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[ED: In response to reader requests, this is the fourth in a series of posts by TTAG writers revealing their choice of carry guns.]

I’m not sure my rig’s tires had even cooled off from the move back to Washington from California before I was putting fingerprints on digital paper as part of the Washington CPL (concealed pistol license) process. After living in the Bay Area for over a decade with better chances of my wife acting as wingman while I hit on one of RF’s comely daughters than of acquiring a CCW permit, I didn’t own a suitable carry pistol. The approximately 30-day turnaround on the Washington CPL gave me a month to finalize that choice, and the time was spent putting rounds through the few candidates I hadn’t yet played with . . .

My preferences — no manual safety, long-ish and heavy-ish trigger pull, lilliputian height, slim as Kate Moss, 9mm caliber — were plugged into the find-a-gat-a-tron and the leading contender was Beretta’s Nano. Of that list, my biggest specification concern was the height from top of slide to bottom of grip.

I had managed to carry a pistol enough — even in California without a permit it’s legal in certain camping and fishing/hunting scenarios and on private property, etc. — to develop a preference for IWB carry at 3:00, plus or minus ~30 minutes depending on the pistol and the holster. The bottom front corner of the grip (often actually the front of the magazine baseplate) was always the part that noticeably prints.

Canting the firearm forward alleviates this source of printing, but so does a short grip, not that they’re mutually exclusive. With the short grip of the Nano, though, I’m able to dial in my cant angle so it’s right at the natural angle my wrist takes when gripping the holstered pistol in its carry location. Most folks I know are sacrificing draw-from-the-holster ergonomics and alignment to the gods of carry concealment (less printing) and comfort, but my preference was to avoid that.


Of course, a short grip isn’t without its sacrifices; namely purchase/control and round count. I shot the Nano quite a bit with the flush mag as well as the extended mag, which smoothly makes for a full-length grip, and couldn’t discern a difference in my accuracy, speed, or confidence. This is in keeping with my past experience, where if I’m able to get a proper grip from the holster, I don’t seem to be affected by my strong hand pinkie finger wrapping under the bottom of the magazine. Actually, I think it’s quite functional in that location. What entails a sufficient round count and/or sufficient caliber is completely subjective with no right or wrong answer, hence the endless debate, but obviously I’m comfortable with seven rounds of 9×19 on tap in my EDC.

To be clear, I also had no interest in amending my wardrobe. I was looking only at pistols that would conceal as fully as possible under a light t-shirt. Likely a t-shirt purchased many years ago when I was skinnier. I mean, before the shirts shrank. Frankly, I don’t care if I’m printing when out in public. It’s mostly my wife, family, and their acquaintances and those in their social groups where I most want to stay off the radar, if only to avoid conversations that have turned increasingly political in recent years.

Actually, that isn’t entirely true. If I ever find myself in a situation where my Nano has to come into play, I want to be the only person aware of its existence. For me that extends from wardrobe choice (not looking “tactical,” not obviously wearing a size too large, etc.), to not printing, to the people who know me not looking at me expectantly.


Sometimes – but not always – an 8-round extended magazine is carried as a backup to the flush-fitting 6-rounder that’s usually in the Nano. In colder months when I’m wearing a sweater and/or a jacket, the extended mag makes cameos as the in-the-gun magazine, sometimes with another 8-rounder as backup.

Now of all these subjective personal preferences are all well and good, and they’re what led me to the Nano as a finalist. But the pistol would never have seen the dark of concealment if it didn’t perform. For whatever reason, despite the admittedly clunky appearance of a high bore axis, I shoot the little thing like a darn laser beam – rapidly and accurately. Better than most of its peers. It was #1 on stats (shortest, thinnest, sleekest, one of the lightest, and I liked the trigger) and tied for #1 on the range. It was also reliable for me in initial testing, and this hasn’t changed.


In over three years of use it has fed, fired, and ejected absolutely everything I have ever shot through it, which includes 92 grain solid copper novelties to 147 grain hollow points and everything in between, whether cased in brass, aluminum, or plated or lacquered steel, from weak-loaded, cheap reloads to +P+ flame throwers to rounds with hard NATO primers. Without exhibiting so much as a single hitch or hiccup, I trust this pistol.

There’s a lot of “my preference” involved in every last aspect of an EDC choice, so I wouldn’t suggest this is the right pistol for somebody else. I narrowed down every gun on the market to about six contenders that met my general specifications and preferences, then tried them all to find a winner that I shot well with full confidence in its reliability. For me that’s the Nano, carried in a Cook’s IWB holster.

During the summer months, depending on attire and activity, I occasionally pocket carry a Taurus TCP instead. I pocket carried the Nano a couple times, but it’s much nicer with the thinner, significantly lighter TCP. Either way it’s in a Remora holster, which I prefer a bit to the Sticky holster.

During the winter months, when the mood strikes, I occasionally carry an HK P7. As with the Nano, the TCP’s and P7’s shootability and reliability for me have been nonpareil. The manual of arms across the three guns is near enough to identical that I’m comfortable with this very limited carry rotation. I realize there’s spirited debate on that topic, but as all of these pistols will fire when I draw, take a firing grip, and pull the trigger, I’m happy to split the middle between no carry rotation and lots of carry rotation with “same-muscle-memory carry rotation.” The TCP is often a “no gun or this tiny gun” proposition, while the P7 is just for my own enjoyment. Preferences.

Oh, and a Gen3 GLOCK 20SF full of 220 grain hard cast +P is my woods carry gun.


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  1. I am confused. What happened to N’Idaho? Is that just someplace you’d sneak off to to shoot videos?

    • Full time residence is on the WA side of the border. I do most of my shooting on the ID side and basically live there all summer. WA CPL is valid in ID…

      • It takes them 30 days to turn around your CPL in Spokane? Sheesh, they suck up there; I had mine in my paws within 2 weeks. My OR one came in a week from Umatilla’s sheriff.

    • That’s a .380. I wasn’t in the market for one and it isn’t a substitute for the 9mm Nano for that reason.

      If you’re comparing the LCP to the TCP I sometimes carry, I think the TCP is a superior gun and it’s also less expensive (readily available for under $200, and I see sales at about $180 pretty regularly). I didn’t talk about price in the post, but the Nano is readily available for $375, which makes it a lot less than its peers, too. The HK P7, not so much.

      Another spiffy thing about the Nano is that the serialized part is the stainless steel “chassis” that houses the fire control group and slide rails and drops into the frame. It pops in and out pretty freaking easily and since the frame isn’t serialized you can pick them up for about $24 a pop. Change between Black, FDE, OD Green, Pink, White, Purple, etc as you please. Better yet, experiment with stippling and modification to your heart’s content and if you screw up, you’ve only ruined a $24 piece of plastic and not the serialized firearm itself! I have an ODG frame sitting on my desk that I’m going to stipple just to see what I can make of it. Worry free. Which is slick.

  2. I always liked the Nano for its fit and feel but I just could not get used to the heavy trigger pull and accuracy suffered as a result. This was an operator problem and not the pistol’s fault. It made the perfect golf gun because I didn’t notice it was there. Mine always had a problem with Winchester standard pressure loads but it ate everything else just fine. I ended up trading it in and replacing it with an XD Mod 2 subcompact because it had a trigger like my other XD models but I do not regret owning it. If you are comfortable with the heavy trigger I would still recommend it.

    • Makes perfect sense. In my case I actually prefer a DAO-style trigger pull for carry purposes. Long and a bit on the heavy side, but ideally very smooth with no stacking. The Nano’s pretty good here. My only gripe is that if a gun is going to have a long, heavy trigger pull it should be a true double action. Drives me crazy how many striker-fired guns there are like this with triggers like this that still require the slide to cycle for the trigger to reset (which is the case with the Nano, yes). If the trigger moves and feels like it’s doing the entire cocking process, it may as well be capable of doing the entire darn cocking process! 🙂

      • Gun without auto reset trigger may =
        Trip to the urgent care facility!
        Trip to the hospital!
        Possible trip to the morgue!
        One way trip to the dirt nap!
        Consolation for the grieving family!
        Auto’s are nice, but a wheel gun is more reliable.

        • And when you consider their heavy trigger pull and recoil a revolver’sthe end-to-end accuracy is inferior to an automatic which is why back in 1911 the Army went an automatic even though it only carried one more round.

        • You obviously have never fired Ruger revolvers. As long as the timing’s right and you’re not shaving lead a revolver should always be more accurate than an auto because there’s no play between the sights and the barrel. Even shooting out of a Ransom rest you’re still only measuring the play between the frame and the barrel as the slide mounted sights will vary from shot to shot.

          A high quality 1911 may come close, at least in the trigger department, but with a revolver you can have a long safe DA pull and if more accuracy is needed a light crisp SA pull is just a quarter second away. You could also say the same for DA/SA pistols, but I’ve yet to find one that comes close to a revolver quality trigger in either SA or DA. Although the SA pull on my Beretta 92 is still light years ahead of any striker pistol I’ve ever fired.

        • tdiinva
          Your on target with the heavier trigger pull. I think when the adrenaline is flowing in the heat of battle, it probably wont be noticed. There are also times when you can to cock the hammer before shooting, which lightens the pull considerable. This is why I just picket up a Ruger lightweight LCR with exposed hammer.
          As far as accuracy goes, at up close in your face distance, shouldn’t be a problem.
          At long distance, in the field, for small game, a long barrel should give you all the accuracy you need.
          In the end, the choice is up to the shooter which he prefers.

        • I shoot revolvers fine and own a few, but I prefer carrying a semi-auto for the skinny width, slick sides, and quick reloads (and a single stack mag is more pleasant for me to carry vs. a revolver speed loader or loaded moon clip, too). And I’ve seen jams and physical failures in revolvers. Speaking generally they likely are more reliable than your average semi, but they aren’t failure proof. When they do happen, jams or failures are often show stoppers, too.

        • No doubt JS, there’s some significant advantages to a semi-auto, especially a single stack, when it comes to carry. I carried a Taurus PT709 when I first got my permit. Fine pistol, but a little cheap. Then I gravitated toward larger pistols. I’m a bigger guy and I like loose fitting t-shirts, so concealment wasn’t much of a problem. I now carry a revolver more out of a ‘carry what you want to carry’ attitude than any tactical advantage. But there are some tactical advantages to a revolver, as well as disadvantages. I think most people are aware of the disadvantages – capacity. But your odds of needing more than 6 rounds of full power .357 is pretty slim. If you need to stretch out your range a bit, that’s where a revolver really shines IMHO. So I do take exception to people claiming that autos are ‘inherently more accurate’. That’s just not true at all.

          As far as stoppages, I did have a couple of hang ups on my 6″ GP100 when it was new. I’m convinced that the firing pin was a little rough and hung up on the primers. After the first hundred or so rounds it didn’t happen again, and the fix was as simple as swinging out the cylinder and shutting it back. Still, not the best scenario in a self defense situation. Just proves that you should run a few rounds through any carry pistol before holstering it. Which I did before carrying said 6″ GP100 concealed. Just to prove I could. It was winter.

      • I agree with the double action trigger. For a carry gun, I don’t want a hair trigger. As for the reset, that’s why I went with the Sig P290rs. It is approx the same demensions as the Nano but has restrike capability.

    • Had one for a couple years and sold it.

      Easily concealable
      Looks good
      Light, slim
      Affordable quality
      Different color options

      Heavy, long trigger
      High bore (like a mini SIG)
      6 rounds
      Baseplate of the 6rd mag would slide off on its own

      • Your cons seem to be very subjective which is fine. I personally like the higher bore axis, just do not like low bore axis guns. I now have 12 mags as I shoot each week and do a lot of shooting and have not had any problems with the floor plates. The Nano has a 8 round magazine as the author pointed out.
        I love the trigger. It breaks in to around 5.5 lbs -6lbs of pull. Smooth and deliberate. Not it is not a light crisp trigger, which is one reason I got rid of my other small 9mm. These are NOT target guns. And the bottom line is the fact that I can shoot the gun much better than the super light triggers. The Nano handles marvelously on the range and love hot ammo better than any small gun I have ever shot.

    • That would be so cool!
      A database of specifications that you could query.
      Heck, they have them for used cars. Should be doable.

      • A lot of the online gun retailers currently allow you to filter by any combination of type, caliber, price, color, brand, and other parameters. Wouldn’t be too hard to set desired ranges for other stats like weight, height, width, capacity, manual safety yes/no, etc as part of that results filtering.

  3. I agree with your comment about the short grip not affecting your speed or accuracy. I’ve noted the same shooting back to back with my XDM using the extended or regular mags. I always hear the “short grip” being a gripe of gun writers but it just hasn’t been that way for me.

    • There are some weapons manipulation difficulties that come with it, like possibly smashing your pinkie finger on a mag change, but for a 9mm I find that my pinkie provides plenty of control (not that it really needs to chip in anyway) hugging the bottom of the mag and the gun will not rotate or otherwise shift in my grip while firing. I don’t see more muzzle flip or anything like that. So for shootability I’m a-okay with it, and considering I carry it 100% of the time but will likely fire it in self defense 0.001% of the time, I’m willing to make a potential, small sacrifice in ease of new mag insertion for what I perceive as a big boon to how easily I can carry & conceal it.

      • I hope you got one with the improved extractor.
        We sent my wife’s Nano back for a bad firing pin and mentioned the frequent FTE problem. Since getting it back, there has been not one single failure in a dozen trips to the range.
        The only issue we had last time was every time she set the pistol on the table, the magazine eject button would be activated. This was under the gun’s own weight.
        The lack of a slide lock lever makes it a little more difficult to verify empty chamber or to clear a double feed.
        Overall thought it is a solid gun and possibly the slickest 9mm you can carry.

    • Maybe not a big deal for someone with normal size hands but my hands are extremely large and I have to either have a full size grip or an extended grip . I do occasionally carry a Ruger SR9C with extension but I don’t like to carry a lot of weight since I prefer to carry right cross draw appendix inside the waist with out a belt .
      My everyday carry is a full size pistol weighing just a few grams over a pound fully loaded with 30(28) rounds of 40 grain magnum ammo that leave the barrel at close to 2000 FPS and around 320 foot pounds of energy at 25 feet at almost full weight retention and doubled on expansion . Recoil is almost minimal and shot placement is 2.5 inches at 25 feet .

      • Run that by me again. “A full size pistol, fully loaded weighing just over one pound?? As you know a pound is 16 oz. I’ve only heard of lightweights such as the S&W Airweight, and Ruger LCR and a host of 380’s coming in at that weight.

        • He’s describing a Kel-Tec PMR-30…

          I love shooting mine and it runs pretty reliably, but not reliably enough for me to consider it for SD use…

        • Jeremy,
          After doing a little calculating, That Kel Tek comes in at 19. 687 oz, loaded! My Ruger LCR may be more, loaded??? But, I think I would rather have a 38 special, with a good defense round, rather than a 22 wmr, even though I carry one all the time (back up).
          When a made my questionable post, I didn’t think we were talking about rimfires.

      • If you’re talking about a 22 magnum Kel Tec, you might want to run a few rounds over a chronograph. No way are you getting “close to 2000 fps.” The 22 mag loses a lot of velocity in a pistol barrel. Your actual velocity is probably more in the 1200-1300 fps range.

        • With a couple loads I’m getting 1850 -1875 fps muzzle speed and I’ve run FMJ through body armor at 25 feet . I alternate my magazine loads with two different bullets and I have found all three of my PMRs to be very reliable , I have run thousands of rounds through all of them . Little maintenance , good cleaning and a little lube .

  4. I seriously don’t get the Beretta fascination. But I also quit trying to carry skinny 9’s when I tried to shoot from concealment. Thank you compact double stacks for shooting like big guns and being reasonably invisible.

      • Your Pico review made it sound like you were forgiving it for a lot. I know you can’t argue with results, but given it’s competition in the market place there are options nearing “objectively better” than the Nano. I personally have no results with them and have sworn off all pocket nines, and my pocket 380 is an LCP and I hate it (and am grateful for it, at the same time). I have shot a CM9 and it seems like it would out pocket 9 the Nano.

        Of course, I’m also a dude who pretty much hates plastic guns, so take that for what it’s worth.

        • I don’t pocket carry the Nano. The Pico sucked and I think the review makes that darn clear, even if I am more diplomatic about it in reviews. As I’ve been so pleased with the Nano for years, it isn’t reasonable to suggest I shouldn’t have wanted to test drive the Pico when it came out. Has nothing to do with brand. The Nano is the only Beretta I have, actually.

        • This is a reply to JeremyS on his Reply that the Pico sucks. I was really enjoyed his article on the Nano which I also took the time to replace a Micro 9mm I had for years. Shot just about everything and like Jeremy S. found the Nano and agree with everything he has to say about the gun.
          Now I see this comment toward the Pico and It sent me through the roof. I have been a Pocket gun shooter for years. And the Pico IMO is the most well made gun out there in it’s class. Solid Stainless Steel other than the MODULAR GRIP. Best sights in Class, looks like it was designed in a Wind Tunnel. Yes, I bought the Gen 2 with the trigger now down to about 8 lbs of pull. Actually I liked the gun so much, I bought two of them.
          The slide racking was also much easier. And both are extremely reliable. I stopped counting after 2,500 rounds of all kinds of ammo and totally flawless. The other gun now the same with over 1000 rounds. One is for range work, one for carry.
          The Pico is one of the most mild mannered guns out there. Very little muzzle Flip. None of the high five slap like a LCP. They are rated for Plus P ammo and man do they shoot it well. And they will keep on running when other Pocket guns have gone by the wayside. Spend some time with the ergonomics and you well reap huge rewards!! I will break down a Pico part by part and compare to your Keltec any day of the week. Please do not tell me the Pico sucks. You should really revisit the gun. It sounds like you must have had the original version with the heavy trigger. Man you blew that one.

  5. Jeremy,
    Well written piece, I too have a Nano mine is Ranger Green in color. I enjoy shooting it and have learned that the reset is definitely NOT Glock-like nor is the trigger pull even though it has the Glock appearing trigger safety. I like the lack of recoil in this slim package, the bore height is low and the recoil impulse comes straight back into the hand and muzzle rise is minimal

  6. I own a Nano and I agree that the height, width and length are ideal for a carry gun. The accuracy rivals full size guns. However, the lack of one feature makes this gun problematic for me to carry it much, and that is the lack of a manual slide lock lever. My Nano had some issues with lighter weight bullets and would occasonally fail to feed completely or fail to eject. The inability to lock open the slide made some jambs very awkward and time consuming to clear. With the 147 grain bullets that I prefer this has never happened, but it is on my mind on the rare times I carry the gun.

    • The first like ~year of production mostly refused to run 115 grain or lighter ammo or weak loads in general. Basically, it ran on defensive ammo but not well on range ammo (unless heavier grain weight and not weak). The market complained pretty loudly and Beretta made a design tweak that fixed it in nearly all cases. You can tell “gen 1” vs. “gen 2” by looking at the barrel hood, as they’re cut differently on the front. Mine was from after the change and seems to run anything and everything.

  7. You found six guns that met your specifications and picked the Nano out of that group. What were the other five?

      • Definitely some of those. This would have been early 2012 and at this point I don’t really recall what they all were and when I try to think of the list I’m not sure if ones that pop to mind were even on the market then or not haha. I have shot some of the ones that came out since then, but haven’t yet shot a Glock 43. I’ll get that taken care of soon I’m sure. Walther PPS is a top contender that’s often overlooked. To add to Dan’s list I do know that I shot the Kel-Tec PF-9 and P-11 as well. I believe the Shield was a fresh release at the time? I had a Springfield EMP 9mm, but picked that up as part of a 1911 bulk buy 😉 and wasn’t actually considering it as a carry piece.

  8. Looks good to me-even though I don’t like the feel of the nano in my hand. As long as it’s reliable. Love the TCP. Honestly I had a Kel-tec PF9 that felt great but made my hand bleed and bruised the hell out of it(even with a Handall Jr). And it ran flawlessly too.

    • I had a Kel-tec PF9 that felt great but made my hand bleed and bruised the hell out of it(even with a Handall Jr). And it ran flawlessly too…WOW! a Keltec that ran flawlessly!!! My former PF-9 was a POS that never did its job well

      • Ya’ gotta’ know how to fluff and buff,not limp wrist and lube it right.And work the trigger with snap caps. And rack the slide 3-400 times. And the Kel-tec was used.But Kel-tec(pistols) DO have some QC problems(very cheap polymer and machined parts)… I also had 4 Taurus’ that ran great. Same deal but better QC(to ME).

  9. good review. sounds like you put a lot of thought into it. As far as the guys argueing auto vs revolver, both are great fotr the intended purpose here. lots of high quality engineering and manufacturing have gone int both types and most are very good . can’t go wrong with either.

  10. I really think we should just get use to open carry.
    I have the right to protect myself and if you don’t like it tough $hit.
    The 2nd Amendment was put into the Constitution so the people could protect themselves from a corrupt government. No double standards put DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.

  11. I morn the passing of Beretta’s older high quality pistols. I do not own any of their current plasticky pistols and I never will.

  12. I’m not too crazy about the trigger or how it feels in my hand, but if it works for you that’s all that really matters

    • Actually I don’t like how it feels in my hand either, and I don’t like how it looks from behind (I have the same general complaints about GLOCKs), but it shoots way better for me than it should given its size and short sight radius and it’s reliable, so that did it. The Shield certainly felt nicer in my hand and it shot it just as well at self defense ranges, but it wasn’t available without a manual safety at that time and I believe it’s taller and thicker as well, so the Nano still got the nod.

  13. Great choice on the Nano, which is often overlooked. I had one as a pocket gun until my wife appropriated it for her carry piece.

    I like it better than the Kahr CM9. The extra weight of the Nano makes it more shootable.

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