In Januray 2016 I had an opportunity to try out a pistol by a little-known Slovenian company called AREX. The AREX Zero 1 appeared to be an improvement of NB Inat’s improvement of Zastava’s improvement of the SIG 226.
Yes, there’s some strange lineage there, but the end result was an impressive all-metal, DA/SA, double-stack 9mm pistol with the decocker level smartly doubling as the slide lock/release.
A short while later the AREX Zero 1 would become popular as a survivor of the Military Arms Channel’s “Gauntlet” test. What I enjoy about the AREX Zero line of guns is that they are TRUE double-action or single-action. You can carry cocked and locked in single action with the safety on, or decocked, with or without the safety.
So what’s new with the AREX Zero 2S? At first glance it appears that only cosmetic changes have been made. I returned the Zero 1 sample gun so long ago I hardly remember it, so a true comparison isn’t possible. What drew my attention immediately to the Zero 2S is the grip texture we’ll affectionately call “giraffe’s neck,” along with some slight changes to the ergonomics.
As seen in the photo above, the grip features a gentle bump on the left side. This bump was found to help keep the firing thumb of large-handed shooters from bumping or resting on the controls while firing. Interestingly enough, the same bump helps smaller hands get a full grip with something to press against for more contact.
Additionally, you’ll notice the toe of the grip kicks out a bit. This helps reduce the chances of pinching a finger during reloads and also sort of locks the firing hand in place. Combine that feature with an intelligent grip texture and the AREX Zero 2S parks itself nicely and comfortably in the hand.
For a closer look at the total package see the Tabletop video below . . .
The range is where we learned just how the improved ergonomics worked both for my men’s XXL-glove hands and Teya’s women’s size small hands. To see how AREX did at maintaining the legendary reliability of the Zero line, we hit the range to test the basics including full magazine +1, ten different loads of all case and projectile types and varying weights, trigger control, and practical accuracy.
It’s a longer video because there was a lot to be said about the AREX Zero 2S . . .
What amazed me second-most (behind how well the ergonomics fit two very different hand sizes) was the Zero 2S’s trigger. It’s not an amazing competition trigger with a 1911 break and Walther-like reset. It’s a duty/defensive trigger with ample travel.
What impressed me, though, was how smooth the double-action pull is, and how the slightly longer-than-anticipated reset helped me shoot better. It didn’t help in the accuracy test, but when mag dumping, and in our trigger control test, it forced me to wait until the approximate time when the gun had fully settled after the previous shot…almost like having a voice whispering, “wait for it”.
I’ve reviewed hundreds of pistols over the years. As a result, I can typically find the good in most modern-production guns, but the AREX Zero 2S made me pause and appreciate what is truly is a fine pistol.
The features attracted me and the aesthetics drew me in, but it was the shooting that really sold me. The price tag may induce some sticker shock, but this isn’t some plastic gun squirted into a mold. It’s an aluminum frame CNC-machined in a modern European facility. Production costs are higher for that, and in this case the end result is worth it even with a failing dollar.
Specifications: AREX Zero 2S 9mm Pistol
Barrel Length: 4.2″
Weight w/magazine: 32oz
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
With 13 loads tested including brass, steel, aluminum, plated brass and steel cases, and various projectile shapes, not one of them malfunction. I fed it rounds with bullets from 65 to 165 grains including personal defense and frangible rounds. Everything chambered and everything went bang.
Ergonomics * * * * *
Initial concerns about the broad grip and reach for a double-action first pull were overcome by two shooters with very different hand sizes. Both enjoying the AREX Zero 2S. How they fit 18 rounds of 9×19 ammunition into the grip without making it a foot long, I do not know.
Accuracy * * * * *
A crisper trigger would make grouping shots easier, but that’s a shooter skill not a mechanical fault. The AREX Zero 2S is capable of stacking rounds in the same hole if the shooter does their part.
Concealability * * * ½
At 1.4″ wide, and with an 18-round (albeit it short) magazine, the AREX Zero 2S is on the larger size of current trends. The breadth will challenge both strong side and appendix carriers.
Overall: * * * * ½
This is a tough conclusion to make. Few guns can serve every role well. The AREX Zero 2S was obviously intended as a duty gun and as such, it may be a challenge for some to carry. That aside, this is an excellent pistol that is very comfortable to shoot and performs really well on the range. Trigger snobs will need to learn to deal with some reset travel, but that same travel will likely serve less-disciplined shooters well. Aside from that, the asking price is a bit stiff, but that’s the case for most nice things. And it’s worth it.