Beretta ARX 160
- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Though Italy has a fine reputation for sporting guns, its military small arms up to and including those of World War II would not be my first choice. Post-1945 they opted for the BM59; essentially a box mag M1 Garand in 7.62 NATO. Made by Beretta it was a good and solid transitional design. When 223 Rem/5.56 NATO ousted the old 7.62, Beretta came to the party with the AR70 family, a reasonably modern, 2nd generation battle rifle design. Technically we are now into Gen 3 of service rifles and many countries have opted to build their own rather than a modification of the ubiquitous M16, Italy being no exception.
Beretta came up with the ARX 160 as part of their ‘Soldato Futuro’ (Future Soldier) programme. It’s a modular system that can easily swap barrels and calibres as well as offering a near true ambidextrous build and also has the ability to select/position both the cocking handle and ejector to allow true right or left handed operation. It also shows the Italian flare for radical design, just look at a Benelli Vinci to see what I mean!
There is also a civilian version (ARX 100) built for the US market along with a dedicated 22 rimfire variant (ARX 160 .22 L.R.), In the US these are seen as both fun guns and cheap/realistic trainers. In the UK it adds to the ever-growing and popular group of what I term ‘military look-a-likes’. I have tested all makes to date with the exception of the 160, as always things take some time to get to the UK. Though I handled it briefly at IWA, now I have it in the flesh. First impressions count and the 160 looks and feels different from the current crop of AR15 clones. It’s made in Germany by Umarex/Walther and if that sounds familiar it should as they are big into the .22 LR game offering the Colt Tactical (M16) series along with the Heckler Koch (HK) 416 and MP5 and the IMI Uzi too. Where the ARX scores over the Colt and HK is in its ability to clean from the back and also ease of stripping. Both these factors making it as user-friendly as the more familiar, US .22 AR15s.
Construction is mainly polymer with a one-piece receiver/forend build and a swing-off lower pistol grip, trigger and magazine housing (TMH). As standard there’s a right, side-folding butt with telescopic section to adjust length of pull. There are two main sections of Picatinny rail one running front to back on top and the other under the forend, both are aluminium, which gives greater rigidity. Two short sections on either side of the forend allow the fitting of light and lasers etc. Pleasingly the 18” barrel is solid as opposed to the Colt/HK that uses a rifled, steel liner with an outer tube to give the impression of girth. An A2-type flash hider is pinned and screwed to the muzzle.
Controls are ambidextrous with a 2-position (AR15-style) safety above the A2 pistol grip. FIRE (F) is vertical and it flips back to 4 o’clock (S) for SAFE. The mag catch is pure AR15 (on the right) with an extension coming through on the left, empties fall free!
The ambi theme is carried through on the sling loops, with two either side of the receiver and another in the middle of the butt plate. However, this falls down at the front as there’s a sixth on top of the barrel that is only on the left, unlike the 223 ARX 160 which swivels through 180°.
The 160 includes integral, fold-down iron sights. The front is a protected post which offers windage and elevation – an adjuster tool is supplied. The rear is a range-only, multi-aperture diopter, with the rear plate marked from 100 to 600m, or whatever lines up for a 22 LR. The cocking handle is reversible and there are twin ejection ports, however on the .22 L.R. version ejection is to the right only! No big deal as the cases go out and forward and will not cause problems for a south paw. Feed is from a 20-round magazine identical to the Colt/HK guns, 5, 10 and 30-shot options are also available. Who the hell wants a 5-shot?
PLEASING OR NOT
Visually the ARX looks less like an assault rifle and more like an ultra-modern sporter; probably down to that Italian design flare! I rather like the alternative build it offers though it’s deep in the body and has one annoying build feature as we shall see. A friend of mine says it reminds him of a rifle version of a Vietnamese pot bellied pig; well each to their own I suppose! My gut feeling is it will appeal to those who do not want yet another AR15 clone or a harsh military look.
The magazine has side buttons so making it easy to fill. There’s no external hold open/bolt release catch, as the rising platform operates an automatic/internal hold open and to trip the bolt you simply pull back on the handle. Though it’s possible to reach up inside the mag well and push up the catch with your finger.
The twin ejection ports also serve another function and one pertinent to 22 semi-autos as they allow a lot more combustion gas and debris out of the action so reducing fouling build-up, which is the major cause of stoppages on a 22 blow back system. There is a slight downside too as the debris gets blasted out, which is noticeable when firing, especially on the off side!
For the test I used Fiocchi HV, Remington Golden HV, RWS HV and RWS SEMI AUTO (standard velocity) ammo plus and though a bit academic some CCI segmented sub- sonics just to see if it would function. The ARX ate it all up without complaint and continued to do so for my usual shoot until a major stoppage occurs routine to the tune of 500-rounds. In fact nothing did occur! The trigger trips at 5-6 lbs but the break is crisp with just a tad of creep but is certainly shootable! Accuracy was impressive with the gun keeping it sub-1” at 50 yards and inside 2” at 100. For that bit of the test I fitted a C-More X10 compact in Sportsmatch HETO68C, reach-forward mounts, this small 1-10x24 is a good scope for a 22 especially with its generous magnification range.
General fit and feel is good, the A2 pistol grip is well proportioned and the LOP though a tad short not a problem. My major niggle are the twin Picatinny sections on the forend as they really add width to an already wide/ deep section and are right in the way of the supporting hand as to make that hold awkward. I fitted a vertical handgrip, which offered a practical alternative. Thankfully the rails can be removed to solve that issue. I also found the cocking handle a bit slim and would have liked some more depth, but again no big deal.
STRIP AND SWAP
Stripping is worth noting! Remove the magazine and fire off the action, press the button (rear left) on the receiver and fold the butt to the right to expose the inside of the receiver. You will see the rear of the bolt assembly (at the top), with the muzzle down on a surface and the left side of the gun facing you take a reverse hold on the pistol grip and push the safety back as far as it can go against the spring and hold it there. At the same time push in on the rear of the bolt and the TMH will swing away and the bolt will move out about an inch. Now pull out the cocking handle then the bolt.
There’s plenty of access to clean and you might be surprised by the low amount of fouling deposits, which is due to the twin ejection ports. Reassembly is the reverse though you do not need to tension the safety as the TMH snaps back into position. You also have the option of repositioning the cocking handle, as a right hander I found it better on that side!
The ARX has grown on me over the test period and proved as shootable and reliable as any good .22 AR15 and I like its non standard looks. How the UK will warm to it is debatable as unlike an AR there’s not a lot you can do to it in terms of tweaking the trigger or fitting a moderator or changing external features. However, it would be a Cerakoter’s dream as those big slab sides are just begging for a paint job, plus the price is highly competitive.
PRICE: £550, Spare mags £45
CONTACT: GMK Ltd, 01489 579999 C-More X10 scope Highland Outdoors Ltd, 0845 099 0252 (details of nearest stockist) HETO68C mounts, Sportsmatch UK Ltd, www.sporstmatch-uk.co.uk