I’m not ready to answer that question. This is our first look at the rifle. I picked the gun up from my FFL this morning and had it on the range by noon. The sun has set, and I’m in front of the computer trying to make sense of my first impressions. Is it the Ultimate? Making that assertion is forcing us into a game of comparisons, a game gun reviewers (most shooters, really) are well equipped to play.
So let’s look at the competition. One of the defining features of the AR-15 platform is its modularity. Stocks, grips, forends, switches, levers, even uppers—all can be changed to fit the preferences of the user. But that isn’t the root of modularity. Modularity, as a concept, was conceived so that (in this case) rifles could be built on the assembly-line process. No hand-fitting pieces together, just snap them in place. What now passes as tactical fashion only appeared as an afterthought.
We switch out grips and forends, seeking slight improvements in a gun that works quite well in its stock configuration. Changes that make a gun “custom” go against modularity. And a lot of the changes made to the AR platform require special tools. Changing out a barrel takes time. It is almost impossible to really alter the ways the controls work, unless you redesign the gun itself or add extra parts.
The ARX changes some of this. You can still dress it up with accessories, but you can’t change out the stock, or the grip, or the forend. At least not yet. Instead, you can decide which of the three mag releases you want to use (left, right, or bottom). Within seconds, you can move the charging handle from the right to the left side. It is even easier to change ejection. A simple lever close to the stock switches the extractor from one side to the other.
Beretta will eventually have more calibers available, all of which will be interchangeable. And they won’t require any advanced modification by a gunsmith or armorer to be adaptable. Left-handed shooters can pick up any ARX and make it fit their needs in seconds. You can see why a platform like this would be appealing to a department that may want to equip a number of shooters.
The ARX 100 has one big leg up on most of the 5.56 competition. The rifle has a “constant contact/short-stroke gas piston system” that keeps fouling gases from emptying into the chamber. Even after shooting several hundred rounds this afternoon, the rifle remained incredibly clean. Though I can’t yet confirm this personally, I would imagine that this rifle won’t need to be cleaned as often as the typical AR. And when it does, cleaning the chamber will be much easier.
The polymer chassis and stock make it light: seven pounds. This can be almost disconcerting. It looks much heavier than it is. When I picked it up, I was a bit shocked at how light it was. That’s a really attractive feature in a gun you may have to carry all day. And after you pull the trigger a couple of times, any misconceptions you may have about its ability to handle the recoil begin to fade. It is light, and the gun moves during recoil, but it is comparable to other 5.56s. When I was looking back at the video we shot on the range, I can see just how flat it shoots. There’s almost no rise at all.
Shooting the ARX 100
We shot a couple of different types of 5.56 and .223 through the rifle, and only one flavor gave us any issues. This rifle will not cycle steel-cased ammo. The steel-on-steel in the chamber was too much for the gun, and it couldn’t pull cases free. The extractor never popped off, which left an empty on the extractor. Clearing the jam wasn’t an issue, but you had to really muscle the bolt back all the way. After we’d gone to the range, I read some reports of issues with gen 3 PMAGS, but that isn’t something I can confirm yet. I’ll test it soon.
The rifle shoulders easily, and the irons are easy to use. The rear sight has six different apertures that will allow for target engagement out to 800 yards. Maybe. I had no problem with the irons at 25 yards, or 100, but I can’t image pulling the trigger on a target 800 yards out with only iron sights. I know it can be done, but it isn’t something we often ask of our tactical rifles.
The trigger on this rifle breaks somewhere north of 10 pounds. That’s where my scale stops. I would guess 11 pounds (and that is a very educated guess, thanks to the fact that the scale stops at 10 pounds). There is hardly any take-up, though. The break is clean, but heavy. Pull it like you mean it. I’m not sure what’s behind this. I’ve read that the trigger breaks closer to six pounds. I tested and retested, though.
The ARX 100 is going on sale this week, and the price is $1,950. This isn’t out of line with a lot of piston-driven 5.56 rifles. And if you consider how much most of us spend on our ARs, getting them to fit and run just right, it is a competitive price.
I first shot the ARX at the Beretta factory in Accokeek, Maryland, almost two years ago. I shot it again at the SHOT show. I’ve been impressed by the basic performance of the gun and have only just begun to push it through the rigorous testing that we will do for this review. But so far, everything is running smoothly. I wish I could say that about all of the guns we get in here. I can’t. But I do expect civilian versions of tactical rifles to function, flawlessly, with absolutely no break-in period. And the ARX has met those expectations, except for the steel-cased .223.
Is the ARX 100 the Ultimate Tactical Rifle? I think we all recognize the obvious exaggeration. I will say this: the ARX 100 is forcing some new topics into the tactical conversation. The interchangeable calibers will be one area that the competition has to match. The ease of use, especially for lefties, isn’t easy to dismiss. The functionality-to-weight ratio makes other rifles in the same category seem unnecessarily heavy. And then there’s this—this gun may appeal even more to agencies than it will to individuals. If Beretta knows anything besides sporting shotguns and service pistols, it is contract competition. The ARX 100 may not be the ultimate, but it is going to change the game, and a couple of hundred AR-15 makers have just lost a bit more traction.