The Beretta ARX 100 is a futuristic rifle that’s both versatile and a smooth shooter.
I have always been a Beretta fan. It started when I was a teenager growing up in the ‘80s, long before I even got my hands on one. I was hooked on an action-adventure series of novels where the main protagonist carried a Beretta AR-70. Therefore, I liked the Beretta AR-70.
I grew up and forgot about those books, but I never forgot about that Beretta. My appreciation for Beretta only grew during my 11 years in the U.S. Marine Corps; my M9 never failed me, and the fit and finish is superior to just about anything else I’ve fired.
When given the opportunity to test the ARX 100, I jumped. The ARX 100 is the civilian-legal, semi-automatic brother to the select-fire ARX 160, which is only available to military and law enforcement.
The ARX 100 is a modular system that’s built to be reliable. It uses a rotary locking bolt and a fixed-piston, moving-cylinder gas system. It was also designed to be simple to operate and require low maintenance. It has a two-position adjustable gas valve to regulate the bolt speed, marked “S” for standard ammunition and “N” for non-standard, low-power ammunition. To use, always start with the Standard setting, and if it’s not cycling properly, move it to non-standard.
It is chambered in 5.56mm NATO (as tested), with more chamberings on the way. It has a 16-inch, chrome-lined, light-profile barrel with a twist rate of 1:7 and dual feed ramps. It’s capped with a standard-issue A2 birdcage compensator threaded 1/2×28 RH. The barrel heats up really fast, and with extended fire there could be some concern with the thin-profile, though this is mitigated at least a little by how easy it is to swap out barrels.
The ARX 100 weighs 6.8 pounds, is 35.5 inches long with stock extended (26.5 inches with folded stock), and 8.5 inches in height. The four-position stock folds to the right; the rifle can be fired with it folded. The pistol grip has the feel of a military-issue AR grip, but it is one piece with the lower and has a storage compartment.
The gun has a monolithic top rail, two short rails at the three and nine o’clock positions, and a two-part lower rail. The lower rail comes with a slide-off cover, which serves as a forward grip. The front exposed portion of the rail is a standard picatinny rail, and the part under the cover is for Beretta-specific accessories for the Italian army, such as grenade launchers. It comes with six sling attachment points, so however you like it, you’ll be good-to-go.
The best thing about the ARX 100 is reliability. Out of the box I put 210 rounds of American Eagle XM855 through it without so much as a glitch. Then, without cleaning it, I returned to the range and put another 90 through it, suppressed, with no problems. This was a far cry from a thousand-round endurance test, yet generally, if I don’t get a malfunction during the break-in period, I like my chances.
The ARX 100 has an ambidextrous safety, bolt catch and magazine release. The magazine release is located in the same position as on an AR, just press with your index finger. A third magazine release button is located under the trigger guard. The bolt catch is located forward of the trigger guard, on the sides. The safety is similar in form to an AR, and it also doubles as the disassembly lever; press it up past “safe” to disassemble.
One of the coolest features on the ARX 100 is the selective right or left-side ejection. Just in front of the folding stock hinge is a shrouded port containing ejection selector. Push it to the left for right side ejection, and press it to the right for left side ejection. That’s outstanding.
It’s interesting how it works: The bolt face has two opposing ejectors, one at the three o’clock and nine o’clock positions. Long ejector pins and springs project from the back of the bolt. As the bolt travels rearward, the ejector pin contacts the ejection selector on the side you have selected as the side you don’t want the brass to come out of, and the selector disengages that ejector by moving it out of the way so it doesn’t make contact with the case rim. The downside to this is that the bolt must move all the way to the rear, so if the bolt short strokes the case won’t eject.
There’s a lot to like about the ARX 100, but there are some things that Beretta can do better. Some of these things might be my personal preference, but some things will be pretty much universally disapproved. None of the issues are deal-breakers. I sent an email to John Tamborino, Beretta’s Tactical Products Manager asking about these issues, and his response was that Beretta is aware of all of these quirks and is already working to fix them.
I know Beretta, and I believe these things will be addressed, and soon. Fixing these issues would make a top contender for this market, especially at the price point, which is less than the FN SCAR.
First, the Beretta ARX 100 is missing an adjustable cheek piece. It has a really high line of sight, and it has a severe comb drop that makes it difficult to get a good cheek weld for that line of sight. With the flip-up sights I had to raise my cheek off the rifle slightly; the same even when I mounted a Meopta M-RAD, which is really small. I mounted a Trijicon RX30 on it and it sat so high that instead of resting my cheek on the stock, I found myself resting my bottom jaw on it.
To give some perspective, the line of sight using optics or the flip-up sights is roughly the same height as mounting an optic on the carry handle of an M16A2. That’s really high, and is the reason the flattop receiver was invented. I know the stock was designed the way it was, low and without a cheek piece, so that it could be fired with the stock folded. But this comes at the expense of shooting with the stock not folded, which is how it is usually fired. A good fix would be a removable cheek piece like the SIG 556xi.
Second, the trigger is very heavy; mine averaged 10.4 pounds. It’s heavy enough that about 25 rounds into a magazine dump, my finger started to fatigue and my rate of fire slowed. I have never had that happen before. Yet it’s consistent and pretty smooth, so I was still able to get decent accuracy. A lighter trigger would better realize the accuracy potential of the rifle.
Next, deployment of the flip-up sights is awkward, and closing them is worse. To open the front sight you have to reach over the top of the rifle with your off-hand, and press the release button (it moves right to left). Repeat for the rear sight. It’s not quick, but clumsy. Closure is even worse: Press the front sight closed, then while holding it closed, press the button on the left side to move it to the right.
Aside from deployment and closing, the sights do their job. The front sight post is first zeroed for elevation. The rear sight is a disk that is marked one through six; one being 100 meters, six being 600. Simply spin for the distance of the target. I’m good with this so far.
But windage adjustments are done on the front sight, and require a tool, either the included tool or a screwdriver, coin, etc. If ever the windage needs to be changed while shooting, the shooter will have to pause, reach into their pocket, and hope they have a tool. If one is planning on mounting an optic, these sights will provide a serviceable backup, and they do co-witness.
The final thing is the bolt handle. It’s thin, and if the user is wearing gloves, it’s fine, but if barehanded, it’s unnecessarily uncomfortable. It’s like carrying a heavy bucket with a broken handle; after awhile the wire handle digs into your hand. It needs to be thin so that it can be rotated to the other side, but more surface area can be added for grasping, and it would still be able to rotate.
Disassembly is tool-free with no pins, another plus, and since about 90 percent of what I disassemble are ARs, it’s kind of fun to take apart something else. First, take the magazine out and make clear. Fold the stock to the right, thus exposing the retaining plate located at the back of the receiver. Grab the grip with your left hand, and use your thumb to press up on the safety so that it goes past Safe. At the same time, with your right hand, press in on the retaining plate. With your left hand, pull down on the grip and the lower receiver will pull out. It can be a little tricky to coordinate this all at once, and I found it best to do it with the muzzle resting on the floor.
Now, pull the bolt handle back so it aligns with the notch; pull the bolt handle out until it snaps, then rotate it so that it is pointing forward. Pull the bolt carrier out from the receiver.
The barrel is simple to remove, which is a great feature, and it can be done without the rest of the rifle fully disassembled. The bolt needs to be out of the way, but it can’t just be locked to the rear; when the barrel comes out of its seat, the bolt will slam forward, potentially damaging the receiver. Instead, the manual says that you must disassemble it to the point in which the lower receiver is removed, then the bolt can be rotated forward, which prevents the bolt from slamming forward. Once the bolt arm is pointing forward, you can remove the barrel; simply pull down on both sides of the take down lever, like a Glock, and pull the barrel out. If your intent is to fully disassemble the rifle for cleaning, this method works fine.
To conduct a rapid barrel swap and get back to shooting, I found a better way that involves no other disassembly at all. Insert an empty magazine, which prevents the bolt from slamming forward. Then lock the bolt to the rear and take the barrel out. Now you can remove the magazine; once you do, ease the bolt forward. To re-insert the barrel, lock the bolt to the rear (you don’t need to insert an empty mag) and insert the barrel, piston up. Once it’s almost seated you’ll feel resistance; press it in, and the takedown lever will snap. Give it a good tug to make sure it’s seated.
It’s simple and with a minimal amount of practice a barrel could be swapped out in less than 10 seconds. This makes it a cinch to clean the rifle, but more importantly it allows barrels to quickly be changed during live shoots.
The ARX uses AR-15 STANAG magazines and comes with one heavy-duty metal magazine. It works with most magazines made for the AR-15, but not all. I used Magpul Gen1 magazines and HK clear polymer magazines, and both worked perfectly. I tried to use a TangoDown magazine, but I couldn’t get it to seat properly. Magazines that have a rib to prevent over-seating will mostly be a no-go. It’s a huge benefit to everyone that Beretta chose to use the AR-15 magazine. The AR is the most popular gun in America amongst civilian shooters, and anyone who’s owned one for a while has a lot of magazines for it. It’s great to not have to buy different magazines. It also allows for the use of all the same mag pouches and kit that you already own.
Beretta ARX 100
Type: Semi-auto, gas piston
Caliber: 5.56 NATO (as tested), 6.8 SPC, .300 BLK, 5.45x39mm, 7.62x39mm
Barrel: 16 in., chrome-lined, 1:7 twist
Trigger: 10.5 lbs.
Sights: Flip-up, removable, adjustable
Stock: Four-position, foldable
Weight: 6.8 lbs.
Overall Length: 35.5 in.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the July 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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