The first thing you notice about the Nano, other than its compact dimensions—a mere 5.63 inches in length, 4.17 inches in height, and 0.90 inches in width—is the striking configuration of the slide, a sharply angled, tapering contour narrowed at the muzzle to make this pistol a natural for quick reholstering. Equally striking is the one-piece polymer frame, initially a visual mystery until you discover that it is little more than an outer shell covering a separate stainless steel fire control sub-chassis that contains frame rails, trigger and striker-firing system in a removable, serial-numbered module that is “the gun” for all intents and legal purposes. This design will allow Beretta to offer interchangeable grip frames in different colors, backstrap sizes (smaller and larger for different hand sizes), as well as incorporate other technologies in the near future, which may include an integrated laser sighting system. The lightweight, molded technopolymer grip frame will also make these changes very affordable.
Changing out frames is as simple as field-stripping the Nano, which, after removing the magazine and clearing the gun, comes apart by simply rotating a takedown screw on the right side of the frame with the edge of a shell casing. The slide can then be pulled off the sub-frame. Reassembly is even quicker, as the takedown screw automatically resets and locks itself when the slide is replaced.
Gripping the Nano is another surprise, as it fits the average hand like a .380 Auto or micro-compact 9mm, with a flat magazine base to tuck the little finger under. A large, curved triggerguard makes getting to work quick business even with a gloved hand. There is also ample room for a secure, two-handed hold with plenty of clearance behind the muzzle of the short 3.07-inch barrel.
I found the trigger pull a little longer than expected and there was notable stacking, but with very little practice it is easy to get comfortable with this gun’s operation. Since this is a striker-fired design, the trigger does all the work like a double-action revolver, so the long trigger pull is not unexpected. Neither is its quick reset, which makes double-taps a breeze. The gun has a very clean exterior; there is no manual safety lever or slide release lever, just a reversible magazine release. The Beretta utilizes a Glock-type pivoting trigger safety to ensure that discharging the gun is a very deliberate act. On that count, recoil is brisk, but the contour of the grip frame and balance of the gun make it more than manageable, as do the Nano’s dovetailed white dot sights, which are large enough to reacquire quickly after each shot.
For ease of use in the field, the dovetailed sights are adjusted using a standard 1.5mm hex wrench. The front sight is dovetailed vertically for easy replacement, the rear horizontally for quick windage adjustments or replacement.
On the test range, during the gun’s debut, we found the Nano accurate at 50 feet firing on steel targets. Every shot rang the bell, so there was no doubt about hitting the mark. Reacquiring the sights was effortless, and the gun points naturally with a relatively low bore axis. As noted, there is no slide release—after a reload, a slight rearward pull on the slide is all that is necessary to release it and chamber the first round. If the Nano were any easier to handle, it would be a revolver.
With a 3.07-inch barrel, the gun’s total carry weight (empty) is just 17.67 ounces. Packing six rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, the Nano is small enough for pocket carry and can easily be secreted in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) rig. This is a unique and well-thought-out gun that truly defines 21st century technology from a company that has been making firearms since the 16th century.