By: Greg Chabot
Photos by Sasha Steadman
In 2008, Beretta launched the ARX 160 modular rifle for the Italian armed forces’ Soldato Futuro (Future Soldier) program to replace the aging AR70/90 series rifles. The rifle was a success and was adopted by Italian forces. Due to its modularity, it was also adopted by some Eastern European militaries, allowing them to modernize from the AK series of rifles.
Beretta designed caliber change kits to allow the use of AK magazines and Eastern Bloc ammunition. The weapon has also found success with some law enforcement agencies. Based on the success of the ARX 160, Beretta developed and released a civilian version for the U.S. market in 2014 in the form of the ARX 100.
The ARX 100 is a semi-automatic only rifle that uses a short stroke piston operating system. It is chambered in 5.56x45mm with a chrome-lined cold hammer forged barrel with a 1/7 twist. The gas system is adjustable with two positions: “S” for standard conditions and “N” for adverse conditions. The piston and gas tube are captive to the barrel to expedite cleaning and changing of barrels.
Standard barrel length is 16” with the option to purchase a 10.25” SBR kit from Beretta. The weapon is mostly constructed from polymer and is fully ambidextrous. It weighs in at 6.8 lbs with an OAL of 35.75”. Height is 8.5” with a width of 2.75”. No tools are required to disassemble the weapon for cleaning. To remove the barrel, lock the bolt to the rear, push the retaining tabs down, and pull the barrel out.
The ARX 100 comes with a set of removable iron sights on a monolithic 1913 rail with a 15” sight radius. Rails are also at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. The bottom rail is shorter than the other ones due to the proprietary rail for mounting the 40mm GLX 160 A1 grenade launcher.
A 1913 rail can be purchased to go over it if one doesn’t like the handguard. Out of the box, the ARX 100 comes with adequate rail space. “Tactifools” should have no issue doubling the weight with unneeded accessories if they choose to. Also included is a range bag, sling, and one steel magazine.
The manual is well written and illustrated. The rifle comes with a folding stock that is adjustable for length of pull. Controls are laid out well and are easy to manipulate and reach for shooters with small hands. The charging handle is reciprocating, but small enough so that it didn’t get in the way while shooting from inside vehicles. By design, the charging handle is very small compared to other systems due to the ambidextrous design of the weapon.
Some may find this feature uncomfortable to use bare-handed. Beretta does offer a knob that slides over to make it wider. I liked the ergonomics and found the weapon very comfortable to both shoot and carry for extended periods. The weapon has various places to mount a sling to one’s preference. The ARX 100 is not QD compatible, which, in my opinion, isn’t a big deal.
Testing spanned over 10 months taking place in various weather conditions. I used a variety of ammo to test this weapon, as I do with handguns. Steel and paper targets were used during testing. Ranges varied from 10 to 500 yards depending on the area I was training at. Factory irons were used for the entire test period. The irons only required a minor adjustment to attain a 100-yard zero. The sights sit very high over the bore, similar to the M16A1/A2. This didn’t affect accuracy in my opinion; end users can always change out the irons if they choose. The rear aperture can be adjusted from 100 to 800 yards. The front sight is adjusted the same as the M16. Some writers have complained of the stock not being high enough to get a good cheek weld. I didn’t have a problem with that, and it’s nothing some foam padding and tape can’t remedy.
The trigger is heavy. At 10lbs, it is very wide compared to other triggers, which helps with getting a good squeeze and to prevent finger fatigue. I found the trigger broke very cleanly and had a decent reset. Over the course of testing, the trigger did lighten up with use. For readers questioning the weight, the ARX 100 is based on its military-issue cousin. Many military weapons have triggers on the heavy side to prevent negligent discharges due to lack of discipline and poor training. The ARX 100 is compatible with most magazines on the market. Due to the magwell size, Gen 3 Pmags with the silly over insertion tab will not work. Surefire 60 and 100 magazines would not fit either. Magazines used during testing were GI, Gen2 Pmags, Troy, Lancer, and Hexmags. All functioned without issue.
The ARX 100 is easily a 1 ½ - 3 MOA rifle depending on the shooter and ammo used. I do feel a lighter trigger would help to remedy some of this. I found the accuracy good for a general-purpose rifle and mechanically, the rifle is more accurate than most of the shooters using it. I had no problem hitting steel at 500 yards using the irons, if the fundamentals of marksmanship were practiced. Recoil was very mild on this weapon with very little muzzle rise during ready up drills. While doing mag dumps, the ARX was very controllable, even with the stock folded from inside a vehicle. I was able to keep the rounds on target firing as fast as I could pull the trigger. End users will find accuracy up to par. For those who want sub-MOA accuracy, buy a precision rifle.
One thing I really liked about this weapon was that it ran very cool. The forend has adequate venting to allow the barrel to stay cool while firing. While doing mag dumps, I had the barrel smoking pretty heavily, and it never once got uncomfortable to hold with bare hands. Reliability was 100 percent with all ammo and very little maintenance to the weapon. I lightly lubed it with SEAL-1 CLP and ran it for three thousand rounds. The ARX 100 was dropped in sand, muddy water, and snow with no change in performance. After testing, the weapon was thoroughly cleaned, and no unusual parts or barrel wear were detected – a testament to how robust this weapon is.
Why didn’t it sell well in the civilian market? In my opinion, the original MSRP of $1,950 USD didn’t help’ with that price folks could buy two quality AR-15s. That was a mistake on the part of Beretta. If f it had been priced competitively, I think it would have done better. Prices are at rock bottom at the time of this writing, with $800 USD being the average street price.
The other reason for poor sales (again, in my opinion) is the lack of caliber change kits. The ARX 100 is marketed as a completely modular platform. At launch, barrels in .300 Blackout should have been available. This was another mistake by Beretta, and they should have learned from the failure of the ACR. I attempted to contact Beretta to ask when caliber kits would be available and received no replies to my inquiries.
Would I recommend this weapon? Yes, if you are looking for something different to shoot. It ran flawlessly and is completely ambidextrous with the one caveat being lack of support from the aftermarket and very little offered from Beretta for accessories. I enjoyed shooting this weapon and have no buyer’s remorse. I can only hope Beretta offers caliber change kits and trigger upgrades. This rifle has great potential, and Beretta has no one to blame but themselves for poor civilian sales. It’s a shame that it was a success for numerous armies but a flop on the civilian side.
Big Thanks to Coyote Creek Outfitters LLC.
Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.