The trend continues with subcompact 9mm handguns, and today we are reviewing the Beretta Nano.
Market for Itty-Bitty Handguns
For quite a few years, the handgun market was awash in itty-bitty .380 ACP handguns, and for good reason. A lot of people were getting their concealed handgun permit, and most didn’t want to strap on a big gun each day. I can certainly understand that. For many, many years I carried either a full-sized 1911 in .45 ACP or a Commander-sized 1911 again in .45 ACP. However, as I age, and I seem to be aging much faster these days, I don’t always want to carry a big, heavy, full-sized handgun on a daily basis. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t; it depends on where I’m going and what the threat level is I might perceive. When that happens, a 1911 is on my side.
Even though it pains me to admit it, for some time, way back in another life, when I was much younger and dumber, I carried a .380 ACP Walther PPK/S on a regular basis. That was when I was doing private investigations back in Chicago. And, the only ammo available that was reliable was full metal jacket, which is not the best man stopper load, not then and not now, in my humble opinion. So, I never recommend anyone carry “only” a .380 ACP chambered handgun for self defense, not where there are a lot better options in a more powerful caliber, the 9mm!
Concealable Sub-Compact in 9mm
It hasn’t been all that long that the gun makers decided they could chamber a sub-compact handgun that was easily concealable in 9mm. More importantly, these handguns are reliable, which is no small task, to be sure. Plus, one has to remember that the smaller the handgun and the larger the caliber, the harder (much harder) they are to shoot accurately. So, it’s a combination of small size, reliability, accuracy, and concealability that is quite a chore, to be sure.
There are many sub-compact 9mm handguns on the market these days, including the S&W M&P Shield, Kahr Arms’ various models, GLOCK, Springfield Armory XDs/XDe line, and many others. These are all well-made and reliable, and most are priced oh-so-right, too.
Beretta Nano For Deep Concealment on Daily Basis
The Nano has a 3.07” barrel housed inside the stainless steel slide that is coated black, for a stealth look. The gun only weighs 17.67 oz, so it’s light-weight, all things considered. Yes, there are a few other sub-compact 9mm handguns that are lighter in weight, but once again the smaller/lighter they are, the harder they are to shoot.
Sites, Trigger, Frame, and Mags
I really like the extremely nice 3-dot white sights. They are usable and very low-profile, too. There’s nothing to snag when drawing the Nano from a holster. The Nano is striker-fired, which is all the rage these days, and the trigger pull, while long and heavy compared to some other sub-compact 9mm handguns of the same size, is very, very smooth. It was hard to measure the trigger pull’s weight, but I guesstimate it was around seven pounds. Again, it was very smooth. The frame is polymer, and the gun comes with two magazines– one is a 6-rd and the other is an 8-rd that is extended.
There is no external slide stop/release on the Nano, and this bothers me just a bit. After you fire the last round, the slide locks open, and you can’t release it, unless you remove the magazine or reload the gun and retract the slide in order to chamber the next round. However, like I said, it bothers me just a very little bit. This gun isn’t meant to get into a speed reloading race. Secondly, the 6-rd magazine, I know Beretta’s designers wanted to keep this trim little magazine as unobtrusive as possible, and installed a very flat magazine floor plate on the mag. However, it only allows for a two-finger hold on the gun.
This is not a bad thing with some of the smaller .380s, but in a more powerful 9mm I didn’t like the way the gun jumped in my hand under recoil. I found an easy fix. Pearce Grip www.pearcegrip.com makes an extended “pinky catcher” magazine floor plate, to replace the factory standard flat floor plate on the 6-rd magazine. They are inexpensive and worth the investment, and makes shooting the Nano all that much more pleasant and more controllable, too. You get this advantage without giving up much in the way of concealability, too.
The 8-rd magazine extends quite a bit below the magazine well, and I only use it for a reload, not for carrying it in the gun. Both mags are well-made out of stainless steel and easy to load, too. The mags are a bit expensive if you want spares. Depending on where you shop online, they could be as much as $35 each or as little as $26 each. Check around before making your purchase.
I have several other small sub-compact 9mm handguns that have slightly better trigger pulls and are actually a tiny bit smaller, but not by much, in overall dimensions. However, there is just “something” about the Beretta Nano that draws me to it. Long-time handgun owners will know what I’m talking about. You have a gun or two, while not your most favorite of the bunch, that you reach for again and again for some unknown reason. For me, it’s the Beretta Nano, and it bothers me that I can’t put my finger on the reasons why. But I really do like this little 9mm handgun for some reason.
The only external safety on the Nano is the little lever in the center of the trigger. If you don’t have a good finger placement on the trigger, you can’t fire the gun. This is a pretty common safety on many handguns today that are striker-fired. The magazine release is perfectly placed and easy to manipulate, too. And, it can be switched over to the other side of the gun if you’re a Southpaw. There are grasping grooves on the rear of the slide, on both sides, for a sure hold when chambering a round. The recoil spring is stout, and that’s a good thing. So, those grasping grooves are appreciated. The trigger guard is rounded as well.
Cleaning Is A Little Different Than Some Other Handguns
When it comes time to clean the Nano, it is a little different that some other similar handguns. You have to make sure the gun is empty and remove the magazine. Then you can do one of two things– either dry-fire the gun while pointing it in a safe direction, or use the tip of a pen or similar object to press-in on the decocking pin on the right side of the gun. Then, you can use a coin to turn the little screw on the right side of the gun’s frame a quarter turn counter-clock wise and then remove the slide. It sounds hard but only takes a few seconds to master. The front and rear of the frame is nicely checkered, and that helps you maintain a good hold on the gun when firing.
As usual, I had a great assortment of 9mm ammo on hand for testing through the Nano. However, I didn’t run all the various types of ammo through the gun. Quite frankly, it is tiresome to shoot a lot of ammo through sub-compact 9mm handguns, and the longer I shoot, the more chance of me not getting the groups I expect from little guns. So, I only fired 300-rds through the Nano. That is a fair test with a tiny gun.
Ammo Used in Testing
From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 147-gr Hard Cast FN Outdoorsman load, which is rated +P. I also had their 115gr Barnes TAC-XP +P+ all-copper hollow point, 124-gr Penetrator FMJ FN load – +P+, and 146-gr FMJ FN subsonic standard pressure load. From Black Hills Ammunition I had their 115-gr JHP +P, 125-gr Honey Badger subsonic all copper, flat nose, milled bullet, 124-gr JHP +P, 115 FMJ, and their 115-gr Barnes TAX-XP +P all copper hollow point load. This was a fair enough selection for testing the Nano.
I had a complete product line including cowboy action ammunition, factory new ammunition, and remanufactured ammunition.
With the short 3.07” Bbl, my accuracy testing was done at 10 yards. That’s a fair distance for such a small pistol, and I fired it over a sleeping bag over the hood of my Jeep Wrangler. One thing I had to keep reminding myself was that this isn’t a target trigger; it is long, and you can’t stage it. You just pull completely through the trigger without hesitation. Once I pounded that into my thick skull, I was getting groups down there at 2¾ inches. That’s good enough for a head shot, if you ask me. Needless to say, recoil with the +P loads and +P+ load was stiff, and you knew you had some serious recoil there. As always, no gun maker recommends that you fire +P+ loads in their handguns, so proceed accordingly.
I had zero malfunctions of any type, and that’s the great news. The “bad” news is, trying to hold onto the Nano with the 6-rd magazine with the flat floor plate didn’t give me great accuracy. However, when switching to the Pearce Grip pinky catcher on the 6-rd mag, I had enough to hold onto, and the accuracy was right up there at the 2¾-inch groups.
The overall winner in the accuracy department was the new Black Hills 125-gr Honey Badger subsonic all-copper load. This is my choice for carrying in this gun for self defense, and recoil wasn’t bad at all. Second up was the Buffalo Bore 147-gr FMJ FN subsonic standard pressure load. It was hot on the heels of the Honey Badger load. All other loads measured around three inches, if I did my part. Some were a little larger, but again this isn’t a target pistol; it’s meant for up-close dirty self-defense work.
Web Reports Taken With Grain of Salt
There have been reports on the web, and please take everything you read with a grain of salt, about problems with the Nano feeding and/or ejecting. I had no such problems, and I even tried to limp-wrist the Nano to make it malfunction. No such events happened.
Carried For Weeks in Blackhawk Holster
I carried the Nano for several weeks in a Blackhawk Products ankle holster, instead of carrying my Ruger LCP II .380 ACP. It took a while for me to get used to the added weight on my left ankle, compared to the light-weight of the LCP II. And, needless to say, the Nano doesn’t conceal quite as well as the LCP II did. One particular pair of cargo pants didn’t allow the Nano to conceal at all. It was too tight. Well, not the gun but the pant leg was too tight. I also carried the Nano in an Allen inside the pocket holster in my cargo pants. This was outstanding! I may carry the Nano as my back-up gun, when fall/winter set in, in a jacket pocket with the pocket holster. Blackhawk www.blackhawk.com supplies gear for military and law enforcement agencies. View their products and contact information.
Nano Is Hard To Put Down
As I stated earlier, the Nano isn’t my favorite sub-compact 9mm handgun, but there is just that “something” that draws me to it, again and again, for some reason. It’s hard to put down. Check one out at your local gun shop.