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Recently Beretta USA introduced a new pocket pistol, the “Nano”, chambered in 9mm.  The dimensions are quite favorable to pocket, glovebox and ‘backup gun’ carry methods.  Scored at a local gun show for under $400 The gun has some good potential in a crowded field.  How the gun compares and shoots along side some of the existing competition will prove interesting and perhaps entertaining.  

First off, this gun is small.  “J-frame” small.  Not quite pocket .380 small, but for a 9mm chambered gun it definitely is well placed in the market.  Smith & Wesson’s J-Frame revolver is considered by many as the “Gold Standard” for pocket carry and the J-Frame is certainly carried by many very often.  It’s also true that they’re shot very seldom by many.  Take a look at a side by side size comparison:

  side by side


You can see the Nano compares favorably to the S&W 360 dimensionally.  The Nano is obviously thinner everywhere except the muzzle, it’s even shorter grip to muzzle than the J-Frame.  There are some similarities to the revolver though, which become obvious when shooting the Nano.  

This gun easily fits where the J-Frame does:

J-Frame on top of the Nano


nano grip  j-frame grip


You can see that the short grip of the Nano prevents a solid full hand grip on the gun.  At this size & smaller that seems to be a necessity.

First shots

Here is where the J-Frame & revolver fans will feel at home.  Despite the ‘trigger safety’ you depress with your trigger finger when you pull the trigger to fire the gun, the Nano works very much like a revolver with a reciprocating slide.  The trigger stroke is long, about 7 pounds give or take and the reset is practically the full length of the trigger stroke.  With a 2 hand grip on the gun the Nano is easy to control with both standard & +P ammunition.  Muzzle flip is fair but the gun is not a bantam weight like the scandium J-Frames.  The pictures show that there are no external levers and the widest point of the gun is the magazine release button.  The slide stop is completely unexposed and internal so the slide will lock back on an empty magazine.  

The first range trip was only about 75 rounds, of mixed mfgr.  The +P were Gold Dot 124 +P and were not noticeably more difficult to control.  Sights are 3 dot, reasonably prominent and of note they can be removed & swapped by the user via an allen wrench and reassembly with some loctite.  The sights are low profile but with easy to pick up dots making for good sight acquisition.  The magazines hold 6 rounds, but most of session one was done with 5 rounds per magazine.  This was only to have a quick reference at how many magazines / rounds had gone down range.  So you get a 6 +1 capacity with the Nano.  Magazine changes took some thought, and the only way I was able to complete the change quickly was to loosen my grip on the gun to get the “bottom” of my hand out of the way.  

The trigger is far easier to control than double action on a J-Frame, of course on the 360 the gun can be cocked for a single action shot.  The Nano reset is long, just like a revolver and is not as positive as a revolver but it was never an issue at the range.  For dry fire practice the slide only needs to be pulled about 3/8” to reset the striker, well before your snap cap is ejected.  

The grip on the Nano is very, very thin. It takes some getting used to.  It’s light as well, Beretta claims 17.7 ounces, the 360 is about 13 ounces both unloaded.  The 360 scandium gun feels noticeably lighter.  It may not seem like much but if you’re lugging it around all day, the ounces add up quick.  The profile of the Nano lends it to a few carry / concealment options the J-Frame wouldn’t, because the Nano is svelte.  Strangely, pocket holsters using the same weight leather seem to “even out” this difference.  I find the J-Frame grip easier to acquire from a pocket so far.  

The Nano is very easy to control with a proper 2 hand grip.  As proper as you can get on a gun this small and the Nano is easy to make follow up shots, even with Gold Dot 124 +P.  357 Magnums out of the Smith & Wesson 360?  Not so much.  In fact, full power .357 magnum rounds out of the Scandium J-Frame revolvers have the appeal of a root canal with no anesthetic.  .38 Special +P are far more friendly to your hands, but there are newer .357 loads on the market that are more efficient out of the short revolver barrels.  That’s good because according to the chronograph I get about 1180 - 1220 fps at about 15 feet from the J-Frame.  By comparison the Gold Dot 124 +P used in the Nano run 1180 fps from a 4” barrel gun consistently.  

Range session 2:

Now we’ll compare the Nano to a semi automatic competitor, the Kel-Tec PF-9.  You’ll see here that the two guns compare favorably on the concealability scale.  

PF9 on top of the Nano  Nano side by side with PF9 


 With the PF9 superimposed on the Nano you can see one thing that stands out, the length to reach the trigger.  Size wise, there isn’t much visible difference, but there are a few that become more significant.  The PF9 has an external slide lock, the Nano does not.  The PF9 has a mini rail, the Nano does not.  Operationally the 2 guns behave similarly.  The grip and contour of the PF9 give a slightly better purchase but this is offset by the PF9 “forever pull” trigger.  Like nothing else in the free world, you just keep pulling and pulling and pulling and when you think the gun is going to fire because there’s no way you can pull the trigger some more, you pull the trigger another 1/4” and eventually it will fire.  The pull is not heavy, about maybe 8 pounds, if that but it is difficult to master.  The Nano trigger is obviously shorter and far easier to manage.  Probably about 7-8 pounds and with a much shorter pull than the PF9, the Nano lends itself better to well placed shots.  The short grip of the Nano as well as the rear profile inhibit a perfect grip on the gun.  Still, the gun is actually a little easier to control than the PF9.  That’s because the Nano is heavier.  A lot heavier.  The PF9 weighs under 14 ounces unloaded, the Nano almost 18.  That’s portly in this class.  Also, for practically the same grip length, the PF9 carries 7 +1 rounds, 1 more than the Nano.  

Another 90 rounds downrange and there was a problem.  1 round of 147 grain FMJ did not extract from the Nano.  It came part way out, but not all the way.  The same stuff worked in the PF9 and was procured for a M11 sub gun.  100 of the gold dot 124 +P’s have gone through without a hitch.  50 more 115 grain FMJ & 50 more 124 grain FMJ.  

Thin is in

 Above you can see just how much thinner the Kel-Tec PF9 is than the Nano.  As compared with the J-Frame, there is no “perfect” here.  One might have a better grip, but give up something somewhere else.  Feature wise, the Kel-Tec wins.  You get one more shot, and it’s a full $150 cheaper that the Nano.  But the trigger on the PF9…  

Range session 3:

Since the Nano did not escape the previous range session without a malfunction it continues to stay in “testing” mode.  This turn out to be wise as during the 3rd range session the gun choked on a Winchester 124 gr. FMJ (not white box).  A failure to extract and resulting double feed.  This scenario highlighted the Nano’s design flaw - no external slide stop.

Pause for a moment now and think:  How do you clear a double feed with a semi automatic pistol?  Although the slide stop isn’t required, it is darn useful.  So at the range, I now have a classic double feed on a gun primarily designed as a back up gun; as in the primary gun is done for, and this thing is supposed to remove the bacon from the fire so to speak.  So, there is a fired piece of brass in the chamber, and the slide is pushing a loaded round into the back of the fired brass in the chamber.  The loaded round is still held by the magazine lips so the magazine won’t drop free.  Since this gun has no external slide release you aren’t able to pull the slide back and lock it into place so you can easily remove the magazine.  Instead, you have to depress the magazine button, grab the base of the magazine and pull it out.  It will come out but it’s not as simple as just removing the magazine, the slide has a hold of that top round, pushing it forward into the spent casing in the chamber, and the magazine feed lips are still holding it so the actions required are a little more intricate and require a little more force than usual.  Once you remove the magazine, the slide will fly home to the case in the chamber, hopefully at this point the shell comes out by cycling the slide.  

You can also depress the magazine button and begin frantically cycling the slide.  Your mileage may vary but on this Nano specimen the magazine did drop free under test conditions by doing this.  

If by this point you haven’t been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned otherwise incapacitated by your attacker you should be able to insert another magazine, cycle the slide and get back into the conflict.

So the round count is ~225 - 240 rounds and in that amount of shooting the gun has failed to eject 2 cases.  One was partially ejected, the 2nd was left in the chamber.  That’s enough to justify sending it back for a repair.  In speaking to Beretta, it was suggested that the gun would work with defensive ammo, so I asked if that included the 2 extraction failures I had.  They agreed it should be looked at by gunsmiths.  They did say that the gun preferred heavier weight bullets, an assertion made in several places on the internet (so it has to be true, right?).  This is certainly understandable from a cycling perspective but questionable for extraction.  


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