The Tavor TAR-21 is the current service rifle for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), but IWI is now producing these rifles for civilian purchase. I’ve only gotten to fire a few rounds through it, which is something considering how hard it is to come by 5.56×45 (the standard chambering for the Tavor), but not much to go off of for a full review. So, this post is more of an introduction to the firearm that just started shipping to distributors last month (March 2013).
The Tavor looks straight badass. Whether in black (my favorite) or flat dark earth, it looks as likely to be wielded against aliens in a sci-fi movie as on today’s urban battle fields. But, the pretty penny one must spend to purchase a TAR-21 (MSRP is a staggering $2000) doesn’t just buy a good-looking gun. The Tavor features a 16.5″ hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel (1:7″ twist rate), monolithic upper picatinny rail, and side rail (with mounting point for lower rail). And while the flat top rifle doesn’t come standard with an optic, it does feature integral back up iron sights (adjustable for elevation). The steel trigger group is another nice touch that makes for a (somewhat heavy, ~9lbs) cleanly breaking trigger (not as sweet as a light AR trigger, but an improvement from the plastic-like feel of other bullpup triggers).
Fortunately for the cross dominant shooters out there (such as this writer), it is also a fully ambidextrous rifle. Straight from factory, the Tavor rifle is configured for right handed operation, with a charging handle on the non-firing side of the rifle. However, that, as well as the ejection port and ejection port buffer (a neat feature in and of itself ), the quick detach sling mounts, and the safety selector switch can be reconfigured for left handed operation. However, the boon of the ejection port buffer is how it deflects casings away from the shooter (the hotter the ammo, the more forward the deflection of the casing, i.e., .223 will deflect at about the 3 o’clock position while 5.56 deflects closer to the shooter’s 1 o’clock position). This allows a right handed rifle to be fired either right or left handed without directing spent casings into the shooter’s face. The position of the magazine release (on the front of the mag well) facilitates mag drops as easily from either hand.
The Tavor is a bit on the heavy end of the scale, weighing about 7.9lbs empty (and without optics). Fully loaded with an optic brings the weight closer to 9lbs. However, the weight feels well balanced. It settles largely in the butt of the rifle, and as that is the portion that is shouldered, it isn’t tiring in the way that nose-heavy rifles can be (because they force the shooter to keep the weight at the extension of their grip, rather than closer into their body, as the Tavor does).
Its ergonomics are improved by the multiple points of contact the rifle makes with the shooter. The compactness of the overall design (26 ⅛ inches from butt to barrel) allows the Tavor’s operator to make contact at six points: 1) buttstock-to-shoulder 2) grip-to-hand 3) cheek-to-cheek weld 4) forearm-to-triggerguard 5) hand-to-forend and 6) wrist-to-magazine. This allows the shooter to establish a stable, firm grip on the rifle easily. That grip, the non-lubricated long stroke piston bullpup design, and use of the 5.56×45 round (conveniently, this rifle accepts and feeds standard AR-15 mags) combine for a gentle-to-nonexistent recoil experience. Continued fire is easy to control as reacquiring the target between shots is no challenge at all.
Overall First Impressions
From the research I’ve done on this rifle (the review by the Military Arms Channel is one such excellent source of information on the Tavor TAR-21) and the little bit of experience I’ve had behind the trigger of the rifle, I was impressed. It seems to offer a step up from the bullpup designs that precede it, such as the Steyr AUG or the FN FS2000, in functionality and ambidextrous operation. The Picatinny rails allow for a great degree of customization through adding accessories. Firing a few rounds through the Tavor is enough to display how gently the rifle recoils and how maneuverable its compact design is. From looks to function, it’s hard to find flaw with the Tavor. It’s a badass bullpup, done better.