November 03, 2011
Beretta has recently been on a tear, coming up with products shooters desire, and the most recent arrival, the Nano, is a well-engineered little tool. Yes, it looks a lot like the other ultra-compact 9mm carry guns. Hey, if you shrink an operating mechanism down to its essential form, its minimum size, there isn't a whole lot left in the way of excess you can use to be different.
The Nano is a single-stack 9mm with a striker firing system. The trigger has a small lock-out lever in the middle of its face,
a safety that blocks trigger movement, and the magazine catch is behind the trigger guard.
The frame is a polymer shell enclosing a heavy-gauge steel stamping that is the actual firearm. There's a viewing port in the polymer shell through which you can see the serial number marked on the chassis.
The trigger mechanism in the frame is one of utter simplicity. In watching it work, I see a grand total of four springs: the trigger return spring; the sear reset spring; the disconnector reset spring; and the trigger safety spring.
When you stroke the trigger, a grand total of three parts move: the trigger, the trigger bar and the sear. I don't know how you could make a simpler system with fewer moving parts.
If you require gloves in size large or larger, you are going to find the trigger reach a bit on the short side. When shooting the Nano I really had to concentrate in order to avoid shoving my trigger finger in to the second joint. But once I did that, the trigger pull is not unlike that of a smooth double-action revolver. It has a bunch of movement but no stacking and no jumps, crunches, clicks or hand-offs.
The single-stack magazine holds six rounds, and as I expected, the base plate binds against my hand. Nano mags don't drop free for me, but then they don't for any other ultra-compact 9mm, either. If you want the smallest possible carry gun, that is one of the likely costs you will have to bear.
The slide is a slab-sided piece of steel, milled from bar stock, and it contains a striker assembly. The parts are retained by means of a rear plate. The recoil spring is a dual-spring system,
with both springs taking up the load all the time, at least that what it feels like when racking the slide.
The barrel is designed to use the squarish chamber area locking up in the ejection port as the locking system, with an open-ended cam slot on the bottom to unlock and lock.
The 3-dot sight system consists of the rear sight in a transverse dovetail and the front in a dovetail parallel to the axis of the barrel; they can be changed if you need to change them.
The Nano lacks an external slide stop, so to chamber a round your only option is to pull the slide back and let go. Since it also lacks a thumb safety, keep your finger off the trigger (and its safety) until you need it to fire.
To unload, drop the magazine, then work the slide repeatedly until you're sure there isn't a round in the chamber. Then look in there anyway.
Disassembly is simple and does not require dry-firing. With the magazine removed and the action cocked and the slide forward (and chamber empty), press the pin second-furthest back on the right side of the frame (it has a the little dimple in it) until you hear a click. You've just released the sear from the striker. Since the Nano has an internal drop-safety (it can't fire unless you pull the trigger) the striker can't reach the chamber when you do this.
Then rotate the slotted gizmo on the right side a quarter-turn counterclockwise. You can now pull the slide assembly forward off the frame. I think Beretta missed a chance here to be really trick. It should have fashioned some part of the magazine, or the base plate to fit that pin and that slot. Then you'd have to remove the magazine to disassemble the Nano.
Once the slide is off, removing the recoil spring and barrel is just like every other self-loading pistol you've ever handled.
The frame has a cross pin, the sear pivot pin and the takedown gizmo in it, which all are involved with removing the chassis from the shell. I didn't feel the need to do that because any dirt that works its way in there can easily be hosed out. However, the chassis and the internal parts come out easily enough that you can really scrub them if you want to.
The slide has, as mentioned, a plate at the back that houses the striker assembly and associated parts. Removal requires the end of paperclip or some other small rod to compress the striker spring. Again, I don't anticipate a problem here, and the parts can be hosed clean without disassembly. And since there are no polymer parts up there, you can lube it after cleaning it.
How does it shoot? As with all ultra-compact pistols, you pay a price for all this convenience: loss of velocity and brisk recoil. The velocities for the Nano are not out of line with those of other three-inch barreled 9mm pistols, and they're all within the useful range. Some, such as the Winchester Ranger +P+ and the Black Hills 115-grain, were noticeably noisier and brisker in recoil. But none were oppressive to shoot, and the softer loads were almost sedate in recoil.
The trigger is neither easy nor difficult. Like shooting a snubnose revolver in double-action, you just focus on the front sight while rolling through the trigger pull.
Also like a snubbie, the Nano (and any other compact 9mm, for that matter) rewards follow-through and punishes bad technique. Once I'd relearned proper short-gun double-action follow-through, I was able to shoot some very nice groups with the Nano.
So why choose the Beretta Nano? It's a compact, sturdily built 9mm with a rugged polymer shell and black oxide finish, replaceable sights, a thin profile with a smooth exterior that does not have clothes-snagging protrusions. It's reliable and it's accurate. And the lack of external levers or controls, combined with a reversible magazine catch button, means the Nano also has great potential for you left-handed shooters.
- Type: striker-fired semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 6+1
- Barrel: 3.07 in.
- OAL/Width/Height: 5.63/0.9/4.17 in.
- Weight: 17.67 oz.
- Finish: black nitride
- Grips: molded polymer frame
- Sights: three-dot
- Trigger: DAO, 9 lb. pull
- Price: $475
- Manufacturer: Beretta USA
- Smallest avg. group: (tie) 147 gr. Winchester PDX1, Wilson Combat XTP JHP—3 in.
- Largest avg. group: (tie) 115 gr. Winchester Ranger +P+ JHP, Wolf FMJ—4 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (10 types tested): 3.45 in.
- Accuracy results are averages of four five-shot groups at 25 yards off a sandbag-supported benchrest.