You don’t see many reviews for this gun so I figured I would share some of my experiences with the Bersa Thunder 22.
This review will be broken down into eleven sections:
-About the Firearm
-Controls and Features
About the Firearm
With the new Bond movie, Skyfall, set to hit in less than one month, I have been fostering a growing desire to own a PP or PPK style handgun. As a relatively new handgun shooter, I have also recognized the need for a .22 LR trainer to help save on ammunition costs. Realizing Walther PP/PPK .22 LR models are often very pricey and rather uncommon, I began to seek out alternatives to satisfy my craving. In steps the Argentinian Bersa Thunder 22. Based on Bersa’s more popular Thunder 380, the Thunder 22 is the same size and similar in weight to its lager caliber brother. Both weapons outwardly and internally resemble the Walther design they are based on.
Controls and Features
The Bersa Thunder 22 is a hammer-fired DA/SA handgun. As such, the slide mounted safety functions as both a manual safety and decocker. The slide release is easily reached on the left side of the firearm, as is the button-style magazine release. Like many recent .22 LR handguns, the Thunder 22 features a magazine disconnect safety. This means that the weapon cannot be fired without the magazine inserted. This feature may be a turn-off for some, but can be circumvented by removing parts #42 and #43 per the official Bersa diagram. The left side of the frame features a key-operated safety lock that is actuated using an included key. The right side of the frame features a take-down lever similar to the ones found on Beretta 92 series handguns, but without the locking button. Magazines drop free when the release is pressed, but require a firm press when inserting in order to lock in positively with the magazine release. Out of the box, the Thunder 22 does include just one ten round magazine and spares run around $30 from Eagle Imports.
Model Thunder 22
Caliber: .22 LR
Operation: DA/SA Semiautomatic
Length: 6.61 inches
Height: 4.72 inches
Width: 1.30 inches
Barrel Length: 3.5 inches
Weight: 18.87 ounces (.380 weighs 20 ounces)
Rear Sight: Notched bar, dovetailed
Front Sight: Blade, integral with slide
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
Finish: Matte blue
Disassembly should be straightforward for those who have used Walthers or Makarovs. Simply pull the slide back and off the rails while pulling down on the take-down lever. Once off the rails, the slide can be pulled forward towards the muzzle and off the gun. Like the PP/PPK and Makarovs, the Bersa’s recoil spring is wrapped around the barrel. Also like the aforementioned classics, the Bersa features a pinned/fixed barrel. Unlike some recent .22 trainers, the Thunder 22 has a one piece barrel, rather than an inner barrel and outer sleeve.
The Thunder 22 is finished in a nice, even matte blue. The slide has serrations to assist in charging the weapon. The backstrap and front of the grip, as well as the front of the trigger guard are similarly serrated. The polymer grips feature the Bersa logo and are lightly checkered. Both right and left sides have thumb rests and the weapon is equally comfortable to shoot right or left handed. The controls however, are clearly intended for a right-handed shooter and are not designed to be reversible.
The sights on the Thunder 22 are standard notch and post style. The rear sight features two white dots, while the front features a single white dot in order to assist with sight acquisition. The rear sight is adjustable for windage using a screw on its right side. For a small handgun, the sights are prominent and easy to acquire.
The magazines hold 10 rounds single stacked and appear to be construced of stamped steel. On each side of the magazine there is a tab to assist in depressing the magazine spring in order to load rounds. I have found that loading in this manner can result in a situation where the top round’s rim gets caught behind the lower round’s rim. Such a scenario can lead to a magazine-caused failure to feed (FTF) if left uncorrected. The baseplate of the magazine features a curved pinky rest for comfort.
The Thunder 22’s first trip to the range was quite impressive on the whole. I did not shoot for groups on this trip, but was able to consistently hit a bowling pin at 15 yards. I brought along two different types of ammunition: Federal Champion Bulk Pack (load #745) and CCI Mini-Mags. Both ammo types feature 36 grain bullets and are rated at 1260 fps out of a rifle barrel. Interestingly, the Mini-Mags were much more reliable than the Federal Champion bulk ammo. Out of 100 to 150 rounds fired, the Mini-Mags experienced only one failure to eject (FTE), reulting in 99% reliability. Meanwhile, the Federal bulk was less successful at about 65-70% reliable with FTEs being the only malfunctions.
Initially, I had figured that the Mini-Mags were a hotter round and thus, more reliable. However, load data from both manufacturers suggests that both ammo types are pushing the same weight bullet at the same velocity, meaning overall energy is equal for both. Becuase of this, I began to examine what else could cause these issues. After examining rounds from both, and experiencing a lightly stuck casing with the Federal ammuntion, I have hypothesized that a difference in casings may actually be the culprit. In order to help test this chamber size/casing theory, I will be running a variety of ammunition through this firearm and will update this review to reflect my findings as necessary.
On the whole, the Thunder 22 was accurate and reliable when used with high quality ammunition. Recoil was mild as would be expected from a .22 LR firearm. It must be noted that as a result of the small size and shorter sight radius of the Bersa, extra care should be taken to acquire a quality sight picture prior to, and during firing. Those used to a larger framed handgun may find that the light weight of the Bersa takes some getting used to.
+High build quality, very nearly same weight as full fledged .380
+Compact, but comfortable
+Excellent sights, especially for a weapon this small
+Smooth DA/SA trigger
+Magazines drop free when released
-Only includes one magazine
-Selective with regard to ammunition
-Magazines take some effort to insert
-Magazine safety is just one more unnecessary part on a gun that already has two other safeties
-Compact nature means shorter sight radius
The Bersa Thunder 22 is a very high quality .22 LR handgun that would make an excellent plinker or trainer for the Thunder 380, PP/PPK, or even the CZ 82/83 handguns. With the right ammo, the Bersa is incredibly reliable and has very mild recoil. The small size of the Thunder 22 makes it an excellent option for younger shooters, female shooters, or those who have smaller hands. Though the gun comes with only one magazine, it represents an excellent value in the growing .22 handgun market.
CCI Mini-Mags: 36 grain, Hollow Point, 1260 fps (rated) (99% reliable, rare FTE)
Federal Champion Bulk Pack (load #745): 36 grain, Hollow Point, 1260 fps (rated) (70% reliable, FTEs)
Remington Golden Bullets: 36 grain, Hollow Point, 1280 fps (rated) (98% reliable, very rare stuck casing in a dirty gun)
Winchester Super-X: 40 grain, Round Nose (0% reliability, FTE on every round)