- This post provides a solution to the known FTF (Fail to Feed) Stovepipe issue some Bersa Thunder 380 owners experience. The overview is for those interested in purchasing a Bersa. The fix for current owners experiencing FTF issues is in the next section titled The Fix
. I hope it helps many !
The Bersa Thunder 380 and Bersa 380 family are well made, budget priced handguns produced in Argentina and imported by Eagle Imports (NJ). The guns are a great value as they are made with alloy frames, steel slide, DA/SA trigger, decocker/safety. 7+1 magazine capacity and a 3.5" barrel. Features not often found on budget handguns. In addition, its size makes it an ideal concealed carry handgun.
The gun is very fun to shoot and in my experience, quite accurate. The trigger feels very crisp and sure and overall, operation is excellent. The .380 caliber produces a lower recoil than a 9mm so it is an excellent choice for ladies who desire a less aggressive recoil or who people with small hands. This does not make it any less effective for a personal defense concealed carry weapon. Ballistic gel tests using JHP(Jacketed Hollow Point) ammo have proven very effective penetration and wound track stopping power.
The most prevalent issue
Various handguns can be prone to specific issues, some less than others however; issues that call the reliability of the handgun to operate consistently into question can be quite disconcerting. In the case of the Bersa Thunder 380, a substantial number of people have reported a FTF/Stovepipe issue using the Bersa 7 round magazines. As a Bersa Thunder 380 owner myself, I too have experienced this on numerous occasions.
Many owners report no issues at all after hundreds or thousands of rounds through their handguns. Others experience the issue straight out of the box or later after break in. The symptoms seem pretty consistent indicating that some design or manufacturing issue is occurring and not related to the shooters or ammo used.
The primary symptom is that on the 5th or 6th round of a 7 round magazine, the cartridge fails to feed and may stovepipe (turn sideways). Attempts to eject the round by racking the slide often causes a double feed condition; trapping the first round. This requires dropping the magazine and freeing the FTF round. Not only is this issue annoying but makes the owner feel the gun is unreliable.
In my case, this occurs infrequently however; any instance of FTF causes one to question reliability and multiple instances only make it worse. Since there seemed to be no clear answer for this on the web or from Bersa, I took it upon myself to try and determine the cause and potentially a solution. Fortunately for me and for many others who may read this, I have achieved both.
Debugging the issue (see pictures at bottom of thread for details)
My first thought on this problem was that it could be spring related for several reasons. First, the problem occurs after the first 4 or 5 rounds in a magazine indication that feed pressure from the magazine may be related. Second, the problem (for me) seemed to occur after the magazines were broken in - again, less spring pressure. Ultimately, this was not the root cause but is related as you will see.
Since even tight magazine springs or new mags could still exhibit the problem, I delved deeper to understand the mechanics of the feeding process. Let me preface this by saying, I am NOT a gunsmith or an armorer but I do have some mechanical DIY skills. These proved to be sufficient as you will soon see.
Many people on the net have spoken about polishing the feed ramp in an attempt to try and resolve the problem, They were close but the problems would still occur and in looking at the feed ramp on my Bersa, it was perfectly smooth.
What I did find was the area's surrounding and leading up to the ramp were not. They had sharp edges; especially on the left side where the slide stop release juts out into the path of the cartridge. The right side also had a sharp edge. In both cases, these sharp edges face the cartridge attempting to load with the potential of catching the edge of the brass before the bullet can successfully slide into the chamber end of the barrel.
You can easily test this yourself. With the magazine removed, slide and recoil spring off, you now have the lower. Run your finger along the path leading to the feed ramp from the magazine well to the barrel. If you feel a sharp edge on either side on the approach, you will see what I mean. Those edges are interfering with the smooth loading of the cartridge.
To further verify this, load a magazine with cartridges into the lower (still disassembled) and you will see the alignment. (shown in the pictures). If you push a cartridge forward as it would feed, you can see how it might become caught on one if the edges and especially with less spring pressure where the pressure helps it clear the slide stop.
This was not rocket science. It was simply a matter of tolerances and some finishing that needs (or needed) to be done at the factory. Being a budget handgun, one cannot always expect superfine finishing however; I hope to share this with Bersa for their quality control team.
Okay, you have suffered through my long story when all you really wanted was the fix and to know if it works. If you skipped the section titled Debugging the issue
, go back and read how to run your finger along the path, etc. to feel for the sharp edges.
You need 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper (the black kind) to smooth the sharp edges. Do not sand the feed ramp itself or the barrel. Sand the sides that lead up to the ramp and sand the slide stop protrusion. The goal is not to make everything perfectly round, its is to smooth the sharp edges so when you run your finger, it doesn't feel like it is sharp, catching skin.
You may also need to sand the very bottom lip of the feed ramp if it feels sharp and the very rim of the chamber side of the barrel. DO NOT SAND INSIDE LIP OF THE BARREL.
Just very lightly at the lip for a tad bit of smoothness.
Also, the goal here is SMALL amount. You only need to sand until the edge is not a sharp edge. Always better to do not enough than too much.
After sanding, completely clean the gun to ensure there is no metal residue and then lube well.
Once complete, it was time to test it at the range. I brought 4 magazines (3 of the Bersa 7 round and 1 Bersa 9 round) which had each at one time or another been used when the issues occurred. I also brought 150 rounds of good .380 ammo
Normally with 150 rounds I would see to 4 FTF. Sometimes less but always some number. In this case, not one single FTF. The gun worked flawlessly (as it should)
In the next week, I will put another several hundred rounds through the Bersa and report back but I am 99% sure, this is the cause of the problem people have experienced.
Pictures tell the story