Oh great. Another thousand-plus-dollar European handgun. That’s what I thought when Slovenian manufacturer Arex introduced the Rex Alpha, and it’s likely what a lot of you are thinking right now. For me, a pistol designed for competition is always more of a “meh” than a “wow!” But, that changed when I shot the Rex Alpha in the mountains of Slovenia, not far from the border with Croatia.
The Rex Alpha is perfectly balanced, sports a great DA/SA trigger that can be adjusted with the included spare hammer springs and has competition sights (an orange fiber-optic pipe up front and a rear sight that’s fully adjustable for both windage and elevation). A hand-filling grip makes it easy to control, and a large beavertail further enhances grip stability. As far as controls go, the magazine-release button is ambidextrous and pronounced, making reloads a cinch. The safety is likewise ambidextrous and easy to reach, despite being significantly smaller than a 1911-style lever.
If you are starting to notice similarities between the Rex Alpha and Arex’s first pistol, the Rex Zero 1, that’s because they share many of the same design features, though are quite different in terms of material and machine time in manufacturing. About the only control on the Rex Alpha that is difficult to actuate is the slide-stop, which sits in front of the safety and does not serve as a decocker. If you’re the type to rack the slide in order to chamber a round, this is not a problem, since you won’t be using the slide-stop lever anyway.
(l.) An orange fiber-optic front post is easy to pick up in any light condition. (ctr.) The fully adjustable rear sight is one of many competition-inspired features on this affordable race gun. (r.) The steel frame is equipped with an accessory rail.
A word on the lack of a decocker is needed, since it vexes me. While DA/SA pistols seem to be making something of a comeback—at least among the cool kids with massive internet experience—I’ve never been a big fan. What I absolutely don’t understand, though, is why one would make such a handgun without a decocker, since the whole point of the DA/SA system is to be able to have a round in the chamber with the hammer safely down. Given that this is not possible on the Rex Alpha, the pistol is functionally a single-action with a second-strike capability should the shooter encounter a hard primer.
That minor vexation comes from the concealed (or open) carrier in me. Shooting the Rex Alpha, however, reveals what it was meant to do—reliably deliver supremely accurate round placement and do so for a price half that of pistols with similar capabilities. Arex set up a static course-of-fire consisting of steel silhouettes, falling plates, a plate rack and a Texas star. There were roughly a dozen total targets at varying distances in the bay for the Alpha, and the idea was to clear them as quickly as possible. I was able to do so the first time I picked up the steel-frame, full-size handgun, and while my time wouldn’t have won me a trophy, I didn’t miss a single target, including the dreaded Texas star. While my perfect score didn’t last as I picked up the speed, the Alpha’s accuracy, reliability and overall comfort did not disappoint.
(l.) Lightening cuts at the front of the slide help the Rex Alpha function when firing light loads. (ctr.) Fast reloads are aided by the extended, ambi- dextrous magazine-release button. (r.) Ambidextrous safety levers are a nice touch, but neither they nor the slide-stop lever function as a decocker.
Formal accuracy testing revealed similar, opinion-changing results. Perfect reliability, tiny groups and a hand that feels as good as new after a couple hundred rounds are basically everything one can ask for from any firearm. The Rex Alpha delivers all three thanks to its weight, grip design and quality of manufacture. Having seen the hyper-modern Arex factory in Šentjernej, Slovenia, and met many of the highly educated folks who build these excellent handguns, I can unequivocally commend the company’s commitment to and execution of quality in every phase of manufacturing.
Again, expectations were shattered, since I figured a factory in what was part of formerly communist Yugoslavia would have more of a…communist feel to it. Not so with Arex or, for that matter, anything else in Slovenia, which has a decidedly Western-European vibe in terms of friendliness and economic well-being.
Despite what at first glance seems like a high price, the Rex Alpha is actually a phenomenal deal. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pistol for competition anywhere near the Alpha’s MSRP. Moreover, if accuracy and reliability are important enough to overrule weight considerations (or if you plan to keep it in the bedside safe), the Rex Alpha can perform outstanding duty as a defensive pistol, too.