Hitting distributor shelves now is the slimmest .380 ACP pistol on the market, the Beretta Pico. At its widest point — across the ambi mag release paddle — my caliper pegs it at 18.5mm (0.728″), while the rest of the lilliputian pocket gun comes in at or under 18mm. Despite the tiny dimensions and the light 11.5 oz weight, which includes an empty magazine, the Pico is rated for +P ammo just like its older and slight larger 9mm brother, the Nano. Of course, making the smallest pistol out there can require compromises, and my Pico did experience some growing pains…
In The Box
The Pico comes nicely equipped with two magazines — one flush-fitting and one with a finger extension — inside of a handy little day planner-sized case. Two zipper pulls means you can “lock” this case, although it’s soft-sided so wouldn’t work for airline travel.
Also inside the cardboard outer box are your standard gun lock, owner’s manual, and warranty info.
While plenty of .380 ACP pistols use straight blowback actions and fixed barrels, the Pico has a Browning-style tilt barrel recoil action with the chamber hood locking into the slide. Beretta says it has minimal barrel tilt to reduce felt recoil.
On the Pico, if it isn’t polymer it’s stainless steel (Inox) — barrel, slide, magazines, slide catch, guide rod. Machining and apparent parts quality are exceptional. Fit and finish is flawless.
Dual recoil springs — one nesting inside of the other — ride on that solid guide rod.
The part with the serial number, hammer, trigger, and slide rails in the photograph above is actually the “firearm” for government purposes. Beretta calls it the “chassis,” and it pops right out of the frame like it does on the Nano. This means that the grip frame is nothing more than a piece of plastic. It can be sent right to your door and will likely cost $20-$30 on its own. Not only will Beretta offer Pico frames in various colors, as it does for the Nano, but it will be releasing frames with integrated lasers and such as well.
I’m actually a huge fan of this serialized internal chassis modularity thing. Although no company has fully taken advantage of it yet (other than perhaps SIG SAUER), this sort of system could result in one “firearm” being used in myriad chassis and calibers, from sub-compact to full size pistol chassis, carbine chassis, etc. In the case of the Pico, though, you’re basically limited to .380 or smaller calibers as the magazine slides up through the chassis between the trigger bars.
Additionally, the modularity gives you free reign to experiment with stippling and other grip frame modification. Mess up? You ruined a $24 piece of plastic. Not an entire firearm.
To disassemble the Pico, you simply rotate the takedown pin 90 degrees counterclockwise and the slide pops forwards and comes right off. Rotating the pin can be done with the baseplate of the flush fitting magazine, a cartridge rim, coin, etc.
Once the slide is off the frame, the guide rod, springs, and barrel come out like you’d expect. When putting the Pico back together, make sure the takedown pin is rotated properly and then just pull the slide back onto the frame. The pin rotates itself back into the locked position.
To remove the chassis, simply pop the takedown pin out the right side of the frame and then push/pull up on the front of the chassis.
An internal hammer is not uncommon in this class of firearm — LCP, LC9, TCP, BodyGuard, Kel-Tec, NAA, etc all feature an internal hammer — but a true double action trigger actually is. Double action meaning that the slide does not have to move at all in order to reset something inside. Pulling the trigger fully cocks and releases the hammer, and will do that over and over again without the slide moving. I appreciate this, as it seems like the logical choice for a pistol that’s designed to have a long trigger pull anyway. Actually, whether internal hammer-fired or striker-fired, if it has a long trigger pull, it may as well be true double action in my mind. Of course, some models engineer a lighter trigger pull by using the slide to cock or partially cock a spring, leaving less work for the trigger itself.
In case you hadn’t already noticed, it’s possible that the Pico has the largest extractor ever.
Like the Nano, the Pico is designed to be as slick and snag-free as possible. The ambidextrous, trigger guard-located, paddle-style magazine release (think HK) is the only thing just ever so slightly wider than the frame and widest part of the slide.
Magazines dropped free and clicked in very smoothly, but I found the paddle hard to activate with my strong hand thumb, middle finger, or index finger. The grip is just so darn small that the magazine release is awkwardly close to my palm. It was easier to pinch the paddle between my support hand index finger and thumb and pull down, popping the magazine right out into my support hand. Works great for those “tactical reloads.”
The only other external control is a really sleek slide catch. It wasn’t easy to use it for manually locking the slide back — some of this was also due to the extremely stiff recoil springs (more on that later) — but worked better than I expected as a release.
A pair of legitimate, 3-dot sights grace the Pico’s slide. They’re fairly short and smooth to inhibit any sort of snagging, but they’re real sights, which is something not found on many pocket pistols.
Both sights are dovetailed in place. Instead of friction from a really tight fit holding them still, however, each sight uses a set screw for that purpose. This makes the sights extremely easy for the end user to adjust and/or replace. The rear sight can be drifted for windage, while the front sight could be replaced with a shorter or taller one to adjust for elevation, and both can obviously be replaced with Tritium, fiber optic or other styles (pending availability) without requiring a gunsmith or special tools.
Two stainless steel magazines come with the Pico, both holding 6 rounds of .380 ACP.
One is flush-fitting:
And the other has a finger extension:
I could see angling out the magwell a little more, but inserting magazines was smooth and easy and they snick into place nicely.
Hooray for metal triggers. At least, that’s my preference and the Pico’s is nice and rounded with no silly blade “safety” thing. Quite comfortable.
Unfortunately, any praise for the trigger is going to end right there. First, let me say that I’m okay with a long, heavy pull on a self defense pistol that has no safety. Actually, it’s my preference and one specific reason I chose Beretta’s Nano as my EDC. Where the Pico’s trigger falls short is…
It’s somewhat gritty during the pull stroke and then gets grittier before suddenly stacking at the end. The break itself is clean, though, and it has a bare minimum of over-travel.
But it’s the back of the trigger guard that stops it. This in itself isn’t a problem, but the tiny dimensions of the Pico made it a small-ish issue for me and for a couple other gentlemen who shot the gun. Your trigger finger ends up so close to your palm at the back of the pull that it’s awkward and even slightly difficult to get it back there. Especially for those with larger hands, proper pad-of-finger-on-trigger placement may have to be modified so you can physically move your finger back to where it breaks. The trigger, not your finger. Ideally.
There is no reset of which to speak. Well, yeah, the trigger resets of course, but you can’t feel it or hear it when wearing ear protection. Just know that it’s all of the way at the front of the trigger’s travel, so you really have to lift your finger off the trigger to make sure you’ve let it out fully.
Like I said, long and heavy I’m cool with on a gun like this. But ~12.25 lbs is a bit excessive. I measured it a number of times and it varied between 12 and 13 lbs., clustering mostly toward the low end of that range. Some triggers nail the same fraction of a pound over and over ad nauseam, but this isn’t one of them.
As mentioned above, the extremely small size of the grip has some drawbacks for adults with adult-sized hands. The length of pull (distance from backstrap to trigger) is really short. The Pico’s slimmest-on-the-market width makes maximizing contact area difficult.
That said, the grip itself is comfortable and the pistol does recoil quite softly considering its size and weight. No controllability issues at all shooting it with the flush-fitting magazine, despite insufficient room on the front strap for three fingers. I could go for some more grip texture, which is another big thumbs up for the Pico’s low consequences for experimenting with stippling.
The slide, however, is a sore point. Not only is it incredibly stiff to rack and manipulate — mostly due to the combined power of the dual recoil springs but also due to the fact that cycling the slide cocks the hammer as well — but such a small pistol doesn’t offer much in the way of gripping surfaces to help. The serrations on each side of the slide are very short in height and quite shallow. While many pistols these days are going overboard with slide serrations, as much for aggressive “tactical” aesthetics as function, on the Pico they’re actually really needed. The serrations on this gun should be at least twice as tall as they are. And they may as well serrate that surf board of an extractor on the right side as well.
Considering the spring tension and the lack of grip surface, there’s no way anyone who lacks strong hands will be able to manipulate the gun. Then again, those with strong hands will likely find them a bit too large to have an easy time holding the slide back against the spring tension while pushing up on the very-close-to-your-palm, flush slide catch. The first time I tried to lock the slide back manually I almost slammed the muzzle of the pistol through the top of my FFL’s glass display case.
I’m deviating from my normal review categories order here because I suffered reliability problems that I believe were associated with the very stiff spring tension just mentioned. With three brands of standard pressure ammo (Blazer Brass, PPU, and Fiocchi) I had consistent failures to eject. I also ran a few magazines of Federal Hydra-Shok through the Pico and, while not actually +P ammo, it is hotter than the other brands. These mags ran fine.
It was my conclusion that the slide was not reciprocating back far enough for the empty case to contact the ejector, or at least it doesn’t contact it hard enough to pop it out of the [Tera] extractor’s grasp. A full magazine exacerbated the problem, as the top round’s pressure on the bottom of the slide further inhibited its rearward motion (the steep ramp on the bottom of the slide doesn’t help).
The result were regular FTEs — at least once every couple of magazines — that left the empty brass trapped between the breech face and the chamber hood. A few times it actually rechambered the case, but usually the upwards pressure from the next round in the magazine caused what you see above. Had I taken a photo of each of the dozens of these incidents, they would be basically indistinguishable from each other.
I left the slide locked back and the magazines fully loaded for a week between shooting sessions, thinking the springs might take a bit of a “set,” but it had little effect. Neither did 200 rounds of break-in along with manually cycling the slide maybe 100 times or so. This same stoppage was still a regular occurrence.
Considering my estimation of the root cause and the Pico’s +P rating, I chose to remove the softer, inner recoil spring. With only the main recoil spring installed, the slide tension felt more normal. More in-line with the Pico’s peers. The pistol ran with 100% reliability for me for the next 100 rounds. It still fed with authority — whether dropping the slide with the slide catch or “sling shotting” it — and successful ejection was more consistent than before. Distance and direction of ejection were completely normal, and I’m confident in the pistol’s reliability now with this setup.
Beretta is sending me another Pico to check out, as it should apparently run reliably with any standard ammo in its factory configuration. I’ll update this review one way or the other. [Update HERE, and it’s positive news] Personally, I don’t think it’s asking too much of the consumer or unreasonable from a design perspective to say something like, “run both recoil springs for +P ammo and use and only the outer spring for standard pressure ammo.” Of course, I understand why manufacturers avoid those sorts of scenarios.
Five-shot accuracy groups from a sandbag rest at 7 yards:
On The Range
Many of these tiny guns can really beat you up, but the Pico is decently pleasant to shoot. The recoil action (rather than straight blowback) softens felt recoil and there are no sharp edges or protrusions to rub you the wrong way. The sights are clear and easy to pick up.
I think it’s safe to say that many shooters are going to have to acclimate themselves to the small grip, short distance to the trigger, and the long, heavy, and sub-par trigger pull. Running around on the range, I’m not as accurate with this pistol as with some of its peers due to the trigger.
Even with the “extra” recoil spring removed, the Pico would benefit from more serration surface area on the slide.
The Pico is very well made. Parts quality, machining, fit and finish are all excellent. Concealability is as good as it gets. Value is pretty decent, too, as it looks like they’ll be regularly sold at retail in the $330 to $370 range.
It may run flawlessly right out of the box with more powerful, defensive ammo. That is, of course, what the gun is designed for. However, I had to make a small modification to mine to get it to run standard ammo. We’ll see if the second Pico is any different.
Specifications: Beretta Pico
Caliber: .380 ACP (barrel swap to run .32 ACP)
Barrel Length: 2.7″
Overall Length: 5.1″
Width: 0.725″ (18mm)
Weight: 11.5 oz with unloaded magazine
Trigger: Double Action Only (DAO). 12.25 lbs as tested
MSRP: $398 (I have seen retailers list it for as low as $325 thus far)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * *
A bit better than average for me from a rest, but a bit worse than average on the range.
Ergonomics: * * *
With any micro pistol there are going to be concessions here. The Pico excels in concealability and carry ergonomics — rounded corners, nothing poky or rough — but is hurt by the difficult-to-rack slide with little gripping assistance and the short trigger reach.
Reliability: * * *
I’m confident that the pistol will continue to run with 100% reliability for me more or less indefinitely now that the “extra” recoil spring has been removed. Of course, it didn’t run out of the box or as designed. An “average” rating may seem generous, but compared to other mouse guns I actually feel quite solid on the Pico’s ability here.
Trigger: * *
Customize This: * * * * *
I love the serialized chassis insert. Even if it’s just theoretical potential at this point, the possibility of different frame sizes, formats, built-in accessories, etc, is great. Plus the near consequence-free stippling freedom and the ability to have multiple frame colors to match your shoes thing. A quick change to .32 ACP is interesting. Easily adjusted and swapped sights is nice as well.
Overall: * * * 1/2
It’s the smallest thing going, and it wins points for that. Quality is great. I believe in the reliability now that the recoil spring power has been resolved. Nice sights. On the negative side is the trigger followed by the ergonomic difficulties associated with racking the slide as well as with the positioning of the trigger, mag release, and slide catch so close to your strong hand palm. I think it’s better than your average .380 mouse gun, though. If it had better slide serrations and/or only had the single recoil spring installed from the factory, it would be a solid 4-star pistol. Add to that a better trigger and it might hit 5-stars.