IWI Tavor Review
Major Pandemic 04.02.14
I am probably the last editor on the planet to review the IWI Tavor, but I hope to provide a perspective you have not read or heard before. I have actually been trained by Israeli Special Forces operators via a week long Mako Defense training. This certainly does not make me an expert in all things tactical or on all the Israeli methods, but it does provide perspective and helps me understand their fighting mentality, methods, and firearm designs. The Mossad-based Mako Defense training, paired with some supplemental IWI training helped me understand the design and features, along with how to operate it. I hope to convey some of that in this review.
For the needs of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), who face constant CQB hostage and terrorist attacks, the Tavor is the ideal rifle. For me, I believe it is the ultimate home defense and patrol rifle if the user learns how to use it effectively, as they should with any rifle format.
Why a Bullpup?
Some of the most popular recent bullpups have been the Steyr AUG A3, FN PS90, FN FS2000 and even here in the US, KelTec has a number of models as well. The concept is not new and has proven itself. The primary reason for the continued bullpup development is the shorter and ultimately more maneuverable size in the tight confines of urban defense, where space is tight and corners are sharp.
The IWI design team evaluated the best, historically successful bullpup designs and features–those that worked and those that were just interesting with little function. The primary design goal was to utilize new innovations in materials and manufacturing to simplify the design and maximize reliability.
IWI claims that the Tavor design is far more reliable than the AR-15 platform due the Tavor’s piston system, all in a civilian legal format that is an incredibly short 26 1/8”. By contrast, your average civilian legal 16” barreled AR-15 is nearly 12” longer, and that slows you down and limits movement as you are moving in and out of vehicles, through a house’s hallways, and around corners in a defensive environment. The short length makes for fast handling… very fast.
Fit, Finish, Feel, and Features
Fit and finish on the Tavor are well executed and high quality, but no-nonsense. The rifle does have a leather-like texture across the entire polymer chassis and a rougher texture on the pistol grip area. All the molding is of high quality, and all the parts fit together as they should.
Although the Tavor’s one-piece chassis design is essentially all polymer, the entire gun is extremely solid gun with no perceivable flex.
The gun feels heavier than it looks. At 7.9 lbs it’s pretty light in the land of 8-9lb AR-15s, but instead of that weight being spread out over 38” like an AR-15, the weight is compacted into only 26.5”. The result is a tight, solid, and dense feeling rifle. Once shouldered, the weight somehow seems to magically drop to a rifle, which feels far lighter than the 7.9lbs would indicate.
One often overlooked feature is the long/tall buttpad. This allows the Tavor to be shouldered in a wider range of positions. As you move into various positions or shoot off the bench, you start to notice how much of the buttstock you end up using.
The Tavor features a patented piston driven system not too dissimilar to the AR-15 piston systems. The Tavor’s is non-adjustable and is said to automatically compensate if a suppressor is added. I had zero issues with various ammo. The AR-15 style 90-degree safety selector, unique brass ejection, and charging handle all can be reversed for lefties by following the very detailed user instruction booklet. It is not a swap you will do in the midst of battle, but it can be done in less than 30 minutes with minimal tools.
IWI has integrated a forward hand stop on the Tavor for a very important reason. The rifle is so short that you could very easily overreach forward of the muzzle after a mag change. Muzzle safety is one reason the Tavor IDF operators are trained to scoop the support hand up along the trigger guard onto the forend.
IWI includes emergency flip up backup sights integrated into the full picatinny top rail. The rear is a standard fixed peep sight, but the front handles both elevation and windage adjustment, and comes complete with a Tritium insert. I found the insert delivered a very subtle, useable glow at night versus the stunningly bright Tritium inserts I am used to on handguns.
Depending on the left/right hand configuration the user sets, a 45 degree polymer picatinny rail is mounted to the opposite side of the charging handle and provides a perfect place for mounting lasers and lights. If you have plans to run the Tavor in 3Gun competitions, the offset 45 rail would be perfect to mount a short range reflex sight to accompany a higher power top-rail-mounted optic.
Fire a round, and the gas pressure will push a long piston assembly to drive the integrated bolt, carrier, and spring assembly to cycle the firearm. If that round happens to be the last round in the magazine, the bolt locks back and reloading commences. Once a fresh mag is inserted and the bolt is released, the patented cam’ing bolt strips off a new round and locks it into the barrel, similar to an AR-15 bolt.
If you attempt to run a Tavor like an AR-15, you will dread the reload, swear a lot, shoot slow, potentially muzzle sweep your support hand at least once, and in general negate most of the advantages of the design. Tavor owners have to embrace the features if they want to execute a safe, smooth reload and drive the gun effectively. The reload can be faster in a stressful environment than an AR-15, but you would need to work with it to get proficient.
IWI spent about an hour one-on-one with me at the Shot Media Range Day demonstrating and training me on how to use all the features and advanced handling of the Tavor. The time was well spent understanding how to maximize the operation speed.
For magazine reloads, Israeli operators simply rotate the heal of their primary (grip) hand up to hit the magazine release while the support hand is reaching for a fresh magazine. The magazine hand thumb should be up during the reload and after the magazine is seated the hand slips up and the thumb hits the bolt release. IWI was careful to position the magazine forward enough that it remains within the primary vision of the operator during the reload.
The finger guard is used as a hand ramp to slide the hand safely up to the handguard without creating a situation where the operator over-reaches and puts a hand in front of the muzzle. Also the finger guard was designed to be a forearm support to improve off-hand shooting accuracy. Lock your wrist into the forearm/fingerguard union and your forearm down the fingerguard, and the Tavor feels like someone duct taped the gun to you – very stable.
Another awesome aspect of the rifle is its balance, which easily allows the user to keep the Tavor shouldered and on target while using the support hand for other things like working a light or opening doors. Barrel heavy AR-15s feel very awkward performing this maneuver. IWI’s Tavor has outstanding reliability with ergonomics that make sense if you understand the rifle.
This is a defensive gun with a defensive trigger. The Tavor’s feels closer to a striker fired handgun trigger or a light revolver trigger than an AR-15 trigger. I really do not notice the trigger much on the Tavor while shooting, but if you are really picky, Timney is coming out with a drop-in Match trigger April-2014.
Routine maintenance and disassembly is amazingly simple. For regular maintenance, just push out the one single captured retention pin, and the butt pad will swing open to reveal a storage compartment. The bolt, carrier, and spring one-piece unit can be pulled from the chassis for cleaning. No further disassembly is required for cleaning. Routine maintenance does not require trigger removal, but if you really feel compelled to remove the trigger, push out two more captive pins and the trigger unit can be slid out.
The Tavor still delivered consistent 1” (1 MOA) 100-yard groups with a Burris Tactical 4.5-14 Mil Dot scope attached. I used a variety of Hornady and Winchester rounds and some 3GunAmmo.com leftovers as well. The faster barrel twist seemed to deliver better accuracy with the heavier bullets. It had a special taste for 75gr Hornady Tap .223 rounds, delivering a 5-round .8” 100-yard group.
Feedback from my LEO and 3Gun testers were that the gun is very fast, a great CQB rifle, and pointed naturally, but they noted it would take some time to get really fast and proficient with the design. Honestly, this was my issue until I really worked with the Tavor. It takes about ten mag changes to get the muscle memory retained.
IWI asked that I not clean the gun and run it until I had a failure. At this point I have well over 3,000 rounds through the gun to date and have not lubed or cleaned the gun at all since pulling it from the box. Stunningly the gun runs amazingly clean and has delivered zero functional issues. It appears to be a Glock in rifle clothing. Any of my AR-15s make it to that round count without failure? No way, but the Tavor has and is still going.
I am now pretty quick with the Tavor reloads and extremely confident with my ability to connect with any 12” target unsupported within 300-yards. What Tavor has created is something special and hopefully widely used, supported, and adopted here in the US. Because of the reliability, length, and maneuverability, it makes more sense than an AR-15 for home defense and as a Patrol rifle.
- The TAVOR® SAR Flattop incorporates a full-length MIL-STD Picatinny top rail in addition to the standard short rail mounted at a 45° angle opposite the charging handle.
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Action: Semi-auto
- Operating System: Closed rotating bolt, long gas stroke on piston head
- Magazine Type: Polymer NATO STANAG type
- Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds (Standard AR-15 Magazines)
- Barrel Material: Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined
- Barrel Length: 16 ½”
- Overall Length: 26 ⅛”
- Weight: 7.9 lbs.
- Rifling: Right hand, 6 grooves, 1:7 inch twist
- Stock Color: Flat Dark Earth
- Stock Type: Reinforced polymer bullpup configuration
- Sights: Folding front sight (blade) and rear sight (aperture)
- Restricted States Sales of this rifle may be restricted in certain states and the District of Columbia. Please check with your local authorities regarding your local firearms laws.
- Optional Equipment: 9mm Parabellum conversion kit with CHF barrel
- MSRP: $1,999