The AR-15 is America’s rifle. Every gun shop you roll in to, there’s usually a wall with AR-15s all over it. For good reason too. It’s reliable, combat proven, modular, and probably one of the most ergonomic rifles in existence. However every once in a while there’s a hankering to break away from the pack and dabble with something different. For us, that’s where the IWI Tavor comes in. It’s about as different as you can get from the AR-15 without deviating away from the “Assault Rifle” genre.
IWI’s Tavor X95 was adopted by the Israeli Military in 2009 to replace their ageing M16 and M4 rifles. To make a long story short, the Israeli Military was looking for a rifle that had the velocity of a 16” barrel but had the maneuverability of a short barreled rifle like the MK18. The IDF went with the X95 and has been integrating them ever since. With its bullpup configuration, the X95 is about the same length as the MK18, but doesn’t have the velocity problems due to its 16” barrel.
There are several variations of the Tavor and we got our hands on the X95 variant. You can kind of think of the X95 as the Gen 2. The changes from the SAR to the X95 are almost entirely ergonomic. Better positioning of the charging handle, safety, an improved trigger, and a few other things. A lot of welcome improvements that were derived from feedback in the field.
At first glance, the IWI Tavor carries a pretty big price tag at $1,999. It isn’t cheap but when you start ticking the boxes of what a combat rifle should have it isn’t unreasonable. Compared to other rifles in its class, it falls in line rather nicely.
The 16.5” barrel in the X95 is what you’d expect for a combat rifle. Chrome lining and cold hammer forging provide an increased lifespan over your entry level rifle barrel. A 1:7 twist is pretty standard as well, and tends to be considered milspec for this length barrel. This is pretty helpful in stabilizing those heavier grain 5.56 loads.
IWI went with a long stroke gas piston system in the Tavor which offers some benefits. Most notably you’ll experience some increased reliability from a long stroke piston system for two reasons. Compared to a Direct Impingement system like the AR-15, a piston gun doesn’t expel gas directly into the receiver. The gas that comes from the barrel pushes the face of the piston in the gas tube versus making it’s way all the way to the bolt carrier group. Additionally long stroke systems have the added benefit of applying quite a bit of force to the bolt carrier which makes it very reliable in adverse conditions.
One of the more interesting features, especially in the age of “optics ready” rifles is the included iron sights. They aren’t just any iron sights however. Built right into the frame of the rifle, they stow neatly away when not in use leaving full access to the top picatinny rail. Additionally the front sight has a tritium vial which makes it easy to spot at night.
Lastly, the Tavor comes ready for attachments with picatinny rails on the top, at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. It should be noted that the Tavor X95 doesn’t come with M-Lok slots. Despite that we didn’t find much issue getting the accessories we wanted, which included a surefire M300c, pressure pad, and a BCM vertical foregrip. M-Lok would be nice but it’s far from a necessity in the golden age of weapons accessories.
Shooting the X95
Due to current constraints on ammo, we have only run about 300 rounds through the X95. Typically we’ll go through about 500-1,000, but what can you do in 2020? Regardless, we can at least offer our thoughts on those 300 rounds. We did however do a good amount of dry firing in hopes to get some more time behind the weapon.
Tackling the X95 takes a bit of practice on the users end, especially if you’re used to running the AR-15. At first, reloads will feel pretty sluggish and sloppy. You’ll go to insert a mag in front of the trigger and suddenly realize that your muscle memory misguided you. The only viable solution to that is to take the time practicing reloads at home to get that muscle memory down. We can safely say that it gets easier as you put more time behind the rifle.
Ergonomics are probably one of the most interesting parts about the X95. It’s only awkward to use initially due to lack of experience which becomes apparent when you sit down and realize that everything is kind of right where it should be. The magazine release is quickly pressed with your index finger without breaking your grip and the safety is toggled with your thumb without breaking grip either. To drop the bolt, you can press the enormous button that sits behind the magwell with your thumb right after inserting a magazine. When you reload a mag with the Tavor you’re also keeping your arm closer into your body which can offer a bit more stability. Lastly, when it comes to ergos the Tavor X95 is completely ambidextrous. All of the controls can be swapped to the otherside. Even the direction that the cases eject.
Let’s talk about accuracy. We won’t dive too deeply into it as we aren’t precision shooters and we don’t keep match grade ammo on hand. Overall, we can say that the Tavor is plenty accurate for a combat rifle. It was easy enough to keep 3-4 inch groups at 100 yards. For a combat rifle, that’s completely acceptable and we’d be interested to see how the 1:7 twist does with 77 grain. We would assume it would probably shoot tighter groups, as everything we’ve read, the Tavor is capable of 2” groups with quality 77 grain ammo. Regardless, with the off the shelf 55 grain and 62 grain we had, there aren’t many complaints on our end.
The trigger. That’s the thing everyone asks about. Bullpups aren’t known for their crisp trigger pulls, but the X95 is certainly an improvement. The trigger pull is heavy and there really is no travel to the wall. The entirety of the pull is pretty much the break and the reset is somewhat long. Overall, the Tavor has a serviceable trigger for the task at hand. Is it the best out there? Not really but poor fundamentals will stand in your way long before the trigger does.
Lastly, the X95 handles very well. The balance is spot on despite the heavy bits sitting towards the rear of the rifle. It always finds its way right into your shoulder every time. Running quick drills with it are easy and the weight in the rear seemed to just soak recoil. If you’ve spent time behind a 16” AR-15 you’ll know that it isn’t exactly the easiest rifle to work with in tight spaces and the barrel is constantly bumping into things during drills. Not the case with the Tavor. Additionally the Length of Pull, despite not having an adjustment, was pretty much perfect for all the shooters on the Blade-Tech team that ran it.
Flat out, we didn’t have any issues with the Tavor whatsoever. It ate everything from Wolf steel case, American Eagle 223, Lake City M193, and Federal M855. That’s a lot of variety, and in the age of ammo shortages that’s greatly appreciated as that means we can run whatever we can get our hands on. We can also note that we saw no reliability issues when switching out different types of magazines. Everything from Colt 20 round magazines to 30 round PMAGs ran absolutely fine through the Tavor.
Additionally we didn’t lubricate or clean the Tavor. We ran it straight out of the box and it was good to go. Due to the piston system, the receiver actually looks like it could go pretty far without seeing a cleaning. It’s a bit hard to tell we even shot the rifle which is largely because piston guns just don’t let much carbon back to the bolt.
Overall we had a great time running the Tavor X95. It’s one of those guns that has a ton of character. You’ll find yourself texting pictures of it to your friends saying, “Just signed up for space force” or images of it sitting next to your 11.5” rifles. That’s kind of the magic of the Tavor. It’s just one of those firearms that brings a smile to your face every time you open up the gun safe. The novelty of having a 16” barrel in a gun that small never really wears off on you.
With its size, it’s easy to tote around in bags and rather easy to handle as well. The flat recoil impulse and good ergonomics allowed us to run the Tavor to our limits once we got the hang of it. The ability to run 5.56 STANAG and PMAGS is a nice touch too. If you’re interested in military rifles and you want to try something different than an AR-15 then the Tavor should probably be on your list. It’s well priced in its class of rifles and comes with the features you’d expect at the price point. Combined with its shootability and its ability to spark conversation at the range, the Tavor X95 is one that could be safely added to the collection.