Buenos Aires taps Beretta for huge new contract
by MATTHEW MOSS
On Dec. 9, 2016, Argentina’s secretary of science, technology and production Hector Lostri announced that the Argentine military would adopt Beretta’s ARX-200 battle rifle and PX4 Storm nine-by-19-millimeter pistol to replace its current small arms.
The 7.62-by-51-millimeter ARX will succeed the military’s venerable FN FAL variants, while the PX4 supplants the venerable Browning Hi-Power. Argentina’s state-owned Fabricaciones Militares will produce the Beretta firearms under license.
Beretta introduced the ARX-200 at the end of 2015. It differs substantially in design from the earlier 5.56-by-45-millimeter ARX-160. Buenos Aires’ selection of the ARX-200 also signals Argentina’s intention to retain the hard-hitting, long-range 7.62-by-51-millimeter round, rather than move to the smaller 5.56-by-45-millimeter round that many NATO powers favor.
Beretta introduced the ARX-200 last year at London’s Defense and Security Equipment International expo. The 7.62-by-51-millimeter ARX-200 is a derivative of the 5.56-by-45-millimeter ARX-160. Gas-operated, it features a rotating bolt, polymer furniture and a fully-adjustable folding stock.
Externally, the two rifles appear similar, but the ARX-200 abandons the ARX-160’s ability to change which side spent brass ejects and its quick-change barrel system. Two features which, while ingenious, have reportedly suffered reliability problems.
Like the ARX-160, the ARX-200 is fully ambidextrous. The shooter can switch which side the rifle’s cocking handle is on.
The select-fire 7.62-millimeter ARX represents a significant advancement over Argentina’s ageing FALs, which Fabricaciones Militares also produced under license. The Beretta boasts better ergonomics, a full-length Piatinny top rail and a keymod front end.
With its stock fully extended, Argentina’s new battle rifle is 37 inches long and weighs 8.6 pounds unloaded — approximately four pounds lighter and 7.3 inches shorter than the standard FAL currently in service.
In late 2015, the Italian army adopted the ARX-200 for expert marksmen — tiratore esperto — on a one-per-section basis. However, Argentina’s selection of the 7.62-millimeter ARX represents the first large-scale adoption of Beretta’s ARX platform outside of Italy, which settled on the 5.56-by-45-millimeter ARX-160 in 2009.
The PX4 Storm replaces the Browning Hi-Power dating back to 1935. As with the FAL, Fabricacones Militares manufactured the Hi-Power under license for Argentina’s police and military. In September, news broke that Beretta had agreed on a licensing deal for Argentina to produce both the 92F and the PX4.
The PX4 has a history in Argentina. The Buenos Aires police department purchased 1,500 of the pistols direct from Beretta in 2014. The new polymer pistol is considerably lighter than the Hi-Power is — and its magazine holds two more rounds than the older pistol, with its 13-round capacity.
Engineers from Beretta are reportedly in the process of certifying Fabricacones Militares to begin production. The license deal includes a provision allowing Fabricacones Militares to export the weapons.
The deal with Argentina is welcome news for Beretta, one of Europe’s oldest major firearms-manufacturers. The company has struggled find buyers for its current ARX rifle series, recently losing out to the HK 416F in the competition to replace France’s FAMAS.