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Italy Has a Modular, Multi-Caliber Rifle in Service Now

With all the talk about the demise of the Mk-16 SCAR and it's reinvention as a caliber conversion to the Mk-17, it might be instructive to resurrect a brief delivered at this year's Small Arms Symposium in May.

Former H&K marketing guy and freelance gun guru Jim Schatz had a wide ranging talk that focused in part on commercially available options for fielding an enhanced battle rifle now that is multi-barrelled and multi-caliber.

He mentioned the Beretta ARX-160, which is in service now with the Italian army, outlining its capability as either a 5.56, 7.62 or 6.8 (and 5.45) "without any tools." Well, this weapon cropped up again in the latest issue of Tactical Weapons magazine, published by our friends at Tactical-Life.com and Harris Publications. There's a pretty detailed profile of the weapon and it's capabilities.

Beretta has made good use of the lessons learned by Italian soldiers in the field. In order to be more reliable in sand and dusty conditions, the ARX160 has been designed to function with minimal lubrication. The ARX160 can also be field stripped into a bare minimum of components without tools, to facilitate maintenance. There are also no small parts or pins that can be easily lost. Ambidextrous, the Beretta ARX160 can switch its charging handle to either the right or left side in a matter of seconds. The direction that spent cartridge casings eject can also be easily changed. An adjustable four-position collapsible stock is a standard feature. The butt plate is rounded and features a checkered, slip-resistant surface. During transport in tight spaces or for use during actions such as fast-roping and parachuting, the stock can also be folded forward along the right side of the receiver.

Both the safety/fire selector and the magazine release controls are designed to be ergonomic and ambidextrous. There is a fire selector switch on both the right and left side just above the pistol grip. This location allows the selector to be easily manipulated by the shooter’s thumb while still keeping a positive grip on the weapon while held in the firing position. There is also a magazine release control on both sides of the receiver located just above the trigger and magazine well. The magazine release can be operated using the index finger, and like the selector switch, it can be done while holding the rifle in the firing position. As a bonus there is also a third magazine release along the bottom, forward section of the trigger guard. All three magazine releases are fenced to minimize the chance of an unintentional magazine ejection.

The cool thing about this rifle (and I'm sure many of you already know about it, but I'd love to see some discussion here) is that it's in service NOW. The ACR is still a player, but not widely fielded and the SCAR common receiver isn't fully matured (at least as far as SOCOM is concerned). But what Schatz brings up and is a very real issue in the Army's search for an improved carbine is that there are weapons on the market today that can give Joes and grunts major improvements over the M-4/M-16 with no further R&D needed. What's taking so long?

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