With all the choices available my thought of finding a suitable woods or camp gun became a daunting task. I wasn't looking for ultimate stopping power or tactical flash. My criteria was pretty simple; versatile, inexpensive fun, and reasonable weight. Wondering through the SHOT 2012 show I found what I was looking for. The Beretta Neos U22 pistol!
The Neos is a High Tech, polymer framed .22 semi auto pistol. Each mag holds 10 rounds of .22 Long Rifle ammo. Adjustable open sights are standard but with the Weaver style full length rail a wide range of optics can be mounted to ensure accurate delivery of the round to the target. Being a lefty, the ambidextrous safety is a bonus. It would have been handy to have the magazine release ambidextrous as well, but it is located nicely on the right side so it just took me a bit of practice to quickly release the empty and pop in a fresh one. MSRP is $275 but my local gun shop had them for $250. Nicely affordable for an Italian made Berretta. The 6” version tips the scale at just over 35 ounces. Not a lightweight, but the feel and accuracy of the pistol makes it a fun pistol for plinking and a nice trail gun. Configured as a carbine, the weight is around 3.8 pounds.
With the help of Giogetto Giugiaro, Italian automobile designer, Beretta USA and Beretta Italy went to work designing a stylish and functional pistol. Some call the design akin to a Star Trek Phaser. Others call it just plain ugly. One thing for sure is you can see the aerodynamic musings of such a legendary sports car designer. The real beauty of the design is the versatility! In the pistol version two different barrel lengths can be swapped out without the need of tools. The other option really caught my attention. A carbine kit! My first want is satisfied!
The Neos fires 22lr rounds. This round is one of the most popular and inexpensive sizes available. For about $5.00 one can have plenty of fun plinking and making holes in paper. Second want, check!
Finally onto my third want. Reasonable weight. A couple factors play into this one. First off how many rounds can I easily carry without bringing a pack mule. Secondly, if I want the accuracy of a rifle and the ease of pistol do I need to carry two guns? Well with the carbine kit I only need one.
The pistol has two different barrel lengths, 4.5 and 6 inches. My choice was the 6 inch version. The beauty is I don't have to stick to that size. The 4.5 inch barrel can be purchased and swapped out easily. It's just a matter of turning the thumbwheel to loosen the barrel and installing the other barrel. This procedure takes less than a minute. The compact or accuracy choice is a simple change!
As they say in the infomercials, but wait there's more! By swapping out the barrel and stock you now have a carbine rifle! Each option can be configured with your choice of optics because the Weaver rail stays with the barrel. My choice was a Reddot for the 6 inch barrel and a scope for the carbine. When I save up for the 4.5 inch barrel I will leave the open sites to maintain the compact and lightweight frame. Keep in mind that installing the shoulder stock without the 16” barrel is in violation of Federal Law!
Changing barrels is an easy process. First off you must lock the side back. This is important as I found out the first time! On the right side is a locking button and a thumbwheel. Pushing the locking button in a turning the wheel unscrews the barrel. Once it is unscrewed the barrel just lifts off. Reversing the process and a different barrel is mounted! Changing out the grip and adding the shoulder stock involves loosening a screw in the handle with an allen wrench. The supplied wrench is a bit short, so I would recommend getting another longer one. Don’t throw out the supplied wrench because the other end is handy for adjusting the open sights.
Another handy feature is changing out the barrels or converting to a carbine doesn’t mean you have to zero out the optics every time. The Weaver Style rail stays with the barrel. This means you can have your choice of optics depending on the barrel length. Open sights for the 4.5”, Red Dot for the 6”, and a scope for the Carbine. The option is yours to choose!
My hunting experience is mostly deer and the occasional goose or duck hunt. I haven’t done any small caliber hunting in a very long time. So for now the NEOS will be used for poking holes in paper at the local indoor gun range. So far I have put about 300 rounds through it in pistol mode without a problem using Winchester and Thunderbolt ammo. (Next time at the range will be with Federal Bulk Hollow Point. I will also test out the carbine setup.)
In the event of a SHTF scenario this combo provides great versatility in my opinion. While the carbine kit doesn’t really fit in a day pack it does fit in a larger pack. The other option is to strap it on the side in a small case. In the 6” pistol configuration you have decent accuracy in a compact frame for small game. If better accuracy is needed than the carbine kit will provide plenty of accuracy out to the limits of the ammo. .22lr ammo is lightweight and 500 rounds is only about 4 pounds. While it doesn’t provide the punch of something in a 5.56 or a 9mm it does provide plenty of use in the woods.
While this is a great compromise between carrying a full size rifle and a pistol I would like to see a longer shoulder stock. The overall length of the carbine setup is a little short. If there was an option for another 3” on the stock I would get that. Also having the mag release in an ambidextrous configuration would be a real plus for the lefties in the crowd like myself. These are just minor issues in the grand scheme of things.
What really caught my attention was the high tech, futuristic looks of the NEOS . It doesn’t have the look of anything else out there. Combine that with the Shoulder fired Phaser looks from the old Star Trek series and in my opinion you have a winning combination of style. The versatility to easily switch from pistol to carbine makes this an all around great setup for the trail, camp, or plinking fun!
As seen in the Woods Monkey Gear Review column of Self Reliance Illustrated!
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