The IWI Tavor SAR is a carefully designed, finely manufactured firearm that provides an outstanding tool for a specific task: a close-quarters defensive/offensive rifle, with longer range capabilities. The bullpup design, compact balance, ergonomic grip and trigger guard, outstanding integral flip-up sights plus Picatinny rail for additional sighting aids and the well-located dual sling swivels make it a rifle that can be carried, aimed and shot in an almost instinctive manner. It is the perfect hammer for home improvement… er, home defense.
Begin with its history: any IWI Tavor review should point out that the design falls well outside the AR/AK universes. No surprise that this handy little rifle is made by IWI, Israel Weapons Industries, which has introduced such classic firearms as the Galil and Uzi over the past 70 years. Even before Israel was a nation, IWI (then called Israel Military Industries) has been designing and manufacturing firearms since 1933, so they know their business. The Tavor rifle, initially designed in 1982, went through just over 20 years of testing and revisions before it was adopted by the Israel Defense Forces as its standard infantry rifle (and adopted by the IDF Special forces as well). It has also been accepted by a number of other military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. Recently introduced into this country by IWI-US, the Tavor SAR is now available to the American civilian market.
It’s a tough rifle, built around a long-stroke piston-driven action that has quickly gained the reputation of being unstoppable. By “unstoppable,” we mean will not jam under almost any circumstances. The 16½ inch barrel is made from tough cold hammer forged CrMoV steel, chrome lined, with a 1:7 inch right-hand twist and six grooves. All metal parts are treated to be corrosion resistant. The weight of the rifle is 7.9 pounds, which is lighter than most AR-15 platforms, but the overall length of 26⅛ inches makes it feel denser, more compact. Chambered for 5.56 NATO, the Tavor can also be converted to 9mm.
The reinforced polymer stock (available in black, olive green or dark earth) has been carefully designed. The forestock has functional, but not overly intrusive, grip ridges. More importantly for a bullpup, the leading end has a slight teardrop so that the supporting hand is less likely to overreach and grip the muzzle. The sloped trigger guard can also serve as an anchor point for the off hand, while the design and angle of the grip provides a natural, instinctive place for the shooting hand. At the butt end, the full-sized integral recoil pad gives an easy rest for the shoulder.
Unlike some bullpup designs, the Tavor’s sights are meant to be used. Integral to the stock, the front sight is a blade with a Tritium insert, while the rear sight is a flip-up aperture design. A Picatinny MIL-STD rail is integral to the stock, so mounting a red dot aiming system or light is simple. Unlike other standard infantry bullpup rifles, such as the French FAMAS, there is no “carry handle” or other intrusions to the clean sight lines — which explains the nickname “flattop” that IWI applies to this design.
Adaptability is also built into the Tavor. The standard 30-round magazine is the NATO STANAG type; all parts of the rifle are 100% interchangeable with all Tavor SAR models. For left-handed shooters, an optional bolt is available for the 5.56 NATO chambering. The sling swivels are easily changed from right-hand to left-hand carry with simple push-button releases.
As you would expect from any IWI firearm, toughness and simplicity are the bywords. Across the board, all reports state that the Tavor can eat any ammunition you care to feed it. In fact, some reviewers have stated that IWI has all but dared them not to even clean the Tavor until a failure occurs — a timeline that stretches into the thousands of rounds. When you do decide to clean it (that voice in your head that sounds suspiciously like a drill instructor demands it, after a while), the rifle strips down with embarrassing ease.
If you have not tried a bullpup, the Tavor is the best place to start. If you are already a fan of this configuration, this is the design that you’ve been waiting for. In either case, the IWI Tavor SAR 16″ will be the best hammer in your toolbox.