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Reviews : Arsenal

Beretta ARX-100 Rifle

Beretta's innovative and versatile 21st century combat rifle is an excellent alternative to an AR for law enforcement duty.

January 30, 2015  |  by A.J. George - Also by this author

Photo: A.J. George
Photo: A.J. George

Beretta, the oldest firearms company in the world, is best known in America for its pistols. Its rifles? Not so much. But that may be changing with the introduction of the ARX-100.

The ARX-100 is a 5.56mm, piston-driven, magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle, and a direct descendant of the select-fire ARX-160, which was designed and built in 2008 for the Italian military.

The Lower Half

From its stock to its flash hider, the ARX-100 packs a lot of innovation into a light and versatile package.

The ARX-100's stock is a completely polymer constructed, extending and folding design. And with several adjustment positions and a wide, positive shoulder pad, almost anyone can find a comfort zone. The stock also collapses and folds over the right side of the receiver for storage or concealment, and the integrated sling attachment point on the toe of the stock is rock solid.

Moving up to the receiver itself, the ARX-100 is a two-piece (or two halves) design, similar to other European-made rifles. The ARX-100's serialized part is the top half of the receiver, not the bottom, as it is on an AR-15. This means the entire lower portion of the gun can be replaced at will, if it is ever damaged or you just want to swap out the trigger pack for a select-fire system (agencies only, of course).

The grip is integrated and similar to an A2 grip on an AR-15, with the indexing "nub" about two-thirds of the way up. Although the edges on this one are much cleaner and more comfortable than a traditional AR-15 system, I am still not a fan of the design and disappointed it is not replaceable. That little nub just kills my hands.

The safety is an ambidextrous and very positive M4-style thumb wheel, with a true 90-degree rotation. Although the positivity of the rotation provides little doubt that your safety is on or off, it does take quite a bit of effort to get it there. The ARX-100's short throw levers don't help with this problem, and I found myself having to rotate my master grip to reach them. I would expect the safety to loosen up over time but the short levers were a bit annoying. Offering an extended option would be awesome.

In front of the trigger well there is a bolt catch lever that can be pushed vertically from either side to lock the bolt to the rear. Although a bit cumbersome to use while locking the bolt back, it was very cool to send it forward during empty-gun reloads. You'll need a longer than average index finger and a little muscle behind it, but with a little practice, it is very slick.

Now for the trigger. Oh, the trigger! The ARX-100 has a typical military-style single-stage trigger with a medium weight pull that comes in around five to six pounds. Most of the triggers in this style are gritty and designed for function, not finesse, requiring some break-in. But the ARX-100's trigger was awesome right out of the box.

The trigger pull was positive and short, and the break was crisp and right on the money every time. It didn't even make that cheap, plastic "thunk" sound found on more than a few polymer rifles. Reset was equally positive, and I never short-stroked the trigger, even during two- and three-shot bursts. I've shot just about everything out there, factory and aftermarket, and the trigger on the ARX-100 is every bit as good as the best.

The mag well is molded polymer and designed to accept STANAG magazines. Beretta includes one of its mags with the ARX, and it is built like a tank and functions well. The ARX will also accept any standard AR-15 magazine, although some run and release better than others.

Speaking of the magazine release, the ARX-100 has three of them. Yes, I said three. The standard receiver side release buttons are present on both sides of the receiver, and there is also a third release located just behind the magazine well near the trigger guard. Those of you familiar with an AK-style gun will love this one. It is a large polymer button that is easily depressed by your thumb while grabbing the magazine. This allows the shooter to focus on conducting the magazine exchanges with one hand, rather than having the trigger finger manipulate the release button while the support hand pulls the magazine.

True Ambi Features

Now for the upper half of the gun. The polymer construction continues here with a large single piece that extends from the stock to the front sight. Up top is a long, uninterrupted section of 1913 Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver providing a 15-inch sight plane and more than enough real estate to mount optics, lights, and lasers. There are two sections of 1913 Picatinny rail at the front as well.

The ARX's polymer flip-up sights are functional but not as precise as I'd like. The rear is adjustable to six different apertures, which is a neat feature, but I didn't find it all that useful. If I were going to run iron sights on the ARX, I'd swap these out for a simple set of my preferred back-up iron sights.

Some of my favorite features on this gun are the bolt, ejector, and charging handle. First off, the action is operated by a side-mounted charging handle (similar to that found on an AK) that can be flipped to either side for true ambidextrous operation. It takes literally seconds to do. Although I wish the handle was a lot bigger, it worked fine with gloves so I would consider it adequate.

To keep with the ambi-themed operation, the brass ejection can be swapped just as easily by pushing a small detent, located on either side of the rear of the receiver, with the tip of a bullet. That's pure genius, in my opinion.

The threaded barrel assembly includes the two-position front gas block, piston, sling swivel, and flash hider. It is easily and quickly removed by simply pulling down on two tabs on either side of the receiver and pulling it straight out. This makes cleaning a breeze and allows for easy barrel swaps, if you decide to change over to the optional .300 Blackout kit Beretta offers. Yes, you can switch calibers with the ARX and, yes, it only takes a few seconds to do.

On the Range

I started my range time with the ARX like I do with any test weapon. Straight out of the box with no additional lubrication, I loaded it up and fired a quick magazine dump into the berm. I wanted to see how quickly this gun could go from 0 to 60, just like it would have to in a real life-and-death situation. There are no "warm-up" rounds in a gunfight. If it has hiccoughs in this test, then that's a deal breaker. The ARX barked through 30 rounds of Federal XM-193 like a champion.

For the next phase of my testing, I zeroed the rifle with the included back-up sights and tested its accuracy. Zeroing wasn't too difficult, but I have to say the sights were less than great and the adjustment clicks weren't very positive. I got it as close as I could and managed a two-inch group at 50 yards, or about 4 MOA with Federal XM-193 practice ball ammo.

Next I mounted up my Aimpoint T-1 red dot optic and re-zeroed the ARX. This time I cut the group in half with both the XM-193 and the Federal TRU 55-grain BTHP. I chose this ammo because it is what I shoot and carry on duty every day. I know how it performs, and I've relied on it for years without an issue so that says a lot.

I moved out to 100 yards and again repeated several five-shot groups with Federal XM-193, Federal TRU, Hornady TAP, and some cool new HPR Hyper Clean 75-grain BTHP Match. All performed marvelously and the ARX held tight and consistent groups.

As the HPR ammo was new to me and a notably heavier bullet than I am used to shooting, I decided to test it to 200 yards and truly test the precision of not only the ARX but the HPR as well. As expected, the accuracy of the ARX with a 16-inch cold hammer forged barrel was above par, and I was able to average an eight-inch group at 200 yards with a red-dot optic. The biggest difference between the Federal TRU, Hornady TAP, and HPR Hyper Clean was the amount of bullet drop. The HPR exhibited about two inches of drop while the others showed about five inches. At greater distance bullet weight is important. All in all I was thoroughly impressed with the ARX and the HPR ammo.

After I got bored with the tedious precision work, I moved inside of 25 yards and ran the ARX hard with several gunfighting drills, incorporating movement and a lot of manipulations. I ran through a few hundred rounds of various ammo using several different types of magazines, and the ARX ran like a champ.

AR Alternative

As a duty weapon, the Beretta ARX-100 is a winner. The quality, ergonomics, ease of operation, and maintenance are all a huge benefit over most traditional AR-15 systems. The accuracy is what I would consider just above average and the trigger is fantastic. It is compatible with most AR-15 optics and accessories, so customization is easy. And the ambidextrous controls are a huge plus to us "south-paws" out there.

I would recommend a good sling, light, and optic to complete the package, but if you're in the market for a long gun to add to your duty arsenal, the ARX-100 is a solid choice.

A.J. George is a patrol sergeant with the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Police Department who also serves as the SWAT team's crisis negotiation supervisor.

BERETTA ARX-100 RifleSPECS:

  • Caliber (tested): 5.56mm
  • Capacity: 30 rounds
  • Weight (empty): 108.8 ounces
  • Overall Length: 35.75 inches
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Height: 8.5 inches
  • Overall Width: 2.75 inches
  • Barrel Twist: 1:7
  • Sight Radius: 15 inches
  • Sights: Removable and adjustable polymer backup sights with six different front sight aperture options.
  • Price: $1,950

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Ed @ 2/11/2015 7:35 AM

All of the Italian troops I worked with in Afghanistan hated the ARX-160 and wanted to trade them for M4's.

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