The Tavor (pronounced tuh-VAWR) Tactical Assault Rifle is based on the bullpup design assault rifles used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) known by their military designation: TAR-21. The design for the Tavor began all the way back in 1991. At that time, the IDF and the Israel Military Industries (IMI) began working on designs to replace the M-16, CAR-15 and the IMI Galil. The requirements for this next-gen, 21st century assault rifle were as follows:
- Compatibility with the 5.56mm NATO round.
- Short rifle convenience with long barrel accuracy.
- Superior reliability under extreme conditions.
- Ergonomic design for increased comfort and ease of use.
- Right and left handed operability.
The TAR-21 was first publicly introduced in 1998 and was field tested by the IDF from 1999-2002. The Tavor TAR-21 is a gas operated, selective fire, magazine fed assault rifle. These are now the standard issue assault rifle for the IDF.
The civilian versions will be offered in some of the same configurations as their military counterparts but in semi-automatic firing mode only. There is the standard TAR or Tactical Assault Rifle configuration with an 18″ barrel and an integrated reflex sight directly attached to the barrel. The CTAR (Compact Tactical Assault Rifle) version has a slightly shorter, 15″ barrel, also with the integrated reflex site. This version has a total overall length of just over 25 inches compared to the 35-inch M4. There is also a Tavor Flattop with a picattiny rail above the barrel. The effective range for all of the Tavor variations is 300 meters.
The Tavor uses standard 30 round AR15 style magazines. So, if you already have magazines for your AR15, you don’t need to buy all new ones. However, unlike most rifles like this, IWI also mentions that they will offer either a 9mm version or a conversion kit for 9mm.
Moving forward on the gun, there are two things I want to point out as particularly excellent.
First, the forward-mounted charging handle. Not only is it non-reciprocating (averting the only complaint about the SCAR I have) so you don’t bash your knuckles, but it falls readily to hand and is easy to operate. In short, it just works.
The other thing I really liked about the gun was that it comes with a set of iron sights that fold away so neatly into the full length rail that most people don’t even know that they exist. It’s a great touch, especially on a gun that’s meant to be fired using a red dot or similar low power optic. It’s high enough to cowitness with the optic, then goes away until needed again.
Speaking of “there when you need it,” the thing just refuses to die. I used the worst ammunition I could find, the worst magazines I could muster (including some experimental models), and tried everything I could think of to make this gun jam. But no matter what I did, the TAVOR fired reliably every single time.
- Hate. This.Trigger.
I thought the trigger on the KRISS carbine was bad, but the TAVOR’s is quite possibly the worst trigger I’ve ever felt. Not only is it creepier than an uninvited clown at a 12-year-old’s birthday party, it’s exceedingly heavy. My trigger finger was too tired to keep pulling after about 20 rapid fire rounds, sooner than any other firearm I’ve ever tested.
That trigger translates to terrible accuracy downrange. I took the rifle to the Best of the West range and tried my best to get a good 5 round group at 50 yards, but this was the tightest I had all day. Mil spec calls for a 4 MoA or better spread. This rifle, in my hands, could only muster an 8 MoA spread. For me, if I was going to drop TWO THOUSAND dollars on a new rifle, I would expect at least 2 MoA or better.
Don’t get me wrong, this is fine if you’re expecting “minute of bad guy” accuracy. But it severely limits the usefulness of the gun.
Long range shooting? Forget it. I could hit the gong at 250 yards most of the time, but the gun was dancing all around the 500 yard steel target. The crappy trigger, combined with the short overall length, means that this rifle is most definitely not intended to leave the realm of the red dot.
Competition shooting? While the gun is maneuverable, the crappy trigger and the short overall length are the gun’s downfall. While 3-gun rifles have been getting progressively shorter, there’s a reason that not a single shooter in the pro series uses a bullpup configuration rifle. The longer overall length allows for more leverage to be placed on the gun to keep it stable, and that’s not possible with the TAVOR.
Hunting? While the 5.56 round is more than adequate for most critters here in Texas (and .300 BLK even more so), the less than stellar accuracy of the rifle makes me hesitant to recommend it. The small size does make it ideal for getting in and out of vehicles to hunt and convenient to carry around, but for the same reasons that it doesn’t do well as a competition rifle I wouldn’t recommend this as a hunting rifle either.
Even with simply firing the gun, it has some issues. The gun uses a combination of direct impingement esque gas tubes and a gas piston to cycle the action, and the point at which they meet is conveniently right next to your face. Which means that after about five rounds, you get as much gas in your face as if you were shooting a suppressed full auto M4 with a 7 inch barrel. For those who have never had the pleasure of asphyxiating on firearms exhaust while shooting before, I can tell you it is not a good time. Add a silencer into the mix on this gun and the blowback would be more than I would find comfortable.
The Ugly (Truth)
At the end of the day, what we have here is a one trick pony. It’s amazing for home defense and will top my list for that purpose from now on, but for everything else you would want to do with a firearm (other than having it as a range toy) it falls short.
Despite the many, many drawbacks, the gun is still fun to shoot. So if you’re looking for a range toy and can drop 2 grand without blinking an eye, then I think you’ll like this gun. But if you’re looking for a gun that will do more than satisfy your craving for a trendy niche gun, this is not the firearm you are looking for.