It seems that polymer and/or striker-fired pistols have become the new normal, at least during the last decade. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Several models on the market are outstanding examples of what can be achieved with that style of pistol. However, it’s nice when a company takes a step back in time for us “oldschool” folks and builds a quality pistol with roots that go a little deeper in time.
Arex is just such a company. Located in Slovenia, Arex has been in the firearms industry for over two decades. This company originally manufactured parts for other firearms manufacturers but eventually set about producing its own finished products—resulting in the REX Zero line of pistols. Working in conjunction with FIME Group in the United States, Arex has recently (within the last couple of years) introduced its products to the American public. The first example was its REX Zero 1S pistol, which is a more traditional DA/SA pistol built similarly to pistols introduced by other companies during the late 1970s through the early ’90s. Many of those companies still make some of the same DA/SA models, but we haven’t often seen a new DA/SA product hit the market—especially during the last decade.
The model I recently received for review was the REX Zero 1 Tactical. It’s an upgrade to the original model, with enhancements that improve the basic pistol’s overall versatility.
THE TACTICAL TOUCH
I opened the case and looked at the pistol—there’s no question as to which market the Zero 1 Tactical is aimed. It is configured with all the right enhancements for the user to trick-out the pistol to their heart’s content.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the basic pistol, we’ll start with what separates the tactical version from the original model.
First, the barrel is 4.9 inches long and has a ½x28 thread pattern for those who want to run a suppressor on it. To accommodate a suppressor, the pistol is fitted with suppressor-height steel sights with a three-white-dot arrangement. This doesn’t seem like much, but there are companies releasing pistols with threaded barrels and standard sights that sometimes make me scratch my head. The rear sight does have a flat front, so it can be used to rack the slide one-handed off a table, boot heel or even a belt.
Instead of the standard 17-round magazines, the tactical model comes with two 20-round magazines.
The tactical feature that probably stands out the most is the REX Optic Ready platform. The ROR platform allows the user to remove the top plate from where the slide has already been milled to install one of four plates for various optics manufacturers. The four plates will accept the following: Trijicon; C-More; Shield/ JPoint; and Eotech/Vortex/Burris/Docter/Insight/Meopta.
Yes, the Zero 1 Tactical model does come with a Picatinny rail for lights, lasers and other accessories, but the original model did, as well, so there’s no real difference on that point. However, when combined with the other modifications for the tactical model, it rounds out to a pretty complete package.
The Zero 1 Tactical won’t be easily mistaken for a compact-carry pistol. In fact, it’s a bit of a behemoth—or T-Rex, for “Tactical Rex”—for that kind of duty, but there are those out there who can make it work, and more power to them. The dimensions of this pistol make it more of an open-carry or service piece for most individuals. The overall length is 8.1 inches, with a height of 5.9 inches, and it weighs in right at 30 ounces.
Both the slide and the hammer-forged barrel are made from solid bar stock that has a nitro-carburized finish, and the frame is built from hard-anodized T7075 aluminum with a steel locking block insert. It’s a beefy pistol with a bit of swagger, and it has some tricks up its sleeve that lead to the “elephant in the room”: More than one writer or commenter has remarked on the similarity between the REX Zero 1 series pistols and the SIG Sauer P226. It is hard to deny the resemblance, especially while looking at the controls … but all is not what it seems.
Aside from the takedown lever, the Zero 1 Tactical has two controls just below the slide that provide some interesting options for the shooter. In approximately the same location as on the P226, there is a decocking lever on the REX pistol. However, that lever also acts as a release for the slide. So, it serves two functions rather than just one.
Farther back, near the rear of the slide, is the thumb safety. On a SIG P226, that’s around where the slide release is found. This safety on the Rex Zero 1T will render the pistol “safe” whether the hammer is cocked or at rest (but the user should still mind all safety rules).
In addition to the traditional DA/SA operating system, this feature gives the user the option to carry cocked and locked, much as on a 1911. Or, for added protection, the safety can be activated when the hammer is down, requiring the user to swipe off the safety to fire in double-action mode, as well.
For the lefties in the world, the Zero 1 Tactical’s safety and magazine release are both ambidextrous, although the slide release/decocker is positioned for right-handed shooters. This can be worked around, and it’s worth investigating by any potential buyer.
Other noteworthy features include full-length slide rails, front cocking serrations and a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser.
GOING TO WORK
The original REX Zero 1 pistol was met with a lot of praise for its build quality, accuracy and utter reliability. I was curious to see if everything went just as well with this enhanced Tactical model. For the most part, I was not disappointed. The tolerances were tight, and the craftsmanship was great. It looked and felt like a robust, quality tool.
The only thing I felt was a little lacking while shooting the Zero 1 Tactical were the grip panels. There wasn’t much texture going on for a secure purchase, and the panels felt like cheap plastic. If I were to acquire the Zero 1 Tactical, I’d definitely replace the grips with something else, such as some G10 panels. G10 provides plenty of texturing for a sure grip, and it would also feel much more solid in the hand.
During the beginning of the break-in period, everything was a little stiff and cumbersome—although there were absolutely no malfunctions. Manipulating the slide and pulling the trigger got easier over time, even though the double-action trigger pull still hangs around 12.75 pounds. It’s not the best double-action trigger pull in the world, but it’s manageable. The single-action pull broke crisply, and it settled in right at 5.3 pounds. That’s close to ideal for what I want for a carry gun.
While running a good number of rounds through it to smooth things out, I noticed that the Zero 1 Tactical was shooting pretty accurately off hand, so it was time to see what it could do from a rest.
Aside from the SIG Sauer 115-grain ball ammo I was already shooting, I also brought out SIG’s 124-grain V-Crown load. I also had on hand some of Federal Premium’s 124-grain HST and Speer’s 124-grain +P Gold Dot ammunition.
It was time to go to work.
Mounting a Meopta Meosight III reflex optic made a good deal of difference for my aging eyes and made it easier to get a consistent hold from a rest at 25 yards. This particular optic has a 3 MOA aiming point that covers .75 inch at 25 yards. Both windage and elevation have an adjustment range of 120 MOA, and the Meosight III comes with a 10-year warranty.
All three loads grouped rather well on average, with all three hovering just over 2 inches. The best average group of the bunch was 2.07 inches; that was obtained with SIG’s V-Crown load. The V-Crown also took the gold for the best single fiveshot group, at just 1.56 inches.
The REX handled nicely; and, with its size, the recoil of the regular loads was almost negligible. There was a bit of a bump with the +P stuff, but it was still very easy to control. After I coupled the REX with a SilencerCo Octane 9 HD suppressor, the recoil got even softer. The two comprised an excellent combination. I’ve seen accuracy take a plunge after attaching a suppressor to a pistol, but the Zero 1 Tactical still shot very well, with only a little degradation to accuracy.
THE FINAL RESULTS
After the last shot was fired and the last note taken, most every aspect of the Zero 1 Tactical coalesced into an impressive display of performance and function. The pistol is as configurable as the user could want, with its threaded barrel and the ROR platform, along with the Picatinny accessory rail. The accuracy was excellent, and the reliability was unimpeachable. Not one malfunction occurred during any of the testing.
The only real shortcoming were the grip slabs, but that’s remedied easily enough. The double-action pull was fairly heavy, although not completely unreasonable. These are minor points when you weigh them against the build quality, configurability and overall performance of the Zero 1 Tactical.
With an MSRP of $869.99, the Zero 1 Tactical isn’t a budget piece, but it’s certainly a great value, considering everything it offers. Street prices are actually running well under $800— you generally don’t see tactical packages with interchangeable optic plates in that price range. It’s especially noteworthy, considering the pistol’s stunning performance overall.
Yes, polymer striker-fired pistols are all the rage now, but there’s something to be said about the robust feel and heft of an all-metal pistol. The DA/SA operating system might seem oldfashioned, but it has its own place, as well—never mind the fact that the Zero 1 Tactical can also be carried cocked and locked.
For those interested in a pistol that offers plenty of options and exceptional value, the REX Zero 1 Tactical is an instant classic right out of the box.