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Citizen Soldier: Beretta ARX 100 Review

by Eric R. Poole   |  May 3rd, 2013 53

Beretta-ARX-100

It’s been said that there have been three generations of infantry rifles following World War II. The first generation put in place new manufacturing technologies to increase production volume of magazine-fed, select-fire service rifles like the M14. Then the private firearms industry advanced designs that reduced production cost and incorporated materials like impact-resistant polymers and aluminum to lessen weight. The select-fire M16—developed around the 5.56 cartridge—offered improved ergonomics and is an example of that second generation.

Today we are in the midst of the third generation of the modern battle rifle. And Beretta, the oldest active small-arms company, has contributed to each of them. So, we set out to examine that with this Beretta ARX100 review.

Like the M14, the first-generation 7.62 Beretta BM59 was based on the M1 Garand. It offered select-fire operation and featured a detachable 20-round magazine. The BM59 was replaced by Beretta’s AR70/90, which, until recently, has served 14 nations. In 2008 Beretta closed its recent generation gap with the introduction of the select-fire ARX 160.

The ARX line makes the most of the newest materials and quality control systems while enhancing ergonomics, lowering maintenance requirements, maximizing user adaptability and offering system integration with implements like the Beretta GLX 160 (a new 40mm grenade launcher). In the last five years, the ARX 160 has earned its place in the ranks of Albanian special forces, the Italian army, Mexico’s Federales and the military of Turkmenistan. As of this writing, special operation units in Argentina are also evaluating the ARX 160 for adoption.

I participated in a closely supervised test fire of an ARX 160 in 2011. The opportunity was accompanied by explicit instructions from a State Department letter not to report  on or publish photographs I had collected. I was understandably excited to learn that I’d eventually be allowed an exclusive evaluation of the ARX 100—a civilian, semi-auto version of the ARX.

Many black rifle enthusiasts never actually believed the day would come when we could own a Beretta ARX 100. The time has arrived. The ARX 100 is a carbine that keeps to the original Italian specs, but has been adapted for U.S. manufacture. There are a small number of differences, but our patience has paid off, and the ARX 100 is the better for it.

Beretta took note of the mistakes made following the commercial introduction of the FNH-USA SCAR 16S/17S and Bushmaster ACR and intends to avoid them. Let’s be honest, we hate what we can’t afford. While their respective companies inferred that both rifles would be available for less than $2,000, the SCAR and ACR showed up at gun stores wearing much higher price tags. Beretta has set a $1,950 MSRP for the ARX 100 and is asking its distributors and dealers to hold near that.


The Multi-Caliber Option
What good is a switch-barrel design if there are no spares or caliber options readily available? The caliber-conversion option is one of the most significant advancements defining third-generation battle rifles. Although promises of a 6.8 SPC barrel for my ACR are renewed each year, I still don’t have one. Beretta, on the other hand, says that it will offer ARX spare barrels from the get-go, including a .300 Blackout kit that is expected to retail for $499. The Italian-made ARX 160 has already been chambered for 6.8 SPC II, 5.45×39 and 7.62×39, and configured to accept AK mags. I’ve seen an ARX with a nine-inch SBR barrel and am told that other calibers like the 6.8 SPC could appear in spare barrel kits sometime next year.

The 5.56 ARX 100 barrel seen here is cold-hammer-forged in Maryland (since Beretta can’t import Italian barrels for the ARX 100, it has chosen to start barrel manufacturing in its Accokeek facility). These barrels are currently given a Nitride treatment and a 1:7 twist rate. Chrome-lined spares are already issued with the Italian-made ARX 160 and may follow soon for the ARX 100. The 12- and 16-inch barrels are going to be standard in the U.S. I have been told that other twist rates and barrel lengths are being considered.

Changing an ARX barrel is almost as easy as with the Steyr AUG, and doesn’t require removal of the fore-end or action disassembly. Just lock back the bolt, pull down the barrel-latch tabs on each side of the rifle (just below the chamber area) and draw out the barrel assembly from the front. The AUG barrel removal takes a little less time, and I do like the fact that you can pull a hot barrel out of the AUG simply by grabbing the folding vertical grip (you’ll need gloves to remove a hot barrel from the ARX). When installing a barrel into the ARX, two index pins engage the barrel extension for repeatable barrel alignment and the barrel latch locks it in place. An easy trick for quick barrel installation on an ARX? Keep the piston collapsed.

(True) Ambi Controls
Ambidexterity is more than just right- and left-handed shooter equality these days. It encompasses function in combat and the need to meet unexpected challenges. More and more civilian shooters are seeking professional carbine training for defense and are learning how to engage targets from either shoulder while making the best use of cover or concealment. This makes brass ejection, as well as magazine release and selector operations, a concern for both left- and right-handed shooters.

The ARX currently addresses this better than any other rifle, since each side of the rifle virtually mirrors the other. The A2-styled grip is familiar, as are the low-profile selector switch and ambidextrous magazine release. Beretta USA indicates that the current selector may change to an AR-style selector in the near future. A third, European-style magazine-release button has been added behind the magazine well in front of the triggerguard. For whatever reason, if a magazine doesn’t simply fall away at the press of either release button, simply grab hold of the magazine while pushing up on that third release button and rip it out of the gun.

The ARX features the best design concept for a reversible charging handle yet. Like the SCAR, the ARX charging handle does reciprocate, but this can be quickly switched from right to left and vice-versa in a couple of seconds—and without tools or disassembly. Ejection can be quickly configured to either side by inserting a bullet (or other pointy object) into a mysterious hole toward the rear of the receiver. I say “mysterious” because if you weren’t aware that the crossbolt inside directs how you eject spent cases, you might overlook it entirely. (Note to Beretta: Incorporate a molded mark near this hole that indicates “Eject Left” on one side and “Eject Right” on the other side.)

Looking at the bolt head, you’ll notice two extractors positioned exactly opposite of one other. By selecting right or left ejection, the unused extractor is fixed in place and serves as the ejector. Because the upper’s ejection ports are open on both sides, there are no dustcovers to switch over and no left-hand-eject bolts with which to contend. You can go from shooting right handed with right-hand ejection to left-handed with left-hand ejection in a matter of seconds—without tools.

The magazine’s follower engages a bolt stop, locking the bolt rearward when the magazine is empty. After removing the empty or inserting a fresh mag, the operator can pull back the charging handle and release to chamber a round or press down the ambidextrous bolt release. Located on each side of the lower receiver, the bolt release is just ahead of the triggerguard. An experienced AR user may find this manual of arms unusual at first since the AR’s bolt catch is on the rifle’s left side. It is also possible that new ARX users will mistake this bolt release for the magazine release until they become more intuitively familiar with these two separate control’s locations.

Other Features
Third-generation battle rifles typically feature a few other characteristics. Molded receivers carry a one-piece, continuous top rail. With the need to accept a variety of red dots working in tandem with magnifiers or variable-power scopes that might need to function behind night vision or laser designators, a monolithic rail is more important than ever. Designated marksmen and snipers issued rifles with a flattop upper and a quad-rail handguard struggle to bridge the gap if an optic’s eye relief is too far forward and turrets don’t allow for independent scope rings to be mounted on the same rail section. It’s a big deal, which is why third-generation rifles all incorporate this feature.

The Beretta ARX 100 arrives with removable, flip-up sights. Although larger than other backup sight systems, it’s nice that the ARX includes a sight system right out of the box. The front sight presents a rotating post that’s adjustable for elevation and windage. The sights are calibrated for NATO-spec SS109 green-tip ammunition. For each click you get half-minute adjustment. The rear sight features a dial aperture in a rotating wheel that’s adjustable for distances out to 600 meters. It’s a functional sight system, but not one that’s ideal. Those who really care about using a backup sight will probably have a personal preference for a specific aftermarket brand anyway.

In the last 10 years, opinions on triggers have shifted. We all started with Mil-Spec triggers designed to last and typically required between six and 10 pounds of pull—often interrupted by tactile crunches. As marksmen realized that a clean, light trigger improved accuracy potential, a lot of home gunsmiths attempted to cut springs, polish surfaces and reshape geometry to get a better result. Aftermarket companies quickly realized the need for better triggers, and a host of companies developed different approaches to offering clean and light performance. When experience proved that a trigger can be too light, a happy medium evolved that is now the standard for third-generation rifles. The Beretta ARX falls into this category with a single-stage trigger that sends the hammer forward after 5½ pounds.

Impressions
The Beretta ARX action is completely housed in a molded plastic shell and feels lighter than its seven-pound total weight. There are four web sling slots—two on each side of the ARX body—a 180-degree, rotating sling swivel in front of the gas block, and four QD swivel sockets for many sling carry options. Beretta will offer QD sling adaptors as an optional item. Slung or not, the weight of the ARX is distributed a little forward toward the muzzle.

Since there is no stock-housed buffer tube and spring assembly on most third-generation rifles, they typically feature a folding stock that collapses to the right. The ARX 100 uses the same four-position adjustability featured on the ARX 160. It is extremely comfortable and seems faster to use than a collapsible AR-type stock. It’s intuitive to put your hand around the aggressively checkered buttplate and use your index and middle fingers to squeeze the release lever to collapse or extend the stock 2.56 inches. For shooters who like the prone position and are six feet or taller, it’s difficult to get a firm cheekweld due to the short overall length of pull.

Originally developed to exceed the standards of the U.S. Army’s Individual Carbine test, the ARX 100 proved ultra-reliable. I’ve tested them extensively—twice. The first test session took place on a private range near Las Vegas following the 2013 SHOT Show. More recently, I took delivery of a new-in-the-box production sample and have had it to the range a number of times. With a variety of 5.56 loads, the ARX 100 occasionally produced sub-MOA groups but averaged 1½ to two MOA. Why the disparity? Well, consider the fact that the barrel is not free-floated and carries a self-contained gas-piston assembly designed for a specific barrel length.

Maintaining the ARX 100 can’t get any simpler. There are no pins to punch out and misplace, and it’s designed to operate lubricant free. In my time with both sample rifles, never a drop of oil was applied. And that’s a good thing. Those of us who have visited the Sandbox can attest to the fact that airborne dust and sand can turn oil into weapons-grade glue. With the ARX, problem solved. Even the piston is finished with a nickel boron treatment to resist carbon buildup from the venting gas at the barrel port. The only thing you’ll have to pay attention to is wiping off debris and brass shavings from the bolt face and the extractor claws after a high-volume ammo dump.

The ARX arrives with one Italian-made 30-round STANAG magazine free of markings. These are steel mags with an anti-tilt follower. I tested Magpul Gen 1 and Gen 2 PMAGs, and both function reliably in the ARX. However, Gen 3 magazines have unique feed lips that tend to rub underneath the bolt carrier and can induce a failure-to-feed malfunction. I experienced two of them while using Gen 3 PMAGs. I also evaluated the ARX with EMAGs, which presented no problems.

Realistic Expectations
Beretta USA suggests a bright future for the ARX family. Beretta waited until rifles were in the warehouse (that’s why we’re seeing a mid-year introduction to dealers).

If you’re in the market for a relatively affordable third-generation battle rifle, the ARX 100 is it. It handles well, is super reliable and offers the greatest tactical flexibility of anything out there. The bench shooter looking for a single-hole paper puncher should look elsewhere, but the ARX 100 is a practical and effective carbine for dynamic shooting scenarios—and is quite capable of pinging steel silhouettes at 600 meters.

Beretta-ARX-100_002

  • Bryanna Paradiso

    Funny how they never give an actual release date is it coming out this month or fall or winter? Have they ever heard of notifying the public( The people who would want to buy such a rifle) of what’s going on over there? Im pretty sure they lost the market edge because so many people just decided to buy other rifles and the market is dying down a bit. My BF want/wanted one of these things and I think it be an awesome rifle to try out but there is never a release date, how do you expect people to save or make a choice to buy your rifle if you give nothing on when they’ll start shipping? Great its suppose to be a nice rifle to bad everyone in the firearm community who has been interested is getting fed up lol.

    • Sean

      I received an update late last week that the rifle would begin shipping in 60 days

  • TangledThorns

    Where are these four QD swivel sockets on the ARX that you mention? I ask as none of the models shown by Beretta have this feature.

    • to answer your question

      sling attachments, not qd attachments. long, flat loops, on the body of the gun, one on the stock, and one on the gas block. look at the pic above carefully, they are on there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.m.miller1 James Mufasa Miller

    Affordable eh? Well I may just have to take a look at this Italian rifle. And… Oh hey it’s only only two grand? Well I can afford this AND the Lamborghini! Huzzah!

    • Thomas Madison

      Buy the rifle then steal the Lambo, problem solved. lol

  • David Elliott

    yawn

  • http://www.facebook.com/marthabo.billianmeyer Martha ‘Bo’ Billian Meyer

    These weapons do not belong in civillian hands. You wanna use one, JOIN UP!

    • TangledThorns

      If’s people like you who take liberty for granted and allow tyranny to flourish in this world. Shame on you and your lack appreciation of your freedom.

    • Lance Dacus

      You apparently are happy to be controlled and could care less about your freedom. N. Korea would probably be glad to have you! Also in case you’re lacking in your reading skills, this rifle is a Civilian Version. Pretty much means its been built for people who believe in the 2nd Amendment and people who enjoy firearms period. Don’t like it? Fine, that is your right but you have no right to tell me what I can and cannot own. Last point for ya, even if you were to join up you wouldn’t find this particular model being used so how do you like them apples?!?!! The only problem you have is you don’t like how it LOOKS! Because of its looks you automatically assume its a full scale battle weapon and its not. Quit judging books by their cover and you’ll have less fear of things.

    • conroypaw

      What about those who can’t “JOIN UP” because of a disability or age? Are we just S.O.L.? Nice. Fortunately, the Constitution isn’t up to you. I don’t want to just use one. I WANT TO OWN ONE, and I live in a country that guarantees my God-given freedom to do so.

      These weapons belong to civilians much more than the military, because they are semi-automatic. The military has the ARX160 which is select fire version. Military equipment often ends up on the civilian market because it’s the best made, most capable, most reliable, user-friendly stuff out there.

      Jeeps were originally made for the U.S. military, and so were the REAL Humvees. What about GPS navigation equipment and electronics? Is that reserved only for military use? What about satellite communications like television and radio? Back in the late 1940s there was only one computer called the ENIAC. It was for military use, as it was programmed to do calculations for artillery. You want to use a computer, drive a Jeep, or use GPS? JOIN UP!

    • Dennis Brislawn

      Martha, I did join up. These days I am an attorney, firearms lawyer, and teach lawful use of force to protect innocent folks. I am a Search and Rescue emergency worker, and proud to be there with my fellow volunteers (all unarmed) to help law enforcement and fire with the 100+ missions we have here in King County, WA. So what does this have to do with your comment?
      Well, in my years of working with gun owners, the ones I see have kids, spouses, friends… and they all want to know HOW to “do the right thing”. Not one of these folks wants to hurt somebody, but they do want to protect themselves and those they love. Some have been in the Service. But all of them are committed to being safe and keeping others safe.
      I have been part of the criminal justice system as a military commander and as an attorney, both working in prosecution and for a few years in felony and minor criminal defense. I learned there that there really are a lot of people out there who want to HURT YOU and those you love. They do NOT CARE about you and will take your stuff or your life if they think you are weak. It has a horrible simplicity.
      Know any felons? I do, and my wife is a retired criminal psychologist who worked for decades in the state prison system… she has told me over and over that we “good guys” really do not appreciate how radically differently a felon thinks. She said that good people mistakenly think that “I can “nice” a felon out of it (his or her violent behavior)”. She says, “good luck with that”.
      A gun is a tool. It can be used or abused. I, and many gun owners like me, have the training, the temperament, and the will to know when and how to intervene in a violent confrontation. I am almost 60 years old, and do not kid myself that I am still that 23 year old Army Airborne Ranger, etc. But I go to the range, I practice my safety drills both armed and unarmed… and as a civilian sheepdog I know that my best set of actions is to avoid, deescalate, and if absolutely necessary to forcefully intervene when a life is at stake. This would expose ME to civil or criminal liability… but I would risk it for you or for any neighbor.
      It’s not about the gun. It’s about the gun owner. For me, having capable firearms that I shoot for fun, and that I have for lawful defense, makes sense. Guys and gals like me might make you glad that we are here, too, one of these days, but hopefully I can just mind my own business and shoot at the range for fun and relaxation from time to time instead.
      Remember, horrors are easy to sell in the press. You do not hear about the civilian or police sheepdogs that actually interrupt violence or minimize the killing as often… you just hear about the body count. Sells more ads.

      • gator

        Tguns dont kill people, people do and as far as tools being abused the law is the largest one thats abused…. lawer or not it does not mater what you own as long as you do it responsibly. All of mine are locked in safes when I am not home. Quit being so judgmental. This is still america stop tring to make it something else.

      • Shawn Salley

        Dennis you rock! I wish there were more people as well spoken and level headed as you!!!!!!!!!!

      • Frederick Pack

        Dennis, I looked you up as a member of the NW Gun Law Group.
        I am a concealed carry association member platinum. If I needed help, I know who will get my first call.
        Fred

        Excellent written presentation in reply to the lady.

    • Konrad Omeltschenko Dds

      Idiot go play with your dolls.

    • JRJ21

      George Mason wrote the second amendment He said”Who is the militia? I tell you it is every able bodied man except for a few public officials” So martha i already have joined up by virtue of my birth right.Tench Coxe another founder said that “Americans have by birthright access to every terrible instrument of war that the soldier has.”The point of America was the power and sovereignty of the citizen OVER THE GOVERNMENT…..GET IT.

    • manonatallhorse

      Who are you to tell us what belongs in civilian hands. No one is forcing you to buy one.

    • 68040

      Communist Russia, Ottoman Empire and Communist Ukraine didn’t want weapons in the hands of civilians either and they took them just before the respective Genocides were committed on Russians, Armenians and Ukrainians respectively.

    • Mike Valentine

      Typical Liberal idiots. Terrified that more children will die because these exist when it’s actually disarming citizens that creates real danger

    • John D

      Martha, I joined up before you were born. I carried an M14 and at times a 1911 while I was in Nam. Not only does the 2nd amendment say I can own one of these, I earned the right by serving my country in a combat zone.

      I am sick of liberal weenies like you telling us what we need or don’t need. No disrespect intended, but you can go pound sand.

    • Major Mercedes

      Go Martha! The whole idea of having the right to own not just a gun but an arsenal of devastating fire power seems so ludicrous to almost everyone outside of the US. And the general reply to that observation is that the outsiders do not understand American values, well obviously but also that they live in societies which are weak and inferior. Having an assault rifle in your wardrobe doesn’t prevent tyranny and despots guys. I just don’t see that justification being valid one bit?

      • ProjectThor

        Change your name to Major Woody… twit.

      • Chuklz

        Prevent tyranny . . . . No, the Second Amendment doesn’t do that. Give us the means to overthrow it . . . YES – that was its intent!

      • can’t believe that douche

        that’s cause you’re a douche.

      • http://www.lemonparty.org/ IJR

        lol

    • John Winter

      Are you really that fucking stupid? How about you move to another country you idiot hag.

    • Justin Edwards

      TROLL A ROLL O!!

    • cant believe that douche

      liberal douche bag

    • Walt

      Be sure to tell your neighbors that when the riots start not to use their guns to protect your liberal butt. That way they don’t waste ammo protecting someone who wants to be a victim.

    • Padráig Mac An TSaoir

      Airhead

    • Steve Rath

      Guess what Martha, I’ve already joined up, probably before you were born. I do deserve to own one of these if i want, have you defended your country, motormouth?

    • Nick

      Troll alert…

  • bob smith

    I am so sick of having to wait for the “civilian” version of whatever the military and LE gets. They are our servants! The government is our servant! The fact that they tell us what we can and cannot have is insulting and utterly unconstitutional. That said, this looks like a nice weapon, wonder how it will stack up against the Tavor?

    • Oso Pardo

      The only difference between civilian and military have to be the fire selector
      so the stupids who call assault rifles to anything with a magazine know the difference, assault rifle capable to brust or full automatic fire and the civilian rifle semiautomatic only.

      Im totally agree with you but democrats are turning the table, next time vote with your mind no for color or sex.

    • Sam

      You’re an idiot! U fucking civilian.

  • petru sova

    I do like the quick change barrel but $2,000 for a gun with a plastic receiver and flimsy plastic sights, give me a break, this plastic fantastic isn’t worth much more than a plasticky Glock, $600 would be almost too much for such a cheaply constructed rifle.

  • skiptholio

    This article was posted in early May of 2013, it’s now Mid-October.

    Seriously, when is this rifle going to be on shelves?

  • gary

    Looks like the Rifles weren’t in the warehouse and they didn’t avoid the mistakes of Bushmaster after all. This felt like a marketing promo more then a complete well written review. Also $1950 isnt affordable to most people. Fail all around.

  • Fakir Smith

    It’s nice, but is it $1950 nice? And the answer is a big FAT no. I can buy another AR-15 and add a lot more ammo to my stockpile for that. This is a great dream weapon, but for the average guy earning a paycheck every week forget it. Now allow me the right – as the 2nd intends, to own the full auto version and I would gladly pay $1950.

  • Aaron

    I love everything about this rifle – except the way it looks and feels. It’s like the perfect design with almsot everything I’m looking for except that the body of the thing just feels awkward and unweildy to me (I’m basing this off handling the .22LR version a few times). The cheek weld is too low which is a problem for optics with fixed height like an EOTech, and the handguard is terrible. It doesn’t fit with your hand at all and it feels like you just can’t hold it properly. It has that big bulge coming out from the magwell (which has no flare) which feels like you have an uncomfortable, poor grip on it. It’s like trying to hold the keel of a boat.

    So I’m really torn. Aside from the shape of it, it’s a great design. But I think the shape and feel will make it a no-go for me. For $1500 I might be tempted anyway but $2,000 isn’t worth it imo. I’m glad Beretta is setting a new standard for gen 3 rifles though, so hopefully more options will come our way in the coming years.

  • Chris

    So is his thing going to hit the market or what?

  • Mythbuster99

    My buddy just brought one home for $1400

  • BeteNoir

    Do you people have any idea how laughably paranoid you sound? Two large for a toy plus the cost of your ammo “stockpiles” you’ll never use except in your twisted fantasies? You’d be far better off starting a college fund for your grandchildren (assuming you’re sexually functional and the guns aren’t a pathetic substitute) who will otherwise be laughing about “crazy old grandpa gun nut”.

    • http://www.lemonparty.org/ IJR

      Presumptive, dumb and ignorant is not a good combination on you. What kind of a weirdo would come into a gun site to whine about guns?
      Why did you go out of your way to come here?
      To look like a moron?
      It worked.

    • Grits.N.Jowls

      You’re from California aren’t you? One of those whining anti-gun types, right? Trayvon was stalked and “who needs an assault rifle?” drone. I need several and thousands of rounds stockpiled. FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!! Bring it and come try to take it.

    • aleksthegreat

      Laughable. Challenging our manhood won’t make us give up our inalienable right to self defense.

  • rambo

    I don’t car I want one with all the barrels !!

  • mcian

    DAMN! I live in Communistfornia… getting one of these legally will be a no starter! Want one really, really badly!!!

    • aleksthegreat

      Move.

      • mcian

        You going to pay for it? You have a job lined up for me in this economy? You have 77 acres of ocean view property to replace what I have now? Moving isn’t always an option and never the solution. Cowards run, real men stand and fight. Guess that’s why all the cowards left CA… to get out of the way of the rest of us fighting for our rights.

  • Baggy2267

    Hey Bob I love serving my country!!! Love it!!! But I ain’t your servant you arrogant prick. Maybe you should time travel back to a period when your arrogance and the term servant were more acceptable you big cry baby

  • RB

    When does the 7.62×51 version come to the civilian market? I getting tired of waiting.

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