Monday, August 3, 2015

The IWI Tavor

I never figured I would be doing reviews of firearms, but as I cannot produce enough projects to keep the blog busy, I looked for other topics to post. Reviewing guns seems a natural fit, except one thing......everybody is doing it. 
So I will try to stick to different guns, ones that not everybody owns. 
The IWI Tavor SAR-21 rifle fits that bill. While not horribly expensive, they do cost about double what a good AR rifle would cost you (perhaps a bit more than double now that AR prices have been dropping).
From IWI's website:
The dynamics of the battlefield are forever changing. With the increasing threat of terrorism in our streets to the evolving situations of combat applications, a new paradigm in firearms was required. In 1982, with the foresight of what the modern battlefield was becoming, IWI in a decade long collaboration with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Research & Development teams, developed the new standard issue weapon for the IDF. The TAVOR® was born. Mr. Zalman Shebs, known as the “father of the TAVOR,” spearheaded the team to develop a weapon system that was capable of moving from open field conflicts to close-quarter engagements and from daylight to nighttime capabilities – seamlessly on a single mission. In the late 1990’s through the early 2000’s, the TAVOR underwent unprecedented testing unlike any weapons system anywhere. The TAVOR began trials with IDF units testing for ergonomics. The TAVOR then entered the IDF NCO Infantry School for extensive field tests and finally, in 2002, the TAVOR was given to an army company in the Givati Brigade for real-world testing and use. By September, 2003, the IDF had chosen the TAVOR rifle as the standard issue for their infantry troops. Today the TAVOR rifles are in service with IDF Infantry troops and the IDF Special Forces in Israel along with many military and law enforcement agencies around the world.

History
We'll start with the name: Tavor or Tabor is the name of the mountain in Israel that holds great historical, military and religious significance.
The SAR part of the model number stands for Semi-Automatic Rifle and the 21, well that stands for the 21st century, a fitting name as this is truly a gun built for today and the future.
The TAR model is the full auto version (Tavor Assault Rifle).

For those not aware, Israel is one of the few countries in which military service is compulsory, in other words: required. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is made up of every Israeli man and woman capable of fighting. 
Israel also has its own weapons industry.
Once kept a secret (literally an underground industry) is now an exporter of weapons and designs.
Originally called Israeli Military Industries (IMI) it now carries the name Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI)

On to the gun. The Tavor SAR is a Bull-pup semi-auto rifle designed from the ground up with the IDF in mind. The Bull-pup configuration is gaining popularity everywhere, although the US has not yet adopted any rifles using this design, that is typical of our military, always last to the party (or perhaps letting the others work the "bugs" out?).

It uses a gas piston arrangement for clean operation and low maintenance. The gun uses typical NATO STANAG (AR) magazines, which is a huge benefit for both the civilian gun owner and a service member serving in a combat arena.
The gun is of course chambered in 5.56 NATO using a 1:7 twist on the rifling.
The gun is completely ambidextrous, every control is either center mounted or reversible.

Here are the specs for this gun from the IWI website:



First Impressions
Packaging: The gun cam in a card board box, with cut to fit foam padding. The Tavor was wrapped in plastic. Everything arrived without any shipping damage, which is the main cause for concern.


You will notice that the box also contained a Magpul Gen 3 window PMag, unfortunately it was in black rather than the Flat Dark Earth hue that the Tavor came in. 
I installed my FDE Gen 2 PMag for these pictures, We also added Magpul's MBUIS folding sights


IWI's FDE is not an exact duplicate of Magpul's FDE, but it is close


Functions
Starting an the back working forward: The butt pad is back cut at the top to allow for quick shouldering of the carbine, also the QD sling mount is mirrored on  the other side. The recoil pad material is tough but slightly forgiving, the perfect medium for this application.


The Magazine release is just forward of the mag well, behind the mag well is the bolt release. Above the mag well the black section is the reversible ejection port
The metal trigger has a long swing, the safety is also reversible (note the 3rd, full auto, position is absent)
Here you can see the reverse side of the sling mount and the safety. The switch marker L & O is the Barrel Pivot Lock.

The charging handle is also reversible, swapped for the 45 degree picatinney rail on the opposite side. Also  note the forward sling mount
The picatinney rail adorning the top, has built in sights that disappear, you can't see them under the Magpul MBUIS sights
The design of the rifle included a system of contact points. Six contact points link your body with the weapon, making you "one" with the rifle.
The six contact points are: 1. your forward hand on the fore grip. 2. your forward arm against the front of the trigger guard. 3. your shooting hand on the pistol grip. 4. your shooting arm against the magazine. 5. your cheek on the comb. 6. your shoulder against the recoil pad.





Shooting
Immediately upon picking up the gun you notice its heft, while it feels heavy, the weight is mostly at the back of the gun. This is not what a person would call "balanced", but it makes sense, considering all the working parts and the ammo are to the aft. 

I'm not sure how to explain it, but shouldering this gun is easier that I thought it would be and just "feels" right.

The trigger....what can I say, it is a bit long and it is really heavy. Some have measured 12 lbs of resistance. I will say that despite the heavy weight, it is still manageable. It will take some getting use to and perhaps after a few thousand rounds it will smooth out and/or lighten up a bit.

The sights took some getting used to as well, I am not used to having the rear peep so close to my eyes. In addition the sight plane was very low, too low in my opinion.

I am not a fan of optics on a battle rifle, but with built in back up sights, an optic may be the right way to go. We will investigate some options.

When shooting the rifle, the empty brass casings ejected with authority to the rear of the shooter about 5 feet to the rear and two feet to the side, into a nice pile for easy collection.

We tried the gun with a few brands of ammunition

50 grain Remington FMJ

55 grain Hornady FMJ

and hand loads consisting of 62 grain SS109 FMJ ammo on top of 22.5 grains of H335 powder.

In the 250 rounds we fired on the initial test, we had zero malfunctions.


I cannot speak to the accuracy as we were still dialing in the sights when we ran out of both time and ammo.


Transport case
For transportation we purchased this Wilson Tennis "3-Match" bag. This will allow us a certain level of circumspect when transporting the bullpup...."hey which way to the country club?"

See my blog post on discreet transport cases here

The bag allows plenty of room for the gun. We might add some sort of strap with velcro to keep the "settling during shipment" to a minimum. 

The front pouch has plenty of room for the cleaning kit and a few extra magazines


To correct the issue with the low sight plane we purchased a Manticore Arms Overwatch Full Length Top Rail

The unit installed lickity-split and vastly improved sight acquisition. 
It also added some room to act as a carry handle





references
IWI
TAR21.com 
Sportsman's Guide
Tennis Express
Sportsman Outdoor Superstore
Wikipedia
The Arms Guide
The Truth About Guns 
Shooting Illustrated 
Manticore Arms