By Duane A. Daiker
It was by complete surprise that the Beretta Nano became one of my favorite carry guns. I reluctantly took an assignment to review the Nano even though I had never had much affection for Beretta firearms, and I had already reviewed a number of similar 9mm pistols. I could never have expected the Nano to become my favorite gun to carry among the micro-9s. In fact, the Nano sits comfortably in my pocket as I write this review. Despite my initial hesitation, I found the Nano to be a nearly perfect deep concealment pistol.
In many ways, the Beretta Nano is a typical micro-sized 9mm with a 3-inch barrel. It is a double-action striker-fired semi-auto with a capacity of 6+1 rounds. The pistol measures only 5.6 inches long and 4.2 inches high. The width is an impressive .9 inches, making pocket carry a realistic option. The gun tips the scale at nearly 20 ounces unloaded, which is certainly not a featherweight in this class of pistols, but is still manageable for deep concealment.
What really sets the Nano apart from other pocket pistols is the completely smooth exterior design. Aside from the magazine release button, there are absolutely no external controls—no thumb safety, no slide release lever, and no takedown lever. This makes the Nano well suited for nearly all methods of concealed carry. There is simply nothing to snag on your clothing or otherwise foul your draw from concealment. Similarly, there is nothing to scratch or poke you when the Nano is carried next to your body.
The lack of a slide release lever does not mean there is no slide lock feature. The slide locks open on an empty magazine, just as you would expect. When doing a slide-lock reload, you simply work the slide as you would in the traditional “sling shot” method, and the slide will close on the loaded magazine. You don’t have the option of closing the slide with a manual slide release, but most shooting schools don’t recommend this technique anyway. If you are accustomed to using a slide release lever, you will need to spend some time retraining on the “sling shot” method. However, I believe the minor trade-off in technique is well worth the simplicity of the snag-free profile.
The Nano’s well thought out design makes this pistol completely ambidextrous. The gun’s only external control—the magazine release button—is reversible. This is a real benefit for southpaws, or for anyone who wants to set this pistol up for left-hand use as a back-up gun.
Unlike many pistols this size, the Nano’s 3-dot low profile sights are adjustable for windage. In fact, the sights can be easily removed from the gun, so upgrades are a snap. Upgrading the sights wouldn’t be a high priority for me because the factory sights provide an excellent sight picture. Unlike the tiny nubs that pass for sights on some pocket-sized guns, the Nano has genuinely useful factory sights.
The Nano is constructed of a Technopolymer (fiberglass reinforced polymer) grip over a stainless steel sub-chassis that serves as the pistol frame. The grip and frame are modular, and the sub-chassis can be removed from the pistol grip. This modular construction allows the serialized frame to be swapped into a different grip. Beretta may eventually offer a larger grip for the Nano—but no such alternatives are available yet, nor have any been announced. Beretta does offer grips in a variety of colors, including Ranger Green, Flat Dark Earth, White and Rosa.
I have never been completely enamored with the modular frame concept. I don’t personally have a lot of desire to swap grip sizes on my guns. However, even if I did, Beretta’s implementation of this feature leaves a lot to be desired. Removing the sub-chassis requires a properly sized punch and a bit of patience. Detailing the process requires ten pages in the Nano owner’s manual, including a lot of warnings and cautions. I am not the most mechanically inclined guy in the world, and the instructions scared me out of trying the sub-chassis removal for now. Swapping the grip is certainly possible, but probably not something you would want to do on a regular basis.
On the other hand, disassembling the Nano for cleaning is an easy job. Like most striker-fired pistols, the Nano cannot be taken apart while the striker is under tension. Rather than require the user to dry fire the pistol (which some people consider to be a safety issue), Beretta has incorporated a Striker Deactivation Button to start the disassembly process. The button is small and recessed, requiring use of a pen or paperclip or similar pointed object. Once the striker is deactivated, you simply rotate the Disassembly Pin a quarter-turn using a flat blade screwdriver, a coin, or even the rim of a 9mm shell case. The slide assembly can then be removed from the frame, and the barrel and recoil rod and recoil spring removed from the slide.
Micro-sized 9mm pistols can be notoriously unpleasant to shoot. The Nano, however, is surprisingly mild. The slight heft of the Nano (about 20 ounces unloaded) and its advanced ergonomic design really help to reduce the felt recoil. Shooting the Nano is not a painful or unpleasant experience at all. Even recoil shy shooters should find this pistol to be acceptable.
The Nano is also very accurate. This is a function of good sights and a good trigger. The trigger is not your typical “spongy” trigger on a striker-fired pistol. The trigger has a long pull, but with a very light take-up that stacks quickly at the end. While that may not sound ideal, the short but heavy pull at the end of the trigger stroke increases the safety-factor, and provides more of a “surprise break” for accurate shooting. The trigger takes some time to learn, but is actually quite effective for a pocket gun.
Shooting the Nano is confidence inspiring. At realistic self-defense distances, the pistol has no problem shooting fist-sized groups at a rapid pace. Even 25-yard shots on a silhouette target can be made with ease. The traditional 3-dot sights are well suited for easy target acquisition.
Generally speaking, the Nano ran very well. However, the pistol did suffer a significant failure. After about 100 rounds through the brand new pistol, the recoil spring guide rod broke. This is not the time to get into a “plastic versus steel” debate on recoil rods—but the stock Beretta rod is plastic. Once it broke, the gun failed completely and had to be returned to Beretta for warranty repair.
For the purposes of my review, I elected to forego the normal media channels and return the gun “anonymously” for warranty repair—just like a regular retail customer would do. The process was simple, and after a single phone call I was sent an RMA number and a pre-paid shipping label. A few days after shipping the pistol, I received a postcard from the warranty service agent acknowledging receipt and giving an estimated time for completion of the repairs. The warranty repair took three weeks to complete, and Beretta even called me once to update the status of the repairs. I was pleased with the overall warranty experience.
The Nano has performed flawlessly since the warranty repair. I suspect the initial recoil rod had some of type of latent defect that surfaced pretty quickly. The replacement rod has held up for several hundred more rounds, and shows no signs of premature wear.
Certainly some shooters would immediately dismiss a gun that experiences this type of failure. I tend to be more forgiving with an initial failure, if the problem can be fixed and does not re-occur. All mechanical items can fail, and quality control problems usually manifest themselves pretty quickly. My search did not disclose any similar failures, so it appears that my experience was not at all typical. I still believe in the Nano, and I have put my money where my mouth is—I carry the Nano every day.
The Nano works very well for front pocket carry, so long as your pockets are large enough. I am a fairly big guy and I have no problem carrying in cargo pants or even jeans. With dressier pants, I find an inside the waistband holster to work well. However, nearly any carry method should work with this smooth-sided micro-9mm.
Beretta ships the Nano in a hard-sided case with two magazines. The suggested retail is $475, although street prices are closer to $400. While not the cheapest 9mm in this category, the Nano is competitively priced.
All the major manufacturers have a micro-sized 9mm pistol. You can find great examples from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Kimber, Springfield, and others. The Beretta Nano, however, exactly fits my concept of a deep concealment pistol. The Nano design is very minimalistic, and perfect for a self-defense weapon. In essence, Beretta has refined the “point and shoot” pocket pistol to its simplest form.