The Beretta ARX-160 is a new entry into the modular automatic weapons field intended for military and security/law enforcement applications. The weapon was designed and developed through the Italian Army's "Future Soldier" program and has since been adopted by special forces who have put the weapon through its paces in Afghanistan. A modular system by design, the ARX-160 is essentially a family of related weapons modified from the base assault model that includes a compact tactical carbine and a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR)/battle rifle form.
As designed, the ARX-160 showcases a very stout yet handy appearance with heavy use of polymer shielding where possible. The receiver is made up of a lower and upper unit with an integrated handguard shrouding much of the barrel. The handguard is extensively vented to assist in barrel cooling and the polymer approach provides the needed robustness while making for a lighter weight weapon. The grip is angled rearwards in the usual way and set under the rear portion of the receiver with the trigger within easy reach. The magazine well is conventionally set ahead of the trigger unit. The stock is solid and hinged to fold over the right side of the receiver for a more compact footprint without blocking the ejection port. The barrel protrudes a short distance ahead of the polymer body and is capped by a multi-slotted flash suppressor/compensator. A bayonet mounting is seen over the barrel. Iron sites are standard and include a front and rear pairing. Sections of Picatinny rail are identified along the top of the receiver (running the full-length of the weapon), along the handguard sides and a small section found under the handguard towards the muzzle end. Using these attachment points, the weapon can accept a variety of optics, aimers and tactical equipment as required by the operator.
Beretta has understood that the operator of its gun is key and modularity is a definite selling point to military and police units of the world. As such, the weapon is marketed as a very customizable system that includes a left-or-right ejection port and charging handle as well as ambidextrous controls to go along with the aforementioned accessories support. A tool-less "quick-change" barrel feature helps in preventing barrel overheating during sustained fire operation and its chrome-lined state promotes longevity. A 40mm GLX-160 series grenade launcher can be affixed to the underside of the handguard to broaden the tactical scope of the ARX-160 warfighter.
Key to the success of the ARX-160 is its short-stroke piston function which utilizes a rather long 2-inch movement. The action relies on the tried-and-true gas-operated approach with a rotating bolt. Rate-of-fire is listed at 700 rounds per minute with ranging possible up to 600 meters through use of the iron sights. The ARX-160 is chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO-standard cartridge with plans to ultimately include support for the 5.45x39mm Soviet and 7.62x39mm Soviet cartridges as well as a few others. In its primary 5.56x45mm-chambered form, the ARX-160 utilizes a 30-round detachable STANAG box magazine. The weapon will also feed form a 100-round C-Mag drum magazine for when heavy suppression service is the call of the day.
Beyond the ARX-160 is the ARX-100, representing a civilian-minded variant of the ARX-160 form restricted to semi-automatic fire only for obvious reasons.
Operators that have already accepted the ARX-160 include Albanian special forces, the Egyptian Navy, the Italian Army, Kazakhstan special forces, Mexican federal police units and Turkmenistan. Several other military forces have begun taking an interest in the emerging and promising Italian ARX-160 including India and Argentina.