Intended for the concealed-carry market, the Pico is a tiny, locked-breech, recoil-operated semi-automatic pistol chambered for the revitalized .380 ACP cartridge. Like many of today’s pocket pistols, it has a polymer frame, and a stainless steel barrel and slide. Unlike some of its brethren, however, it is not striker-fired but rather uses a conventional hammer/trigger system in a double-action-only configuration.
Other than the double-action-only trigger, the Pico operates and cycles much like John Browning’s 1911. Also like the 1911, there is no magazine-disconnect safety, so you can fire the pistol with the magazine removed. Speaking of magazines, two are furnished with the Pico: One has a flush basepad for maximum concealability, while the other has an extended tab on the magazine base enabling the shooter to get every finger of the shooting hand on the grip. Both magazines are six-round variants and are easy to load. They slide smoothly into the magazine well and lock into place with a positive click.
My initial impression was changing the Pico’s magazine was much slower than on other small .380 ACP handguns, except the process is slow on all pistols of this size. The heel of the shooting hand extends below the grip, so no matter how easy it is to hit the release, the magazine remains trapped in place by the hand and is unable to drop free. The mag-change technique for a duty-size pistol won’t work with a pocket .380, whether it’s the Pico or another model.
The Pico has a long, external extractor that remains almost flush with the slide’s surface, even with a round in the chamber. It’s not a loaded-chamber indicator, since it is very difficult to see or feel when the gun is loaded. The .25-inch serrations on the slide just below the extractor will help you perform a chamber check. Keep in mind that for a pocket pistol, the conveniences of a service sidearm give way to ease of concealment, and Beretta has made some good decisions regarding this trade-off in the Pico.
Trijicon sights on the model I tested. At first glance, the sights appear to be unsightly bumps in the pistol’s compact appearance, but that’s slightly misleading. With the flat-base magazine installed, the height of the gun measured to the top of the rear sight is only 4 inches. Perhaps 1⁄16 inch of that might have been shaved from the overall height by going with less-visible sights, but I’ll gladly trade that minimal increase in height for the capability of seeing my sights and hitting my target in low light or near darkness. Pico models without the Trijicon units installed still have excellent sights for such a small pistol.
Should you prefer different sights, Beretta has made it easy to change them. Both the front and rear sights are mounted in dovetail slots—the rear in a lateral cut, the front in a longitudinal slot—and both are held in place with a hex screw. I do have a problem with the front-sight dovetail slot being longitudinal rather than lateral. The setscrew loosened from vibration during testing, and the front sight simply flew off the muzzle end of the handgun and was lost. Run that cut sideways, and the shooter will have some warning in the event the sight blade comes loose. It will drift left or right, but will be retained by the shape of the slot. When your rounds start hitting a couple of feet left or right of your point of aim, you will have a clue to check the sights.
Beretta engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure the Pico’s design is modular. It begins with a steel subchassis, which is the “firearm” as far as the government is concerned and therefore bears the serial number. Because all other parts—like barrels, slides and grip frames—attach to the subchassis, the buyer can switch or replace any other part of the pistol without having to go through an FFL dealer or worry about legal concerns. Beretta currently offers a .32 ACP barrel, which is all you need to swap chamberings. Moreover, the company offers a frame with an integrated LaserMax laser or white-light unit. Incorporating these accessories into the frame ensures the pistol is smaller and more concealed-carry friendly than it would if you were to bolt on aftermarket accessories. In addition, different colors of frames are available for those who want something different than regular old black and stainless, including pink, purple, white and OD green.
Accuracy testing the Pico was challenging. The little pistol’s solid ergonomics and excellent sights were offset by a long, heavy trigger pull. Even resting my forearms on a bag, trying to hold the gun rock-steady through the full length of the trigger pull was more difficult than simply achieving a quick sight picture shooting offhand and pressing the trigger. While groups at 10 yards averaged 2 to 3 inches with all tested loads, shooting the Pico required enormous concentration. Keep in mind, however, the mission of a pocket pistol is not to shoot sub-MOA groups—it’s to get on target quickly and resolve close-range, life-threatening situations. I found it relatively easy to put multiple rounds into the chest area of a silhouette target at close range.
All tiny pistols are more difficult to shoot than their full-size counterparts. They are designed for easy concealment and carry comfort. Beretta has designed the Pico to fulfill that mission, and its modularity makes it a very attractive choice for a handgun you can carry every day.