Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) is a legendary gun maker. Its Tavor and Jericho weapons systems are in service in law enforcement and military agencies all over the world, but until last year, IWI had yet to develop a striker-fired handgun.
That changed with the Masada. The polymer-framed, striker-fired, 9mm mimics the best attributes of its plastic-gun predecessors. It’s comfortable and easy to shoot, and it boasts a great trigger and oversized, ambidextrous controls. It’s optics-ready and comes with four plates to accommodate the Trijicon RMR, Vortex Venom, Leupold Delta Point Pro, and Sig Sauer Romeo1. And it comes with three backstraps to customize the grip size.
“With other countries, including NATO allies, running to the striker-fired pistol, we decided to go down this path sooner than later,” Jeremy Gresham, IWI US’s Director of Sales and Marketing, told me via phone. “Rather than fighting it, we needed to be a part of it. Thus, came the Masada pistol as we know it today.”
An optics-ready striker-fired handgun from IWI would be news enough, but the Masada’s serialized trigger assembly is what really turned heads. Much like the uber-popular Sig P320, the IWI’s trigger assembly is what “counts” as the “firearm.” The entire unit can be removed and placed into a different sized frame that can accommodate a different sized slide and barrel (theoretically, at least – more on this below).
Here’s the real kicker: IWI is offering the Masada for the ridiculously low price of $480 MSRP.
|Model Number(s)||M9ORP10, M9ORP17|
|Operating System||Striker Fired|
|Magazine Type||IWI, Steel|
|Magazine Capacity||10 Round, 17 Round|
|Barrel Material||Polygonal Rifled, Cold Hammer Forged|
For most gun nuts, IWI needs no introduction, but it doesn’t have quite the same name recognition in the U.S. as companies like Ruger, Smith & Wesson, or Springfield. IWI began as Israel Military Industries (IMI) in the 1930s, and in the 1950s the company started working directly with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). IWI is the privatized small arms division of the IMI, and the U.S. based IWI US, Inc. launched in 2013.
IWI works directly with the IDF to, according to the company’s website, “develop small arms based upon the dynamic changes in real-world applications due to the ongoing threat of global terrorism.” IWI’s firearms have been adopted by militaries in Chile, Columbia, Georgia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, and many more.
When I asked Gresham what makes the Masada unique, he cited IWI’s storied history and rock-solid R&D process.
“We’re not another fly-by-night company. We’re a company that’s over 80 years old,” he said. “We do things right, out of the gate. We don’t release a product until it’s ready. Far too often a company releases product and it needs updates.”
They understand from experience the need for a quality product. IWI’s team in the U.S. is filled with former law enforcement and military, and much of the team in Israel has served in some kind of armed conflict.
“We took in end-user input whether from current employees or users in the field and built a solid weapons system backed by over 80 years of being in business,” Gresham said.
That’s a good start, but how did IWI ensure its product is ready for the real world?
Testing, testing, testing, Gresham said.
The team in Israel doesn’t send a product to the U.S. until it’s passed a 30,000-round torture test. Then, in the U.S., the Masada underwent another 30,000-round torture test. In this test, product engineers ensured that the slide locked back to the rear at the end of each mag, and testers put the slide back into battery by pressing the optic onto a solid barrier. They then tested to ensure that point of impact hadn’t shifted.
“Mounting systems have always been the Achilles heel of slide-ride type optics, and we wanted to make sure ours was solid,” Gresham said.
How’s It Shoot?
That testing paid off. I wasn’t able to conduct a 30,000-round torture test (thanks, COVID), but I did send quite a few hollow-point and round-nosed rounds down range without any malfunctions. I even replicated IWI’s back-into-battery optics test and achieve the same result: no noticeable point of impact shift.
The Masada is a pleasure to shoot. I say that about a lot of guns (guns are fun!), but I really mean it this time. The ergonomics are excellent, and the texturing on the grip is a great balance of grippy and smooth.
I also really liked the oversized and ambidextrous controls. I prefer using the slide release lever rather than gripping the back of the slide to return the gun to battery, so the oversized button was perfect for me. The mag release is also positive and slightly oversized, and the mags drop freely.
Serrations on the front and rear of the slide aid in loading and the rail allows for optics and lasers to be mounted.
The sights are no-nonsense three-dot affairs, but this gun screams electronic optics, so you may not ever use them. Unlike many other firearms (here’s looking at you, HK), the Masada comes with all the plates and screws you need to mount any of the compatible optics. I didn’t have any trouble mounting the Leupold Delta Point Pro I used for this review, and the optic held steady during the course of my testing.
The optics plates are polymer, which I realize won’t appeal to some folks. Maybe polymer plates are less reliable than steel, but, again, IWI says they conducted extensive torture testing without an issue, and my experience matched theirs.
The trigger is good. Mine was mushy towards the wall, but the six-pound break is still relatively clean, and there isn’t any overtravel. In that way, I’d say it’s comparable to a factory Glock trigger – maybe a little better. The trigger isn’t the gun’s strongest suit, but I didn’t find it to hinder my ability to put shots on target. On the contrary, I hit everything I aimed at with the Masada.
That’s probably also due to the gun’s inherent accuracy. At 25 yards, the gun grouped in the 3-4” range, and at 15 yards those groups shrunk down to 1.5-2”. I used a Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest for all testing along with two different 9mm loads from Hornady.
Sig P320 Killer?
Sig’s P320 was a big deal when it was released because it was the first totally modular, widely available handgun. Sig accomplished this feat by serializing the trigger assembly rather than the frame. With a serialized trigger, users could swap out smaller or larger frames and slides without having to do paperwork for a different gun. This functionality also allowed users to customize their firearm to suit their specific needs and physical characteristics.
The Masada also features a removable serialized trigger assembly, but unlike Sig, IWI hasn’t released any different frames or slides.
I asked Gresham about this, and here’s what he said:
“Obviously, that would make the most sense, but I do not have any information about that at the current moment. But being that it is a modular system, that would make the most sense, yes.”
When I pointed out that there would be a huge market for another modular handgun, he just said, “Agreed.”
You can read between the lines and form your own theories. Maybe IWI developed the gun for a modular handgun contract they didn’t secure. Maybe they have different priorities right now. From Gresham’s statements, it sounds like IWI knows the Masada could rival the P320, but right now, for whatever reason, they aren’t pursuing that at this time.
It’s similar to the P320 in other ways, however. The Masada’s barrel and overall length are both about 0.5” shorter, and it’s about 5oz lighter (25.2 oz), but the overall dimensions feel familiar. I’d give the nod to the P320’s trigger based on the P320’s I’ve used, but otherwise, the Masada is equally comfortable to shoot and just as user-friendly.
I can see this firearm filling a variety of needs – from home defense to competition to concealed carry. It’s probably a little big for that last option, but Gresham said it’s been approved for USPSA Production and Carry Optics competitions.
While Gresham admitted that it might not stand up against purpose-built race guns, I agreed with his overall assessment: “It’s a well-built pistol that generally can serve any role you put it in,” he said.
With a 17-round magazine, rail for a flashlight, and plates for optics, it’s a perfect home defense firearm. If you’re a first-time gun owner looking to defend your home without spending more than $500 on a firearm, I’d give the Masada a look. If you don’t plan on purchasing an optic, however, be sure to get the sights swapped out for night sights.
Gresham mentioned that IWI has submitted the Masada to law enforcement all over the U.S., along with agencies abroad. While none of them haven’t bitten yet, he said individual officers have purchased it for duty use.
Considering its features and the reputation of IWI, the Masada might be the best value in full-sized striker-fired handguns on the market. It may not be able to challenge the P320 yet, but that might change in the near future. If you can find a Masada in the middle of this panic-induced gun-buying spree, snatch it up – and get on the Masada bandwagon before it leaves you behind.