The Bersa Thunder 380 has been around a long time, and more than one million have been sold in the United States alone. Affordable, all-metal, hammer-fired, DA/SA pistol that's slim and light enough to slip into a pocket or purse simply makes sense. Add to that Walther PPK/S-esque styling, a healthy aftermarket, and wide variety of color options are all factors that have gone into making the Bersa Thunder 380 a popular option for many shooters. In 2022 Bersa updated the line with the creation of the TPR 380.
This update made only minor changes so as not to ruin a good recipe, but still offer something different:
Tri-top slide design like the Bersa TPR9 of other TPR models.
New grip pannels which eliminat some of the contour and
add a clamp-on rail section.
Magazines now have a finer finish and feature number markings.
Slide serrations are fewer, but broader for better traction
Some comparison points are made in the tabletop video below.
MODEL: TPR 380
CALIBER: 380 ACP
FRAME MATERIAL: Aluminium
SAFETY: Integral Locking System & Manual Safety
FRONT SIGHT: Dovetail
REAR SIGHT: Notched-Bar Dovetail
TRIGGER PULL: 5.5lbs
BARREL LENGTH 3.5"
TOTAL LENGTH: 6.6"
In the Box, as with most budget-friendly options, there's not much. You get the federally-mandated trigger lock, a chamber flag, one magazine, the Bersa lock key, and a manual. My sample came with a manual intended for the rest of the TPR line and some inserts to make it relevant to this pistol which is blowback operated, not Browning tilting action like the TPR9s and other calibers. Additional magazines are available direct from Bersa USA and several online retailers for around $30. Fortunately the TPR 380 uses the same magazines as the older Thunder 380 so they are readily available.
The Bersa lock is a mechanical lock of the firearm. This is a feature I have no use for, and in years of using Bersa pistols I've never had one malfunction so it doesn't bother me to have a feature I simply don't use. My guess is it's a feature added, like the magazine disconnect safety, for the purpose of legal compliance in some markets as well as to help the pistol make "points" with the ATF for importation. Imported arms have to meet a mirriad of rediculous requirements and small, light pistols are a tough one to clear without adding silly features. Remember, the US government does not want you to be armed, and would rather you buy US-made from a company they're already making tax revenue from.
In hand the contours of the Thunder 380-style grips are missed by this shooter. It's a compromise you'll have to make however if you want rail space. The aftermarket already has laser grips if you want to forgo the rail, but with an retail price of around $230 they aren't an inexpensive upgrade compared to the price of the pistol.
I've known Bersa pistols for having good triggers, and having experienced three other variants of this model was curious to experience how the new grips and slide serrations would change things. As expected, the double-action trigger pull has a good safe weight that pulls consitently and smoothly. The single action is crisper than anything else in this price range and should make for timing shots easy. The TPR380 is a true double-action/single action pistol with a safety that can be left on only when the pistol is decocked. It is meant to be used with a double-action first shot and there is no means of "cocked and locked" hammer-back, safety on.
For the range experience I of course used our standardized format including:
Cold Shots: Truly our first rounds through the gun.
Full Mag +1: Oddly not all firearms function well this way. It's a function of the ammunition chosen and magazine design. THis is extra-important for a lower-cpacity firearm like the TPR 380
What's For Dinner™: A test to see what ammunition the gun will eat. Does the gun feed the round from slide lock, will it cycle and feed another round of the same type, does the slide lock to the rear on empty, and is there any notable point of impact change with different loads.
50gr Liberty Ammuition Civil Defense +p $31.99/20 at Optics Planet
85gr Winchester Silver Tip JHP
88gr Remington HTP JHP $20.99/20 at Brownell's
90gr Speer Gold Dot JHP $29.98/20 at Firearms Depot
95gr Blazer Aluminum FMJ $18.95/50 at Global Ordnance
95gr Fiocchi FMJ $20.46/50 at Global Ordnance
95gr Speer Lawman TMJ $19.52/50 at Global Ordnance
95gr Browning BPT
99gr Federal Premium HST $26.39/20 at Global Ordnance
102gr Remington Ultimate Defense BJHP $19.52/20 at Global Ordnance
Sights & Trigger Control: on a 6" spinner target at a distance of 12 yards. We got this from Titan Great Outdoors and use it to gauge how learnable the trigger is and usable the sights are for forced, timed, precise shots.
Practical Accuracy: Five shots from a distance of seven yards at a one inch target. This isn't so much about printing a tight group as it is a culmination of our shooting experience and time for us to collect thoughts prior to making a conclusions
After Shots: Final impressions and reflections from the range session.
You can watch the process in the video below.
I didn't have my most accurate range session. Some of that can be remedied with the adjustbale sights (additionally, the TPR 380 accepts the same sights as the rest of the TPR line: Sig #8 (or #6?) fit, I used this years ago to put night sights on the TPR9). I didn't adjust the sights once I had confirmed they were a bit off so that we could see point of impact differences with the different loads in What's For Dinner™.
The other struggle I had was purely a personal one, but one worth noting. The TPR380 is simply too slim for my hand size to get a good grip on. The older Thunder 380 grips had a contour I could use to apply pressure. Additionally, the new grip style extends under the trigger guard and pushes my hand down from my pinky catching on the magazine to only being half on the magazine. For perspective I wear XXL gloves, so anyone with hands smaller than mine likely won't have this issue. Teya held the two and had no issue getting her complete hand on either pistol.
I did learn that blowback .380 pistols don't have to have unpleasant recoil. While the PMC Bronze range ammo I had on hand was a bit punchy in the TPR 380, several of the other loads I tried were much gentler to shoot. If you've had hessitations due to a past experience I highly recommend trying different ammunition.
Of all the budget options out there, the TPR 380 takes over the spot held by the Thunder 380. This is THE affordable metal-framed single-stack DA/SA pistol on the market. Large enough to shoot, but still small and light enough to easily carry.