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You’ve probably heard the word nano a million times, but what exactly is a nano? In any form of measurement, distance, time, weight, etc., a nano equals 1-billionth, as in nanosecond or nanometer. A nano is very small and Beretta wisely chose it to name its first Micro-Compact 9mm semi-automatic pistol. While the new Ultra Compact isn’t as “nano” as some of the competition, like the Kimber Solo (which is considerably smaller), the Ruger LC9 (a bit lighter and narrower), or the Kahr CM9 (awfully close); compared to their designs and construction, the new Beretta is practically in a class of its own.

Gun Details

The first things you notice about the Nano are its compact dimensions—a mere 5.63 inches in length, 4.17 inches in height, and 0.90 inches in width. The Nano is also light at 18.27 ounces (empty). Capacity is 6+1. The gun’s shape is eye-catching too, with a striking configuration to the slide that sharply angles into a tapering contour toward the muzzle, making it a natural for quick re-holstering. The Nano ideally fits the average hand, with a flat base plate magazine to tuck the little finger under. A large curved triggerguard makes getting to work quick business even wearing a glove and there is still ample room for a two-handed hold with plenty of clearance behind the muzzle of the 3.07-inch barrel.

It is in the Nano’s construction where traditional gun design and future technology theoretically collide. The Nano’s one-piece polymer frame is merely a molded technopolymer shell surrounding a separate stainless steel fire control sub-chassis containing frame rails, trigger, and striker firing system. This sub-chassis is removable and serial numbered; i.e., it is “the gun” for all intents and legal purposes. This feature will allow Beretta to offer affordable interchangeable exterior configurations, grip styles, optional colors, and specialized frames with built-in accessories like a laser sighting system. As to how many options, how much and how soon, that remains to be seen.

The Nano is rather conventional otherwise employing a striker-fired, short recoil system; the latter is based on the John M. Browning design, which uses a linkless barrel with a solid camming lug and squared breechblock face to engage the slide. This is combined with a Glock-style toggle trigger safety and automatic striker block, de rigueur with almost every new semi-auto design these days. To help mitigate harsh recoil from the lightweight 9mm, Beretta uses a double recoil spring; one wound around the guide rod, another around the plunger.

The only external indications of the gun’s condition are the action of the automatic striker block, which rises up though an opening in the top of the slide when the trigger is drawn to the rear, and a loaded chamber indicator, which is almost too subtle to notice. When a round is chambered the extractor protrudes just slightly outward from the slide. Other than that, the gun has no obvious tells; the trigger position appears the same (fully forward, toggle extended) whether the slide has been cycled or not, while a Glock, for example, has two clearly different trigger positions between “at the ready” and “discharged.” The Nano also has no external (manual) safety or even a slide release lever. The design is as uncomplicated as possible. All it takes to strip the first round from a magazine on the reload is pulling the slide slightly to the rear and letting go, which basically makes it ambidextrous. In a pinch (one handed) the slide can also be released by lightly pushing its front edge against any hard surface and you’re good to go. There is also an easily depressed magazine release that is reversible, so southpaws don’t have to go wanting, and the Nano does not use a magazine disconnect; it will discharge a chambered round with the magazine removed.

The matte black Pronox finished slide is fitted with a windage adjustable white dot rear sight that is locked in place by two standard 1.3mm hex head set screws. The white dot front sight is uniquely locked into a horizontal dovetailed channel with a single 1.3mm hex head set screw, making both front and rear easily interchangeable at some point. The ease with which the Nano’s frame can be interchanged is just slightly more time intensive (more parts to deal with) than field stripping the Nano, which, after removing the magazine and clearing the gun comes apart by simply depressing the striker deactivation button on the right side of the grip frame with the tip of a pen and then rotating the takedown screw (also on the right side of the frame just above the trigger) one quarter turn counter-clockwise.

You can do the latter without any tools; the edge of a shell casing is all you need. The slide, barrel, recoil spring and guide rod assembly can then be pulled forward off the subframe. Reassembly is faster as the takedown screw automatically resets and locks itself when the slide is replaced! It’s quick and easy and the first step can actually be skipped (after ensuring the gun is empty) by simply pulling the trigger, as one would do field stripping a Glock. Conversely, by depressing the striker deactivation button the gun can be de-cocked for carry with a chambered round. It only takes a slight rearward pull of the slide (about 0.25 inches) to reset the trigger and make the Nano ready to fire.

Removing the outer frame shell to allow the retrofit of different frames requires only a small punch tool and the supplied Beretta parts tube in which to store nine pieces that will be detached (some fall out of the sub chassis as it is removed) in the process. The removal of the sub chassis is fully detailed in the instruction manual and requires no gunsmithing tools or special training. This is sure to become one of the Nano’s most significant features.

Carry Holsters

Beretta decided not to wait for holster makers to get on the Nano bandwagon and instead came up with its own line of dedicated Italian-made concealed carry rigs known as the Amadini Ghost Holsters. These are injection molded to fit the Nano like a glove and are currently offered in three versions that begin at just $44 for the basic black belt rig; $49 for a carbon fiber-look high ride belt holster that comes with an attachable paddle (as shown); and $64 for an adjustable IWB holster. The Nano conceals well with any of the Beretta rigs and the draw is clean from the injection-molded pouches. The dual purpose Amadini Ghost Holster, with attachable paddle, is the most versatile as it can be used as a high rise belt rig or quickly converted into a paddle holster by removing the top two hex head screws on the backside of the holster body and attaching the paddle. It is secured by two longer hex head screws that are provided, as is a hex head tool. The molded pouch is also tension-adjustable using the same tool.

As with many injection-molded holsters the contour of the triggerguard is used as a locking juncture and this works well with the Nano. The gun sets in firmly and it takes an equally firm draw to release it, thus it is important to make certain the paddle’s four angled catches are below the trouser beltline and secure. Once in place the Ghost Holster stays put.

The IWB rig combines a trimmer, more contoured pouch with a wide, soft, ventilated premium leather backplate, or skirt in the old western holster vernacular, fitted with two large adjustable spring steel over the belt clips. This is a stylishly designed rig that is comfortable to wear and secures the Nano within easy reach for a clean draw. Of the different styles, this was my personal favorite for comfort, carry, and ease of access to the firearm. The thick, flexible leather skirt totally isolates the upper frame of the Nano from the body so there are no hard surfaces rubbing against your side or under the ribcage when sitting. I tried it at the three o’clock hip position, which is generally uncomfortable with most IWB rigs and the Ghost Holster was just that, a ghost. The Amadini wears just as well at the four o’clock position. The belt clips are mounted only at the bottom, (secured with hex head screws), to make the IWB rig and gun totally concealable by tucking your shirt over them, (over the gun and pouch and behind the belt clips), thereby making it possible for concealed carry without a jacket or other clothing to cover the grips. Only the spring steel clips remain open to view over the wearer’s belt. The Amadini may well be one of the most comfortable IWB holsters ever designed and the perfect means of carry for the Beretta Nano.

Range Test

The trade-off with a lightweight polymer frame and a stainless steel slide is that the Nano is a bit nose heavy, which is not bad for recoil management but it initially feels more unbalanced in the hand than expected. I also found the trigger pull quite long at 0.75 inches and with notable stacking, however, since this is a striker-fired design the trigger does all the work, like a double-action-only revolver, so the lengthy pull is to be expected. On the plus side trigger reset is quick, which makes double taps a breeze.
Unfortunately, the Nano’s DAO design does not allow for second-strike capability should a round fail to fire, it only takes a very slight pull on the slide to reset the trigger. The shape of the slide and the deep rear serrations contribute to making a reset quick work with the off hand. The Nano’s contour also places the upper frame and slide well over the web of the shooting hand despite having a relatively low bore axis.

The range test was conducted at a distance of 15 yards (45 feet). Using a two handed hold and Weaver stance, the best five shot groups, fired at one-second intervals at a B-27 silhouette target, measured 1.5 inches with Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain FTX traveling downrange at 1,073 feet per second (fps), with all rounds grouping at the bottom right of the 10-ring. With CorBon 9mm Luger +P 115-grain DPX flying at 1,130 fps average, the best grouping measured 1.95 inches in the nine-ring at lower left, with three rounds almost overlapping. A second string was fired with CorBon, which grouped in the nine-ring at three o’clock, measuring 2.0 inches. The heaviest load tested in the Nano was Federal Premium Personal Defense 9mm Luger 147-grain Hydra-Shok JHP which clocked 899 fps average and grouped five rounds at 2.10 inches all in the ten and X. Recoil was lively with all three, a bit more so with the hot +P CorBon DPX. Heavy recoil, however, is to be expected with any lightweight Ultra Compact 9mm. The Nano is no better or worse than any other.

Final Notes

While the Nano’s concept isn’t exactly a clean sheet of paper design, for a semi-auto it is cutting edge technology and as a defensive sidearm for concealed carry the Nano couldn’t be any easier to use unless it was a revolver. But the Nano 9mm is only the beginning. What is coming next is the same gun with the same features, but chambered in .40 S&W. That is going to be the real game changer. Find out more by visiting berettanano.com or calling 800-929-2901.

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