IWI Tavor - Overview

Background


The IWI Tavor Assault Rifle for the 21st Century or "TAR21" is a 5.56 mm Bullpup assault rifle. The development of the weapon began in 1994, shortly after the IDF decision to replace the Galil with the M16 as its new standard issue weapon for all infantry oriented units, including both special and conventional units. Since then IWI worked closely with the IDF to develop a weapon that will meet the IDF operational requirements.

The weapon was first exposed to the public in the mid 1990's and was designated as "M203". Soon afterwards, the name was changed to “Tavor” (after the similarly named Israeli mountain) to prevent confusion with the renowned grenade launcher.

Development Guidelines:

  • When the weapon was first conceived in the early 1990's, the M4A1 was yet to be introduced to the IDF, and Picatinny rails adapters were in limited IDF usage, primarily by SF units. When an operator had to switch from a day optic to a night optic he often needed to re-zero both optics afterwards. The Tavor was therefore designed to enable easy mouthing and removal of a night optic right behind the primary day optic without the need to remove the day optic in the process and without the need to re-zero either optic. The result was a standard nighttime configuration of an ITL N/SEAS and an ITL MARS. Today, as the M4A1 features an integrated rail this is no longer an issue.
  • Integrated sight which will combine both a red dot sight and visible or IR laser. ITL and Meprolight both submitted prototypes for the Tavor primary sight - MARS and the Triflex respectively - with the MARS eventually chosen.
  • The weapon's cost without optics was be similar or less to that of M4A1. Contrary to popular belief, the IDF does not receive M4A1 for free or at a nominal fee. The IDF pay a full price (although a US Army price) via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funds provided to Israel by the US. The final production version of the Tavor met this goal and costs around $1,000 (without optics) similar to that of a M4A1.

 

Design


The Tavor featured a new design, initially conceived by civilian product designers with little firearm background. Surprisingly, the production model retained many of the original design features.

Design Highlights:

  • Caliber & barrel - 5.56 mm, a floating 6 grooves barrel with a 1:7 twist
  • Strong & light - the housing is made from composite materials, which are rust resistant and provide insulation against heat created during prolonged fire as well as against cold during extreme weather.
  • Color - although the IDF default color is black, it can be ordered in a variety of finishes.
  • Ambidextrous - the trigger group (safe-semi-full auto), cocking lever and the ejection port can be moved without tools in few minutes from side to side in order to allow usage by right/left handed soldier.
  • Magazines - use standard issue M16 STANAG magazines.
  • Bullpup design - the Tavor features the advantages and disadvantages of other Bullpup platforms. The weapon is relatively short: just 72.5 cm in the standard version (TAR21) and just 59 cm in the smaller variant - the Micro Tavor. Despite its short length, the Bullpup configuration allows the Tavor family to incorporate a relatively long barrel: 46 cm in the TAR21 and 33 cm in the Micro Tavor, making the Tavor a fairly accurate weapon. However, the Bullpup design leads to the Tavor ejecting empty shells closer to the end user face, making simultaneous and ambidextrous usage of both shoulders more challenging. To address this issue later production models of the Tavor introduced a shell deflector, located just behind ejection port.

  • Accessories - as a modern assault rifle designed to replace the M16 family in IDF service, the Tavor is a versatile platform, which can be fitted with a variety of tactical accessories such as: a bipod, various optics, aiming modules, silencer, M1913 rails and a M203 grenade launcher, which can be requires a special barrel adapter

The Tavor first concept as exposed in the mid 1990's as the "M203". Note the well placed bipod, which existed in the original design as an integral part of the weapon. The integrated bipod as well as the rugged texture were left out of the production model due to cost considerations.

 

Left - Tavor pre-production prototype with a MARS prototype, right - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checking the Tavor prototype.

 

Pre-production prototype Tavor/M203 combo. Note an extended cocking lever, a longer barrel for the M203, a different stock and a MARS prototype.

 

Early Production version of the Tavor with a production MARS.

 

Sights


When first introduced, the Tavor sighting system comprised of two ITL optics enabling streamlined daytime and nighttime usage:

  • ITL MARS - developed specifically for the Tavor project, the MARS can be fully integrated with the TAR variant and can be automatically switched on and off according to Tavor safety switch (Safe: MARS Off, Semi/Auto: MARS On). The TAR variant also features a integrated remote switch in its handguards for the MARS laser.

  • ITL Mini N/SEAS - during nighttime deployment the Mini N/SEAS can be placed right behind the MARS without any adapter or need for re-zero. Once the Mini N/SEAS is mounted on the Tavor, the operator can use the MARS aiming dot as a point of aim.

While the MARS and the Mini N/SEAS were the Tavor initial issue day/night optics configuration, today the Tavor can be ordered as a standalone platform with M1913 rails and can host any optic. In addition, while the Tavor original design did not incorporate iron sights, later production models featured a flip-up iron sights which can be used if the primary optic malfunctions or runs out of batteries.

The TAR original nighttime configuration - ITL MARS and an ITL Mini N/SEAS.

Tavor Guide