Color has moods. It also has purpose. In nature, color is essential for the very survival of some species, and in the world of handguns, color can also be an essential characteristic, like Flat Dark Earth for handguns carried in various arid desert regions. Of course, there is traditional flat black, the color of most tactical handguns, and for those desiring a little gender vibrancy shades of violet and pink. Now, what if one gun, as in just owning one gun, could have all those colors available at the user’s discretion? Then you would be carrying a new Beretta Pico.

The revised Pico, introduced in late 2015, brings to fruition all of the interchangeability the design promised with multiple polymer frames and frame options, such as a high-intensity tactical light or a red laser sight. Built integral with the special polymer frames for ease of carry and operation, the optional LaserMax tactical light or laser frames can be switched out with the standard black frame in less than a minute.

Versatile .380

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The heart of the Pico is a stainless steel fire control subchassis that can be quickly switched between frames. Five different frame colors are available as well as LaxerMax light and laser versions.

The .380 ACP counterpart of the 9mm Beretta Nano, albeit with an internal hammer rather than a striker-fired system, the Pico remains the thinnest, most compact and feature-laden .380 semi-auto pocket pistol ever designed. Like the Nano, the Pico shares a basic construction with an interchangeable, one-piece, molded polymer frame that houses a removable, stainless steel fire control subchassis containing frame rails, the trigger and the internal hammer firing system.

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The interchangeable frames offer multiple platforms with a single registered handgun, as the subchassis is considered the actual gun, not what surrounds it. For just $37, the Pico’s standard black polymer frame can be changed for Ranger Green, Flat Dark Earth, lavender and pink. And for tactical backup carry, or just to have the option of a light or laser for concealed carry, the specialized LaserMax frames with an integral red laser or tactical light are $189 and $199, respectively.

This little .380 even has interchangeable, dovetailed white-dot sights that can be switched for optional Trijicon three-dot night sights, for $105. If you went all out and bought everything, every frame and option, you would only spend $641 in addition to the price of the Pico, which has a suggested retail of $400. With even a modest discount, you could have the most versatile .380 pistol system ever designed for well under a grand.

EDC Options

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Already regarded as the easiest to carry and most concealable of all .380s, the Pico has a remarkably simple field-stripping procedure that requires no levers to rotate, pins to remove or alignment points. There’s just one large slotted screw on the right side of the frame, which, with a quarter turn counter-clockwise (using the edge of a shell casing or even your thumb nail), allows the slide, barrel, recoil spring and guide rod assembly to be pulled forward off the frame rails. The screw even automatically resets to the locked position when the gun is reassembled.

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To change frames takes about another 30 seconds. After performing the takedown procedure and removing the slide assembly, simply rotate the disassembly screw until the round side is up in the frame (the flat side shows during normal disassembly). Press it through the frame and remove it. From there the fire control chassis lifts out by the front rails and pulls forward out of the frame. To insert it into a new frame, slide the rear of the subchassis in first, pull the trigger back enough to drop it into the frame’s trigger opening and then press the subchassis into place. Push the disassembly screw back through the opening, rotate it to the flat position and replace the slide. The screw automatically locks back into place. In one simple process you have completely changed the frame color or the tactical features of your handgun, and all in about a minute.

DAO Defender

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The Pico is a hammer-fired, short-recoil semi-auto based on the John M. Browning design utilizing a linkless barrel with a solid camming lug and a squared breechblock face engaging the slide for lockup. Using a locked-breech design is gaining in popularity with .380 handguns, which commonly rely on basic blowback actions with the barrel affixed to the frame. Of course, that would never work with the Pico’s interchangeable frames, and there are advantages to the locked-breech design over blowbacks even with a .380.

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The Pico’s double-action-only (DAO) design has no manual/external safety and allows second-strike capability. While this is a minor point, in the event of a failed primer, the difference between pulling the trigger again and having to rack the slide can become a major point. Not even every DAO .380 has second-strike capability and the majority of .380s are single-action designs. The Pico’s slide also locks back after the last round, another plus, and the Beretta does not employ a magazine disconnect, thus it will fire a chambered round without the magazine.

Beyond ease of operation, the narrow little .380 still has good balance in the hand, especially using the primary magazine that comes with the gun, and has a deep finger extension allowing a full-hand grip, not just a third finger rest like most. The backup magazine has a flat floorplate.

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If there is any one thing that makes the Pico a hard gun to handle it is the heavy trigger pull. It’s heavier than normal for most DAO pistols, regardless of caliber, and for the average .380 by nearly 2 pounds. Beretta’s revisions to the latest Pico’s trigger, comprised of lightening the hammer spring, make it slightly easier to shoot with an average trigger pull of 8 pounds. The trigger has a short 0.5 inches of travel, a crisp break, zero overtravel and very quick reset. Though heavy, it is consistent in operation.

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A lighter recoil spring has also reduced resistance when racking the narrow slide by about by 10 to 20 percent. It is not a significant reduction, but it is easier to operate, and the revisions take nothing away from the design’s ability to help mitigate muzzle lift in combination with Beretta’s tip-to-parallel straight-line action, requiring the barrel to tilt just 1.4 degrees during the recoil cycle. Overall, recoil is less than expected for a polymer-framed pistol weighing just 11.5 ounces.

As the narrowest semi-auto pistol available, measuring a scant 0.71 inches at its widest point, and the slide only being 0.68 inches wide, this gun is less likely to print through a pocket than any other .380 semi-auto. The magazine’s finger extension makes the Pico easier to draw and shoot by adding a full inch to the height of the gun (which is 3.875 inches with the flush-floorplate magazine). In overall length, the Pico measures 5.1 inches, making it one of the shortest .380s on the market.

Shots Fired

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The Pico proved itself on the range at 7 yards, creating 1-inch groups on average with multiple overlapping hits being the norm.

Ammo choices for the Pico range test were Sig Sauer’s Elite Performance 90-grain V-Crown JHP, Federal Premium’s heavy-hitting 99-grain Personal Defense HST JHP and Hornady’s Critical Defense 90-grain FTX. The target was a B27 cardboard silhouette set out at a distance of 7 yards. Although it featured the heaviest grain weight, the new Federal 99-grain HST JHP was also the fastest round, and with the most recoil, clearing the chronograph’s traps at 912 fps. The 90-grain Hornady JHP and Sig Sauer 90-grain JHP had virtually identical averages through the Pico’s 2.7-inch barrel, clocking 880 fps. When it comes to accuracy, this gun lives at 7 yards, with the best five-round groups all averaging 1 to 1.1 inches and all with overlapping hits.

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The Pico’s standard white-dot sights are excellent under most lighting conditions and the optional night sights make this an ideal close-range 24/7 carry gun. Add the LaserMax red laser or tactical light frames and the Pico is the .380 to beat when it comes to options and features.

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