Beretta U22 Neos Review
Beretta U22 Neos with 6 inch barrel
I hate to start right off with a disclaimer but this review will reference a few other handguns. I believe any review should be a weapon standing on its own merits. With that in mind I might reference other firearms but any ratings contained herein will be entirely on the individual merits of the Beretta U22 Neos handgun.
I wouldn't say that a Beretta was at the top of my list when it came to choosing my rimfire handgun. There's a long and uninteresting story about how I came to choose this particular firearm, but I did have some initial concerns when I purchased it.
For starters, at $250 it was by far one of the cheapest rimfire handguns that wasn't also considered a "budget" manufacturer or wasn't a mouse gun. My selection was a six inch barrel, which makes it only the second handgun I've fired with a barrel length over 5" and the first automatic to do so. My last concern was the grip size. The Beretta and Smith & Wesson rimfire handguns have many similarities but many people comment that the grips on the Beretta were more suitable to small handed shooters while people with bigger paws would prefer the S&W. Now, I have giant freakishly long mutant fingers and also used to own the S&W 22A. I had many gripes with the pistol but the grip size was great. Would the Beretta be uncomfortably small?
Style, Fit and Finish:
A fairly common description of the Neos is "futuristic" or "space age." I have to admit, yes it looks very much like something that would be at home in Star Wars or Buck Rogers without any real modification. This is going to be either very appealing or completely off-putting. Although it doesn't look like any Beretta pistols that most people are familiar with, it does follow certain Beretta stylings. While the handgun is very sleek and stylized, it is all very functional. The top of the firearm is optic ready and the mounting rail runs along the length of the gun. The angled grip fits well in the hand. The Neos designers may have taken a page from the Lockheed-Martin SR-71 design sessions when one of the engineers insisted that just because something needed to be highly functional doesn't mean it couldn't look good doing it.
The magazines do have me a little worried. The feed lips are somewhat wide and I suspect have more to do with the failures to feed then the ramp. The overall performance was still good, but if the U22 Neos has a weak point this would be it. The magazines feel very loose when you're loading rounds and the magazine feels loose when loaded into the butt of the weapon.
Aside from the magazines, there is nothing about this gun that looks or feels cheap. The fit of the parts are tight, aside from the magazine issues mentioned above, and the blued version comes straight from the factory looking great. Beretta seems to take their quality seriously and just because it is a low priced handgun doesn't mean it has to look cheap.
Beretta likes to brag about how much effort they put into the ergonomics of the Neos but I think it comes across as a mixed bag. My impression is that whoever designed some of the controls didn't think much about what it would feel like to an experienced shooter. If you've never shot a gun before the Neos won't seem odd and everything will be great, but I think they could have split the difference.
I liked the ambidextrous frame mounted safety but was a bit put off that it was reversed. Up was fire and down was safe. However, the way the lever rests you can actually feel with the web of your thumb that the safety is on, which was intentional and a nice tactile reminder it is on. The magazine release is in an odd spot and I kept trying to hit the slide release when I wanted to drop the magazine. Actually, the magazine release is right where your trigger finger would extend on your right hand when it is not in the trigger well. This works great but is awkward if you're firing southpaw. Like the safety, it also takes some getting used to.
When the striker is ready to fire you can see it on the back of the pistol. It is recessed when not cocked, but you can see it on the back of the slide when it is ready to fire. This is a nice feature, but be warned that the safety is not a decocker. The only way to decock the weapon is to pull the trigger. The rear sights are adjustable as well.
View of the striker indicator
Firing the U22 Neos is a bit of an adventure. There have been many stories of rimfire handguns, particularly the single-action autos like the Ruger Mk III or the S&W 22A spitting sparks out the side. The Neos does this as well and I did catch a couple of burning cinders but compared to the scratches I usually develop loading magazines over and over it was a minor quibble. The weapon does kick its brass out hard, which is good as I suspect it will be difficult to stovepipe this pistol but I had brass bouncing off the sidewalls at the range and landing in my shirt pocket, hair, etc. The grip was surprisingly comfortable though and my concerns about it being too small were not an issue. The trigger was a dream and the best single-action handgun trigger I've used to date. There is almost no "travel" and it has just enough resistance to make you intentionally pull it but light enough not to fight it. I have heard exactly the opposite about the Neos, that the trigger was stiff and generally poor but that was not my experience.
Accuracy was great once I got used to firing a single-action rimfire handgun again. It has been many years since I've fired .22 in handgun form. The barrel is very solid and a bit heavy. I really like it and combined with the grip I feel like it is a natural pointer. More so then even my beloved Baby Eagle. I was dismayed to see I am still pulling to the left somewhat, but when I was doing everything right the Neos produced nice tight groups. I even attempted firing at 50 feet, something I have not attempted with a handgun in awhile. I can't say my groupings were great but I was able to hit a somewhat smallish target just fine with an unfamiliar weapon.
I'm hardly a great pistol marksman, but it was the Beretta 92 that showed me what "more accurate than I am" meant and the Neos is the same way. When everything is right I have no trouble hitting what I am aiming at. Of the handguns I own, this is the one I am most accurate with.
As of this writing I have put just over 600 rounds through the Neos.
169 rounds of Winchester 36gr bulk hollowpoints
110 rounds of Federal AutoMatch 40gr
80 rounds of CCI Blazer 40gr
80 rounds of Federal Champion 40gr
50 rounds of Winchester Wildcat 40gr
50 rounds of Winchester Super-X 37gr
40 rounds of CCI Mini-Mags 40gr
20 rounds of CCI Stinger 32gr
20 rounds of Remington Golden Bullet 40gr
20 rounds of Federal Lightning 40gr
I had one failure to fire with the Winchester bulk, which I'll attribute to a hard primer as I saw barely a notch on the back of the brass and was able to successfully fire it on a second attempt. The Winchester Wildcat and Super-X each had one failure to feed. I've also had Federal Champion fail to feed. In two cases, it was upon hitting the slide release. I suspect the feed ramp needs a good polishing as I was able to manually push the slide forward and successfully load the round without forcing it in. The Wildcat is by far the cheapest crappiest ammunition I can find right now the Beretta and the Ruger 10/22 have both had one issue. Though in this case I suspect it might be the weapon's fault rather than the ammo. Also, it's worth noting that all quality ammunition I fired, CCI Blazers, Stingers, and Mini-Mags produced no problems. All-in-all, I was pretty happy with its ability to digest ammunition of all types but this warrants further testing as some of the round counts listed are fairly low. I did have one other failure to fire with Federal Champion. In total, 5 issues out of 639 rounds.
For a .22 autoloading handgun this is better than I would have expected. I really wanted a handgun that wouldn't require Mini-Mags and could digest the cheap stuff relatively well. The Neos is fine in this area.
Field stripping the Neos is awkward and reassembly is frustrating. There is a dial that allows you to remove the barrel from the frame. You have to depress a button in order to loosen the dial so you're not going to accidentally disassemble the weapon but the location of the dial and button makes this a clumsy task. Thankfully, no tools are needed.
View of the magazine release, dissassembly dial, and dissassembly button
The Neos needs to be cocked in order to field strip, so you'll want to engage the safety unless you want to accidentally fire your recoil spring into the wild blue yonder. Overall you'll have three main pieces between the barrel, the frame, and the slide.
Ready for cleaning
Realigning the barrel with the frame is a challenge and just when you think you have it you'll notice the barrel is not tightening down. This can take a bit of wiggle work to make sure it's in properly. On the plus side, to tighten the dial you don't need to hold down a button. You will have to dry fire to decock after you're done with maintenance.
All-in-all this is a great little rimfire handgun. Strong points are good ergonomics, a great trigger, accurate, and fairly reliable even when shooting the cheap stuff. Weak points are controls that take some getting used to and a magazine that seems to not share the same level of quality as the rest of the pistol.
Type: Rimfire Autoloading Handgun
Capacity: 10 round removable magazine
Unloaded Weight: 36.2 oz.
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 6 inches (Reviewed Model)
Overall Length: 10.3 inches (Reviewed Model)
Price: $280 (MSRP), $250 for reviewed model
Personally, I appreciate the futuristic stylings of the Neos. For the price, no one would think twice if this handgun wasn't perfect out of the box but I can't find anything about it that makes it look like a cheap gun. Priced like a plinker but it looks like it should sell for so much more.
Despite all the focus on ergonomics by Beretta, I think they tried too hard. Frame mounted safeties should be up for safe and down for fire. Not for philosophical or even personal preference reasons, but simply because that aligns it with most of the other handguns out there. The magazine release is in an awkward position, especially for left handed shooters. While I appreciate that the dissassembly process is simpler than a Ruger Mk III or doesn't require tools like the Buck Mark, that just makes it the best of a bad bunch. At some point I hope that someone can figure out how to make field stripping a plinker into a less frustrating process.
I do hesitate to give it a middling score simply because it does feel good in the hand and points very naturally. The barrel is heavy but not overly so and holding it steady on target is simple enough. I've fired this and the Beretta M9 and both just seem to help the shooter be as accurate as possible. If not for the oddball controls this gun would be perfect.
Slightly less than a 1% failure rate overall is great for a rimfire autoloader. In all honesty, it only ever chokes on the really cheap $2 a box stuff. I've had range trips with zero problems. Not sure you need that kind of reliability in a plinker but I still prefer that all guns I own go "Bang" when I pull the trigger.
This is very much a natural pointer and at 25 feet I have little trouble placing shots in the center of the target. Even with my natural tendency to pull to the left, the Neos still produced tight groups.
Customize This: *****
You can easily swap out barrels, grips, and frames if you have the budget to do so. They also sell a carbine conversion kit but it retails for more than just buying a dedicated .22 rifle. You can mount just about any optic on the top rail without issue.
The weird controls and field stripping process cost it a star. For the price it is a great handgun. Hopefully with some time and support from Beretta it could take its place alongside the Ruger Mk III and Browning Buck Mark as a classic.
Just for fun, a comparison of my 6 inch Neos to my 4 inch S&W M22A