Israel’s new assault rifle looks like it’s straight out of science fiction
by PAUL HUARD
Its name in Aramaic means “bad luck” or “misfortune” — and an adversary would have plenty of it when looking down the gun barrel of Israel’s newest assault rifle.
By 2018, the Israeli Defense Forces will adopt the Tavor TAR-21 as its standard battle rifle — a weapon that the IDF claims is more reliable, easier to clean, and better suited for the tactical situations faced by its soldiers than the M4A1 carbines and M-16 rifles currently in use.
It’s already had its baptism of fire. First tested in 2001 by Israeli troops, the Tavor — pronounced “tuh-vore” — saw combat in 2008–2009 when the Givati and Golani brigades used them during the three-week Gaza War.
Some gun experts say the Israelis have raised the standard on bullpup design. And to be sure, it is an eye-catching weapon. The weapon’s shape is reminiscent of the scifi “pulse rifles” used by the Colonial Marines in the movie Aliens.
The Tavor is a 5.56 x 45-millimeter gas-operated, select-fire, magazine-fed firearm built around a non-lubricated long-stroke piston mechanism. In fact, its internal mechanics bear some resemblance to the Kalashnikov family of assault rifles.
In short, it’s a pretty bad-ass rifle.
Israel began developing the Tavor in 1991. At the time, the IDF said it wanted a new rifle that would chamber the 5.56-millimeter NATO round, have the flexibility of an ergonomic “short rifle” without losing accuracy.
Craig Lucas, the chief executive officer of Israel Weapons Industries — one of the rifle’s manufacturers — said the Tavor fits a number of mission profiles because IWI worked with soldiers while developing the weapon.
Among these mission profiles is what’s known as close-quarters battle. “CQB is all about being able to maneuver in tight quarters,” Lucas said. “Maneuvering a long-barreled rifle in a CQB environment is at best cumbersome and at worst may seem futile. The Tavor can move in and out of CQB environments with ease.”
Lucas has an interest in promoting the Tavor. But he’s not wrong — the Tavor just happens to be a highly reliable piece of hardware. One independent journalist conducted a 12,000-round stress test, firing the Tavor repeatedly without a single malfunction.
“One IDF soldier related a story where he had over the course of many days fought in a war, fired thousands of rounds, and had never cleaned his Tavor and he never had an issue,” Lucas said.
Tavor uses standard 30-round AR magazines. In addition, there is a nine-millimeter version of the weapon sold as a conversion kit. The rifle is fully ambidextrous — including the ejection mechanism.
A safety and fire-mode selector switch is included on both sides of the Tavor. It even has twin charging-handle slots, so the shooter can install either a right-handed or left-handed grip. It only takes a few minutes to do most of the modifications with only partial disassembly.
Armies in 24 countries use the Tavor, either as a commando weapon or as a main battle rifle. Although the weapon encountered a few teething problems, countries such as India, Portugal and Ukraine purchased large numbers of the firearm and are slowly distributing them to regular troops.
It’s also pretty useful for troops on the move in vehicles. This is mainly because it’s so … small. This makes it useful for bodyguards.
While guarding a “principal”—bodyguard lingo for someone under protection — comes under attack, the Tavor-armed guards could push him or her out of the way with one hand, while blasting away with the other.