By Bob Boyd, Shooting Illustrated
Due to the seemingly unending trend of semi-auto pistols getting lighter and more streamlined with the popular use of synthetic-frame materials and striker-fired ignition systems, many of today’s offerings are built leaner, lighter and more compact. They offer enhanced concealment for longer periods, without sacrificing comfort. Importer FIME Group, however, is the latest to buck the compact composite craze with its alloy-framed Arex Rex Zero 1S, though at first glance it may look slightly familiar.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the pistol obviously takes quite a few design cues from a popular, handgun with well-known Swiss lineage. There’s no getting around the striking similarity between the Rex Zero 1S and SIG Sauer P-series pistols, such as the P226; from the overall shape to the location of the fire controls, there is more than just a passing resemblance. Yet, that’s where the similarity ceases, sort of. Though close dimensionally, the pistols are different, especially when comparing each pistol’s features.
Available in three sizes and four chamberings, the Rex Zero 1S is a duty-size pistol with a 4.25-inch barrel and a generous capacity of 17 rounds. Similar to the P226, a decocker resides on the left side of the frame. Unlike the SIG P226, however, the pistol sports a lever that’s capable of much more. While pressing downward lowers the hammer in typical fashion, upward actuation results in the lever serving double duty as a slide stop. But that’s not all of this gun’s practical, real-world features.
In addition to the enhanced versatility of a traditional double-action/single-action (SA/DA) design that offers the added benefit of two different modes of fire, the Rex Zero 1S sports a thumb safety located behind the decocking lever. Of equally narrow profile, the second paddle provides the added benefit of being able to carry the pistol with the hammer back and the thumb safety engaged or “cocked and locked,” depending on user preference.
For those searching for a compromise between the featherweight qualities associated with polymer-frame pistols and the additional bulk of carrying an all-steel handgun, the Rex Zero 1S provides a welcome alternative. Its frame is machined from hard-anodized aluminum bar stock, and features a steel locking insert for added durability. The addition of an accessory rail integral to the dustcover makes adding a laser-aiming device or weaponlight no fuss, no muss, though the location of the rear-most rail slot in conjunction with the pistol’s elongated trigger guard might make reaching a standard laser/light’s rear-mounted toggle switch somewhat of a challenge.
Ample, wide serrations adorn the fore and aft portions of Rex Zero 1S’s nitrocarburized-steel slide to aid chamber checks and clearing potential malfunctions, which makes confirming pistol readiness easy—even in low-light conditions. Robust steel sights are securely anchored into dovetails. Easily adjustable for windage, the popular configuration leaves a little to be desired. The addition of night sights would have made a more practical addition for a service pistol.
On the range, the Rex Zero 1S demonstrated quite a beastly appetite for fodder, but accuracy proved mediocre at 15 yards. However, groups improved considerably at 10 yards. In one session, two co-workers and I put 325 malfunction-free rounds through it. A handful of failure-to-feed stoppages were encountered by a single shooter: The slide would lock rearward on a loaded magazine. It was concluded the shooter had a tendency for his high grip—and fat paws—to inadvertently engage the slide stop. Accuracy testing was limited to single-action mode, since the double-action pull was measured in excess of 13 pounds, with noticeable stacking at the end.
Despite being devoid of night sights, my gripes about the Arex Rex Zero 1S are few. While the pistol does offer the enhanced versatility of an ambidextrous magazine release and thumb safety, the conspicuous absence of a second slide-stop lever prevents it from being truly ambidextrous. Second, in the wake of manufacturers marketing pistols with synthetic grip panels that could double as cheese graters, I’m glad Arex resisted this abusive trend. Yet, given the tendency of rubber to bind on clothing, some other material would have been better.
What’s the appeal of the Arex Rex Zero 1S? The price. Whether you’re interested in a SIG P226 but it’s not quite in the budget, or you already have one and are looking for backup, the Rex Zero provides a practical alternative. While you won’t get all the features of more expensive self-defense guns, at this price point it’s guaranteed to jump off shelves faster than velociraptors consume lumbering herbivores.