Seen at the Gunsmithing Shop: Everyone Makes Mistakes

The indoor shooting range at Douglas County Firearms provides my gunsmithing department with a steady stream of problems needing to be addressed. 90 percent of reliability problems are due to guns being too dirty and too dry. 90 percent of accuracy problems are due to folks not pulling the trigger straight back. So I was a bit surprised when one of our regular customers rang my service bell and presented me with his new Beretta NEOS. These .22 pistols shoot well and I know this guy can also shoot well, so when he showed me a shotgun-pattern looking target I knew something was terribly wrong.

Closer inspection revealed bullets keyholing at only 15 feet distance. Keyholing means the bullet is not stabilized and is tumbling through the air, striking the paper target sideways and leaving an oblong hole that looks like the keyhole in an old fashioned door. When this happens something has gone terribly wrong with the barrel or the ammunition, or the combination of those two components. I grabbed a bore light, checked that the gun was clear, took a look down the pipe, and gasped.


There was no rifling in the barrel. None whatsoever. I had a smoothbore .22 pistol in my hands. Now, I’m a big Beretta fan and have been for years, and I knew they would do the right thing. It took just one phone call and less than a month later (pretty decent considering the state of the industry at the moment) our shooter had a new barrel installed and was rewarded with the tight groups we expect.

Everyone makes mistakes. If you build enough of anything, you will get something wrong some of the time. Still, it was astonishing to me that the gun made it through quality control at the factory, through a distributor, through a dealer (not us), and into the hands of a customer and actually had to be fired before anyone noticed that the barrel had never been cut with rifling. What separates the men from the boys is how we deal with those inevitable mistakes. I’m happy to say that after dealing with Beretta regarding this pistol I will continue to recommend their products in the future.



  • Icchan

    I used to keep a unique can of Coca-Cola on my desk when I was doing tech support. It was sealed, never opened, and had gotten from the factory to the truck to the distributor to being hand-loaded into the vending machine – and was completely empty. It was the perfect reminder to always check everything and not get complacent in what you were doing, because someone’s going to end up with your mistake.

    I think that smoothbore .22 barrel is on someone’s desk doing the same thing right about now…

    • At the shop where I work out – we have a shelf right above the main entrance know as the “Wall of Shame”. Of course not many gun parts make it there….

  • Skeptic

    Isn’t possession of that barrel illegal in the US of A?
    Who was under that impression, short barrel shotgun rules?

    • Tim Pearce

      So would selling it as a pistol instead of an NFA item. So, Beretta, the distributor, and the dealer could all be charged. Thankfully, Beretta has the only evidence, and I’m sure it has “disappeared” sufficiently.

    • flyingburgers

      I think it’s legal. Its not designed to fire “a fixed shotgun shell” (26 USC 5845). If a rimfire cartridge was considered to be a “shotgun shell” then we could have rimfire cartridges greater than 50 cal.

    • ron

      No it is not illegal. You have a metal rod. You can by blanks almost anywhere.

      • Duray

        A 10″ 870 barrel is also just a metal tube.

    • Pretty sure you are right. I know the guys making the reproduction Liberator pistols had to deviate from the original with a rifled barrel. Also, if a smooth bore pistol was legal Taurus would be making smooth bore Judges.

    • Anonymous

      Technically, yes. As an unrifled firearm without a shoulder stock it would be classified as an AOW under the NFA.

      Most ATF agents would simply tell you to send the barrel back to the factory though, or else confiscate the barrel and tell the factory to send a replacement. You’d have to really wind up on someone’s shit list to get arrested for a factory defect…and it would be child’s play to win that case in court (which is a large part of why ATF wouldn’t ever bother trying it).

  • Bill R.

    I wonder what the pattern would have been like shooting .22 bird shot?

  • sr

    Beretta customer service is THE WORST. Ask any of the many cracked-frame Tomcat owners.

    • Billy Oblivion

      Ever dealt with HK?

      I’m apparently not cool enough to own one.

  • Oh man that is priceless! I would have kept it for novelty’s sake.

  • sean

    I saw a Colt once that came without a rifled barrel. An EXPENSIVE Colt 1911. The guys at the local gun store were showing everyone before it went back to Colt.

    • I’ve seen old WWI and WWII guns that have the rifling shot out to become a smoothbore, you could barely even see a scratch where the groves were, but they still shot great! lol

  • Criticalthinkingiscritical

    “What separates the men from the boys is how we deal with those inevitable mistakes.”

    Bravo! Too often the forums and comment threads have statements like “my gun wasn’t 100% perfect, I was let down by X manufacturer that I thought had high quality standards, they are (terrible, the worst, awful, will never get my business again, etc.)”.

    I’ve had warranty problems with $4k shotguns, $600 pistols, and various firearms in between those price points. In all cases the manufacturers corrected the issues without complaint and usually with an apology. I would buy guns from all of them again.

  • If it made it out of the factory, I’m not surprised the distributor & dealer didn’t notice — it would have been in a sealed box. And even if the box was opened at retail to double-check serial numbers for the ATF form, how often does anyone look down the bore of a new gun as it’s being sold?

    • Andrew Crowell

      My FFL checks over everything before he hands it over to me. Including looking down the barrel. It’s very surprising to me that no one ever did that with this.

  • electrozity8

    At least you can use rat shot without fear of messing up the rifling.

  • Jacob Kenworthy

    Now you can get better patterns with your snake-shot!

  • Skeptic

    I wonder how the heck it passed test fire and final inspection. Maybe Beretta is pushing too hard? Geoff Who thought about one when they were on sale for $199.

    • Steve

      As someone who as worked all over one of the largest handgun manufacturing facilities in the US, I am more surprised that the smoothbore barrel made it to the assembly line in the first place. After that, it’s not really that surprising that nobody noticed. Test firing is very rarely done with a paper target for affordable “production-grade” handguns…think about how slow that would be, vs just shooting into a bullet trap to confirm functionality, and how much larger the test-firing range would have to be to accommodate that slow process. Efficiency is what keeps costs down.

  • I had a problem with my brand new Neos last year. First time I took it to the range, I would get FTFs very quickly and reliably. Sent it back to Beretta and a month later I had a fully repaired model.

  • John McPherson

    I bought my first single action replica in 45 Colt (more then 30 years back). To my surprise it shot very low and all over the target backstop. I figured my reloads were to blame so I slugged the barrel to see if my cast bullets were the problem. It turned out to be a 44 cal barrel even though marked as a 45 Colt. The company replaced the gun paying shipping both ways. It happens.

  • Duray

    At my shop we had a brand new Taurus snubby in .17HMR with the muzzle crown dished east out to one side like a crescent moon. Very obvious to the naked eye. Sent it back and Taurus returned it “fixed”, only the crown was still the same. Kinda soured me on Taurus.

  • mechamaster

    Imagine this smoothbore pistol loaded with custom .22LR fletchette round.