Beretta AR-70 – For When You Are Rejected by Colt

What happens when you are Beretta, one of the most storied gun makers in the world, when you are rejected by Colt? Why, you go off and make a competing rifle, partially co-developed by Sig!

In all seriousness, realizing that the M16 was a true revolutionary leap forward in shoulder-fired small arms, Beretta did try to get a license to manufacture and sell the M16 internationally. Colt rejected this, seeing that they could sell to the same customers. Perhaps the joke is on Colt, as Beretta was indeed successful at selling their new AR-70 rifle to the Italian military, first to the special forces as the original AR-70 and later to the general ground forces with the updated AR-70/90.

The weapon is basically a piston driven, stamped design that combines many of the well-known and liked features of the M-16 and AK-47. The original AR-70 used a forward lipped rock-in magazine, but opted for Stoner-inspired bolt holt open and release. The charging handle is reciprocating on the right hand side (ala AK) and the safety/selector is on the left hand side similar again to the Stoner design. The bolt is distinctly AK-like, but retention of the firing pin is AR.

A few AR-70s made it into the US, but none of the new AR-70/90s made it in due to the Bush “Assault Weapons” Ban.

Enjoy the video from Forgotten Weapons!





Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Holdfast_II

    Shouldn’t that be the “Bush Assault Weapons Import Ban”?

    Kinda different from the 1994 Clinton AWB.

    • UCSPanther

      There were a lot of fine and very interesting firearms that fell victim to the firearms moral panic of the late ’80s/’90s.

  • Iflobot

    This was one of the first clones/ripoffs of the Armalite AR-18. Surprised that wasn’t mentioned in the article.

    • Jason Culligan

      The AR-70 has nothing to do with the AR-18. It’s more along the lines of the AK, FNC and SIG 550.

      • OnlyASithDealsinAbsolutes

        Because they Substituted the short-stroke gas & tappet piston for a long stroke piston? Look at the rest of the design. AR-18 came out before the FNC and SIG550, and the AK, well they may have copied the piston system from it. Saying it has “nothing” to do with the AR-18 is absolutist and fallacious.

        • nano

          Came out before the AK?

          • SaturnShield

            No…awkward wording but he was identifying the AK in a different contingent modifier within the sentence, talking about how the piston design was likely copied from the AK.

          • Cymond

            Thanks. That’s very awkward. Had to re read it 3 times​ to get what they were trying to say.

        • Jason Culligan

          Watch the video mate. It was specifically said that the AR-70 is interesting for collectors as it is one of the few western black rifles that isn’t another Stoner derivative. The gas system and bolt are derived from the Kalashnikov just like the FNC and SIG 550.

          • Ryfyle

            A funny thing, the AK bolt looks a lot like a Garand.

        • Hank Seiter

          It depends on your definition of “copied”. You may as well say Stoner copied the Walther G-43 long stroke piston and multiple operating rod components.

          Here are the substantial differences between the AR-18/180 and the AR-70. The gas piston/rod with captive recoil spring is totally different than the AR-18 family of rifles.

          The way the bolt/bolt carrier group attaches to the operating rod in the AR-70 is totally different than the AR-18/180. In fact the charging handle of the latter is simply slotted into the bolt during reassembly and has nothing to do with capturing the operating rod/gas piston assembly.

          The AR-70s two lug bolt is more AK than M-16/AR-15 with its seven multi-lug engagement in a barrel extension.

          Unfortunately you’re wrong on multiple issues. I own both and I know the design features of each having stripped each rifle down to an armorer’s level. I also own a 1944 G-43.

    • MrFN

      LOL. Ian even mentions it’s interesting because it ISN’T an AR-15/18 derivative

    • JSmath

      Ian said that the rifle is interesting because it isn’t JUST an AR18 derivative. So not only does he mention it, he doesn’t claim it isn’t.

      • Able_Dart

        As It Turns Out, interpreting the Will of Gun Jesus as contentious as that of Regular Jesus

        • JSmath

          Only if you can’t speak proper English, which I realize is becoming increasingly common.

  • mechamaster

    If you rejected by Kalasnikov… Then you make a Vz.58 ?

  • Spencerhut

    Another “Down for dead” Beretta. Pass . . .

  • FWIW: As I understand it, SIG and Beretta already had a relationship as Beretta was producing SIG SG510 for foreign military sales, dodging the strict Swiss export regulations.

    The break in Beretta and SIG’s development of their 5.56mm rifle came as a result of SIG director Rudolf Amsler’s insistence upon using bolt rollers like his previous SG510. The resulting design became the SG530.

  • Ben Loong

    I’ve long been curious about the AR-70, so I was glad to see Ian got his hands on one to give us a closer look.

  • J-

    The AR-70 is the zenith of stamped sheet metal guns. Better than the AR-18, FN FNC, HK 93, Galil, etc.

    I would love to see someone make a domestic copy of this for US sales. Sure, it’s a little obsolete, but it is such a great shooting gun.

    • Andrew Thomas

      If you would like an updated ar-70 just go get a kel tec su-16. It is pretty much a copy with a multi lug ar style bolt and uses ar mags. And oh yeah it’s in the 4lb range with iron sites.

      • J-

        Because its a KelTec. I like the Beretta 92. I won’t own a Taurus PT92. Bring a beretta is part of it.

      • Pete Sheppard

        I thought about the SU16 as I watched this also, especially the recoil system.

      • int19h

        It’s also a fully polymer receiver.

        That said, if someone made an all-metal version of SU-16, it would be kinda cool.

    • 8166PC1

      I don’t think the AR-70 is necessarily as combat proven as the Galil is. And if it were that great why was it replaced ARX160?

      • Jason Culligan

        The Galil has also been replaced, so that point doesn’t hold.

      • Billca

        Lots of good firearm designs are now obsolete or superseded by better designs. The M1 Garand is an excellent battle rifle – shortcomings and all. But it was replaced by the M-14 which has been replaced by the M-16. Weapons evolve and change with battlefield doctrines.

        What was a good rifle yesterday may be obsolete by today’s standards, but it’s still going to be effective in the proper setting. The .308 round is much more suitable to vast areas of this country (among others) than the 5.56 when not inside larger cities.

    • pbla4024

      Galil uses milled receiver.

  • Marzuq

    Beaten out by M16A1 for the Malaysian Armed Forces HK33’s replacements in the mid ’70s. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c47b6b20de315c9662cefe70e2a91291ea50d040a3312ab9e5e5caf2ea3b8b18.jpg

  • UCSPanther

    The SIG 530 prototypes were developed with assistance from Beretta, and have a close resemblance to the AR 70.

    In the end, SIG decided to drop the delayed blowback 530 and went with an AK-style gas system in both the 540 and 550 rifle series.

  • jcitizen

    I was in love with the SIG AMT when I was a kid – it was the most expensive weapon on the market at the time; at least for what was generally available for sale, brand new – but still hard to find. Almost any NFA weapon was cheaper then, and a higher priority for me.

  • Hank Seiter

    I own several Beretta AR-70s. Excellent rifle on par with the Stoner AR-180. As Nathan noted, there are common design features of the AR-70 and the Sig-550 series of rifle, particularly with respect to the AK style bolt and locking lugs and the captive recoil spring located on the operating rod located on top of the barrel. The barrel sleeve is an interesting one-off creation though the way the flash hider is configured and milled is rather funky but it is effective as compared to the AR birdcages. Two of mine have the fold down bipod which parks underneath the fore-end. The rifle, however, is much sleeker without it and the weight of the whole rifle is roughly comparable to a full-size AR rifle with a mounted scope.

    There is a built-in top receiver rail that takes some kind of proprietary scope base and I’m presently not aware of anyone making a domestic version of the Italian military scope base — I guess because of the limited number of AR-70s in country. I was fortunate to buy two of my AR-70s at prices not much more than your basic Daniel Defense AR-15/M4. I paid $500 more for one of the AR-70s with a bipod, mint condition with four magazines and an excellent $300 aluminum flight/travel gun case. Well worth the price at the time, I thought.

    BTW, spare factory/military mags are somewhat difficult to find and will generally run a person around $100 if you’re patient. About a year ago I fortunately ran across a supply of original Beretta AR-70 mags that were in new to mint condition for about $65 each. Bought six. The mags are every bit as robust as AR-magazines and better finished.

    Last, the receiver stampings are first-class and the parkerization (or whatever they treated the steel with) is attractive and durable. Trigger pull favorably compares to the AR-180 (a bit better I thought) but not quite as good as a well-tuned AR-15 trigger. Some take-up and just a hint of grit with about a 5.5 to 6.0 pound pull, but under normal firing conditions and double-taps you don’t notice all the little mechanical operations going on between trigger/sear/hammer.

    Felt recoil is milder than an AR-15/M-4 partly because the 70 is about a pound heavier. Feels exactly like a Sig 550/551/556 when firing which is no surprise given their similar pedigree. Even with a semi-auto mag dump, the forward handguards do an excellent job of ventilating the barrel. Never felt any heat. And the way the handguard clips onto the barrel is very positive and actually eliminates any play one might get with like an AR-180 or even the Sig 550 series.

    I have no regrets spending what I did to get these relatively rare rifles and in my case they make a great investment though I am putting some mileage on the one I’ve selected as my “shooter”.