Famous Italian arms company Pietro Beretta Spa began to develop a new assault rifle, chambered for American 5.56mm cartridge in 1968. The resulting design appeared circa 1972 and after trials was adopted by the Italian Special forces, as well as by some foreign armies, like those of Jordan, Malaysia and others. The rifle was designated AR-70/223, and was available in three basic versions (standard assault rifle AR-70/223, carbine SC-70/223 with same barrel and folding butt, and a special carbine SCS-70/223 with shortened barrel and folding butt). The Squad Automatic (light machine gun) variation of the basic 70/223 design, with the heavy, quick detachable barrel also was developed but never produced in quantity.
The basic design showed some minor flaws, and when Italian army decided to replace its ageing 7.62mm Beretta BM59 automatic rifles with the new 5.56mm NATO assault rifle, Beretta entered the contest with the upgraded version of the 70/223. This upgraded version appeared in 1985, and eventually won the following trials. In 1990 it was adopted as the basic AR-70/90 assault rifle, with the available modifications of SC-70/90 (same rifle but with the folding buttstock for Special Forces) and SCP-70/90 (Airborne troops carbine with shortened barrel and folding butt). A squad automatic version with heavy, non-detachable barrel and detachable bipod is available as AS-70/90. The Beretta AR-70/90 is a general issue shoulder arm with the Italian Army, and also is offered for export. Both 70/223 and 70/90 rifles are available in semi-automatic only versions, for police or civilian markets.
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