Rimfire handguns were an enigma to most until the great ammo crunch hit us a few years ago. Gun writers had been shooting .22 caliber alternatives for some time and it was a great a secret until we all started encouraging readers to pick up a rimfire and save a few bucks. Unfortunately, that success resulted in .22 LR becoming harder to find than 9mm.
The news isn’t all-bad though. More shooters are being introduced to the shooting sports with appropriately sized calibers and manufacturers have responded with conversion kits for popular offerings. There are times though when a dedicated, purpose-built platform still reigns king and Beretta’s U22 NEOS is just such a handgun.
The NEOS fills a unique niche within the rimfire handgun category. It isn’t a mouse gun, or a budget gun. The 6-inch barrel model retails right around $300, while the 4.5-inch barrel model will save you about $75. However, due to the longer barrel length and grip design, it is a quality target pistol and prints the groups to prove it.
A quick glance at the NEOS is enough to conjure images of Buck Rogers (or whatever is the modern super equivalent would be for you younger tykes). The futuristic design is for more than looks. The NEOS features a high grip angle and when you consider your stance and form—shoulders rolled forward and extended toward the target—you can easily understand how the NEOS becomes part of that natural extension.
The NEOS is ready to rock the irons straight out of the box, but is also optic ready. My preference would be to top it with a red dot sight. For speed and accuracy, putting a dot on the spot beats aligning three points any day. However, I like the option of iron sights as a backup or for specific training and competition.
When introduced, Beretta showed a lot of pride in its efforts to design the NEOS’ ergonomics. Consumers were somewhat lackluster though. That is not an indictment to ergonomics, it merely states a fact and is largely based on a first glance and certainly not a firsthand experience. Once the U22 NEOS is solidly in your hand, you will realize immediately to speed past the looks. If you were a new shooter, you would not know the difference, nor be at a disadvantage.
The U22 NEOS features an ambidextrous safety, which is a positive. Pay attention though. Unlike many external safeties, the NEOS safety is up to fire and down for safe. This may take some getting used to regardless whether you are the shooter or the coach. The design actually allows the shooter to feel the safety with the web of the hand. This was by design and acts as a tactile reminder. After the first magazine or two, it becomes completely intuitive.
The mag release is another oddity of sorts. The mag release sits where your hand trigger finger would extend if not in the trigger guard. Again, this takes a little getting used to, but keeps the shooters finger away from the magazine when swapping mags. The only downside is for lefties of course.
The NEOS striker is exposed when cocked giving both a tactile indication as well as visual. The safety does not act as a decocking device though. The single stage trigger is smooth out of the box and designed for target shooting. Firing was smooth with a stout ejection of the brass. This is great for the shooter and reduces the chance of a stovepipe, but be kind to those on the line next you. Hot brass is no fun for anyone.
After several months of league practice with several different loads, the NEOS is obviously capable of varied diet and readily accepted, loaded and fired a host of different options during testing. An occasional failure was experienced, but nothing that could be blamed on the U22. .22 LR does not have the highest manufacturing standards and the NEOS performed as well as my Ruger Mark II.
Breaking the NEOS down for maintenance is not hard at all once you get the hang of it. The key is to first fold out from the front cover of the manual and review the pictorial of removing the barrel. Hold the pistol in your left hand while depressing the barrel lock nut button above the trigger guard (in front of the barrel nut), using your other hand; unscrew the barrel nut. It is easy once you realize you must keep the button depressed during this action. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the procedure to be much easier than breaking down a Ruger Mark II. Putting it back together is a bit more difficult. Grow a third hand and it would be a snap!
|Beretta U22 NEOS (as shown)|
|Action||Single action, semiautomatic|
|Barrel Length||6.0 inches; 4.5-inch also available|
|Rifling||R.H. 6 grooves, pitch 13.8 inches|
|Overall Height||5.2 inches|
|Overall Length||10.3 inches|
|Overall Width||1.2 inches across safety levers; 1.5 inches across bottom of grip|
|Weight Unloaded||36.2 ounces|
|Sights||Front and rear, removable; adjustable rear|
|Magazine Capacity||10 rounds|
|Receiver||Fiberglass reinforced technopolymer|
|Slide||Alloy steel, matte finish, blued; also available in stainless|
|Barrel||Alloy steel, matte finish, blued; also available in stainless|
Are you a fan of Beretta’s U22 NEOS? What about rimfire pistols in general? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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