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The AR 70/90 family was developed by Beretta SpA, Italy in the late 1960s when the Italian army decided to follow the trend towards small-bore assult rifles. The AR 70/90 is a gas-operated selective-fire rifle, which borrows from earlier, proven designs. Its action mechanism resembles that of the AK-47 and the receiver design is similar to the FN FAL's. The gas system has two operating modes, for normal usage and for adverse environmental conditions, which require a higher-powered gas pressure and the gas vent can also be closed completely for firing rifle grenades. The magazine release and the safety/fire selector switch (which features three settings for safe, singleshot and fully-automatic fire, optionally, a three-round limiter is available) are fully ambidextrous. The standard iron sights are dual aperture sights with settings for 200 and 450 meters range, adjustable for windage and elevation. The optional carrying handle features a three-dot quick aiming system, standard STANAG sights can be installed instead of the quick-release handle. A bayonet and a muzzle break can also be mounted.

A carbine variant with a polymer skeletal-type folding stock (HO -5, SS 11, Acc 8, Rcl. -2 when folded), which is otherwise identical is avaiable as SC 70/90. A short carbine, intended for airborne and armoured troops, with a reduced barrel length of 369 mm (instead of 450 mm on the longer models) is called the SCP 70/90. It features the same folding butt stock as the SC 70/90 (HO -4, SS 10, Acc 6, Rcl. -2 when folded) and is equipped with a flash hider, which can be quickly replaced by a grenade launcher. A civilian version, the AR 70/90 S, is produced and accepts a five-round magazine only and fires semi-automatically.

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