In the early ‘90s, after years of service using the M-16 rifles, the IDF required a new battlefield rifle. Moti Rosen, an IMI employee, presented an innovative concept for a new assault rifle based on the urban warfare lessons learned from the Lebanon War.
The early years
Rosen managed to convince IMI (today IWI) to invest in the new design. The legendary TAVOR was born. Out of the need for a compact urban combat rifle, the TAVOR bullpup platform was developed.
Back in the day, the M16 was a full-sized rifle. The bullpup configuration of the TAVOR —a short gun with a long barrel—the solution for shooting at CQB scenarios and long-range was within reach. In July 1994, under IDF supervision, two groups of engineers were chosen to compete for the product development. The winning prototype design was presented in March 1995.
The IDF’s first experiments
During the initial trials with the IDF to test human engineering effectiveness, IMI gave rifles to each fighting unit for a week. The second testing period involved the Givati brigade for a one-month trial, and the third testing period was the school for class commanders.
All aspects of the new platform were examined, including the Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF), accuracy and zero retention using various sighting systems. Human ergonomics during extended periods of use were evaluated replete with marches up to 37 miles.
Speed and accuracy results of target acquisition were recorded in day and night time conditions using iron sights, magnified optics, night vision optics, and lasers. Also tested were compatibility issues specific to the M203 grenade launcher.
Based on feedback from the ongoing tests with the IDF, IMI engineers changed the production technology of the TAVOR rifle body from a composite body to a polymer molded body for greater strength. In April 2002, the IDF placed TAVOR rifles into service during Operation Defensive Shield for a trial period.
In the mid 2000s, Yiftach Ron Tal decided to equip the IDF with the TAVOR rifle. The first unit to receive a TAVOR was the Givati Brigade in 2006. Following Givati, the Nahal Brigade received the TAVOR and later the Golani Brigade (2008). After that, the Kfir Brigade and the Paratroopers Brigade followed.
During the same time period, the small arms division of Magen, a division of IMI, was privatized. IWI-Israel Weapon Industries was formed as a part of SK Group owned by Samy Katsav. Since then, the TAVOR has been developed and produced by IWI.
Zalmen Shebs, one the designers of the IWI TAVOR , whose primary goal was to devise a rifle better suited to urban combat than the M4A1 carbine. Shebs recalled the early days and the difficulties that accompanied the new rifle, “When TAVOR entered the IDF in the early 2000s, it did not immediately reach the soldiers”, said Shebs according to the MAKO website. “There was a lot of suspicion and skepticism towards it. However, one should understand that small arms are at the bottom of the food chain of the defense establishment.” He went on to say, “It does not win wars like artillery and air force. In addition, in the 1990s, the IDF did not have a shortage of weapons. Therefore, the examination of the TAVOR was an option and not a pressing necessity. But, to my delight, in the end, they decided to choose it.”
A successful bullpup concept like the IWI TAVOR is ideal for the IDF, who fight primarily in very constrained urban environments. Additionally, Israeli soldiers are transported to the fight via cramped armored vehicles and helicopters.
Time For The “Micro-TAVOR” a.k.a. TAVOR-X95
Simultaneous events showcased the need for a micro version of the TAVOR. A year after the TAVOR was in service, the ‘Sayeret Matkal’ needed a more compact rifle, and IWI responded with the Micro-TAVOR, called the X95 which isin service with the IDF and militaries worldwide.
During Operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza (December 2008 to January 2009), the TAVOR CTAR variant was praised by the soldiers who observed “near-perfect performance in combat.” After that, however, it was time for the Micro-TAVOR model and in December 2008, the IDF decided to equip all infantry fighters with the X95.
In 2014 the IDF adopted an improved TAVOR-X95 (Micro- TAVOR) with its 5.56 and 9mm configurations. A significant change was an extension of the barrel to a 380mm barrel length to enhance the range and accuracy of the weapon. As a result, the infantry’s designated marksmen received the improved Micro-TAVOR.
Militaries and law enforcement agencies worldwide have taken note of TAVOR’s success in the IDF. As a result, many countries have purchased the rifle. Unfortunately, we can’t disclose which, but you can google it 🙂
TAVOR’s popularity in the world has skyrocketed in recent years. The American Rifleman awarded TAVOR the 2014 Golden Bullseye Award. The NRA named the TAVOR X95 rifle of the year in 2017.
Today, the TAVOR family includes various calibers—9X19mm, 5.45X39mm, 5.56X45mm, 300BLK, and the TAVOR-7 in 7.62X51mm —with different barrel lengths and configurations.
TAVOR represents the very best that Israel offers: innovation, resourcefulness, superior technical capabilities, reliability, and the dependability to function in adverse conditions. That’s why it is recognized worldwide and the first choice of militaries and law enforcement agencies.