To the outsider looking in, the Beretta ARX100 would have seemed like the perfect modern combat rifle. Designed of 21st Century light-weight materials, nearly 100 percent ambidextrous, equipped with a side-folding stock for easy storage, and bearing the venerated Beretta name, what was there not to love?
Despite all that it had going for it, the ARX100 has been discontinued for commercial sales in the United States. The logical question would be; why? Did the gun not perform as advertised? A new rifle with some of the same features as the ARX100 was greeted with much enthusiasm at the 2023 SHOT Show. This begs the question, was the Beretta ARX100 ahead of its time?
The commercial ARX100 5.56mm rifle that was built in Gallatin, Tennessee for the United States civilian market actually originated with the ARX160 select-fire combat rifle that was designed for the Italian Army to replace the aging AR-70/90. This fact is naturally no surprise. The US commercial market is filled with AR and AK rifles that were originally built as select-fire combat rifles. The Beretta ARX100 simply followed the pattern.
As you would expect, the ARX100 is semi-automatic and has a 16 inch barrel with a true 5.56mm NATO chamber. The muzzle device is a NATO-style flash hider/muzzle brake. By using a great deal of high-strength polymer and aluminum, as well as steel where needed, Beretta was able to keep the empty weight relatively low at only 6.8 pounds. For a full-sized rifle this is exceptional. By comparison, the empty weight for the Colt M16A2 is 7.5 pounds.
The operation for this rifle is a short-stroke, gas piston. One of the features that the Beretta engineers built into the rifle was “the lightweight technopolymer receiver allows for reliable operation with virtually no lubricants.” The old Marine in me cringes at the thought of running a dry rifle, but I appreciate the idea of deliberately minimizing metal and metal contact to reduce friction.
All of the manual controls on the ARX100 are built to be ambidextrous. I suppose the only feature that is not “ambi” is the side folding stock. Which both retracts and folds to the right side of the receiver. The charging handle for the bolt can be set up so that it is accessed either from the left side of the receiver or the right. As you might expect, Italy, being a NATO member, required the ARX160 to use the STANAG 5.56mm aluminum magazine. The ARX100 followed suit.
Additionally, as you would expect from a modern combat rifle, no tools are required to disassemble the rifle down for cleaning/field maintenance. The barrel can be removed and replaced very quickly. Though now hard to find, Beretta did offer a 10.25 inch SBR barrel for those who desired that configuration.
Special or bonus features include a full M1913 Picatinny rail running the entire length of the top of the rifles receiver. There are additional accessory rails on the forward left and right sides of the rifle. The forward sling swivel rotates to either side and you can attach the rear of the centered sling loop on the stock.
I purchased my ARX100 right as the snow was starting to fly out here in the mountains, so I took advantage of an indoor range to slow fire the rifle and BZO both the iron sights and the red dot optic.
The rifle came with flip-up/folding front and rear sights. To adjust and zero the sights, Beretta includes a sight adjustment tool that works very well. The rear sight has an adjustable diopter to be used to dial in longer distances after the BZO has been set. I took the time to BZO the iron sights at 25 meters and then I installed an optic.
The red dot optic that I chose was the Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic). While not as compact as some of the newer models, the PRO is easy to install and is a rock solid optic. As you would expect from Aimpoint. With the iron sights already set, it took only a few minutes to co-witness the red dot of the PRO and verify the BZO on paper.
Beretta included one 30 round aluminum magazine with the rifle and I brought three others that I purchased from Brownells. The ammunition came from Black Hills, Federal, Hornady, and Winchester. After approximately 150 rounds, zero stoppages or failures were encountered. This should not come as a surprise, but it should be mentioned.
Other than the Aimpoint optic, the only other things I added to the ARX100 that did not come with the gun were an Picatinny rail for the base of the forend and an enlarged cocking handle. Both of these items came directly from Beretta’s online store.
The pic rail allowed me to attach a vertical grip, so that is one more add-on. The enlarged cocking handle is self-explanatory, this item gives you a bit more to grab on to and make charging the rifle that much more intuitive.
Out in the Snow
With the sights set, additional range sessions were conducted at an outdoor range in the snow. My son, Jarrad, and I took turns running the ARX100 against steel and OD green plastic silhouette targets. The gun handled extremely well and felt recoil was negligible. We shot video from the side and the muzzle barely moved during rapid fire drills. Both Jarrad and I ran the rifle with gloved hands and discovered no issues or problems operating the controls.
Firearms makers like to release and promote new guns at the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show and this year (2023) was no exception. Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) showed off their new “Carmel” 5.56mm combat rifle. This particular gun is touted as being “fully ambidextrous” with a short-stroke gas piston and built with lightweight materials. It also has a retractable/folding stock.
My immediate reaction to the Carmel was that I had “seen this show before” and it was called the ARX100. The question that seemed all too obvious to me was, “If the American commercial market did not support the ARX100, how or why would it support a rifle that has essentially the same features?
Ahead of Its Time?
By the time I sat down to write this review, between Jarrad and myself we had put around 500 rounds through the ARX100 during a few range sessions. We used GI standard aluminum magazines, and polymer magazines from Magpul (M2), Lancer, and MFT. The ARX100 will not accept the PMAG M3 versions to their configuration.
Unlike rifles with ambi safety levers and bolt handles you can switch over, the ARX100 is truly sinister. In addition to having an ambidextrous selector lever and a bolt handle that can be switched from left to right without the need for tools. You can select right hand or left hand brass ejection by pressing a guarded button with the tip of a 5.56mm cartridge. The magazine release button is centered so that is naturally universal.
So what the hell was wrong with the ARX100? Okay, it’s not an AR/M4 and it does not accept Magpul M3 PMAGs, those, however, are not reasons to dislike the gun. Some might say it is the price tag but I’m going to call BS on that. Americans are goo-goo over SCAR rifles and their MSRP hovers around $3000. A Daniel Defense M4 is around $2000. Normal gun shop prices for the ARX100 were around $1400-$1500.
Should Beretta Have Discontinued the ARX100? [Video Review]
I cannot divine the fickle nature of the American gun buyer, but I can say that the decision of Beretta to discontinue the commercial domestic sales of the ARX100 in 2019, right before the massive gun boom in the United States was seriously bad timing. Think back to the spring and summer of 2020 where gun makers could not keep up with demand and prices were at all time highs. But, alas, the past is in the past. The good news is that the ARX100 was made in the United States in Tennessee and all the machines and tooling to build these excellent rifles still exist.
Could the ARX100 come back for commercial sales in the United States? While I would not hold my breath waiting, anything is possible. As to the question, “What was wrong with the ARX100?” From my perspective, the answer is “nothing”. It’s a great rifle.
Professor Paul Markel
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I seriously looked at the ARX several times at the Beretta Gallery. I have quite a few Berettas and SAKOs and wanted to get the ARX. It felt wonderful.
The down fall was that all the reviews and testing I saw said it was not accurate – like less than 2 MOA. Do I went with a Daniels Defense V& PRO at more money. I require accuracy – which is why I like SAKO refills and Beretta Shotguns. The DDM V7 is .5 MOA for me. I got rid of my other 556-223 rifles and now just just the Daniels for that caliber.
I purchased the first available ARX100 in the DFW market, two and a half years after it was originally announced at the SHOT show. I was so excited to receive it and was willing to pay full retail for it since I’m a southpaw and not many guns were touting that capability back then. I still love the gun, but fell in love with building ARs and the Beretta often languishes in my safe. My biggest disappointment was not even the ridiculously long wait for the actual release date, rather it was the non-appearance of the promised 300 Blackout barrel! I would have been in hog heaven had that come out as promised and would have paid the price they would have asked and felt privileged to get it.
I think the sales killer for this wonderful weapon was the extended wait for the promised release of the gun. It was well ahead of its time and if Beretta had followed up on their original promised release date, it might have been the huge success I was hoping for. Once again, a good company that falls short of the success it could have had.