Tested: Arex ReX Alpha Competition 9 mm Pistol

posted on May 18, 2018

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Slovenia to learn firsthand about the manufacturing processes used by Arex to produce the company's high-quality ReX Zero 1 pistols. During that visit, media members were treated to some quality time at the shooting range with early production versions of the yet-to-be-released ReX Alpha race gun. Based on my experience with it then I have been chomping at the bit to get my hands around the production model imported by the Fime Group for the U.S. market. My expectations were high when it arrived and I'm glad to report that they were met or exceeded on all points.

With the ReX Alpha placed next to a ReX Zero 1 (like the Tactical model shown here) it’s easy to see how much has changed, and remained the same, in the production of this purpose built competition pistol. Following the same pattern as the ReX Zero line-up, the ReX Alpha is a semi-automatic 9 mm based on the SIG Sauer design. It operates using a modified Browning linkless locking system with the in-house, single-piece barrel locking into the ejection port.

The Alpha's slide is precision milled from a single piece of chrome-moly steel bar stock and treated with a durable matte black Nitrocarburized finish like the Zeros. However, it has been highly customized with a variety of cut outs, beveled surfaces and matching front and rear cocking serrations. Even the barrel's chamber has been modified to blend in with the slide's sleek outline.

The metallic sight system is dovetailed into the slide with a red fiber optic in the front and a fully adjustable target sight at the rear. The 5" Nitrocarburized barrel is cold-hammer forged from barstock with traditional 6-groove rifling that can be safely fired with lead bullets. The recoil assembly consists of a blued steel guide rod fitted with a single round wire recoil spring.

At one point the company considered removing the drop-safety plunger in order to reduce the trigger pull weight even more in conjunction with the modifications introduced with the redesigned competition trigger. However, a quick look inside the slide reveals that the production models are shipping with the plunger installed making the pistol suitable for personal protection as well as competition.           

While the Zero models are assembled around aluminum frames, the Alpha sports a steel frame produced using the same processes and finish as the slide. Using steel extends the pistol's working life span and it intentionally increases unloaded weight to 2 lbs. 10 oz. (with an empty magazine), according to my handy digital postal scale. With so much emphasis on reducing the weight of modern defensive pistols by using polymer frames and shorter slides, those folks who have just started shooting recently are not likely to be aware of how steady and easy to shoot a full-size, all-steel 9 mm can be. When a shooting competitor's arms are jitter bugging with an adrenaline rush or fatigue, the added weight helps to stabilize the barrel for more accurate follow-up shots.

The frame is milled with two integral sets of slide rails including two 4.5" rails that run the length of the extended dust cover and two 1" rails near the hammer. The nose of the dust cover is cut at an angle to help ease the pistol back into its holster. The trigger guard and grip frame, like the slide, have been thoughtfully redesigned for competition. The generous trigger guard is sized for gloved fingers with a lightly textured finger rest along the front edge.

The front strap is deeply undercut and beveled at the point where it meets the trigger guard with fine line checkering to increase purchase for the middle and ring fingers of the shooting hand. A smooth finger rest for the little finger is provided at the base of the front strap.     

An extended beaver tail guards the skeletonized hammer. The backstrap is deeply curved and narrowed at the top to allow for a high grip and easier access to the controls. While the Zero's grip panels rest to either side of the frame, 1911 style, the textured polymer grips of the Alpha wrap around to form the back strap from the magazine well up to the beaver tail. The result is a grip that feels natural to hold while suiting a variety of hand sizes.

The outer edges of the magazine well are flush with the bottom edges of the grip panels and rounded at the heel. The interior edges are beveled to aid in quick reloads. This configuration provides the benefits of a magazine well extension without the bulk. The Alpha will accept all Standard size ReX Zero 1 magazines, including those fitted with +2 extended base plates. This pistol was going to ship with two of extended magazines like those shipped with the Tactical model. However, the 20-round magazines made the Alpha too tall to fit within the USPSA Production Class size requirements, so the gun is shipped with three 17-round magazines instead.

The Alpha's swing-down takedown lever is located on the left side of the frame in front of the slide catch. The extended ambidextrous thumb safety swings up into the Safe position and down, exposing a red dot, to fire. The decocker function has been removed from the Alpha's slide catch. The checkered magazine release button is also ambidextrous with an enlarged extension installed on the left side. This extension can be reversed or removed completely to give the release a flush fit with the grip.

Arex considered the variations in 9 mm primer hardness when preparing the Alpha for international distribution. European primers tend to need a more authoritative whack than American-made primers do. But the use of a heavier hammer spring to ensure proper ignition increases the trigger’s pull weight. The company wanted the Alpha’s trigger to be as finely tuned as possible so the pistol is shipped with a total of three hammer springs.

A medium weight all-purpose blue spring is installed at the factory with a reduced weight gray spring and heavier yellow spring included in the case. While switching these springs will change the double-action trigger pull by about half a pound, plus or minus, the single action trigger pull only shifts by 0.1 pound when the springs are swapped. An over travel set screw, located inside the locking block, can be adjusted using a provided hex key when the slide is removed. I worked with the pistol in its factory configuration because I found no need for adjustment.

The double-action trigger pull was clean without any hitches or hang ups with 11 lbs. of trigger pull according to a Lyman's digital trigger gauge. In single-action mode, the trigger exhibited a bit of light take up (just enough to let you know you're touching the trigger) before breaking at 4 lbs. 2 oz. of trigger pull. The trigger reset was short, sweet and light.

The ReX Alpha proved to be a better shooter than I am right out of the box without any modifications beyond proper lubrication. Usually when I'm running a solid semi-automatic pistol with iron sights from a bench rest at 25 yards, I tend to print 3" to 3.5" groups when I hold my tongue just right. When the groups consistently print at 3" or less, it's definitely the gear doing the work. The ReX Alpha is one of the most accurate factory configured pistols I've had the pleasure to work with.

Because this pistol is configured primarily as a race gun, formal accuracy testing was conducted using the single-action trigger with two practice-grade loads suited to competition along with a defensive hollow point load thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. Federal Premium's new Hydra-Shok Deep 135-gr. jacketed hollow point produced a best 5-shot group of 2.84" with a five group average of 2.93". Sig Sauer's Elite Performance 124-gr. full-metal jacket yielded a best group of 2.27" with an average of 2.51". Inceptor Sport Utility 65-gr. RNP frangible poly-copper round nose, which is a soft shooting load that's ideal for steel targets, posted a best group of 2.32" and an average of 2.44".

With formal accuracy testing completed, I broke out more Inceptor RNP ammunition and headed over to the steel range for a series of competition drills. Bench rested shooting was informative but off the bench is where this pistol really shines. The slide and trigger were both smooth and easy to cycle right out of the box. The contoured grip was comfortable and the controls intuitive to operate, even with my smaller sized hands. The sights were quick to acquire and easy to work with. The Alpha is so well balanced that the added weight of the steel frame goes almost unnoticed. The steels rang and tipped over with satisfying regularity. The pistol ran flawlessly on and off the bench with no malfunction of any kind. The only problem I had with the Alpha was the lack of a bottomless ammunition supply.  

The new ReX Alpha race gun follows in the Arex tradition of providing customers with a high-quality product at a fair price. The Alpha has a suggested retail price of $1,099 which is translating into real world prices under a thousand. That makes this gun an exceptional value. It’s a pistol you can put to work right away, enjoy for years to come and it can comfortably double as a top-notch home defense gun. Custom aluminum grip panels are almost here, holsters are in the works and additional magazines are available. For more, visit fimegroup.com.

U.S. Importer: FIME Group
Manufacturer: Arex
Country of Origin: Slovenia
Model: ReX Alpha (REXALPHA9-01)
Action: Semi-Automatic, Modified Browning Linkless Locking System
Caliber: 9 mm Luger (9x19 mm), Approved for SAAMI Specification +P Loads
Trigger System: Single- and Double-action, Hammer Fired
Slide: Nitrocarburized Milled Steel Barstock
Barrel: Single-Piece Cold-Hammer-Forged Barstock, Nitrocarburized Finish
Muzzle: Flush Fit
Frame: Nitrocarburized Milled Steel
Dust Cover: Full Length with Integral 2" Accessory Rail
Grip Panels: Wrap Around Textured Black Polymer
Front Sight: Dovetailed Metallic Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: Dovetailed Metallic Fully Adjustable Target
Thumb Safety: Extended Competition, Ambidextrous
Magazine Release: Reversible Extension, Ambidextrous
Barrel Length: 5.00"
Overall Length: 8.90"
Height: 5.70"
Slide Width: 1.00"
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz. with empty magazine
Single-Action Trigger Pull: 11 lbs. (as tested)
Double-Action Trigger Pull: 4 lbs. 2 oz. (as tested)
Capacity: 17+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:9.8” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: 3 Magazines, 2 Additional Hammer Springs, Hard Case, Lock, Owner’s Manual
MSRP: $1099


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