter bullets.

September 11, 2011, 06:13 AM
The 642 is a great gun.

September 11, 2011, 11:36 AM
Good Morning All,

Bersa has a 380 CC model as well as the PPK sized regular 380 model. The CC model is only slightly smaller (still bigger and heavier than a LCP) and has features like a bobbed hammer, less prominent (less snag) sights, and strangely, one more round in the magazine.

I have both models. According to the numbers the difference in size between them is not very large but in my pocket the CC is comfortable and regular sized is less so.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you are still thinking about the Bersa, check out the CC model and see if it is a good fit for your needs.

Good Luck.


September 11, 2011, 11:53 AM
Okay, I am old school and admit it. I just come up with one should try before they buy is all.

Not only should one investigate and verify which gun they shoot best, also can they carry it effectively, meaning will they actually carry it? Other considerations include, but not limited to, will they put in the trigger time to become one with the gun, and continue quality practice?

Can they run the gun? Which includes manipulating any safeties, loading/unloading, and any one handed drills.

Just me you understand.


September 11, 2011, 06:40 PM
Well the fact that your set up to reload 38/357 will tip scales to S&W.
Bersa Thunder a good pistol and CC id even better for carry But the reloading factor says S&W to me . See even thought I own a bersaboard I suggested might not be right answer for you.

But you can still come vist We talk about wheel guns also.


September 13, 2011, 03:40 PM
Well, $350 more to pay off the lay-away & then a 48 hour waiting period till a new S&W 642 is mine. Nice light tiny little +P J frame. Hopefully I'll never need it anywhere but the range, but it's something I'll feel confident carrying.

Thanks all for your thoughts, I appreciate it.

September 14, 2011, 10:45 AM
If you have settled on a Centenial J Frame like the 642 you may wish to narrow it down a bit further. 442 is the "black" version of a 642. A bit more stealthy FWIW. I think the finish on the 442 is slightly more robust than the 642 with clear cote. I would also try to find one w/o the ILS (lock).
Having said all that I have a 642 with the ILS and although I have never had any problems with about 250 rounds through it knowing what I know now and the availability of the X42s w/o locks I would go that route.

I also have a BERSA BT 380 and it is too heavy for pocket carry IMO. If I were going to do the BERSA again I would probably do the smaller CC version.
My BERSA has been trouble free up to round count 600+.

For pocket carry the J Frame is a good choice. Did you look at the S&W Body Guard with laser?


50 dollars more and bit over 1 ounce lighter. A great deal if you like lasers (I do) and lighter is better when it comes to pocket carry.

Buds has 642 and 442 with no lock $361 delivered FWIW.


September 14, 2011, 01:06 PM
The J-Frame in my opinion!

September 14, 2011, 06:54 PM
I think you made the right choice in the 642. Better bullet and better platform.

September 14, 2011, 11:43 PM
Bersa CC loaded with Corbon DPX or Bufflo loading with same bullet. CC is slighty smaller and thinner than Thunder and has 8+1 verses Thunder 7+1 . Factory says not to use the CC mag in Thunder We have tried at Bersachat with mixed results They work fine in my Thunders other not as lucky.

September 15, 2011, 07:24 PM
Think he already bought the J-frame ;)

Anyway, I owned both.

Sold the 642 no lock, and kept the Bersa.

Weird choice by most, but I have bad joint and wrist issues. The light weight recoil with even 130 grain fmj loads was too much with the SW.

The Bersa was accurate out to 15 yards and beyond. The SW not so much. Your mileage will vary, and the SW is a solid platform if it works for you. I'd say its probably better made and will last longer too.

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