In this article it will be presented a modern item of the Italian Army: The Assault Rifle 70/90.
This gun has substituted the Beretta BM59 and has been companion of several generations of soldiers during draft and of volunteers in the Italian Army.
AR70/90 has participated to most important missions whit Italian Army from the early 90’s onwards, among which there are: “Vespri Siciliani” operation from 1992 to 1998, in which the State sent the Army to Sicily to fight against the mafia; “Ibis” operation in Somalia in 1993; in Afghanistan war against Taliban in 2001; in Iraq war in 2003; in Lebanon war from 2006 to 2011.
Now, let’s step back to 1968: in this year it started the collaboration between the Beretta factory and Sig-Manurhin factory to cooperate to a only project that had to give life to a new and innovative assault rifle. The Swiss factory gave up few years later since the partnership with Beretta to continue a own project. It was so that Beretta continued all alone the development of this gun that saw the light in 1972.
In that year Beretta proposed its project to the Italian Army that subjected the gun to the exam by the special commission and, after several tests, it was adopted with the denomination of “AR70”.
Let’s remember also that it was born the need of NATO standardization (STANAG regulations, abbreviation of Standardization Agreement).
It was destined to special units such as San Marco Regiment of Italian Navy, NOCS department of Italian Police and Italian Air Force to equip the VAM (Air Force security service, in Italian: Vigilanza Aeronautica Militare).
The project seemed good but didn’t obtain the expected result and was never used by the rest of the Italian Army.
The three adoptions from San Marco, NOCS and VAM became necessary because these units didn’t even have BM59 rifles supplied, but yet the obsolete MAB (Moschetto Automatico Beretta) in 9x19 mm Parabellum.
In half 80s the Italian Army deliberated the announcement of competition for the substitution of the too dated BM59 in 7.62x51 NATO: obviously Beretta participated and presented, in 1985, a new rifle which originated, with some improvement, from AR70.
Other participants where the project of Bernardelli whit Israeli Galil named VB-SR and of Franchi with G41 on HK license.
In 1988-89 Beretta model won all the valuation tests by Military Factory “Polo Mantenimnto Armi Leggere di Terni” and in 1990 was adopted from Italian armed forces as individual gun, with the denomination of AR70/90, where “90” means just the year of adoption.
They have been assigned in terms of 79.587 items.
AR70/90 is a conventional gas recovery weapon, with the recovery pole housed on the cane; it presents a recovery device with holes for fragmentation of gases at the exit, both on ordinary and critical conditions of shooting: in “C” position (closed) it limits the exit of gas, completely exploiting its rearm capacity (critical conditions), while “O” means the normal use position (open).
It moreover has a lever for the launch of rifle-grenade that, when completely closed, prevents the escape of gas.
In fact, rising it, shot gas don’t exit from the valve, so that it can be used the maximum power push for the launch of the device.
The shooting selector is placed on the left part of the rifle and has four positions on circular movement:
- Single shot (1 on the selector);
- 3 shots controlled burst (3 on the selector);
- Automatic shooting (R on the selector);
- Safe (S on the selector).
AR70/90 is equipped with hold-open system on the left part of the castle and with loader release and ambidextrous safe with white S on the selector lever (in the AR70 version, the safe was placed on the right part of the weapon and the release was placed behind the loader and was very similar to those of BM59).
Regarding the diopter, it is placed between the two little protection wings and it is set for 250 or 400 meters in according to NATO standard.
Over the castle there is a removable transport handle, which presents some hooking STANAG type (but not really) to allow an equipment of several accessories like: light intensification systems and 4x optics.
About the handle, clearly origin from M16A3, Beretta added, differently from Americans, a very helpful moon torch for quick ranging in short distances.
Other equipments of AR70/90 include: the American grenade launcher M203 for 40x46 grenades that, with a special receiver designed by PMAL (Polo Mantenimento delle Armi Leggere Terni), allows it the installation under the handguard of AR70/90; it was used during operations in Somalia and utilized from Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza as antiriot smoke launcher.
Another grenade launching system, that partially substitute the M203 version, is the new GLX-160 version, developed for the Beretta ARX-160 which, thanks to some modifies, is coupled also to AR70/90.
Moreover, it has the winter trigger, special for the utilize of heavy gloves, because the trigger bridge can be opened down simply by the point of a bullet, allowing the passage of winter gloves.
Obviously, AR70/90, as its predecessor BM59 and upon request of the Army, was supplied, as well as with the fixed but, the infantry version, even in other two conformations:
- SC70/90 (Special Carabine) version with the folding but, especially supplied to Alpine troops.
- SCP70/90 (Special Carabine Paratroopers) version for airborne or mechanized troops, with folding but too, and muzzle break shorter than that of two previous versions, to allow it to be entered in the sheath employed in launches with parachute. For this model it was planned also a standard grenade launcher with a clutch, type bayonet (very similar to that already experienced on BM59PC) for the launch of rifle grenade.
Regarding the “C” of the acronym of the model, someone claims that it may be “Corps” instead of “Carabine”. According to logic, we believe that, being the alternative to “Rifle” of AR, “Carbine” sounds more correct.
There was also a model AS 70/90 (“arma di squadra”) contrived as support weapon (light machinegun): it was intended to support a longer fire. The long barrel had a heavier profile and a muzzle break having a different design; the barrel cover is in sheet metal with ventilation holes; different is the bipod more structured and adjustable, as well as more solid is the buttstock, with a stand for the weak hand. The “L” diopter is substituted by an adjustable and folding rear sight. The most substantial difference in comparison with the other models, is in the functioning with open bolt, to allow the refreshing during shoot pauses and to avoid the self-firing of the cartridge due to the temperatures developed by uninterrupted fire.
The composition of the buttstock in the AR70/90 version for infantry is made of nylon strengthened with glass fiber, which is resistant to impacts and is provided of an anti-recoil gum buttstock, while in the SC and SCP versions, the buttstock is made of a light aluminum alloy, so that it makes the weapon lighter and allows the folding buttstock on the right side. The hilt is still in polymer and there is a compartment where it is housed the cleaning kit. The handguard is made of thermoplastic with aeration holes to make lighter the weapon and not to overheat it.
Under the handguard, there is a removable bipod of light alloy.
Regarding ammunition, according to new NATO standards, it is adopted the 5,56x45 mm caliber with ball of the type SS190 in 62 grains (Steel penetrator and posterior core of lead) which substituted the previous M193 in 55 grains and the use of one particular magazine was bound, which was the same for all the other weapons supplied to the countries joining the Atlantic Alliance, that is the STANAG 4179; according to the project, AR70/90 could receive every normal magazine, but those of AR of first manufacture are hardly to be put in other NATO weapons. A characteristic to be noticed is about the material of the magazines produced by Beretta for the AR 70/90: these, instead of light alloy, are built in solid and resistant steel.
The AR70/90 has been marketed by Beretta and adopted also by other Nations such as Egypt (SCP version), Burkina-Faso, Malaysia, Mexico, Malta, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay and Zimbabwe (see gallery at the end of the article)
ACCESSORIES AND EQUIPMENT
As first furniture, the gun was equipped with a special fastening attachment for the optic, substituting the handle. Obviously, this fitting wasn’t successful as out from STANAG dimensions and, by then, ancient compared to what the military market could offer.
Then, for the AR70/90 they were prepared attachments with slide Picatinny, substituting the previous version, which allowed the equipment of special optics, lasers, red points; these variants were utilized also by special units as Col Moschin and San Marco Regiment.
Although many units had the freedom in personalizing weapons, we must remember standard equipments too, on slide such as the night visor Orion by Zeiss or the pointing system red-dot Aimpoint.
The bayonet of AR70/90 origin itself from that of BM59, named M4, resulted from the American one for M1 Carbine, but with black plastic knurled handler and has the same type of connection.
The rifle sling is made of durable fabric and whit quick release system; originating from the AR 70 two-point sling.
AR 70/90 has had an active service of over 20 years and still today is part of the Italian Army equipment, even if since 2010 a slow and gradual substitution whit the new and more modern Beretta ARX-160 rifle has begun, belonging to the new “Soldato Futuro” project.
Thank to this initial dismantling, the Italian Company NUOVA JAGER lead by Massimiliano Locci, to which goes our big thank, managed to gain the dismantled amount of standard version AR70/90, directly from Italian Army depo, that, after their demilitarization, will be enter on the private market.
Thanks to Marcello Guidotti for having exposed this rifle to us and giving us the possibility to take pictures to it.
Click HERE to see AR70/90 in action in our image gallery database. (look at the end of article)
Copyright© 2017 - Stefano Pinoni, CoEx, Daniele Belussi, Massimiliano Locci (Nuova Jager) - Traslation: Nicola Cristofoli and Irene Carpanese.