Sink or Swim: A Review of the Beretta ARX-100
Over the years I’ve owned and fired a vast assortment of firearms ranging from common to one-of-a-kind items, but never before had I owned a head-turner of my own; that is until a year ago when I decided to wade out of the shallow waters of the common and into deeper, uncharted waters where I caught a fish seldom seen outside of gun shows and Steiner Advertisements.
That’s right: I bought an ARX-100. After what felt like a back alley exchange on a website run by the offspring of former arms dealer Efraim Diveroli and several weeks of uncertainty I finally received a call that my new rifle had arrived and was ready for pickup.
It’s been around seven months since I picked up my so-called fish gun and after putting almost 6,000 rounds through it I’ve developed a list of positive, negative, and neutral qualities that I would like to share with any and all prospective buyers here on The Kommando Blog.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the ARX is the keen focus its designers put into creating a truly ambidextrous firearm. The most laborious task when setting this rifle up for a left-handed shooter is nothing more than grabbing a bullet and using it to depress a tab towards the rear of the receiver. This action swaps the ejection pattern to the opposite side of the other side of the rifle. After this, all you need to do is swap the charging handle, which is as simple as pulling back, pulling outwards on the handle itself, and swinging it across to the other side. The rifle’s other notable ambidextrous features include the fire selector, the magazine release, the bolt release, and the interestingly-placed bolt catch on the bottom of the trigger guard.
Another noteworthy feature of the ARX is the self-contained barrel and piston assembly which allows for quick disassembly and reassembly. This is enormously helpful when it comes to cleaning and maintaining the rifle but can also come in handy when the ATF shows up at your door with a tip that you’ve got an unregistered SBR and you need to make that fact go away before they can make their way to the back bedroom. Releasing the barrel assembly on the ARX is as simple as locking the bolt to the rear, depressing two pull tabs located on either side of the receiver, and pulling upwards on the barrel. It’s an extremely fast process that makes life simple when it comes to cleaning the barrel in comparison to both AR-15s and AKs alike.
One of the other advantages brought about by the ARX’s gas piston system is the rifle’s inclusion of a folding stock. Though not an uncommon feature in today’s market, it is a welcome feature among those who hunt from vehicles and have less-than-optimal storage space for their firearms. Another nicety afforded by the design of the rifle is that it can fire with the stock folded; a feature that is often overlooked when designing folding stocks for the AR and its piston variants.
Another beneficial kickback of the ARX’s multi-piece short stroke piston design is extreme reliability. Though I was skeptical at first due to the many openings required for fully ambidextrous function, I was pleasantly surprised to see this rifle function flawlessly when toe-to-toe with the elements of nature. This rifle has been stepped on, thrown, drowned, dragged through the mud and wet sand and every time has come out on top of it all. When all is said and done I’ve had a total of two malfunctions in this gun; both of which were due to a combination of TulAmmo and a lack of cleaning. When approached again with a clean rifle, the ARX chewed through TulAmmo like nobody’s business.
Another major advantage of the ARX is its polymer construction; a feature that manages to keep the rifle relatively lightweight while still retaining a piston system. The ARX-100 weighs a meager 6.8lbs unloaded, which makes this rifle a fantastic choice to slap all of your cool guy accessories on without fear that it will end up a twelve pound monstrosity like Skeletor’s AR. What’s even more surprising than the weight is the balance. With the lithe stock and distended forend, one would think that this rifle balance falls forward like the Titanic, but in reality the balance lies at the front edge of the magazine well; not bad for a piston rifle if you ask me.
While some might read about how the rifle is lightweight and operates on a piston action and put two and two together to surmise that the rifle will have an exaggerated recoil pattern, I will put those fears to bed. The ARX-100 is decidedly tame when compared to rifles like the AR-180, LWRC M6, and Mini-14. Though still retaining the rightward recoil impulse seen with the AR-180, it is nowhere near as jumpy and is easily brought back on target.
While I’ve listed many positive qualities of the ARX-100, not everything about this rifle can be viewed through rose tinted glasses. In fact, some of the baggage brought about by this rifle cannot be spun in a positive light at all. One shining example of a feature that cannot be viewed in any real positive light would be the sling loops. The designers at Beretta opted out of adding QD sockets to the ARX in favor of five metal sling loops molded into the body as well as one sling swivel placed in the gas block. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have a problem with such an idea, but the problem is that these loops are four strands of angel hair pasta in thickness. This means that there aren’t many good choices for sling attachment hardware which will mount to this rifle. The ARX-100 comes with a sling from the factory and while I must give them credit as it is of acceptable quality; I just don’t put much faith in the sling’s mounting equipment which is nothing more than about five inches of black ribbon that you’re supposed to double-back through the sling loops. The current sling I’ve got mounted, a Blue Force Gear Vickers sling, uses MASH loops. These fit through the sling loops but provide almost no freedom of movement meaning that while hanging the rifle does swing around in ways I wish it wouldn’t. On top of this, the MASH hooks have a gnarled polymer receiver of the rifle which is something that wouldn’t be a problem on rifles with more standard mounting hardware. In the event you buy this rifle, do not buy ULoops from Blue Force Gear; the studs will not fit through the sling loops which means you will not be able to mount the sling. The best option that will work that I’ve found are UWLs, which are rather expensive for what they are, in my opinion.
The more time you spend with this rifle, the more you are going to realize that it really is designed as a military rifle rather than a civilian rifle, and nowhere is this more apparent than under the ARX’s handguard. While mine comes with a full length rail on the bottom as it is a tan model, your standard black ARX comes with a built-in angled foregrip, while nice, it’s something many will want to swap out. The problem that most ARX owners will run into is that underneath the handguard is a proprietary mounting system for Beretta’s GLX-160A1 40mm Grenade Launcher. In my opinion, this could at least be justified by Beretta if they made a flare launcher model available for civilians, but they don’t. The reason this rail is present on the civilian model is simply because Beretta couldn’t be bothered to make a separate assembly line for the civilian model of the rifle so that those of us outside of the military market could enjoy a slimmer-profile rifle with the standard mounting system we know and love. Rather than spending unnecessary funds to accommodate the civilian market, they work with what they’ve already got and have built a small assortment of accessories to work around the constraints required for their military contracts that could hinder their sales on the civilian side.
While Beretta creating workarounds to deal with military features that might become a hindrance for civilian shooters may not seem like a major issue at first, you have to take a look at Beretta’s website to get a sense of how problematic it truly is. Beretta has an absolutely abysmal aftermarket for their own rifle. After browsing Beretta’s website, I’ve managed to find a total of five accessories made specifically for the ARX; two of which are only made for the .22LR version of the rifle. This gets even more pitiful when you find out that not a single one of these accessories is offered in tan! As far as I can tell, Beretta has no plans to support this rifle on the civilian market because they’re making more than they need to on military sales alone. We know for a fact Berettas has also made 7.62x39mm and .300BLK caliber swapping kits for the ARX as well, but they don’t seem to sell those to civilians for some odd reason. Looking beyond Beretta’s wares you won’t find any market support for this rifle, either. I’ve managed to find a single solitary accessory for this rifle made by another company: a cheek riser. I find it regrettable that Beretta has done so little to help this rifle thrive or even just survive on a market with so much competition.
Another plausible gripe I can see users having with this rifle is the stock’s length of pull. When fully extended, the ARX’s stock is less than 9.5″ from where it meets the receiver to the buttplate. I’m around 6’4″ and while I personally prefer to keep my stock on the third of four positions, I can understand why some people would like a length of pull that is simply not provided by this stock. When looking for an explanation as to why the stock is so squat, I suspect that this rifle being made for the military is the culprit once again. These days any modern military issues their soldiers armor carriers or plate carrier and the Italian military is no different. If you’ve ever worn a body armor, you’d know that it is going to add another layer between the butt of the rifle and the pocket of your shoulder, meaning that you’ve added around one inch of extra length to the absolute minimum length of your rifle’s stock. With that in mind, there is no need to add extra weight to your rifle by adding more positions that won’t get used because the length of pull will become excessive when used in conjunction with body armor. While this is a perfectly fine reasoning for the military, it doesn’t quite fly for the civilian market. I myself have no problem with the stock’s length, but it’s definitely worth something noting when we have people like the colossal 6’8″ Gargantuanon amidst our ranks. The Military Arms Channel claims that Beretta promised to make a slightly elongated stock, but I’ve not found one to date.
My last, and in my opinion, least important drawback of the ARX-100 is the built-in A2 grip. While my personal favorite is the MOE-K2 grip offered by Magpul, I’ve never outright hated the A2 grip. While I would’ve loved to see Beretta make the ARX have an AR-style grip mounting point, I’m not going to harangue them too hard over the molded-in A2 grip. It’s far from the most comfortable thing in the world, but at least it’s not a BCM Gunfighter.
As with any list of pros and cons, there are always things that don’t fall into either category but cannot be allowed to slip through the cracks as they are noteworthy enough to make or break the rifle to some people. In an attempt to keep this article from exploding in length, I will try and keep this section short and sweet.
First of all, the ARX’s charging handle is frustratingly short. This wouldn’t really be something worthy of mentioning if it weren’t for the brass deflector on either side that you’re going to knock your finger against every time you pull back the charging handle until you learn to catch the very edge of the charging handle rather than instinctively reaching for the middle where most other single-sided charging handles have a curve. It’s not the most annoying thing the world once you get used to it, but before you’ve got it down you might want to wear gloves.
Next up is the ARX’s adjustable gas block. It is a present feature, but it only offers two settings: horizontal for standard-pressure ammunition and vertical for low-pressure ammunition. It would’ve been nice to see a couple more settings so you don’t over-gas the rifle with rounds that offer less-than-usual pressure, but it’s not really a necessity.
Another slight annoyance is that the ARX cannot take generation three PMAGs due to the rear shelf added in between generation two and three. I don’t have any preference for PMAGs so this doesn’t bother me but if you do buy this gun beware that you’re going to want to stick with generation 2 PMAGs.
The ambidextrous controls of the rifle are a nice feature but I’ve noticed that the controls on the left-hand side of the rifle feel a little grittier than their counterparts on the right do. Whether or not this is because the left is salty over Hillary’s loss is yet to be determined.
The trigger, while infamously slandered by Alex “Daddy’s Gunnies” Capps of TFB TV, it’s honestly not all that bad. While the take up is heavy like fettuccine alfredo, the trigger is thick like bucatini which spreads the required force out and the break is as crisp and consistent as snapping a fasciae of uncooked angel hair. I’ve used far worse triggers, but I’ve used far better as well.
The rails on the side of the receiver can be taken off, but under them lay trapezoidal anchors that are molded into the gun, meaning that the rifle will not be smooth sided even if you take off the unnecessary and abrasive bulk.
When all’s said and done, the ARX-100 is head-turner on the firing line and won’t let you down in the field. It’s a workhorse that’s fun to shoot and, to me, has been worth every penny and every drawback that I’ve presented. I paid $1000 and I would gladly pay that again. If you’re willing to either get a deal or lose your money gambling with Botach, you can get them as low as $850 on sale, but otherwise you’re going to find them more often than not in the $1500-1800 range. In all honesty, I wouldn’t pay anywhere near that for this rifle. There are far better and more practical guns in that range, but for $1000 and under it’s more than worth looking into.