Israel widely is respected as having some of the finest military equipment gear in the world, including its recent unveiling of Israel Weapon Industries’ Tavor rifle. The Israeli Tavor is probably one of the most highly anticipated rifles since the end of the assault weapons ban.
The Tavor is a rather conventional design, being powered by gas operation. What separates the Tavor from most other self-loading rifles is its bullpup configuration. The bullpup design places the rifle's operating parts, including the magazine, behind the pistol grip. This creates a rifle with a full-length barrel yet with a short overall length.
The configuration of the modern bullpup is credited as an English design, appearing in the late 1940s to early 1950s in the EM-2 rifle. The EM-2 showed merit in British military trials, but it would be nearly 40 years before Great Britain would adopt a bullpup known as the SA80.
Being chambered in 223 Remington/5.56 NATO, the Tavor is available in several barrel lengths. Being a bullpup, the 18-inch barrel model has an overall length of just less than 28 inches. In comparison, a Colt M-4A1 Carbine has a 14.5-inch barrel and an overall length of 33 inches. That's 3.5 inches less barrel yet still 5 inches longer.
While there are other bullpup rifles in service around the globe, the Tavor will be compared to the most commonly encountered bullpup on the U.S. market: the Steyr AUG. Adopted by Austria in 1977, the AUG has enjoyed international success.
I have had the opportunity to put quite a few rounds through one of the old Customs Service AUGs and, while I am by no means an expert, I am familiar enough with the design to feel comfortable comparing it to the Tavor.
When comparing the Israeli and Austrian rifles, the handling characteristics are similar. I prefer the Tavor's rotating safety to the cross bolt style used on the AUG.
Both weapons equally use hard triggers that aren't going to win any fans. The AUG is a bit lighter and might have a tiny bit better balance.
I also prefer the AUG's magazine release to the trigger system used on the Tavor, and the AUG is easier to completely field strip. Both rifles are different from what most U.S. shooters are trained with and comfortable with, and the Tavor takes some getting used to.
The manual of arms can become quite natural once you stop trying to run it like an AR and accept the unique locations of controls and a magazine that sits behind rather than in front of the shooting hand.
We used the Tavor during the carbine portion of a recent IALEFI Master Instructor Development Program in Las Vegas, Nev. Distances were 50 yards and the Tavor's point of balance and short length worked well at these distances.
We used a variety of plastic and metal magazines and a mix of steel and brass cased ammo without any malfunctions. We also fired the Tavor at 100 yards using the Leupold CQ/T rifle scope.
Groups, while not stellar, are certainly within the limits of what reasonably can be expected of a rifle with a heavy trigger.
The Tavor is a modern design, featuring a hammer forged barrel, ambidextrous controls, a corrosion resistant finish, a polymer outer housing and an optics rail. Built into the rail is a set of durable folding emergency sights.
Ejection can be switched to either the right or left side (by changing some internal parts) to accommodate nearly all shooters. The Tavor's center of gravity is behind the pistol grip, making the rifle easy to control and even aim and shoot with only one arm.
Its short overall length makes it ideal for use in cramped spaces or maneuvering in and around a vehicle. Its full-length barrel allows for good ballistics and velocity without causing disruptive and concussive muzzle blast that is encountered on most .223 rifles with 10- or 12- inch barrels.
The Israeli Tavor is an exciting development in the field of self-loading riffles and continues the country’s reputation for high-quality and performance military equipment.