By Holt Bodinson, GUNS Magazine
The short, compact bullpup configuration for a fighting rifle continues to win supporters throughout the world’s military powers. Think about it. Austria and Australia fielded the AUG, Britain, the SA80 and L85, FN the F2000, France the FAMAS, Russia the OTs-14 Groza, South Africa the VEKTOR CR21, South Korea the DAR-21 and the Ukraine, the Vepr.
In the civilian sporting world, semi-automatic versions of the FAMAS and more recently, the AUG, have enjoyed a certain level of popularity. Even Century International Arms lately produced a successful bullpup version of the AKM-47. Well, meet the new kid on the block—Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) semi-automatic version of the battle proven Tavor Assault Rifle-21st Century (TAR-21)—and it’s being built right here in the USA.
Since its inception, Israel Military Industries (IMI), recently privatizing their small arms division as Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), has worked hand-in-glove with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to develop some outstanding combat models like the Uzi and the Galil. For years, the M16 and M4 carbine were the predominant small arms in Israel’s arsenal, but beginning in 1993, IMI and the IDF formed a development team to design a more suitable domestic-made arm for close-quarter urban combat, mechanized warfare and peace-keeping missions. The result was the 5.56 NATO Tavor Assault Rifle which was first issued to the Israeli infantry brigades in 2006 and now makes up a family of mission-specific models ranging from sniper to micro-commando versions.
The bolt release is located just aft of the magazine well. Loading a fresh magazine and hitting the bolt release with your thumb is one swift motion.
IWI made a strategic decision in penetrating the American civilian, law enforcement and military markets. It created a USA-based manufacturing and marketing subsidiary, IWI US, Inc., under the leadership of well-known firearms importer and distributor, Michael Kassnar, whose name has been closely associated for years with the Charles Daly and KBI labels. In fact, Kassnar persuaded IWI to purchase his former KBI facility in Harrisburg, Pa. as their office, assembly, testing and warehousing complex. Kassnar also reports the Pennsylvania State Capitol State Police just adopted the Tavor, being the first law enforcement agency in the country to do so.
Using a mix of Israeli and American-made parts, IWI US is currently assembling the Tavor, the Uzi Pro pistol and both 9mm Luger and 5.45x39mm conversion kits for the Tavor.
The US manufactured Tavor is currently available as two models: the actual IDF issue version pictured here with a 16-1/2-inch barrel and standard issue Meprolight M21 day/night, illuminated reflex sight. The second model, the Tavor SAR, is offered in a factory right- or left-hand configuration with a full length, flattop, Picatinny rib, 18-inch barrel and a choice of black or flat dark earth colors. Actually, either Tavor model is completely ambidextrous by simply adding a left-handed bolt and switching over the cocking group, the safety, the short 45-degree Picatinny rib, the ejection port cover and deflector.
We requested the IDF model with the military issue Meprolight M21 reflex sight to really get a feel for the version the troopers of the IDF are carrying and fighting with.
The strong suit of the bullpup design is its compressed overall length combined with a standard length barrel, which maintains the full ballistic performance of the ammunition being used. Our IDF version is only 26-1/8 inches long with a 16-1/2-inch, hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel. The flattop model with an 18-inch barrel is a short 27-5/8 inches in overall length. Compare those overall lengths with that of our M4 carbine. With a short 14-1/2-inch barrel and collapsed stock, the M4 measures 29-3/4 inches. The only things the Tavor and the M4 share are magazines and caliber.
Next, images, construction, accuracy and that trigger