It’s official. I’m out of .22LR. I knew I would be, but not this quickly.
When the Beretta ARX 160 arrived on Friday, I spent a couple of hours working it out. Dry. I took it apart. Put it back together. I worked the bolt, and practiced with the iron sights. I’d shot a couple of magazines back in January at the SHOT Show, and I liked the rifle then. But it is different when you don’t have to pass the gun off to the next drooling review writer.
Now, in the midst of this ludicrous .22LR drought, I didn’t want to waste a single round. I have a Trijicon RMR in for review, and I put that on the ARX, and loaded the first magazine. Three rounds later, the RMR was zeroed and the ARX was putting rounds through the same hole at 25 yards.
I emptied the rest of that magazine very judiciously. And I loved every minute of it.
The ARX 160 in .22LR
The ARX 160 .22 is Beretta’s new rimfire version of their already legendary ARX 160 in 5.56. I say legendary because we haven’t seen it, yet. Someday. And news of the rimfire version is encouraging.
The gun is light. It is mostly polymer, and that’s noticeable when you pick it up. It looks like it should weigh much more. The stock is collapsible, and folds onto the right side of the receiver, where it locks securely.
The forend and the whole length of the top is covered in rail. I don’t know how much of what you might be tempted to put on (or under, or beside) a .22, but you have more than enough space. The tiny little Trijicon looks a bit lonely up there. But it works great.
One of the nicest aspects of the gun is its ambidexterity. The charging handle is very easy to reverse. And the ejector can be relocated so it spits brass out the left side of the gun instead of the right. The safety is already ambidextrous, as is the magazine drop.
The safety is a really intuitive design. When you grip the gun, your thumb lands right on the safety. Disengaging it requires very little movement. The same is true for engaging the safety. The trigger finger’s first knuckle sits just below the lever. When you take your finger off the trigger, that knuckle easily pushes the safety back into safe.
As for the magazines, they are typical to the .22LR AR platform. This one is polymer and has a spring loaded follower that can be compressed from the outside to make loading easier. The magazine holds 20 rounds in a staggered double stack pattern and it feeds flawlessly.
The bolt will lock open on an empty magazine, but there isn’t a bolt release. Instead, the charging handle drops the bolt. And both sides of the chamber are open, greatly reducing any chance of a jam.
Shooting the ARX 160
Did I mention that the gun feeds flawlessly? Right out of the box? And it ejects cleanly. Reliably. Predictably. Every time. The ARX 160 functions like all firearms should. When you put .22LR into the magazine, and load it into the gun, your work is done. The ARX 160 will handle the rest.
I blew through my last .22, and had to beg some more off of friends. We put more than 500 rounds through the gun at the one range session. We dug up some junk, too. We shot everything from CCI Mini-Mags down. Left over bulk stuff. Sub-sonic. Ancient .22LR that had been stored in porous Zip-locks in the humid south. The gun is designed for high velocity .22, but it ate everything.
That is how a .22 is supposed to work. No break in periods. No excuses.
And it is as accurate as I can be. The RMR helps. A lot. But the iron sights on the ARX 160 are excellent. Slower, though, than the red dot. We’d set up a series of steel plates at the range. The smallest was 6 inches. The largest, a man size sheet of half inch thick AR550, was simply impossible to miss. But even the little circles weren’t a challenge, no matter how fast I pulled the trigger.
Slowing it down, I was capable of surprising accuracy. Bull’s eye accuracy at 25 yards. Shooting from a bench rest, I can group the CCI Mini-Mags in hole the size of a quarter.
And there is no felt recoil when the stock is unfolded and extended. When folded, it rocks slightly, but only because the barrel tilts the balance point of the gun forward when the stock is not braced on your shoulder.
Any flaws with the ARX 160?
There are two things I’d like to change about the ARX 160. I’d like a couple more notches on the collapsible stock. It is barely long enough for me at 6 foot 4 inches. But I’ve lived with that reality half of my life. Nothing’s ever long enough. At least this rifle isn’t going to come back and bite my nose, like most ARs do.
The other issue has to do with the trigger. The trigger pull is manageable. It isn’t that. But the trigger can be pulled after the last round is gone and the chamber is locked back. It makes a soft pop, which isn’t dangerous in any way. Yet it the only weakness in an otherwise flawless design.
Some are going to grouse about the outsourced manufacturing. Beretta is working with Umarex to build these. Umarex has their hands in almost all of the imported sporting .22LRs. I’ve shot a number of their guns and have never once had a complaint. They build guns in Germany and, if the ARX 160 is any indication, they do a tremendous job.
The MSRP on the rifle is set at $595. A pistol version, due out soon, will be $545. They should be showing up in stores very soon.
The ARX 160 is an epic fun gun. If you’d rather have a full sized semiautomatic .22, as opposed to the undersized rifles so common to the chambering, this could be it. It is as capable as many of the .22s that are always held up as examples.
Or maybe you’d rather have something practical. In that case, the ARX 160 in .22 will be an ideal practice rifle for the ARX 160 in 5.56. It should (if the ammo shortage abates) provide a safe and inexpensive way to train.
Regardless, I’d suggest taking the ARX 160 out for a test drive. It is an addictive gun. I haven’t had as much fun shooting a review in a long long time.