The Beretta AR70 series serves as the standard-issue service rifle of the modern Italian Army. Design work on a new, NATO-compatible automatic assault rifle began in the 1970s when the AR70 existed in a .223-chambered form. To this point, the Italian Army fielded the oft-forgotten Beretta BM59 which was, for all intents and purposes, a modified World War 2-era M1 Garand self-loading rifle with a 20-round box magazine in 7.62mm form. The militarized AR70 then emerged in 1985 firing the widely-accepted 5.56x45mm NATO-standard cartridge with Beretta heading the endeavor. It was taken on by the Italian military (including Navy and Air Force) as well as local police forces.
With its chosen cartridge (consistent with other Western assault rifles), the AR70 line features a proven gas-operated action which allows for a rate-of-fire reaching 650 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity is listed at 3,100 feet per second with an effective firing range out to 1,600 feet. The weapon is fed through a 30-round detachable box magazine and can also accept a 100-round count drum in C-Mag form. Iron sights are integrated as standard as are grenade aiming sights for when firing rifle grenades. The AR70 is allowed select-fire through a lever which provides semi-automatic, three-round burst and full-automatic functionality. The weapon is largely of heavy metal with some polymer used. The carrying handle is integrated into the top of the receiver. A flash hider caps the barrel. The shoulder stock is hollow and there is standard support for a field bayonet. A folding bipod is optional as is a red dot aimer.
The AR70 family of guns includes the AR70S which loses the bayonet mounting as well as the flash hider. The related AR90 is a compact travel version of the AR70 and features a skeletal folding stock for compactness (suitable for airborne infantry). The SCP series is further shortened and lightened (as something akin to an assault carbine) while retaining all of the functionality of the original. It has arrived in both SCP70 and SCP90 forms.
Despite its status as the standard Italian Army service rifle, the AR70 series has seen its best days with the arrival of the new and ultra-modern Beretta ARX-160 introduced in 2008.
The AR70 has seen issuance in the countries of Burkina Faso, Egypt, Honduras, Italy, Jordan, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Paraguay and Zimbabwe.