Beretta's New Space Handgun - The U22 NEOS
by Paco Kelly

photography by Paco Kelly

May 10th, 2003



"Alpha Centauri, this is Space Fighter Four-Niner-Six....we have been boarded by a stupid bunch of Bastion Troopers....we are in a major firefight!"

"Four-Niner-Six, this is Alpha-Relay 5. We will send a Space Cruiser, ETA 19 minutes..."

"Alpha-Relay, this is Space Fighter Four-Niner-Six...belay the Cruiser. No need, we are fine here. Last transmission was just FYI...we are cleaning house house on them because we are armed with new space guns from Beretta, the U22 NEOS!"

When I first picked up the new U22 NEOS from Beretta, That's what I thought: "This thing is for outer space!" But after testing it, I think I'll keep it right here on Earth with me. It might be five or six months before Beretta remembers I have it, and I'll think of something by then...

Beretta has at last joined the likes of Ruger, Browning, and High Standard for a piece of the mid-priced .22 Rimfire handgun market. Beretta has always had a decent .22 RF handgun on the market; the Model 89, for example, was a fine one made for serious target shooting, but I never could take a liking to it. As much as I like muzzle-heavy handguns, it had other problems that for me outweighed its assets. The Model 89 was essentially the old Model 76, with the barrel redesigned to make it a target pistol.

Bernadelli 100s and Domino 602 series, and the Hammerli 208s and 211s are all badly overpriced. They are superb shooters, but they belong in the Olympics, not taking out squirrel heads or 10-rings.

The Smith & Wesson Model Model 41s and its variants are great guns, but just try to find one at a decent price.

There are more, but it was Walther's introduction last year of their new .22 RF, a 7/8 size clone of their 9mm and .40 caliber centerfire handguns that really set things rolling. Its sales have been very impressive, even though it looks a little too "spacey", but it is really the use of all the new "space age" materials that set the Walther and the  Beretta U22 NEOS apart from the rest.

My traditional sense bothers me when I pick up a handgun that doesn't weigh what my eyes tell me it should, and I quickly found that my traditional sense was in for a readjustment when I first picked up the U22 NEOS. The whole NEOS handgun, weighed on my trigger scale, came to less than just the trigger pull on some of my autoloader 9mms and .45s, and even the Browning Buckmaster and Ruger 22s...a feather-light 31 ounces!

Still, the Beretta had a long way to go to impress me.

The U22 NEOS is a blowback-operated single-action autoloader with a "one in under 13-3/4-inch twist" (350mm). The sights on both the 4-1/2" and 6" barreled versions have a "sight track" or integral rail that doubles as a scope mount. I really like the sight set-up; it reminds me of the old "guttersnipe" sight package on the old S&W Model 39 9mm autoloader I once had. Fast and accurate if needed.

Some might not like the broad front sight, but that's easily fixable as the front sights are interchangeable. The rear sight is most impressive; it is not an overgrown adjustable thing that looks like an ugly bump on the barrel. I have always disliked Ruger's adjustable sight for that reason...sure it's functional, but it's butt-ugly! The Beretta's rear sight is neat, fully adjustable, and the same width as the sight track. Best of all, the adjustability is positive and strong in all directions; go ten clicks up and three over, fire a string of rounds, then come down ten clicks and three back, and you're right back where you started. Just as it should be. Too many adjustable sights on today's market simply can't do that.

The U22 NEOS has an ambidextrous safety. I never did see much need for those on any handgun, except for lefties, but the ambi safety is also neat, small and compact. There is also a cocking indicator that is both functional  and classy, not a tiny titted rod sticking out.

The U22 NEOS also has one of the easiest and fastest magazine releases I have ever used on any .22 handgun. The tip of your finger pushes a small button just above the trigger guard, and the magazine falls clear. Only one hand is needed, and you don't even have to shift your grip. Faster to use than I can say it, that's for sure!

The U22 NEOS' ergonomic grip, while it looks weird, works extremely well. I thought it an aid to accurate shooting, as we will see.

Overall length of the 4-1/2"-barreled version is 8.8 inches, with the 6"-barreled version stretching it to 10-1/2". Overall height for both is a little under 5-1/2". The nicely-designed magazine carries ten rounds, and it's too bad there wasn't an extra magazine included with the gun. The magazine reminds me of the old High Standard Victor magazine, but I didn't have an old Victor magazine available to see if it would fit. Plus, I was glad to see that the NEOS magazine is made from steel, not plastic as are too many these days.

As I thought it fitting for the new Beretta, I tried some new ammunition offerings in the NEOS: Remington's new Eley target loads and PMC's new Scoremaster. Ten-shot groups with the Scoremaster went into 1.1 inches at 25 yards, while the Remington/Eley load grouped at 1.6 inches. So I could better test the accuracy of the pistol (and not my ability to shoot with open sights), I used a Simmons 4x handgun scope. I was so impressed with the PMC load that I went out and bought a brick of it. I am now testing the PMC ammo with my ACU'RZR tool to see if I can improve on its already impressive accuracy.

When I was leaving the range, which is out in the middle of nowhere, I saw a 7 striped little rat; and I don't care how cute they name them, they are still rats. This one suddenly found himself headless with one Nastinosed high-speed Federal round!

After all was said and done, I guess I bonded with this little .22. At a cost of around 250 dollars retail, the Beretta U22 NEOS is a nice piece of shooting equipment. And with 500 rounds of PMC Scoremaster and the NEOS, I'm ready for an attack from the Bastions...

Paco Kelly

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Click pictures for a larger version.


After getting past the running-shoe aesthetics of the Beretta U22 NEOS, author was very impressed with the gun's abilities.



The U22 NEOS' very nice "sight rail" incorporates an excellent set of adjustable sights into a well-designed and unobtrusive Weaver-style scope base.



The NEOS magazine is well-made from steel, unlike the cheap plastic magazines so often seen today. The magazine's design is reminiscent of the old High Standard Victor pistols.



Author found the NEOS to shoot very well with a wide variety of ammo, but was particularly impressed with the accuracy of the new PMC Scoremaster load.