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Back in the 1930s, J. Henry “Fitz” Fitzgerald became the most renowned armorer at Camp Perry and the father of concealed-carry pistols. One of America’s great instructional shootists and having worked for Colt, he once wrote, “The front pocket is a good place to carry a revolver.” He was, of course, referring to the standard among pocket pistols of the time, the .38-caliber Colt Detective Special and the various Colt models he personally customized for police officers for concealed-carry use. No doubt Fitz would be amazed at what has become of pocket pistols today. Nevertheless, his statement remains fundamentally true.

What A Pico Is
For the record, a pico is one-trillionth of any measurement; a picosecond or a picogram is really, really small. Logically, the .380 Beretta Pico’s predecessor in the company’s ultra-compact line, by about one year, is the 9mm Beretta Nano, and a nano is one-billionth of any measurement. Aside from sharing numerical epithets, the Beretta Pico and Nano also share their basic construction: an interchangeable, one-piece, molded Technopolymer frame (or chassis) surrounding a separate, stainless steel fire control subchassis containing the frame rails, trigger and firing system. This subchassis can be removed from the frame, is serial numbered and for all intents and legal purposes is the gun, not what surrounds it, though you’d be hard-pressed to shoot the subchassis. The point of the Pico is that, like the 9mm Beretta Nano, the chassis can be changed either for another color or for a chassis equipped with a LaserMax laser sight or tactical light. The little .380 even has interchangeable, dovetailed, white-dot sights, a feature that sets it apart from most of the other .380s in this size and price range. The gun also shares another Nano feature: a remarkably simple field-stripping procedure. The Pico has no levers to rotate, pins to press out, alignment points between slide and frame, or required tools—there is just one large, slotted screw on the right side of the frame, which, with a quarter-turn counterclockwise using only the edge of a shell casing, allows the slide, barrel, recoil spring and guide rod assembly to unlock and be pulled forward off the subframe. After the assembly is separated for cleaning, when the slide is replaced on the frame, the screw automatically rests in the locked position. The bottom line is the Pico is the easiest gun to field-strip I have ever tested.

The Inner Works
Unlike the Nano, Beretta chose to build the Pico with a concealed-hammer-fired mechanism in a double-action-only format, which is another plus because this offers second-strike capability in the event of a failed primer. The Pico operates on a short recoil system, which is based on the John M. Browning design utilizing a linkless barrel with a solid camming lug and squared breechblock face to engage the slide. Other operational pluses are the absence of a manual/external safety and the addition of a slide release that is one of the easiest to operate on the reload of any pistol in this size class. And just as an aside, should the urge overtake you to step down one caliber (say, for use by a friend or family member who prefers less recoil), the Pico converts to .32 ACP by simply installing one of Beretta’s optional barrels. The magazines that come with the Pico handle both .380 ACP and .32 ACP.

As Fitzgerald said, a front pocket is a good place to carry a revolver. Well, the same goes for a gun that is even smaller and easier to conceal. As an ultra-compact pistol, the Pico is the narrowest semi-automatic available, measuring a scant 0.71 inches at it widest point, which is less than its closest competitor’s. The Pico’s slide is even a pinch thinner, measuring 0.68 inches. Width is truly the most important feature to look for in a pocket-carry sidearm. The narrower the gun, the less likely it is to print through a pocket.

Even in a pocket holster like the DeSantis Nemesis, a wider gun, even one just 0.25 inches wider, will have more mass, thus making the entire pocket rig more obvious. That’s why a snub-nose revolver, though very short, is more difficult than a semi-auto to conceal in a pocket holster.

Because it is only 5.1 inches long, less than 4 inches high with the flat floorplate magazine and narrower than the average man’s finger, the Pico becomes one of the easiest pocket pistols to conceal. But there is one caveat: The gun comes with a second magazine that has a distinctive finger extension, increasing the Pico’s depth by a full inch and making it considerably more difficult to pocket. However, the combined length and angle of the finger extension makes the Pico far more manageable to draw and shoot by allowing for a full-hand grip. The option here is to go with a very compact belt rig or an IWB. For belt wear, there are a handful of existing rigs that work, most notably the DeSantis Mini Scabbard, designed, oddly enough, for the .380 Sig P238, which has dimensions close to that of the Pico so that the Pico parks firmly in the same contoured holster. This allows both excellent concealment at the 4 o’clock position and the use of the finger-extension magazine. Whether in a pocket with the short magazine or around your waist with the extended, the Pico is a good gun to carry in either place.

Trial By Fire
The Pico is small, and that generally translates into harsh recoil, even for a .380. Surprisingly that doesn’t happen with the gun despite its featherweight polymer chassis. Beretta uses a tip-to-parallel, straight-line action, which requires the barrel to tilt a mere 1.4 degrees during the recoil cycle, causing the recoil to feel significantly lower than that of typical lightweight .380 ACPs, and that’s significant when you consider that the Pico weighs a mere 11.5 ounces. The recoil is also mitigated by Beretta’s use of a heavy recoil spring, which absorbs a lot of energy and also gets the little pistol back into action posthaste. But herein lies the rub: The Pico presents heavy resistance when cycling the slide to chamber the first round or clear the gun, and being a hammer-fired DAO, the trigger pull is also heavy. The average pull on the Pico was 8 pounds 8.5 ounces and as high as 8 pounds 12 ounces, heavier than that of most .380s. There also is moderate stacking with the trigger, which travels exactly 0.5 inches to operate the hammer. There is zero overtravel and just 0.375 inches of release to reset the trigger. However, the Pico’s short length of pull and resistance makes that 0.5 inches feel a lot longer. So forget about recoil, which is minimal even with high-velocity ammo; it’s all about mastering the trigger pull.

There is one other minor issue, the magazine release. Described as ambidextrous because it extends across the bottom of the triggerguard on both sides, the edges aren’t large enough to generate enough force to drop the magazine, so it requires shifting the gun in your hand to work the magazine release with two fingers, at which point it is relatively easy to do and with practice becomes very quick work. One plus, at least for those who subscribe to the advantage, is the Pico does not employ a magazine disconnect, so it will fire a chambered round even with the magazine removed.

For the range test, three leading personal-defense loads were selected: Federal Premium 90-grain Hydra-Shok JHP, Hornady 90-grain FTX Critical Defense, and Speer 90-grain Gold Dot Personal Protection GDHP. The target was a cardboard, scoring-and-qualification Law Enforcement Targets B-27 silhouette set out at a distance of 7 yards. All shots were fired at one-second intervals using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance. The Pico has excellent white-dot sights, which are quick to reacquire when shooting and bright enough for many low-light situations. These are also interchangeable for tritium night sights, which would be a good investment for concealed carry.

On the test range, the Speer was the fastest for velocity and, after I got accustomed to the gun, right in the middle of the target, placing a best five-shot group of 1.5 inches in the X-ring. With the bullseye filled, I switched aim to the right, in the 9-ring between 2 and 3 o’clock, and placed a best five-shot group of Federal Premium within 1.5 inches. The next fastest was the Hornady, which put five rounds at, you guessed it, 1.5 inches. The Pico is nothing if not consistent, at least inside 7 yards, where this short 2.7-inch-barreled, 11.5-ounce pistol lives.

Final Thoughts
The Pico has many advantages over other ultra-compact .380 ACPs, most notably its size and reduced recoil. The biggest issue for me was the trigger pull, which will demand an investment in time (and ammo) in order to become comfortable and proficient. With the flush floorplate magazine, the little pistol all but vanishes in a trouser pocket. J. Henry Fitzgerald would be impressed. For more information, visit berettausa.com or call 800-929-2901.

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