As this gun writer has pointed out in multiple previous articles for 19FortyFive, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy is not only the world’s oldest gunmaker but is also the world’s oldest existing industrial firm of any kind, dating back to 1526.
Besides the actual quality of its products, another major reason why Beretta remains financially viable after all these years is marketing savvy on the part of Beretta Defense Technologies, which ensures that the company’s firearms are the choice of the military and police forces not only within Italy but Italy’s NATO and non-NATO allies alike. Ergo, the Beretta 92FS/M9 pistol is the standard issue pistol of the Italian Armed Forces as well as their counterparts in Jordan, Malta, Morocco, and, not to mention up until very recently, the U.S. Armed Forces. The Beretta M12 submachine gun does duty with the Italian Carabinieri and elite NOCS and GIS commandos as well as their counterparts in France, Portugal, Guatemala, Guyana, and Saudi Arabia.
And then in the arena of assault rifles, there’s the Beretta AR70/90 5.56x45mm. Let’s take a closer look at this particular weapon.
Beretta AR70/90 Early History and Specifications
As indicated by the second number within the rifle’s alphanumeric designation, it was officially adopted as the standard-issue assault rifle of the Italian Armed Forces (Forze armate italiane) in 1990, although the first working samples were actually made ready for evaluation in 1985. It was the replacement for the AR70, which had been in service since 1972 and was officially redesignated the AR70/223 to avoid confusion with the successor rifle.
According to the WeaponSystems.net info page on the AR70/90, “Among its improvements are a strengthened receiver, the use of the 5.56x45mm NATO round, an optional three round burst ability, a bipod and a detachable carrying handle with light source for low light firing. The AR 70/90 retains the same design principle with the stock, forearm and pistol grip are made of plastics and the receiver out of sheet metal. Only some pieces of the internal mechanism need to be made out of quality steel.”
Noted firearms expert Ian Hogg refers to the AR70/90 as the “Super improved version of AK-47” and “in many ways super refined AK-47s,” though quite frankly, with all due respect to Mr. Hogg, I only see a superficial resemblance at most.
The gas-operated AR70/90 has a standard barrel length of 17.7 inches, an overall length of 39.3 inches, and weight of 8.8 pounds. Standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds, Cyclic rate of fire is 670 rounds per minute, and effective range is 400 yards.
Additional variants include the SC70/90 folding stock version, the SCS70/90 carbine version with a shorter barrel in addition to the folding stock, and the AS70/90 light machine gun (LMG) version. In all, roughly 130,000 of these rifles have been produced.
Besides the aforementioned Italian Armed Forces, the rifle has been used by the military and/or police forces of roughly a dozen countries, including Albania, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Honduras, Jordan, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Zimbabwe.
The rifle was used by Italian troops deployed to Afghanistan, and has reportedly also seen use in the Iraq War, Mexican drug cartel wars, and the Syrian Civil War. By all accounts, the weapon has performed up to snuff.
Nonetheless, a replacement rifle has already been in the works. To quote Mr. Hogg:
“In 2008, the Italian Armed Forces initiated the layered Soldato Futuro (Future Soldier) program, which sought to modernize the elements of the Armed Forces following the wake of innovations and battlefield experiences in the 2000s. One of the program’s perimeters examined a potential replacement/upgrade for the Beretta AR70/90…Beretta began to develop an upgraded version of the Beretta AR70/90 platform. Still, the product in development would eventually evolve into the Beretta ARX-160, which would be chosen as AR70/90’s successor as the standard assault rifle of the Italian Armed Forces.”
Want Your Own? Good Luck with That!
The GunsAmerica website had some AR70s listed for sale, but alas, they’re sold out. Ditto for Rock Island Auction’s offerings; they sold a “Scarce and Desirable Beretta AR70 Sport Semi-Automatic Rifle with Box” for $4,313.00 back in September 2021 and a “Scarce Beretta AR-70/223 Semi-Automatic Rifle” back in September 2017 for $3,450.00.
Christian D. Orr has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.