by Scott Smith | Contributing Editor
This past year I did probably the longest T&E that I have ever done. I had received a Tavor from IWI (Phone: 717-695-2081; Online: iwi.us). Because this rifle was going to be used primarily to shoot three gun matches, I asked them to send an eighteen inch version for the longer barrel. Three-gun competition would put this carbine to as close to its intended use as I could.
When the Tavor was envisioned by Zalman Shebs in 1982 for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), they needed a rifle suited for open terrain, close quarters, day and night operations. The rifle had to transition from one extreme seamlessly to the next. To do this a bullpup design was settled upon. What would be the Tavor was tested in the 90s into the early 2000s. Soldiers of the IDF tested the rifle and in 2002 it entered service in the Givati Brigade for real world operational testing. In September 2003 the Tavor was given the green light and became the IDF Infantry’s standard issue rifle. The Tavor has seen use with military and police units worldwide, and it makes a good choice as a preparedness or survival rifle.
In 2013 IWI US started to import the Tavor into the United States. Demand far outpaced supply, making the odds of finding one virtually impossible. Much of this was the extreme cool factor and a good deal of the brisk sales was the now former White House occupant’s hatred for and desire to ban firearms. Of course, Americans’ concerns about terrorism also contributed to the demand. After the 2014 elections people were not binge buying per se, allowing IWI US to finally have Tavors on hand. Late in 2015, I made arrangements to have a Tavor G18 sent to me.
I chose the G18 for the 18-inch barrel with its 1 in 7 twist to allow me to get the most out of the 69 grain bullets I planned to use for competition. The longer barrel also allowed me to add an extension to the front of the G18 for a better, more-supportive grip.
When the G18 arrived I was like a kid at Christmas. It was cool looking, handled nicely, pointed naturally and was something few others seem to have. The built-in back up sights pop right up out of the Picatinny rail and were well regulated. The Tavor stands out in a crowd. I never have to worry about which carbine is mine on the rack.
The one drawback to the Tavor was the trigger. Yes, this is a combat rifle, but at well over six pounds and with the stacking feeling because of the transfer bar, it was rough. While the trigger was fine if you were going for simple center of mass hits, it hindered the true accuracy of this carbine. During initial testing of the Tavor with optics from Truglo, I had no problem getting sub 2½- inch groups at 100 yards but that was as good as I could get it to run consistently. Getting a trigger group would be something that had to be looked into.
What I did find during the initial testing of the Tavor was that it ran flawlessly with any and all types of ammunition. While it ran on everything and anything, it also did not have issues with any magazine I had. I had magazines from Brownells, Hexmag, Lancer, Magpul, and Troy as well as very used GI magazines. I used Hexmags (Phone: 970-460-2000; Online: Hexmag.com) virtually the entire year; mainly the 2.0 version because it accepts stripper clips. The hex texturing makes it easy to “feel” the magazine when drawing it from behind a pistol mag. The HEX ID colored follower/floor plate made it easy to find your magazine.
After a few hundred rounds, it was apparent that the trigger of the Tavor was affecting its accuracy. Aside from being heavy and long it was squishy. Using the built-in back-up sights I was keeping rounds inside the “A Zone” at 50 yards, but it required slow deliberate fire for each shot. To really test this beast I’d have to find a better trigger. When I got back to the house, I hit the Internet; low and behold, Timney (Phone: 866-484-6639; Online: timneytriggers.com) had a trigger. A few phone calls and emails and one was on its way. It is a pricey purchase at $352.95, but it would prove its worth.
When the Timney arrived; I figured it was a good time to check out the internals of the Tavor. After ensuring the firearm was clear, I pushed out the retaining pin just forward at the top of the recoil pad. This allows the recoil springs, bolt carrier group and guide rods to slide out of the receiver. When this is done, you have the rifle broken down for most cleaning and maintenance.
Next the two pins above the magazine well are removed to allow you to remove the trigger group. Unlike an AR this is a complete unit, which ensures you won’t lose parts in the field or on the range. Now is the time to install the bolt carrier/recoil spring groups; they simply slide in and lock the recoil pad. After ensuring the bolt catch was in place and the hammer locked to the rear, the Timney Trigger group slips right in. You will know it installed properly if the magazine catch slides up and down. Now push the pins in, ensuring the bolt release is in place and you are ready to test the safety/trigger to ensure you installed everything properly. Youtube has many videos to guide you through this entire process.
Before heading to the range I did make a couple changes to the rifle. First I added a Surefire (Phone: 800-828-8809; Online: surefire.com) Brake/Suppressor Brake so I could mount my Surefire Mini and I installed Midwest Industries (Phone: 262-896-6780; Online: midwestindustriesinc.com) Tavor XL Handguard M-Lok ($149.95) with covers to allow for a longer grip and Barricade Stops ($25.50 ea.). These additions make the Tavor more suited for Three-gun applications, especially the brake which is very effective at reducing recoil and muzzle rise.
Once I had the Tavor ready to fire, I mounted a Truglo (Phone: 972-774-0300; Online: truglo.com) Tru-Brite 1-6X SCP Tactical Scope. This optic ships with a quick adjust throw lever and monolithic mount that over the last summer I found to have repeatable zero. The reticle is lighted red/green with a “PowerRing Duplex.” I found this scope to be sharp and clear, allowing first shot hits out to 200 yards; (that’s the longest shot I have at my range). The optional color reticle comes in handy when going from the lushness of the northeast to the desert southwest.
The SCP is one of the best values I have found for optics. Over the past year it has traveled the country from sea level to over a mile high and it kept right on ticking. I found that POA/POI did shift somewhat because of major altitude and weather changes, but no drastically. When I returned the optic to the zero setting for home, it was dead on. At $270, you will be hard pressed to find a better value for the dollar on the market. Truglo’s optics have become a force to be reckoned with over the last couple of years.
To test the Tavor’s accuracy I used ammunition from Black Hills Ammunition (Phone: 605-348-5150; Online: black-hills.com) and Federal Ammunition (Phone: 800-379-1732; Online: federalpremium.com). With a 1 in 7 twist, I wanted to use heavier loads because they carry better at longer ranges. We used BHA’s remanufactured 68-grain Heavy Match Hollow Point and new 77-grain Heavy Match HP, and from Federal we used their 62-grain MSR and 69-grain Gold Medal Match. I had not used the MSR offering before so I was curious to see how it performed. The other three loads I have extensive experience with, so I expected them to make the Tavor shine.
I zeroed the Tavor at 50 yards, because I find it to work well for my needs and generally I don’t have access to a range much longer than two hundred yards. In a few rounds I had the rifle grouping tight, nearly one-hole three-shot clusters from 50 to 200 yards. At 50 yards from the bench the Tavor/Truglo shot single-hole three-shot groups, at 100 yards groups averaged a hair over one inch and at 200 the groups were consistently less than 2½ inches. The best group at 100 yards was three-quarters of an inch with Black Hills Ammo’s remanufactured 68-grain Heavy Match, while the 69-grain Gold Medal Match bested the field at 200 yards at two inches.
While I had zeroed the Tavor with a variable power optic, I planned to use it with a red dot. I chose to use a unit I had from C-More (Phone: 540-347-4683: Online: cmore.com), The Tactical. This is a heads up display HUD optic that offers the best of tube and holographic dots. The biggest plus of HUD is you don’t get the “ghosting” from polarized shooting glasses that you do with some holographic sights.
The Tactical I installed was one of the first production models from 2007. I have used it on countless ARs over the years and it still functions like the day I took it out of the box. I like the Tactical because of the “A2” style rear sight that is built into the rail that will co-witness with a back-up front sight. Like the Truglo, I zeroed this red dot at 50 yards. I was easily stacking bullets at 50 yards and maintaining sub 3-inch groups at 100 yards. Much of this is due to the 6MOA dot which starts to block out a lot of target area at distance.
When I moved back to 200 yards, the Tavor/C-More performed as expected, keeping groups under four inches. While many will scoff that this is not competition grade accuracy, the Tavor just keeps shooting and accuracy is “good enough” for a beat-up old 56-year-old. Let me put this accuracy in practical terms from supported standing with a mixed magazine, 28 rounds of ammunition at 200 yards; every round rang the 9.5” Boomslang from Birchwood Casey (Phone: 800-746-6862; Online: birchwoodcasey.com). If I can do that in a match, then I am happy.
Over the course of 2016 I fired nearly 6,000 rounds through the Tavor in conditions ranging from monsoons at Rockcastle Pro/Am, to the windswept dusty desert of the Pro Gun Club in Las Vegas for the Surefire World Championships to the cold and damp of the Missouri State Multi-Gun. Through all of this, all I did was lubricate the bolt carrier group and trigger group. The Tavor never missed a beat even in the downpours of Kentucky.
Late in the year I noticed I was having an odd misfire. It only happened once in a match so I dismissed it. Then after I finished shooting for the season I was on the range and, nothing! The trigger froze solid. I took the rifle home and found that the hammer had broken. Apparently the failures to fire were indicators of this. I touched base with Timney and they told me the very first batch of trigger units had spotty metallurgy. A few days after sending the broken unit to Timney a new unit arrived. It too fit like a champ and the Tavor was back up and running in a few minutes. Since installing the new trigger the Tavor has not misfired, shooting nearly 500 rounds through it. It is good to see that Timney stands behind their triggers and that their triggers do vastly improve service rifles like a Tavor.
This rifle has already proven itself in combat with the IDF, law enforcement units use it to protect many US cities and there are more shooters running it for Three-gun competition. American shooters do not like the Tavor‘s magazine and bolt releases. Both of which are located in the butt of the Tavor. The magazine release is a lever protruding from the magwell. You release it with the heal of your thumb, not a push button like an AR. The bolt release is a large paddle that comes out of the bottom of the butt when the magazine is empty. Its location allows you to activate it as you insert a new magazine, moving to acquire your shooting grip.
One feature I did not mention was that this is a fully ambidextrous firearm. The safety lever, charging handle and ejection port are easily moved to the left side of the carbine. The instructions included with the Tavor are easy to follow and well written. Again if you get turned around, Youtube has numerous videos to help.
Realizing that civilians and even LEOs are not soldiers; IWI has developed a trigger module to vastly improve the trigger pull like the Timney unit. I am sure this will lead more competitors to give the Tavor a chance, especially since it standard on the X95 which is an Americanized version of the Tavor. The X95 has the magazine release located like an AR and the bolt release is now a paddle on the side of the butt.
As we move into 2017, I will be packing the Tavor out to Vegas to shoot the SHOT Show Three-Gun, the Saturday after the SHOT Show. I have found the Tavor to utterly reliable in nasty weather, with magazines from various manufactures and it can be wicked accurate with optics and ammunition it likes. Israel has combined these features into a fine firearm for duty, competition and general use. Now that we have a firearms friendly administration, it is the time to consider that new Tavor. Thanks to all who voted to ensure Mrs. Bill Clinton is not in The White House and to trust Mr. Trump to be our 45th President. Shoot straight, shoot safe and have fun out on the range as we celebrate the freedom to own and shoot fine firearms like the Tavor.