Bersa was founded in the mid-1950s by Italian immigrants Benso Bonadimani, Ercole Montini and Savino Caselli, all of them mechanical engineers. Montini worked for Beretta in Italy. Bersa’s early efforts at building firearms met with little success.
Bersa; however, is currently one of the largest privately owned corporations in Argentina. It produces, among many handguns, the very popular Bersa Thunder 380 and the Bersa Thunder 9 pistols and the Ultra Compact series of the Thunder chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. They also have the Thunder .40 S&W HD which holds 13 rounds and comes in duo tone or matte black.
My first encounter with Bersa firearms led me to carry a Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro for several years. The Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro has proven itself to be a fine pistol, and in fact, led me to purchase several other Bersa Firearms with a pair of Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistols being part of the mix. While I had produced a review of the Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro, I had never written a review of the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol or conveyed my adventure with one of those that I have.
THE REALITY:The reality is that you would probably pass on the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol and move to one of the polymer ‘Wonder 9s” that are light, you can stick in a pocket for convenient carry, and because they have no external controls (with the slide lock being an exception) that actually make you think about what you are doing with the pistol. Or, perhaps, you might move to something like a Springfield, a Ruger, or even a Smith & Wesson because of their branding. Hopefully, I will provide some information that might make you revisit the Bersa line of pistols. With the exception of the take-down lever, the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is totally ambidextrous with dual slide lock levers and frame-mounted safety/de-cocking levers. The dual slide lock levers are reached easily with the thumb or forefinger. The dual, frame-mounted thumb safety/de-cocking levers allow you to not only de-cock the firearm safely but also allow you to place the firearm into a ‘safe’ condition. The slide lock and safety/de-cock levers are; however, stiff and require a definite action on your part to operate them.
To de-cock the hammer, the safety/de-cock lever is pushed up to de-cock the hammer and also places the pistol in “safe” mode. The trigger and hammer is disconnected in the “safe’ mode. Note that placing the safety/de-cocking lever to de-cock takes some effort; I usually use the thumb of the support hand to de-cock the pistol. The thumb safety/de-cocking lever; however, is easily placed in the “fire” position by pushing it down with the thumb. Because of the heavy double-action trigger, I normally carry the Bersa with the thumb safety/de-cocking lever in the “fire’ position.
To place the pistol in “fire” mode, the safety/de-cocking lever is pushed down and operates similar to that on a 1911-based pistol. At this point, the pistol is in double-action mode. The double-action trigger pull weight is heavy (> 10 pounds) but relatively smooth with no stacking. Once fired in double-action mode, the pistol is now in single-action mode; there is some take-up until the hammer drops and very little over-travel is detected. Trigger reset is very short and fast, subsequent single-action shots are very possible.The trigger pull in ‘single-action’ mode is right at a freckle past 5 pounds, which is comparable to any other box-stock pistol on the market. There is a little take-up and the trigger break is slightly spongy, but not to spongy to warrant a trigger job. If I had to make a comparison, I would put the trigger (in single-action mode) somewhere between the Springfield and Ruger SR series of pistols. The three-dot sighting system is adequate for combat work and both front and rear sights are drift-adjustable for windage. However, if I were to carry the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol full-time, I would be tempted to find a good set of night sights and have them installed by a certified and competent gun smith. With that said, the other Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro (a 13-round version) has sights similar to the Glock, which I prefer over the 3-dot system.
A pop-up “loaded” indicator on the top of the slide provides visual and tactile confirmation that a round is chambered. The roiled hammer provides a positive surface for hammer cocking and manual de-cocking (I prefer to manually de-cock the pistol over using the extremely stiff safety/de-cocking lever). Note that even if you manually de-cock the pistol, the hammer does not rest against the firing pin ensuring that the hammer does not fire the pistol even when dropped on the hammer. Essentially, the hammer is positioned at the same place when the safety/decocking lever is placed in the “safe” and “de-cock’ position. When I carry the Bersa, the hammer is lowered manually with a round chambered and the pistol is in the “Fire” mode. At this point, the pistol starts out as any revolver with a heavy double-action trigger pull.
Since the slide is steel, the pistol is heavy as compared to polymer pistols. In fact, when loaded to the 10+1 capacity, the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is heavier than my current carry – a Ruger SR1911CMD-A. The weight of the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is also a saving grace when you shoot the pistol. I think that we can agree that more weight translates to less perceived recoil. Less perceived recoil translates to better control. The weight of the pistol, coupled with an excellent grip texture, makes the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is a delight to shoot.The trigger housing incorporates a forward finger rest that is serrated to help you hold onto the pistol. Anything that helps to hold the barrel down so that you can get back on target quickly is always a help; it is nice to know that it exist, but I find myself rarely using it. The trigger housing is large enough to support a gloved hand. Just forward of the trigger housing is a rail, which provides a mounting location for light and/or laser if mounting such is your desire.
The frame incorporates a full rail for the slide. There is a slight play in the slide-to-frame fit but it does not affect accuracy of the pistol. A dual-spring full-length recoil spring assembly provides the necessary buffering while 3.5-inch barrel with the improved Browning Petter barrel locking system provides reliable feeding and ejection. Although dual-springs are used, cycling the slide is easy but may be difficult for those with weak wrist or hands. The rear slide serrations help assist the user in cycling the slide and the user need not worry about external controls interfering with the operation.The checkered, black polymer grip seems to be a good width for most hands and when holding the pistol you will find that it is nicely balanced. The staggered steel magazine holds 13 or 10 rounds (depending on the version you have) and I have both versions. A 17-round magazine is also available. The magazine release button is located on the left side of the frame but can be reversed for the left handed shooter. Magazines lock up without effort and pressing the magazine release button cuts the magazines loose from the frame freely. The pistol is sold with two magazines.
As a side note, the magazines are the same height regardless of 10 or 13 round capacities. The magazines incorporate viewing windows for round counts. The 10-round magazine has a polymer follower; whereas, the 13-round version incorporates a stainless steel follower. Both magazines work well, thank you.A removable magazine base plate, which incorporates a finger rest, provides the little finger a place to roost (should you decide to use it). The grip frame also has a vertically-serrated front strap and finger grooves to help hold and guide the shooting hand into place. The back strap also incorporates a small beavertail that helps to keep the hand ‘below the deck’ and that is a good thing; I bear ‘hammer bite’ scars from the Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro when I got too frisky with it during a couple of fast-fire exercises. Fortunately, the grip texture on the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is better than the Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro pistol and no ‘hammer bites’ have occurred with it. (Note that I wear shooting gloves when practicing pistol shooting at the range; there is less fatigue and less wear and tear on the nerves of the shooting hand.) The width of the pistol is 1.46” at its widest point and the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol weighs in at 23 pounds dry. While some may say that I am comparing apples to oranges, I do feel that a comparison to the Glock G26 is necessary. The G26 weighs 26.10 ounces loaded with 10 rounds of 9mm; the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol weighs only 1.25 ounces more with a comparable load. The total width of the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is 1.46-inches (including external controls) and is only .25-inch wider than the G26. The barrel of the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is 3.5-inches as compared to 3.46 inches of the G26. The slide of the Bersa; however, is rounded and that helps in the concealment factor.
The Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol comes in Matte Black and nickel-steel slide finishes. Both of my Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistols are in the Matte Black slide finish. The first Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol had an excellent finish to it. The second Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol; however, was another matter, but because the finish suffered I was able to purchase it at a reduced price. You see, when Bersa began shipping the early models, there was a problem with the oil used to ship the pistols that prevented corrosion. The oil caused the protective bag that housed the pistol to react with the pistols finish and that reaction was negative. The finish on the slide would be mottled or splotchy in places and this was not a good selling feature. However, the affected pistols could be bought at reduced prices due to the problem, which is good for a consumer like me. The Bersa, after all, is a service gun and not a safe queen or something to be destined for the Smithsonian Institute. The problem with faulty finishes was corrected at a later time and I have not seen any finish problems with the pistols that I have looked at since. As a side note, one of my Bersa Thuinder45 UC Pro pistols suffered from the same problem. Again, I was able to purchase it at a very good price. I cleaned the finish up the best that I could and carried the pistol for several years. The finish looks like a well-worn blued revolver or pistol, but again, it was (and still is) a service pistol.
With that said, the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol that has the defective finish has been chosen to undergo a Cerakote finish and I have written a review on how that turned out @ http://guntoters.com/blog/2015/10/12/the-bersa-thunder9-ultra-compact-pro-project-cerakote/. While the Bersa that I am reviewing was actually intended to be used as a parts gun or backup, it turned out to be an excellent carry gun when I chose to do so. The Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro is still a carry pistol but now resides in my EDC “man bag.”
So, why would one decide to take a real inexpensive pistol and have a Cerakote treatment applied? A range session should answer that question.
When I first purchased this particular Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol, I felt that I should polish the feed ramp just out of a matter of course. After firing the pistol for the first time, I decided against it because the pistol shot everything that it was fed without exception from 115-grain to 147-grain FMJ and HP rounds.
With the particular pistol under review, 147-grain FMJ ammunition gave the best results. With 124-grain fodder, the pistol shot a little high. With 147-grain ammunition, I could hold the barrel over the intended point of impact and there I was for the most part. Granted, double-action shooting took more concentration than single-action, but that is to be expected when one is used to carrying a non DA/SA handgun.
Recoil is mild compared to other lightweight 9mm pistol, but that was to be expected. The pistol has excellent ergonomics, and from a combat standpoint, it also has excellent accuracy.
SECURITY FEATURE:Just below the take-down lever, you will find what seems to be a key lock – because that is what it is. Shipped with the pistol is a special locking key to operate the key lock. Inserting the key into the lock and turning the key counter-clockwise to the ‘S’ position effectively takes the pistol out of commission; the slide cannot be moved nor can the trigger be pulled. Turn the lock to the ‘F’ position makes the pistol fully operational. You must contact Bersa for a replacement key should you lock the pistol and lose the key. I leave the use of this security feature totally up to the user.
THE BAD:My only issue with the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro is the safety/dock lever. Although the safety/decocker does what it is supposed to do, it is very difficult to place the pistol in a ‘safe’ condition with the thumb of the shooting hand until the pistol is well broken in. When new, I found that I had to place the thumb of the support hand under the thumb of the firing hand to push the safety/decocking lever up to the safety on/decocking position. This, in itself, is not a huge problem, but it does take an effort to engage the safety/docking lever.
I normally bypass the safety/decking lever when placing the pistol in ‘Condition 2’. I point the pistol in a safe direction, hold the hammer with the thumb and forefinger of the support hand and use them to control the descent of the hammer as I pull the trigger. This technique is not the optimum technique to use during a string of fire and I have to rely on the “double thumb” method on this pistol.
Due to the heavy, revolver-like double-action I feel no need to carry the pistol with the safety on
The Beretta heritage can be found in the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol due to the fact that one of the engineers who helped design the pistol was a Beretta engineer. Although prices have increased since their introduction into the U.S. market, they are still a good value for the price.
The Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro pistol is not for the lazy or for those who simply want a point-n-click interface and instant gratification. Each external control has a purpose and it will take a person who is willing to master those controls without a conscience effort, although the controls do take some physical effort to use them.
One of the first things that I have to ask myself when looking at and possibly purchasing a handgun is would I actually carry the thing. In the case of the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro, the answer would be yes; I have, and would again if the situation calls for it. Besides, the Crossbreed Super Tuck Deluxe holster for the Bersa Thunder45 UC Pro also houses the Bersa Thunder9 UC Pro. Why waste a good thing?
- Bersa: https://bersa.eagleimportsinc.com/bersa/firearms
- Thunder Ultra Compact Pro Series: https://bersa.eagleimportsinc.com/bersa/firearms/thunder-ultra-compact-pro-series
- Thunder Pro Ultra Compact 9MM Matte Black Finish: https://bersa.eagleimportsinc.com/bersa/firearms/thunder-ultra-compact-pro-series/models/thunder-pro-ultra-compact-9mm
- SIG P239 vs. Bersa Thunder 9UC Pro: http://www.usacarry.com/sig-p239-vs-bersa-thunder-9uc-pro/