Monday, September 03, 2012

Guns: Beretta Nano review - A Bug in the BUG


There are so many compact single-stack 9mms out there that it's hard to even remember who released what. Doesn't Kimber have one? Didn't SIG come out with two of them? Today's marketplace offers oodles of choices to the CCWs and LEOs out there.

Of course, that doesn't mean all of these choices are good. Most of them aren't, and the main disqualifying factor is reliability. Being able to carry a small gun means nothing if said small gun doesn't send lead downrange in a predictable manner.

Today's post looks at the Beretta Nano, a 9mm backup gun (BUG) with some quirky features. For one, the Nano has no external slide release: the gun locks back on an empty mag, but has no lever or mechanism for you to do so manually. Aside from making the gun completely slick and snagfree, this allows Beretta to make the internal chassis into the serialized part (theoretically allowing you to switch out to a different polymer frame).

All of this is well and good, but does the thing shoot? Let's find out...

First Impressions

Like most of its competition, the Beretta Nano retails for around $400. The package include a plastic case (which is getting rarer at this price point), two 6-round flush-fitting mags, and a really well done instruction manual (it shows how to take the internal chassis out of the frame, for instance):

In hand, the Nano feels fairly solid, though blocky and top-heavy (think SIG). Fit and finish are fine, and I liked how they kept the exterior as smooth and melted as possible on a production gun.

Here's a side-by-side comparison with two comparable pistols - the Kel-Tec PF9 and the Kahr CM9. The Nano is heavier than both, bigger than the Kahr, and fatter/shorter than the PF9.

Sights and Trigger:

The Nano wears three-dot low-profile sights. I found them to be a little small and hard to see, especially considering how big the gun's slide is. The sights are held on by set screws, though, so you can adjust the rear windage and swap the sights out very easily.

The trigger is also a mixed bag. It has a GLOCK-style safety lever, but it's basically double-action: a long, heavy pull that needs to be reset fully after every shot. I think Kahr executed this style of trigger better, but this isn't where the Nano's problem lies...

At the Range: We Be Jammin'

I bought the Nano partly because of this torture test video put out by Beretta USA:

I didn't get similar results. In my first 100 shots, I had a failure to extract, with Winchester 147 grain JHP ammo:


About 150 rounds later, I had the same malfunction with Wolf 9mm (I don't like Wolf, but I was purposely using it to test how well the gun extracted spent casings):
200 rounds later, yet another failure to extract, this time with bog standard Winchester White Box 115 grain FMJ.

I realize pocket guns sometimes need a break-in period before everything gets settled in. So, after I got these three failures in the first 500 rounds, I took the Nano home, cleaned it thoroughly, cycled the slide for awhile, and took it back to the range.
No dice - after 75 rounds of Federal 115 grain range ammo, I got a failure to extract on 124gr Speer Lawman FMJ (the left column on my shooting log was my CM9, which was more reliable than the Nano even though it was already very dirty):
Okay, maybe I got a lemon. I send the gun back and get a new one from Davidson's. This new one fails to extract in the first 70 rounds, on Federal RT9115 range ammo. Rats. I look on the web later and find out I'm not the only guy having this problem.
Conclusion: There are better choices.
If it were reliable, the Nano would be a fine choice for concealed carry. As it stands, the Nano is only more reliable than the Kel-Tec PF9 (which should be in the dictionary next to "damning with faint praise").
Once Beretta re-tunes the extractor/extractor spring/recoil spring, the Nano might be worth a look. Till then, I don't recommend the Nano as a carry piece.


At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've put just over 500 rounds of 124gr. FMJ (Federal American Eagle and Winchester NATO) through my Nano without a single malfunction.

It should probably be noted Beretta Corp. and just about every person who's reviewed the Nano recommend against using 115gr. ammo in this pistol.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

I tested multiple ammo types. If you look at the pictures, I had malfunctions with 147 grain Winchester JHP and 124 gr Speer Lawman FMJ, in addition to the malfunctions with 115 grainers.

Not using 115gr ammo isn't even really an option for me, as it's the least expensive and most widely available bullet weight in 9mm. And I don't see why bullet weight (and even, to some extent, powder charge) should cause a gun to fail to extract.

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently purchased the Nano. After cleaning the pistol I stopped at a local sporting goods store and picked up 3 boxes of Speer Lawman 115 gr. FMJ. I also had 50 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 124 gr. HP and Federal 124 gr. Hydroshok. I initially fired 25 rounds of the Federal 124 gr. and the weapon performed flawlessly. I fired 50 rounds of the 115 gr. Lawman FMJ and experienced no FTE issues. The second and third boxes of the 115 gr. rounds was a bad experience. I had 12 FTEs out of 100 rounds. I fired the 25 rounds of Speer 124 gr. Gold Dot HP without a problem. I did some online research and it appears the little pistol does not like 115 gr. target ammunition, which really doesn't bother me as I prefer the heavier 124 gr. to 147 gr. bullet.

I cleaned and inspected the pistol immediately after returning home. No defects could be found. I purchased several brands of 124 gr. and 147 gr. FMJ and JHP which included Winchester White Box, Remington, and American Eagle and went back to the range. I fired all of the ammunition (200 rounds) and did not have one FTE. So the problem appears to be with the lighter 115 gr. bullets and a heavier than normal recoil spring.

I intend to fire another 300+ rounds through the little pistol before I will feel confident enough to carry the weapon for self defense.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've fed about 400 rounds of Speer Lawman 115gr, 100 rounds of Winchester Nato 124gr, 100 rounds of Pierce 115gr and haven't had a single FTF or FTE with my Nano. This was a 2012 production gun so maybe some bugs got worked out by Beretta.

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just took my Nano to the range and had 6 FTE's with the firat 12 shots. The next 6 went fine, but then had 2 more in the next 12 (using WWB 115). I am about ready to ship it back to see if they can fix it.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Tam said...

Pisser. :(

The format and price make it an attractive choice, but these reliability issues are unsat.

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just passed the 2,000 round mark with my Nano. Each and every round fed and fired as it's supposed to, not one FTE or FTF.

At 12:42 AM, Blogger wepiii said...

Constant FTE with my nano purchased 3/3/14. Going in next week for them to look at it. Occured with 115, and 147 grain. Was perfect with 124 grain but I have only been able to find one box of anything in 124. I believe it is either an extractor issue or a recoil spring issue. Leaning towards the recoil spring. If Beretta simply polishes the feed ramp as they have done for others with this problem I will try replacing the recoil spring. If that doesn't work I'm gonna have to trade it in at a huge loss

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purchased a nano February 2014. Countless FTE with 115 grain ammunition. Slightly better with 124 grain but still occasional FTE. No issues with 147 grain. Probably going to sell this POS.


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