hope all is going well for you all and that you're having some fun with the few good days we've had for shooting outdoors here for a bit.
I recently acquired a Bersa Firestorm 380 and am going to be putting it through it's paces.
I wanted to write about it a little bit because it's a nifty inexpensive pistol that is done in the style of a walther ppk, and similar clones such as a MAB Echasa gz, Dickson Special agent, FAST Eibar, or other style pistols. This one is closer to the ppk in it's setup as it has the safety de-cocker, which isn't shown in the picture above.
with the exception that the magazine release assembly is more like that of a 1911 rather than the walther, and the dickson or echasa gz are different still, in that their safety is on the frame and is a regular safety blocker, while the safety/de-cocker on the bersa and the walther is on the slide and serves to de-cock the pistol and render it safe.
all three styles have a magazine safety, meaning that the firearm won't work if the magazine isn't inserted into the frame.
the walther and the bersa are both 380 auto, while the MAB echasa is a 32 auto.
all three guns feature the same kind of setup though, in that the barrel is pinned into the frame, meaning the barrel works more like an extension of your hand and the slide just functions as a means to chamber the round by stripping it from the magazine, and then extracting and ejecting it, versus the way that some other styles of pistols work where the barrel moves along with the slide ever so slightly, like the 1911 where it rocks on a pivot link which allows it to move down and away slightly and then lock into battery. the same kind of thing is present in the ruger LC9, where the barrel is held into place with a pin, or the springfield XD, which is held in place slightly by it's takdown lever, but the barrel itself is still somewhat independent of the frame.
now I can say that the dickson special agent/mab echasa was pretty accurate, and the one I restored works pretty well. I would attribute this to it being in a more stable configuration, but the principle of how the barrel of say a 1911 and a walther style pistol lock into battery are completely different.
in a 1911, you have to tighten the slide in some cases to add performance, meaning less play, and tighter functioning to keep all the moving parts in a straight line, but you sacrifice the ability to get dirty as much in the long run, because you reduce the tolerances it needs to function. this can be noted on any firearm where the slide is somewhat loose and the barrel isn't a part of the frame. if you can wiggle the slide, even a tiny bit, that tiny bit is also the amount that the barrel, which moves in conjunction with the slide, can move.
because the barrel is stable on the ppk/bersa firestorm, it can get a little bit more dirty and not reduce the tolerances the slide needs to move, because the barrel is as stable as it's going to get
other notable differences are that the MAB is single action, while the bersa and ppk are double action / single action, meaning you can use either manner to cock the hammer and fire a round, and unlike a DAO revolver or pistol there is a hammer present to cock as well.
don't get me wrong, the 1911 is still my pistol of choice, but pistols with barrels attached to the frame are also intriguing for me. in the case of these pistols, the barrel is secured into the frame and it backs out the rear once all the parts have been removed. in some cases, as with the MAB, the barrel is not only pinned, but it is also soldered in as well to prevent the barrel from coming free due to battering caused by the slide coming back into battery, which makes sense as if the pin failed during firing, the soldering would at least keep the pin and the barrel in place.
now I can verify that the bersa's pin is not soldered into place and can be driven out, but it does have some over molding to prevent it from moving forward, and would require it to be knocked out backwards out of the frame, which gives the barrel an appearance of being like the head of a nail driven into wood.
some people have soured on the firestorm due to it's cheap construction and signs of battery and wear after extended use. this can be forgiven to some extent as the firearm is a cheap entry level pocket pistol and is not cast in the same way as the venerable PPK is, in that the PPKS which is available to us here in the US is actually investment cast by Ruger and finished by Smith and Wesson, meaning there's more material in the casting and it can and does handle more use and abuse.
some of the pictures I've seen of frame and slide battery and wear also lead me to believe that these guns may have had too loose of tollerances, but without putting mine through it's paces, I can't say for certain if it's poor choice in metals, abuse, or a combination of factors that cause this. once thing to test in terms of the durability would also be to test an all steel version and a steel and stainless steel version, and compair their wear patterns to see if they're consistently poor or if one behaves better than the other.
one thing I noticed is that in the Bersa, certain parts , such as the trigger bar spring, are tack welded or soldered into place to prevent them from coming free. this would suggest that the company's intention is to have the guns not detailed stripped at all or very often. there is also a c clip and a washer which are used to secure the trigger bar as well, and I've seen some videos which indicate that the trigger bar comes loose pretty easily when the grips are missing, but they are also missing these two small parts, which indicates the owner lost them at some point while taking the gun apart.
at any rate, I'll touch base again once I've had the opportunity to fire this little guy and see how it stacks up against the dickson at 50 feet, and I will post about it.
the gun itself retails for about 300 dollars through most non-buyers collective priced dealers, and comes in all black as well as stainless and black.
I'll follow up with my first impressions shooting the gun in a different post.
as always, stay safe and happy shooting!
Ken Kraushaar is a gunsmith and certified firearm specialist who works from his shop in Sonoma County california. Ken has over 30 years experience shooting firearms and serves the larger north bay area shooting communities repair needs.