Photo: Becky Leavitt
Fabbrica D'Armi Pietro Beretta SpA has been making state-of-the-art firearms since 1526, making it the oldest still-operating gun manufacturer in the world. Today, the company is best known for its Model 92 full-size combat pistol, which is carried by U.S. and NATO military forces and many American police officers.
But for a very long time in the American market Beretta was known for its pocket pistols. And the company has not forgotten its roots. It still produces a number of micro pistols in .22, .25, .32, and .380 ACP. This line expanded a few years back with the striker-fired, polymer-framed mini-compact, the BU9 Nano.
Fits the Name
"Nano" is derived from a Greek word meaning "dwarf," but today the term is used primarily as a prefix in measurements meaning one-billionth. For example, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The word is now also commonly used to refer to something that is extremely small such as nanotechnology, hence Beretta's use of the word to designate this pistol.
Compact and sub-compact pistols designed for concealed carry are currently the hottest items in the American handgun market. They are also popular with police officers for undercover operations, as backup weapons, and as off-duty guns.
But many officers and concealed carry civilians are not very fond of small-caliber pocket pistols such as .380s and .32s, which is why Beretta chambered the Nano for the 9mm and .40 S&W cartridges.
Is the Nano truly "tiny?" Well with an overall length of only 5.6 inches, a height of 4.2 inches, and a width of less than an inch, the answer is "Yes." In fact, unless you are a nudist, you ought to have no trouble at all concealing this little handgun just about anywhere upon your person.
The Nano's frame is a fiberglass-reinforced polymer Beretta calls "Technopolymer." While that will probably generate little excitement, the frame is unusual in that it incorporates a metal sub-chassis that contains the trigger mechanism and rails upon which the pistol's stainless steel slide reciprocates.
Technically the sub-chassis is the "pistol," as it is the part that bears the gun's serial number (which can be viewed through an oval opening on the left side of the frame. According to the owner's manual, "This allows any other component to be exchanged or customized without affecting the serialized part." In layman's terms this means that you can switch the sub-chassis to another frame (larger/smaller/different caliber) without the legalities of actually purchasing another pistol. Unfortunately, Beretta does not yet offer such components.
Design and Features
The Nano's frame has been designed to be completely snag free, as the only external control is the magazine catch. The slide stop is internal. So when you shoot the pistol dry you must remove the magazine and retract the slide slightly to let it run forward.
Coarse texturing on the front and back straps of the grip frame provides a secure purchase and helps in the recoil control department. Recoil control is further enhanced by the use of the extended eight-round magazine that is fitted with a sleeve that approximates the outside diameter of the grip frame. While the extension adds to the height of the pistol (under an inch), it doesn't negatively affect concealability.
The Nano has a connector bar on the right side of the gun that connects the trigger to the sear. A projection on top of the connector bar pushes the bar down and out of engagement with the sear when the slide is out of battery. When the slide reciprocates, as it goes forward the tail of the striker engages and the sear holds it in a half-cock position. When you pull the trigger the sear rotates backward, pulling the striker even further back and then releasing it. If the sear does not hold the striker at half-cock, the gun cannot be fired.
There are three safeties on the Nano. A lever on the front of the trigger must be fully depressed before the trigger can be pulled. Then there is a striker block pin, which is pushed up as the trigger is pulled (and is visible in front of the rear sight). Lastly, a striker deactivation button on the right side of the gun allows the striker to be released from half-cock without pulling the trigger. This enables disassembling the gun without the need to pull the trigger.
The stainless steel slide features a black nitride finish, which provides extra protection from wear, moisture, salts, and other unpleasant things a careless owner or the environment might expose it to.
The pistol is fitted with a set of low-profile, three-dot sights. These are held into cuts in the slide by small set screws that allow the owner to change the style of sights. Beretta also offers Trijicon night sights on the Nano.
Breech locking is accomplished by a method used on many of today's pistols. The barrel and slide are locked together by the barrel hood moving up into and bearing on the front edge of the ejection port. Upon firing, the slide/barrel unit reciprocate to the rear locked together and after a short distance the barrel is cammed down, allowing the slide to continue rearward, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case. The recoil spring then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round from the magazine and chambering it. As the slide goes into battery, the barrel is cammed up, locking it and the slide together again.
While the .40 S&W is the most popular police cartridge in the U.S., I requested a 9mm Nano from Beretta to evaluate. I believe that with the levels of recoil the .40 produces it is a less than optimal choice in a pistol of this size.
The pistol I received was a very attractive piece. Ergonomics were excellent and the trigger broke crisply after a short amount of take-up. My only complaint was that the magazine release was a bit difficult to depress with the thumb of the shooting hand. In fact I found it easier and more reliable to use the thumb of my support hand. But considering the uses this pistol is likely to be put to, I don't see fast combat reloads as being of prime importance.
While mounted very low in the slide, the three-dot sights were easy to pick up and provided a good sight picture.
Keeping in mind the Nano's small size—and likely use—accuracy testing was performed at a moderate 10 yards with four brands of 9mm ammunition. All of them shot close to point of aim, but the pistol showed a definite preference for the Hornady FXT load, which produced groups of two inches or less. (Note: Beretta does not recommend use of +P or +P+ ammo with the Nano.)
After accuracy testing, I ran the Nano through a series of offhand drills at five and seven yards using both six- and eight-round magazines.
Despite its small size and the low mounted sights, the Nano handled very well with only a few rounds wandering outside the higher scoring zones of the target. I found it especially comfortable and controllable with the eight-round magazine. So if your mode of dress allows it and you want to carry a Nano, I would advise using the extended magazines at all times.
As I have come to expect with Beretta pistols, the little Nano proved 100% reliable with anything I could stuff into the magazine, which cannot be said of all the mini-compact pistols on the market today. As I stated earlier, the only downside was the magazine catch, and I think a slightly longer one would solve this problem without compromising concealability.
I was unable to obtain a holster for the Nano but found that it fit quite comfortably behind the wallet in the rear pocket of the cargo pants I normally wear. This allowed me to carry it completely concealed but still be able to access and draw it with ease.
Beretta pistols are very popular with American police agencies and rightly so. The Nano follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, both large and small, and I believe it will find ready acceptance as a powerful but concealable service pistol for undercover officers and as a backup or off-duty weapon for uniformed personnel.
Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE Magazine.
See the Beretta BU9 Nano Photo Gallery.
Beretta BU9 Nano Sub-Compact Pistol Specs:
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 6 rounds (8 with extended magazine)
- Overall Length: 5.6 inches
- Barrel Length: 3.07 inches
- Height: 4.2 inches
- Width: 0.9 inches
- Weight (empty): 20 ounces
- Trigger: DAO, striker fired
- Construction: Slide: Stainless steel
- Frame: Technopolymer
- Sights: Front: White dot
- Rear: Square notch w/white dots
- Grips: Polymer
- Price: $445
Shooting the Beretta BU9 Nano:
Ammunition Velocity Group
(feet per second) (inches)
Hornady 115-grain FTX 1,057 1.8
Remington 124-grain FMJ 947 2.5
Federal 135-grain Hydra-Shok 962 2.3
Winchester 147-grain PDX 881 2.5
Note: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from an MTM K-Zone rest at 10 yards. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 10 feet from muzzle.
See the Beretta BU9 Nano Photo Gallery