I consider myself very familiar with most modern military rifles. In fact, I am an avid collector of two distinct subsets of firearms; machine guns, and semi-automatic military style 5.56×45/.223 rifles. Collecting the latter has become an obsession to the point that I have a poster in my gun room where I have crossed out what I have and circled what I need (when Steve saw this, he laughed pretty heartily). I am missing 7 or 8 at this time, and most are super obscure guns like the French FAMAS rifle (of which 100 or so were imported).
A few years ago I lucked out and grabbed up an unfired, new in the box Beretta AR70. While I have not fired it, everything on the gun looks very well made and it just screams Cold War stamped goodness:
As a result, I knew that Beretta (the world’s oldest gun manufacturer) definitely had the means to produce an awesome next generation military rifle, and when I heard about the ARX-160, I was ecstatic. The 160’s semi-automatic only brother is now called the ARX-100, and I lucked out into being the writer who got to test her.
Testing of the ARX-100 rifle took two range trips, notably because on the first I had left my camera’s SD card in my computer. Regardless, I still shot the gun about 180 times. This session was discouraging, as I experienced numerous failure to feeds with brand new Lake City M193 ball:
Also, I was not at all impressed with how the rifle shot, so I took it over to my friend CJ’s house to get a second opinion. He and my friend Patrick were busy loading ammo, but both of them wanted to check out Italy’s latest contribution to the US gun community. We measured the trigger pull. It was so heavy that it actually maxed out CJ’s trigger pull gauge. We did get it to read once at 11.5 pounds.
Also, the short and stubby charging handle (handle is a generous term) caused Patrick to pull the bolt to the rear and scrape his knuckle on the shell deflector badly, which resulted in blood being drawn:
The charging handle is about an inch long and maybe an eighth of an inch thick because it has to be swappable from left to right, so this is a compromise. It has been designed for glove wearing soldiers.
Despite these blatant flaws, I did convince Patrick to come along to the range to help me test this gun a little more. I cleaned it up as best I could and took several loaded magazines with the same Lake City M193 ball ammo.
At first I wanted to try and replicate the jams I was experiencing on day one. I shot quickly and even messed with the gas setting. Still, the rifle ran fine:
I even folded the stock in and tried to make it jam by shooting it with no support at the rear. Still, the ARX-100 ran fine:
When I got done with a few mags trying to get the gun to fail I started doing double taps and trying to keep the gun on target with some rapid fire. The trigger really made this hard, as pulling 12 lbs. over and over again tires out your pointer pretty quick.
That said, it was now time to accuracy test the rifle. Here I was not optimistic at all. The sights included with the rifle are poorly constructed in my opinion. I have been told Beretta is redesigning them.
When you pull the sights down, you have to manually lock them in place.
It was time to see what this rifle, M193 ball, and my trigger finger could produce.
Here I was actually surprised. I am an iron sight guy first of all, as I believe that rifles issued with iron sights should be shot primarily with iron sights (at least while I am young and my eyes are still good). At 100 yards with m193 ball ammo, I was able to eak out this group:
Despite the trigger, I believe that with a telescopic sight, quality ammo, and a more solid rest the rifle is capable of good accuracy. That said, my worst group was atrocious out of the 5 groups of 5 I shot:
Still, with an average of 3.4″. I would have preferred better accuracy, which could be achieved with a better trigger and sights.
After the accuracy test was performed, Patrick decided to give the rifle that stole some of his blood a go:
We both agreed that the recoil impulse is similar to an FN SCAR’s, and that with some finesse and fine tuning, Beretta could really turn this system into something great. Also, we appreciate the gimmicks such as the ejection selector and swappable charging handle:
As for my bullet points:
- $1,500 price tag is much lower than other rifles like the SCAR and ACR
- Lefty friendly
- Excellent placement of the bolt catch (in the trigger guard)
- Awesome barrel quick detach
- Charging handle too short
- Experienced jams
- Not as accurate as pretty much any sub-$1,000 AR15
- Everything feels cheap
- Terrible sights
- Trigger. Seriously Beretta… come on
- Factory sights very high, with no cheek comb like on the SCAR or ACR
In my opinion, the ARX-100 is probably the least pleasant to shoot of the latest generation 5.56 military style semi-automatic rifles on the market. Its $700-$800 price difference between a SCAR makes it seem appealing, but I would recommend you save your money see what Beretta does with this platform first.