In the ARX160SF, instead, the T rail takes all the length of the lower front handguard to allow the mount of the GLX160 (or of the GLX160A1, the shorter version of the GLX160 for the Special Forces). To mount all the normal accessories a Picatinny rail can be mounted over the T rail, allowing a full length Mil-Std rail under the barrel, but increasing the overall section and height of the front handguard.
The full length upper Picatinny rail also has been modified and does not incorporate anymore the BUIS (Back Up Iron Sight): the operator can choose and install whatever iron sights he/she prefers.
The two little lateral rails, on the front handguards, instead, have the same design of the infantry version.
A classic requirement for any Special Forces team, normally composed by a very limited number of operators, is to be able to sustain a high volume of full auto fire. This is needed for several reasons: during a raid, or while on patrol when breaking contact with the enemy. Due to the reduced member number of a typical team, each SF operator could face the need to keep for a relative long time sustained full auto fire. The assault rifle for an SF trooper must be able play several roles, eventually even to replace the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) of the team if this jams or while the SAW gunner is replacing the barrel, or to deliver suppressing fire to cover other teammates while they are moving to change their position. The consequence is that an SF rifle must be able to successfully deal with the stress due to the continuous shooting in certain situations.
While even all metal rifles, such as the Colt M4 and or HK416, had their problems to face the issue, the polymer puts forth new technical challenges that Beretta had to recognize and solve.
The first thing to do, in such a case, is to isolate the barrel from the polymer body. Beretta’s solution was to design and integrate in the handguard highly insulating ceramic inserts where the hot barrel could touch the firearm body.
The upper body has six sling mounts painted in black located in different positions to allow the shooter to mount a single point or double point sling, according to personal preferences. Beretta includes in the ARX160 accessories a specific sling that can be configured both as a traditional two point sling or as an intermediate two point configuration that will work as a single point.
Integral to the upper body there is the stock, built using two sections of a polymer extruded tubes of oval section. Shaped like an inverted “L” with the shorter arm working as a buttstock, this reflects the current trend in firearms ergonomics.
The stock can be folded and locked on the right side of the weapon. The stock hinge is particular, since the folding movement has a slight downward angle that will keep clear the right ejection port; allowing the ARX160 to be shot with the stock in closed position.
The stock is not only is foldable, but has a telescopic polymer buttstock that can be extended and locked in 6 different positions by pressing a black plastic trigger located in the internal part of the buttstock. The telescopic feature allows the shooter to adapt the stock length to his/her own body structure when wearing different kind of clothes (winter uniform or hot weather battledress) and eventually body armor. The buttstock plate has checkering for better retention and control of the firearm when held against the shoulder. Another interesting feature (present also in the infantry version) is that is possible to completely extract the buttstock section and use the internal space of the buttstock tube as a storage compartment.
Lower Receiver, Trigger Group and Mag-Well
The rifle can be operated by left handed or right handed operators as commands are located symmetrically on both sides.
Except for the button to fold the stock and the charging handle, that is located only on the left side of the upper receiver, all the commands are on the lower receiver, realized also in tan polymer and detachable from the upper when the ARX160SF is disassembled for cleaning, and have been built in metal.
The polymer lower accommodates two important components of the weapon: the trigger group with the pistol grip and the mag-well. All the command surfaces are painted in black: fire selector and safety, charging handle and mag release buttons.
The safety/fire selector has three positions: “S” for Safety, “1” for semiautomatic fire, and “R” for full auto rifle. The 3-round burst position, present in the AR70/90 has been eliminated and so doing the trigger group has increased its reliability and decreased the number of mechanisms that can break or malfunction.
The pistol grip has been modified from the infantry version and from the early version of the ARX160SF, showing now a finger notch similar to the one present on the M16A2 pistol grip. The design shows a finer checkering to increase grip and control even with heavily gloved hands.
The bottom of the pistol grip accommodates a little lid, built in black polymer, that when opened gives the shooter access to a little storage space for a cleaning kit, batteries or other useful items.
The trigger has been realized in black polymer and is protected by a trigger guard with a smooth curved design that hides the black polymer button of the hold open.
The shooter is able to close the bolt, once the empty magazine has been replaced with a fully loaded one, without moving the hand but just extending the same finger that pulls the trigger, thereby economizing movements and greatly improving the ability to be back in combat instantly after a magazine change. The mag-well has a wide mouth that naturally drives the magazine in place, helping the shooter to speed up the magazine insertion.
The 5.56 NATO version has three magazine release buttons: two are located on both sides of the mag-well and are operated by the shooter’s trigger finger; the third one is at the bottom of the trigger guard. This is also called by Beretta nomenclature the “multifunctional button”, because this not only allows releasing the mag for replacement, but when pressed upward locks the bolt opened.
ARX160SF: The Test Range
When the infantry version was adopted and shown in 2009, Beretta (now the brand that cares military and law enforcement production is called BDT, Beretta Defense Technologies) announced that the rifle would be a multi-caliber platform, in the specific case, 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC and 7.62 x 39, the last one being the caliber of the well known Com Bloc assault rifle AK47, the Kalashnikov.
When our test team arrived in Gardone Val Trompia at Beretta’s headquarters and reached the “Blue Room,” the Beretta fire range facility, we found there Ing. Giovanni Galluzzi, the ARX160 Product Manager, who was more than happy to show us how modular and flexible the ARX160SF is, and the ARX160 platform in general.