My New Firetorm (bersa) Mini .40, A Mini-review


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The Mighty Beagle
February 20, 2003, 12:43 PM
Well, the wife bought me the .40 Mini Firestorm, made by BERSA, as a birthday present today. I did some checking, and fairly cheap reloading components are out there for the .40, so I’m not too disappointed it’s not a 9mm.

Before taking it to the indoor range, I shot the gun about 30-40 times outside to check safety/functioning. Here are my impressions.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

This is a very nice cheap little gun. The gun feels fabulous in the hand, and points even better for me today than it did. I close my eyes, point it, and the sights are dead on when I open them. This gun is almost like an overgrown Sig 232 or Bersa .380.

One thing I LOVE is that the top of the slide is rounded, no boxy-ness about the gun. This makes it much easier on my ribs for IWB carry, and to my eye is just my prettier, as well as being unusual these days.

The grips are highly checkered plastic, and the front of the frame contains moderate finger grooves, which usually would bother me but don’t at all on this gun. I can’t tell if they fit me, or are so moderate that I just don’t notice them being in the wrong place for me.

The front sides of the frame are grooved as an “accessory rail”. What fits on them though, I don’t know.

Balance is excellent, despite having an alloy frame. That usually makes guns top-heavy for me, but I guess the boreline is low enough and the frame heavy enough that it doesn’t feel that way. At only 25 oz. or so, it hefts like a much bigger, heavier, more substantial gun, which I like for recoil control.

The gun is surprisingly thin in the slide, and has a sleek, compact comportment. I think of it as an alternative for the Officers ACP/ 1911 compact I always wanted, except with the safer double-action. I like it much better than the Kahr K9 I once had, as it’s not much bigger, looks better, and has a much more normal “grip angle” to it. It almost looks too compact to fire .40’s comfortably, especially since the sides of the tang are sharpish. However, surprisingly they didn’t bother my hand during firing.

Sights are painted white and are highly visible, but when blacked out are cramped. The front sight is very wide. The rear sight has a relatively small notch for it though, despite having all kinds of room to be “hogged out” before getting into the white outline. A file is definitely in order, as there aren’t any “light bars” to be had on either side of the front sight. If the white paint is your guide though, this isn’t really a problem.


FIT/FINISH

Finish was pretty good for what you’d expect. Fit was pretty good, with tight slide-frame fit and tight barrel-slide fit. One oddity is at the rear of the frame where on the right side of the hammer, the slide overhangs a silly millimeter. Strangely, on the left side, the frame overhangs the slide.

Biggest problem was that the muzzle hole in the slide looks slightly off-center to me. Might just be the way I’m looking at it though, as my wife couldn’t see it.

Some vertical brush marks on the rear of the slide were evident as well as a few marks on the side of the slide from being handled on the pawn shop counter.

Internally, things looked worse, which I’ve come to expect these days from most makers, Latin American makers in particular. The frame was mostly well-formed but contained some tiny malformed places/uneven edges, some being slightly sharp. Nothing that would affect function though. Some wavy-looking places inside the slide and brush wheel marks not totally polished out. The closer you looked, the more cosmetic flaws you could find.


SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS

This is the softest shooting .40 I’ve ever fired, maybe due to the stiff dual recoil springs. I thought it was a 9mm on Steroids. I generally hate the .40’s recoil, so that says a lot really.

Two 180 gr. FMJ loads were used, as that’s all that Wal-Mart had, and recoil was surprisingly manageable, although I had to be attentive about squeezing the trigger to avoid the occasional flinch. Reset seemed adequate, but then I didn’t really try any fast shooting. Muzzle flip was not really that bad, not nearly as bad as .45’s I’ve had, and would allow for fast follow up shots were I skilled enough to make them. I was very impressed with the controllability of this .40 compared to others I’ve owned.

This is probably the only .40 I could ever be happy with.


SAFETY

The gun has an ambidextrous decocker lever on the frame that is easily reachable. Snick it up and you decock the gun. Leave it up and the gun is on “safe”. Snick it down and you are returned to functional DA. I liked it as it’s huge and easy to hit, yet is almost hard to snick into decock/safe. Snicking it down off-safe is quite easy though. Seems like this difference would minimize chances of accidentally putting it on safe.

The gun also came with a key lock that can disable the trigger via a lock in the frame ahead of the trigger.


TRIGGER

DA is heavy, long, and smooth, with some stacking right near the breaking point. I found I could stage it like a DA revolver, to my delight. SA is way too heavy in a Browning-HiPower-type-of-way but is very crisp. With some dry-firing, they can be dealt with. I really don’t mind heavy triggers on a self-defense gun.


RELIABILITY

Slick operation; this is obviously a good design (P88). No FTE’s or FTF’s, but out of 30 - 40 rounds fired, 3 failed to ignite, 2 UMC’s and 1 Win. USA. On the second strike, all went off. In all fairness to the pistol, I lubed the heck out of it with Break Free and wonder if that could be relevant. Fired casings were beautiful, with a moderately-deep primer indent but the indent was shaped a little funny. I’m hoping the gun will sort itself out with more breaking in.


ACCURACY

The gun wanted to shoot more accurately than I could do it. Shooting was offhand at 10-12 yds. I would like to black out the sights for further accuracy testing, as the “white ball in the square” setup on them was imprecise. Still, groups were 2.5 - 3.5 inches, which actually pleased me given the heavy trigger on an unfamilar gun with a short barrel. I felt like it could potentially do this well at 20 yds. if it were benched.

A terrible point-of-impact problem was evident, groups being 4” to the left and 4” - 6” low. I sometimes do this with a new gun but not THIS much, so I’m thinking this gun will be going back to a repair center for correction eventually, which is no prob. as it has a Lifetime Warranty.

At any rate, they were off enough to make plinking at a coffee can un-satisfying; I just couldn’t seem to compensate for them enough.


CONCLUSION

I hate fooling with getting a gun to work just right; I feel that’s the factory’s job. However, the little glitches in this one somehow don’t bother me because I really, really like this gun and want to make it work for me, especially for the inexpensive price paid.

Things I’ll tell the factory to fix:
Point-of-impact problem, possibly slide needs replaced.
Heavy SA trigger
Firing pin problems should they not go away

It’s a nice enough gun to defend yourself with, but if it were confiscated you’d have no personal feelings invested in it. In fact, you could afford to just go out and buy another.

More shooting impressions are to come as soon as I can make it to the range and buy some better ammo.


ADDITIONAL NOTE ON .40 “STOPPING POWER”

I’ve studied what I’ve read on here and what Marshall et.al. say in gun mags, but frankly am more impressed with what my wife was told by a WV State Trooper who was also looking at my Firestorm. Apparently he is trying to get approved to carry one (as an off duty piece I assume).

He mentioned he had actually shot two people in the line of duty, both high on drugs. In the first incident, not even 7 9mm Hydra-Shoks to the chest/upper torso would put the badguy down. In fact, he said that he would have kept on shooting the guy if only he had some more ammo.

The second incident involved a single .40 FMJ to the chest, putting the badguy down immediately. Sure there are many variables in the two incidents. I just personally feel that ineffectiveness of the 9mm was likely one factor. And unlike the other factors in a shooting, we DO have a measure of control over caliber used, and to me usage of a bigger, more powerful round makes sense.

I think un-scientific, anecdotal incidents like these have profoundly affected L.E. weapon choice lately, and I can’t help but feel they know something we don’t from being in shootouts. They seem to me to be abandoning the 9 in droves, as shall I for self-defense.

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megatronrules
February 20, 2003, 02:01 PM
Im going to go take a look at these. Sounds like a good buy for the money. My friend has a Bersa .380 and has never had a problem with it. We shot lots of rounds through it too. :D
Good luck with the new toy. :) Thanks for the review as well.

The Mighty Beagle
February 20, 2003, 02:27 PM
Your welcome, Megatron.

Go for it. It has tremendous potential, being of sound design, as well as being extremely user-friendly.

I'll post more when I can.

BevrFevr
February 20, 2003, 06:58 PM
I was smitten with one of these at a gun show several months back. A duotone .45.

As I am a bit picky about little things I will look closely before I buy. I don't like the thought of the point of impact being so far off.

Can it be carried cocked and locked?

Good Luck with the new heater.

-bevr

Akurat
February 20, 2003, 08:18 PM
Glad to see youre happy with it overall, Beagle...little doubt you would be as it it a very well made handgun. It comes out of the box absolutely soaked in cosmo grease so that is a likely cause of the misfires.

To answer the above question...no, the Mini cannot be carried cocked & locked, the safety acts as a decocker for DA/SA carry.

firestar
February 20, 2003, 08:23 PM
I'll butt in here. Yes it can be carried cock and locked. It even has the colt type safty, i.e., down is fire.

My dealer just bought one of these in .40 and he really likes it. He liked it so much that he was selling his like new Browning Hi Power for $419 with two hi caps and the box. I didn't have the money right then but he said I could come to his house and buy it later. The next time I saw him it was sold.

Anyway, I liked the Bersa much better before I saw it in person. The fit and finish is sub par and the controls were gritty and stiff. I don't think it is anywhere near as nice as the .380s they sell. The whole gun looks like it was cast and there were some obvious cast lines. Maybe this was just a particularly bad one but it really turned me off. And the price isn't that cheap, $295. For that kind of cash, I would get a used S&W 9mm or .40 compact pistol. Much better guns.

firestar
February 20, 2003, 08:35 PM
Here is one:http://gunbroker.com/auction/ViewItem.asp?Item=7482653

The Mighty Beagle
February 20, 2003, 08:46 PM
Hi Firestar, thanks for responding. I’d like to clarify some things, though.

YOU: “I'll butt in here. Yes it can be carried cock and locked. It even has the colt type safty, i.e., down is fire.”

ME: My Mini 40 cannot be carried cocked and locked. Could you be talking about the Firestorm 1911's? Perhaps they make more than one kind of safety system for my DA/SA Mini, a la Ruger?

YOU: “The whole gun looks like it was cast and there were some obvious cast lines.”

ME: Sounds like a bad one, mine doesn’t seem cast at all, looking very nice externally.

YOU: “And the price isn't that cheap, $295. For that kind of cash, I would get a used S&W 9mm or .40 compact pistol. Much better guns.”

ME: Only Ruger makes a quality NEW semi-auto in that price range, and I’ve already got a P94.

Based on my experience with 3 used police trade-in S&W’s, I decided to buy new. They jammed alot. I don’t know if the distributor was making parts guns or what, but they were crap. New S&W’s I’ve owned and shot have been first rate though - for twice the price.

The worst part is, no S&W fit my hand correctly. Just my .02.

hksw
February 20, 2003, 09:52 PM
Glad your somewhat happy with your gun. One thing, though. When I shoot a new gun I usually, at some point early on, shoot the gun on a rest to see where the bullets strike with respect to the sights with as little holding error due to flinching or movement due to a heavy trigger, etc. from me as possible. On a few occassions, the gun is shooting straight but I do apply a little input when shooting offhand that sends the rounds slightly off target. That is, it is me and not the gun that was causing inaccuracy. Not to say that you are doing it with your new Mini. I just like to start from a baseline.

The Mighty Beagle
February 20, 2003, 10:20 PM
Ron, I couldn't agree more. I've had that happen just recently with my P94, so ordinarily the first place I run to is my benchrest. However, due to the snow here, I can't make it up the hill where the benchrest is located. I was gonna wait until I could, but curiousity got the better of me and I just had to shoot the slick little auto (mostly just to see how .40 would recoil).

Hopefully tomorrow I'll make it. I'm excited, as I think the gun is probably surprisingly accurate. I will post my results as soon as I can.

BevrFevr
February 21, 2003, 10:58 AM
I think the link you posted shows something other than a mini firestorm.

I will try to find an image to post.

-bevr

BevrFevr
February 21, 2003, 11:02 AM
From a distance it sure looks sexy enough. -bevr

rblack
February 21, 2003, 04:13 PM
I had the mini 40 Firestorm for a while quite some time ago, like maybe a year ago. For the money I found it to be quite acceptable. My sights were not well regulated to poi thou, like yours are not. Fit and finish were not perfect, but for the money and size of the gun, I thought it had a lot of potential. I traded mine for something else I just had to have at the time, can't even remember now what it was.

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