The Tavor is a rifle that has been in the public’s eyes for a few years now. It is admired for its military service with the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as its advanced function and innovative form. Since its initial fielding in 2003 this rifle has been an object of desire for many American shooters. We all wanted a Tavor but couldn’t get one on U.S. soil; luckily IWI recognized the demand and developed a few new versions for the US market. There were some minor changes, but we got our Tavors. Yet for the enthusiast like me, the flat top SAR model just wasn’t enough; I wanted my gun to look and work just like the IDF’s Ctar. I wanted the closest thing I could get to the gun that serves Israel so well. I wanted the IWI Tavor SAR IDF16.
- Caliber 5.56 NATO
- Action Semi-auto
- Operating System Closed rotating bolt, long gas stroke on piston head
- Barrel Material Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined
- Barrel Length 16 ½”
- Overall Length 26 ⅛”
- Weight 8.5 lbs.
- Rifling Right hand, 6 grooves, 1:7 inch twist
- Stock Color Black
- Stock Type Reinforced polymer bullpup configuration
- Sights Meprolight MEPRO 21 Reflex Sight plus folding front sight (blade) with Tritium insert and rear sight (aperture)
- MSRP – $2,599
The IDF16 is Americanized version of the original Tavor fielded by the Israeli Defense forces. It has had a couple of slight modifications to make it comply with regulations set up for the U.S. market. The 16.5″ barrel keeps it from being an SBR, and it is semiautomatic only. Still, the gun remains true to the fit, form, and function of the IDF’s rifle of choice.
The gun comes from the factory ready for service. Nothing about this gun is under built. Nothing is lacking in form or function. Every inch of this rifle serves a purpose; there is no wasted space to speak of.
All of its parts are built to Israeli military standard specifications and coated in corrosion resistant finishes to ensure longevity. The body of the rifle is made of high strength impact resistant polymer which enables you to snug up on a rifle without fear of hot or cold metal, and no sharp edges or strange angles.
Sitting atop the Tavor is an optimized set of iron sights that fold away neatly, and the rifle is topped by a Mepro-21 reflex sight. The Iron sights are fully adjustable and illuminated with a tritium insert making them usable in low light (and even no light) situations. For those accustomed to the robust iron sights found in the AR-15 aftermarket, the Tavor’s sights will seem thin. But they stand up to the abuse and, especially on the IDF model, are meant purely as a backup.
The Mepro-21 reflex sight is a non-magnified optic that utilizes both fiber optics and tritium to give an illuminated option that requires no batteries or on/off switches. Always on, always ready, the Mepro-21 is a great optic with more than combat accurate capabilities. With the addition of a Mepro MX3 magnifier, the Mepro-21 would be easily capable of hits on man-sized targets out to 300 meters.
The rifle works off of a long stroke gas piston system that keeps the action clean, and makes the rifle supremely reliable. It’s a bold claim to say that the Tavor is more reliable than the competition. I will say that this isn’t my first Tavor. I’ve never experienced a jam in the thousands of rounds I’ve sent down range in the Tavors I’ve shot and owned. The guns keep working no matter the diet or conditions they are put subjected to.
There’s another benefit to the Tavor. With a little bit of bench time (and a left handed bolt) the gun can be completely transformed into southpaw rifle. The safety, charging handle, and ejection can all be flipped to the opposite side of the rifle.
Shooting the bullpup
Shooting the Tavor will feel odd for those new to the platform. Because of the bullpup design, it takes time and training to become comfortable with the rifle. Bullpups have always presented a challenge in ergonomics; historically they have always been quick into action but slow in manipulation. The Tavor breaks most of that mold, but it still requires training and the acceptance of the set-backs bullpups often suffer from. Reloads will be slower than on your AR-15. With regular, rigorous practice, you can pick up speed.
Once you get used to the new manual of arms and the ergonomics, the gun begins to shine. It has a 16.5 inch barrel and an overall length of 26.5 inches. The gun is compact, close to SBR lengths with out the hassle of tax stamps.This length will keep the rounds moving at 3,000 FPS or better, exactly like the AR carbines it’s designed to replace.
The IDF model tested for this article presented a challenge. We typically like to crunch numbers and compile some basic accuracy data. Shooting tight groups with a non-magnified reflex sight is not really in my wheelhouse. At 100 meters I got results close to the six inch mark. With a magnified optic, I am sure the groups would stay much tighter at the longer ranges. Accuracy is also restricted by the Tavor’s trigger, which breaks at 11 pounds, and the large reticle of the Mepro-21. One tip for anyone shooting the IDF Model is to use the top of the triangle as a more precise point of aim. Covering a torso-sized target at 100 yards is easy to do quickly, but if you are looking for more precise shot placement, focus on the tip of the triangle.
Moving in closer to the targets, the rifle begins to come into its own. Bullpups were designed for close quarters. The Tavor is no exception. It points naturally. The majority of the weight is toward the rear of the rifle the shooter, which keeps you from fatiguing as quickly. The weight distribution enables the shooter to engage targets with one hand. The gun remains effective while the left hand is busy opening doors, or grabbing magazines. Its short overall-length makes maneuvering around obstacles as easy as staying an arms length away. I’m 5’8”. If I am farther than an arms length away from a target, I can bring the rifle up and engage without backing up.
The rifle hits the mark with practical accuracy. At close quarters, the heavy trigger and large reticle seem perfectly natural. This has been a contentious argument for some of us at GunsAmerica. We’ve all had some experience with the Tavor. While everyone respects the rifle, some wouldn’t own one without a new trigger. Others like the feel of the stock trigger and see its heavy pull as kind of a psuedo-safety because you really have to pull the trigger to fire. The idea goes something like this: in close quarters scenarios, where you assess targets rapidly, a heavy pull could keep you from reflexively pulling the trigger the moment a (potentially innocuous) target presents itself.
I find the trigger to be obscenely heavy, almost to a point where it becomes counter productive. I’d like to see a factory trigger pack from IWI for non-Military/LE customers that gives users who don’t require battlefield reliability a factory option. But there are great aftermarket options from Geisselle and Timney, so it is an easy fix should you want to fix it.
Moving past the trigger for a moment…. Let’s get back to the ergonomics. Give this rifle to a new shooter who has no experience on the AR platform and he would find little to complain about. Anyone familiar with the FS2000, or a Styer AUG will appreciate the gun for how easy it is to use the controls. The Tavor is simply the most practical Bullpup on the market, but that doesn’t mean the rifle is flawless.
The position of the magazine release behind the shooter’s hand requires that you use an unorthodox slight-of-hand to drop the magazine, or remove the magazine with your support hand. It is easy enough to learn the drill, but not as easy as it is on an AR-15, where you push a button with your trigger finger and give the gun a little flip.
For this review, I requested that IWI send the 9mm conversion kit as well. Converting the rifle in to a pistol caliber carbine takes right around 15 minuets to complete and is easy enough that even the novice should be able to do it.
Once you’ve mastered the 5.56, the 9mm is an easy switch. Almost every detail remains the same. The 9mm carbine has the same trigger pull, weight, and manual of arms.
The 9mm feeds from modified Colt SMG magazines, and ran flawlessly. It is an improvement over most pistol caliber carbines. As the last round is fired, the bolt locks to the rear. The 9mm mag drops free. The beveled mag well makes reloads easy.
Accuracy with the 9mm conversion was more than combat effective; a 5 shot group supported from 25 meters gave one ragged hole in the paper. Groups were consistent, and held right around 1 to 1.5 inches.
The 9mm conversion kit turns the Tavor into a viable pistol caliber carbine, but it is really meant as a training tool. Once the conversion is complete, you can train with your Tavor with 9mm instead of 5.56. It would be easier on your wallet, and easier on steel targets.
The 9mm conversion kit comes in at $900, and gives you a low cost option when it comes to ammunition. If you are a high volume shooter this kit may just be worth its high price tag.
The IDF16 has an MSRP of $2,599. It is selling closer to $2,200. And the IDF model will clearly appeal to the collector. For students of contemporary military history, the IDF16 will speak for itself.
I think the Tavor is a great solution for shooters looking for a gun they can travel with, train with, and carry. It fits under the bench of your truck, or in a discreet carry bag. Of all of the full sized carbines, the Tavor may be the easiest to hide in plain sight. It will appeal to anyone looking for a battle ready rifle right out of the box. It is practical, tested, and ready for any task you throw at it.