The Tavor rifle concept was first introduced to the market in the mid-1990s when the Israeli Defense Forces sought a weapon capable of significantly enhancing the infantry fighter’s combat capabilities.
The early years
In the 1980s, the Galil-type rifle (Made by IMI) was used by IDF frontline soldiers (Sadir), and reserve forces used the M16. The 1982 Lebanon War resulted in a decision by the IDF to reverse the order. The M16 rifles were used by first-line soldiers and Galil rifles by reservists.
IMI attempted to change the IDF’s decision, but the Israeli MoD refused to intervene. Moti Rosen presented a solution – a new assault rifle adapted for urban warfare. Rosen managed to convince IMI to invest in the new gun, based upon insights from the Lebanon war. That’s where it all began.
As a result of the need for a small, compact rifle for urban fighting, the Tavor bullpap design was developed. Back then, the M16 was full-sized, and therefore every other design was better, so IMI selected the bullpap configuration. The result: a short rifle with a long barrel for shooting both at short and long-range.
Rosen also convinced the IDF to invest in the development of the rifle. In July 1994, two groups of engineers chose to compete for the product under IDF supervision. The prototype appeared in March 1995.
The IDF’s first experiments
During the first experiment in 1997 with the IDF to test human engineering effectiveness, IMI gave rifles for each IDF fighting unit – each unit for a week – it was a pretty long experiment.
The second, one-month, experiment was with the Givati brigade. Another experiment was conducted with the school for class commanders.
Many aspects of the new platform were examined, including the Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF); accuracy and zero retention using various sights; human ergonomics during extended periods of use; and marches up to 37 miles.
Speed and accuracy of sighting in the daytime and at nighttime using iron sights, magnified optics, night vision optics, and lasers. Issues related to the M203 grenade launcher.
During the tests with the IDF, the engineers changed the production technology of the Tavor rifle body – Instead of a composite body, they switched to a plastic-injected body. In April 2002, the IDF inserted Tavor rifles into service for a trial period during Operation Defensive Shield.
Yiftach Ron Tal decided to equip the IDF with the Tavor rifle in the early 2000s. The first unit to receive a Tavor was the Givati Brigade in 2006. After Givati, the Nahal Brigade received the Tavor and later the Golani Brigade (2008). They were followed by the Kfir Brigade and the Paratroopers Brigade.
Meanwhile, In 2005, Israel Weapon Industries was established on the foundation of IMI’s Magen division. Since then, the Tavor has been developed and produced by IWI.
Zalmen Shebs was among the designers of the IWI Tavor TAR-21 (Tavor Assault Rifle – 21st. Century), whose primary goal was to devise an assault rifle more suited to urban combat than the M4A1 carbine.
Shebs recalled the first days and the difficulties that accompanied the new rifle in his first steps, “When Tavor entered the IDF in the early 2000s, it did not immediately reach the soldiers”, said Shebs according to MAKO website.
“There was a lot of suspicion and skepticism towards him. One should understand that small arms are at the bottom of the food chain of the defense establishment.
“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 necessary necessity. To my delight, in the end, they decided to choose it.” For the IDF, which fights today primarily in very constrained urban environments, a successful bullpup concept like the IWI Tavor is ideal. Additionally, Israeli soldiers rush in the constrained spaces via armored fighting vehicles and helicopters.
Time for the “Micro-Tavor”
A year after the IDF started buying Tavor rifles, ‘Sayeret Matkal’ wanted a smaller rifle. They characterized the Micro-Tabor from the start.
During Operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza (December 2008 to January 2009), the Tavor C-TAR variant was praised by the soldiers who observed “near-perfect performance in combat.” However, it was time for the Tavor Micro model.
In December 2008, the IDF decided to equip all infantry fighters with the Micro-Tavor rather than the CTAR-21 Tavor commando and M4 Carbine rifles. IDF first purchased 15,000 weapons – 10,000 Tavor and 5,000 Micro-Tavor. First-line fighters use the Micro-Tavor. Reservists use the Tavor.
In 2010, the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion received the Micro-Tavor, and in July 2011, the Ground Forces Command started equipping the Golani Brigade and the Givati Brigade.
As of September 2011, the IDF equipped the Nahal Brigade battalions with this rifle and the Yael Reconnaissance Squadron of Combat Engineers Corps’ Yahalom unit, which also features a micro-Tavor.
The Druze battalion “Cherev,” the Bedouin reconnaissance battalion, and the Karakal Battalion have Tavor and Micro Tavor rifles. Also in the service of the Navy’s reconnaissance unit (Shayetet 13) are the Micro-Tavor X95 and X95-SMG variants.
In 2014 the IDF would adopt an improved Micro-Tavor. A significant change is an extension of the barrel to a 38 cm length to enhance the range and accuracy of the weapon.
As a result, the infantry’s designated marksmen received the improved Micro-Tavor. Additionally, a 3rd generation Micro-Tavor based on the X95 Flattop long-barreled Tavor has entered the IDF.
Armed forces and organizations all around the world have taken note of Tavor’s success in the IDF. Many countries have purchased the rifle, including India, Ukraine, Georgia, Honduras, Peru, Colombia, Thailand, Angola, Azerbaijan, Panama, Guatemala, Senegal, Morocco, Mongolia, Turkey, Cyprus, USA, and Canada.
The Tavor’s popularity in the world has skyrocketed in recent years. The American Rifleman awarded Tavor the 2014 Golden Bullseye Award. In 2017 the NRA named the Tavor X95 rifle of the year.
Tavor represents the very best that Israel offers: improvisation, resourcefulness, superior technical ability, and the ability to overcome adversity. That’s why he is successful.