Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Bersa Thunder 22/Model 23
Model 23 (black plastic grips) , below customized Thunder 22 (wood grips)
The Bersa Thunder 22 semi automatic pistol is a small yet reliable handgun with typical double action/ single action (DA/SA) mechanisms, popular in combat oriented pistols. It also includes a safety that also functions as a decocker.
With a round in the chamber and the hammer down, the first trigger pull is a heavier DA, and the ones that follow are only SA, since the hammer stays cocked after each shot that follows, until the magazine is emptied.
At any moment the hammer can be safely dropped by using the decocking/safety lever.
But before we get to talk about this wonderful little pistol any further, lets learn a bit more about the company that makes it.
The company was founded in the mid 1950's by Italian immigrants Benso Bonadimani, Ercole Montini and Savino Caselli, all of them mechanical engineers. Montini worked for Beretta in Italy. At the beginning they were producing parts for the now defunct Argentinian arms manufacturer Ballester Molina.
Their first handgun was a modified version of a Ballester model which they called "Luan", combining the first two letters of the last names of the 2 designers of the pistol, Luce and Antonovich. The gun didn't have much commercial success and very few of them were produced; nowadays they are quite rare collector's items.
In 1959 the first 22 Long Rifle pistol was commercialized, called "Modelo 60", which later evolved in the "Modelo 62", and based on a modified Beretta design, it sold extremely well. In 1960 the name "BERSA" was finally introduced, it is made up from the initial letters of the founder's first names. Many more successful models in increasingly more powerful calibers were produced in the following years, making BERSA a well known and respected name in the firearms world. In 1989 the first full size combat pistol was introduced, the Model 90, chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge.
In 1994 a new model name for the entire production line was introduced, "Thunder", followed by a number indicating the handgun caliber. However the Thunder series in reality include two totally different designs in mechanics and appearances; for cartridges up to and included the 380 ACP the handguns are compact in size (except for the Thunder 22-6 which is a 22 LR target competition pistol with a 6" barrel) and based on a blowback system, for more powerful rounds, starting with the 9x19mm Parabellum, the Thunder line is based on a locked breech and short recoil modified Browning design.
At the end of the 1990s BERSA won the contract for supplying a new standard sideram for the Argentina Armed Forces and Argentina Federal Police that were looking to replace their aging Browning Hi-Power pistols. The BERSA Thunder 9, an evolution of the Model 90, was chosen.
In the past BERSA also produced 22 Long Rifle caliber long guns and single and double barreled shotguns but they did not have the same commercial success of the pistols and they have been discontinued.
Bersa: What’s to like?
Bersa isn’t much to brag about in terms of brands. It’s no Browning, Ruger, or S&W.
It’s not even that accurate either, since almost any popular target 22 LR pistol will deliver more accuracy.
So, what’s to like about the Bersa?
OK, maybe it’s not much of a target pistol. But this little pistol still delivers surprisingly good accuracy for such a small handgun.
10 meters away or so it’s easy to make tin cans dance around and a bird sitting on a branch or rabbit sticking out it’s head are all fair game at those distances.
Its easily capable of killing small game, and the fixed barrel ensures much better terminal velocities than you’d expect for such a short barrel.
One of the things I like the most about these little guns, is that I can shoot with them and practice similar commands to the ones found in more “serious” big bore autos like my Bersa Thunder 9mm. The DA/SA, the exposed hammer, the safety/decocking lever, it’s all there.
You also have screw adjustable rear sights.
Bersa has been making these little 22LR autos for over half a century. They do know their trade well, indeed.
In my country Bersas are very popular, and one of a shooters most prized possessions is his little “Bersita” 22.
It’s the gun you shoot the most due to cheap ammo, the gun that has countless thousands of rounds and still hits the target. It’s the gun you think about passing on to your children, knowing it will hold.
Specially older steel frame Bersa 22LRs, where built like a tank, and the alloy framed Thunder 22 have a loyal following in USA as well.
Using high velocity 40 gr. 22LR, this little gun will shoot all day without a hiccup.
In my experience heavy and hot is usually better when it comes to Bersa’s 22.
The all steel model 23 is a bit heavy for pocket carry, but the lighter Thunder will drop right in your pocket.
Its small, but just right for comfortable shooting and carrying.
Maybe not much of a self defense caliber, 10 rounds of hot 22LR will take the fight out of most, and if you deliver the rounds accurately you can drastically improve its’ stopping power.
I love my little “Bersitas”, they are terrific little guns to have around.
For training, informal target shooting, plinking and dealing with small pests or game, the Bersa 22 fills many niches.
Type: Single action/double action, semi automatic pistol
Capacity: 10 +1 ( original magazines)
Barrel Length: 90mm
Read Gunblast’s review of the Bersa 22 for more information.