Like any other gun, depends on who’s shooting it, eh? Here’s Jerry Miculek.
Your mileage may vary. (Hat tip, Guns.com). One of the best parts of it (for us) was at about 5:20 into the video where Jerry comes in from the rain and compares the ARX’s features to the Bushmaster ACR; IWI Tavor and the FN SCAR. Here, Jerry’s millions of rounds of experience is interesting, although a service rifle needs to shine off the range, too. (And all of those, except the ACR, are proven military rifles; so, of course, is the competitor that Jerry admits all of these are striving to beat, the AR-15 series).
A few years ago we played around with a Beretta pistol-caliber carbine (CRX) and liked it. It took M9 magazines, which we have in great profusion, and was easy and fun to shoot, and like most Berettas throughout history, attractive to look at.
The pistol-caliber carbine was a fun plinker, but not a great defensive gun. A 5.56 will always be a better defensive round than any handgun round. And we recall thinking, “If they put some of this engineering into a 5.56 carbine, they’d be on to something.” Looks like Beretta may have been thinking along the same lines.
The Beretta is sold as the ARX-100 and the ARX-160 in 5.56 (we can’t explain the two names, although it might be European arms export laws). In addition, there are low-quality licensed .22LR knockoffs out there, which makes searching GunBroker a pain in the neck.
The ARX has some interesting features. (For another video with a review of it, check out this page, again at Guns.com). It’s all-ambidextrous (convertible left or right-handed), which should get a left thumb up from 10-15% of you. It has a slightly-AK-ish short-stroke piston system, but with an adjustable gas cylinder that lets you up the impulse if you have a temporary problem with anemic ammo or a fouled, sluggish gun. It has a quick-change barrel that should let you change caliber, but none of the promised conversions are shipping yet. The box markings show that Beretta plans to ship this rifle in .300 Blackout as well.
It also has some limitations. As Jerry notes, the flip-up sights don’t cowitness with an EOTech (they do, with an Aimpoint Comp M2). The magwell is a strict STANAG well, so it doesn’t always play nice with aftermarket magazines; specific mags that are known not to fit are Gen 3 PMags and Surefire large-caps. If you really love your X Products drum (and who doesn’t?) then you probably want to check it out before dropping coin.
In fact, however much you think you want this example of Italian style, or just to add the neutered civvy version of the current Italian Army service rifle to your collection, it might be strategically wise to hold off for a while. The current sales in GunBroker include a lot of sellers that look like they’re hoping to make above the manufacturer’s recommended list price, suggesting that pent-up supply is still excess of demand.
We do note something interesting about the Italian Army’s adoption of the ARX, and that’s that it’s one more announcement of a military power going to a compact carbine rather than a long (20″ or so) barreled rifle. The ARX comes standard with a folding and telescoping stock, so it fulfills the long-promised potential of a single weapon for crew members, technical troops, assault troops, and line infantry. This is something that’s on our mind with the USMC finally announcing that their riflemen’s M16s are going to be replaced with M4s. (They’re also replacing M16-based Designated Marksman’s Rifles, sort of, by assigning that task to the Auto Rifleman and his HK M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle).
Of course, while the Marines don’t leap till they’re sure, some armies have used carbines for a long time. Russia (then the USSR) went to a carbine in 1944 in the middle of the Great Patriotic War, replacing long rifles, and their postwar semi- and select-fire rifles were also in the compact carbine format with roughly 16-18″ barrels. Indeed, they’ve never gone back to a long barrel except for crew-served and support weapons.
In Italian service, the ARX replaces other 5.56 rifles (the AR 70 / AR 90) and also some submachine guns (PM 12S). It is part of a mix with 5.56 and 7.62mm machine guns and precision rifles.