IWI has always been one of the leaders in innovation, but this week it has gone into overdrive. We got our hands on the Tavor TS12 Shotgun, which is unlike anything else you have ever seen. Now first glance is not going to sit well with the traditionalist crowd, for certain. If we are being honest, it does look like a Buck Roger’s space gun, perhaps tossed in the blender with the old H&K G11 for good measure. But, even our M-16’s looked flakey compared to the battle rifles they replaced, so you have to keep a bit of an open mind.
The Tavor is a bullpup design, which lends itself to some unique strengths. Now I am not generally a bullpup fan when it comes to rifles, though they are popular. I issue a waiver to shotguns though, for a couple of reasons. First of all, if we don’t want to bother with a tax stamp, a shotgun has to be 18 inches long. Unlike the 16 inches required of a rifle, because the law is dumb. So while that two inches isn’t everything, it is nice that our Tavor packs an 18.5 barrel into an overall length of 28.34 inches. For comparison, a Remington 870 with a comparable barrel is 38.5 inches long.
Second, I don’t usually get down with bullpup rifles because it slows the speed of a reload. Maybe you can correct that with extensive training, but I don’t see it. However, shotguns are already slower to load, so you don’t lose much by going to a bullpup. And as we will see in a minute, the Tavor is a unique snowflake in that regard as well. The reloading method on this bad boy is nothing short of ingenious.
So our space gun TS12 is a semi-automatic, with a short stroke gas piston method of action. Despite the overall large size (10.23 inches tall), it only weighs 8 pounds. The venerable 870 weighs 7.5, to give you a frame of reference. Out of the box, the TS12 feels like all that weight is centered over the pistol grip, for a kind of reward center of balance. Loading it up, however, corrects that to a more even feel.
Then we get into the wild part. The TS-12 is chambered for either 2 ¾ inch or 3-inch shells, which is excellent for a tactical shotgun. But if we go with 2 ¾ length, we have an overall capacity of 15. How you ask? Magic. And some out of the box thinking by IWI.
The grip area for your support hand is a tube that holds the shells, nothing outlandish about that. But if you noticed it is triangular in shape, there is a reason. Because the tube is actually three tubes, that rotate in either direction. At 5 rounds per tube, we get 15+1. Or 4 for tube, if you opt to run some big boy 3-inch turkey shells.
And it doesn’t offer just great capacity. To me, it really then helps exploit the biggest strength of the shotgun. The ability to use a variety of round types, depending on the situation. For LE, you could have a tube of CS, a tube of bean bags, and a tube of rubber shot. For tactical situations, you could run two of buckshot, and one of slugs. With a little bit of practice, it is pretty easy to be able to select on the fly. Like all shotguns, you still have to burn or eject the round in the pipe. But it does offer some flexibility that is category unique.
When it comes to loading, IWI also batted one out of the park. The TS12 features loading ports on either side, so you don’t have to rotate the tube around in a circle to get them all back to topped off. The ports are also located in an easy to reach spot that is instinctive to use. Unique that I have seen among tactical shotguns, you don’t even need to take it out of your shoulder to gas it up. Pretty cool.
The pistol grip/ trigger assembly looks a little odd, but it does work well. The front bit acts as both a knuckle protector and a trigger guard. It is on the big side, but you don’t even notice when using the shotgun. At the front of the trigger guard is the release to rotate the magazine tube, which is easily reachable with your trigger finger. The trigger itself is pretty fantastic. It isn’t custom shop 1911 good, but it is a far cry better than most of the shotguns I pick up.
The front of the housing is M-Lok compatible, so no worries about space for flashlights and lasers. The top is one continuous Picatinny rail, which is important for this gun. It doesn’t ship with iron sights, and the bullpup design means you would be better off with a red dot anyway. We chose the Trijicon RMR, and I would recommend it highly.
Despite a relatively lightweight, IWI did a good job on the recoil mitigation system. Even though the action happens four inches from your shoulder, the TS12 eats most of the recoil for you. It isn’t the lightest recoiling 12 gauge on the market, but it was more comfortable than I expected.
So that is a lot of good, is there some bad? Unfortunately, this time, yes. Reliability, in my opinion, is a factor with this gun. I gave it more than a fair shake, but I’m still not 100% confident in the TS12. This is how it went.
I do not normally shoot a review gun before I turn the camera on. But I have some friends in the industry that have also reviewed the TS-12, and they all said it required a break-in. So I went out to see for myself. Now granted, during break-in, I only had a lighter load of Federal Grand on hand. And the manufacture recommends a minimum of 1200 feet per second, with a 1 1/8th ounce load. My break in ammo was a bit lighter, so I had failures around 10% of the time across 200 rounds.
In the modern era, it is actually kind of odd for a firearm to need a break-in. But it isn’t unheard of, so I would have been willing to forgive everything in that 200 rounds as irrelevant. But today, I went out with 6 brands of ammo, all well past the 1200 fps 1 1/8th threshold. And I still had failures about 1 out of 15, or 1 out of 10 on some occasions. I would also forgive a shotgun for not eating birdshot at all, as birdshot is a training only round in the tactical world. But the TS12 still had failures with high brass buckshot, which does not give me warm fuzzies.
Was the failure rate so high that the TS12 is a complete wash? No. And maybe, with a longer 400-500 round break-in, it becomes near 100%. But that is kind of hard to stomach in an ammo crunch, I’m sure you would agree. So while the TS12 is cool, and has some outstanding innovation, it isn’t what I would consider combat reliable. Should you still get one? Well, that is very much a personal decision. But if you do, it shouldn’t be your bump in the night gun until you have tested the hell out of it yourself.