September 2013

Tavor TAR-21: Bullpup Takes a Licking, Keeps On Kicking

This hot new rifle in 5.56 NATO costs a pretty penny — around $2000 rollout in most places — but we see some reasons why it may be worth the money.

Starting in 2001, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) began testing the Tavor TAR-21 (Tavor Assault Rifle, 21st Century). In 2003 it had a larger roll out, and most Israeli soldiers were receiving at least minimal training on the platform. By 2009, the Tavor had officially replaced M16-style rifles in the tiny country’s defense armory. Now the Tavor, as a semi-auto civilian rifle, is available for sale in the USA. The manufacturer, Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), has opened up a U.S. branch (IWI US) and is manufacturing and assembling the gun in this country. We were able to get our hands on the popular new IWI Tavor SAR-21 in 5.56 NATO. It will accept any standard AR-15/M16 magazine, and the Tavor is available in black or flat dark earth with an MSRP of $1999. The owner of our loaner test gun paid $1850 for his in April 2013.

The Tavor had a 16.5-inch barrel and an overall length of 26.2 inches, which gives the operator the ability to maneuver quickly and shoot with the accuracy of a longer rifle. It weighed just 10.2 pounds with a 30-round magazine and an EOTech XPS2-2 Holographic Weapon Sight aboard. Along with the gun, IWI included a belt pouch that contained four cleaning-rod extensions, a squeeze bottle for gun lube, a bore brush, a chamber brush, a general cleaning brush, a large brush for cleaning the inside of the receiver, and a windage/elevation adjustment tool for the front sight. Also, there were a pair of QD swivel studs, a IWI branded magazine, and the owners manual.

The Tavor was ripe with awesome features, starting with the design of the gun. Every piece of polymer on the gun was ergonomically designed and felt great, our shooters said. There are optional conversion kits that would allow the gun to shoot either 9mm Luger or 5.45x39mm. It is 100% ambidextrous with a separate kit, which contains optional left-handed bolts. Sights include built-in back up irons with a tritium-tipped front post.

The barrel on our test gun was chrome-lined and fitted with a standard flash suppressor. The hammer-forged CrMoV (chrome-moly-vanadium) tube had six grooves and a 1:7 right-hand twist. The charging handle was non-reciprocating. A Picatinny rail ran along the top of the gun, which was great for mounting optics. It also comes with an rail on the right side of the gun. The body of the gun was completely made of one solid piece of polymer. The safety was mounted right on the pistol grip. The magazine release was ambidextrous and a little on the large side, we thought. When we first started testing, we were pretty sure that the location and size were going to cause a problem for some shooters, but, ultimately, we did not have a single issue loading or unloading magazines from the gun.

The take-apart process was surprisingly easy. Depress a pin on the back side of the gun near the buttstock, and the stock folds down 90 degrees, whereafter you can remove the bolt assembly from the gun.

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