Gun Review: IWI TAVOR SAR
IWI TAVOR SAR – We’ve already gone over the basics of IWI’s newly released (in the United States, at least) TAVOR SAR rifle. So with the tech specs out of the way, let’s talk about how the rifle actually functions in the real world, and how it stacks up against the competition.
The TAVOR SAR (hereafter referred to as simply “the TAVOR”) is exceedingly compact. It fits in places where only an SBR could previously go, including small trunks and briefcases. Which makes it much easier to sneak the gun in and out of your apartment building without getting the stink-eye from the neighbor with the Obama/Biden ’12 sticker. It also makes the gun more maneuverable, an especially prized feature for close quarters-style fighting. In fact, for that reason alone, this might have sprung straight to the top of my recommendation list for home defense rifles. IWI TAVOR SAR
I have to admit to spending a good half hour clearing my apartment with the rifle over and over again, and compared to my previous rifle of choice (300 BLK AR-15) it was delightfully sleek and unobtrusive. Having all the weight of the gun behind the pistol grip allowed me to free my support hand to open doors or hold a flashlight without ever really losing control of the rifle. For the first time, this gun allowed me to open a door and keep the rifle shouldered and ready to fire at the same time. I loved it.
The rifle’s design, with its easy disassembly and modularity, is excellent in theory as well as practice.
Field stripping the gun for cleaning is easy as pie. One pin and the whole bolt and piston assembly slides free, opening the gun up for maintenance. It’s a welcome change from the complicated dance of the AR-15 and its charging handle, which has thrown many a newbie for a loop when tearing the gun down for the first time. Definitely something that new and experienced shooters alike will appreciate.
With the push of a couple pins and the turn of a couple keys, the gun will readily convert from the current 5.56 NATO configuration to any other caliber that can fit in an AR-15 magazine well. According to the IWI reps, a .300 AAC Blackout conversion kit will be available within the year and a 9mm and 5.45×39 kit are already in production. It’s nice to see a rifle that can be changed so radically with such little work. By comparison, the AR-15 requires specialized tools and more to get the barrels changed out. It’s so daunting a task that I prefer to buy a new complete upper than to swap a barrel myself. IWI TAVOR SAR
Moving forward on the gun, there are two things I want to point out as particularly excellent.
First, the forward-mounted charging handle. Not only is it non-reciprocating (averting the only complaint about the SCAR I have) so you don’t bash your knuckles, but it falls readily to hand and is easy to operate. In short, it just works.
The other thing I really liked about the gun was that it comes with a set of iron sights that fold away so neatly into the full length rail that most people don’t even know that they exist. It’s a great touch, especially on a gun that’s meant to be fired using a red dot or similar low power optic. It’s high enough to cowitness with the optic, then goes away until needed again.
Speaking of “there when you need it,” the thing just refuses to die. I used the worst ammunition I could find, the worst magazines I could muster (including some experimental models), and tried everything I could think of to make this gun jam. But no matter what I did, the TAVOR fired reliably every single time.
I. Hate. This. Trigger.
I thought the trigger on the KRISS carbine was bad, but the TAVOR’s is quite possibly the worst trigger I’ve ever felt. Not only is it creepier than an uninvited clown at a 12-year-old’s birthday party, it’s exceedingly heavy. My trigger finger was too tired to keep pulling after about 20 rapid fire rounds, sooner than any other firearm I’ve ever tested. IWI TAVOR SAR
That trigger translates to terrible accuracy downrange. I took the rifle to the Best of the West range and tried my best to get a good 5 round group at 50 yards, but this was the tightest I had all day. Mil spec calls for a 4 MoA or better spread. This rifle, in my hands, could only muster an 8 MoA spread. For me, if I was going to drop TWO THOUSAND dollars on a new rifle, I would expect at least 2 MoA or better.
Don’t get me wrong, this is fine if you’re expecting “minute of bad guy” accuracy. But it severely limits the usefulness of the gun.
Long range shooting? Forget it. I could hit the gong at 250 yards most of the time, but the gun was dancing all around the 500 yard steel target. The crappy trigger, combined with the short overall length, means that this rifle is most definitely not intended to leave the realm of the red dot.
Competition shooting? While the gun is maneuverable, the crappy trigger and the short overall length are the gun’s downfall. While 3-gun rifles have been getting progressively shorter, there’s a reason that not a single shooter in the pro series uses a bullpup configuration rifle. The longer overall length allows for more leverage to be placed on the gun to keep it stable, and that’s not possible with the TAVOR. IWI TAVOR SAR
Hunting? While the 5.56 round is more than adequate for most critters here in Texas (and .300 BLK even more so), the less than stellar accuracy of the rifle makes me hesitant to recommend it. The small size does make it ideal for getting in and out of vehicles to hunt and convenient to carry around, but for the same reasons that it doesn’t do well as a competition rifle I wouldn’t recommend this as a hunting rifle either.
Even with simply firing the gun, it has some issues. The gun uses a combination of direct impingement esque gas tubes and a gas piston to cycle the action, and the point at which they meet is conveniently right next to your face. Which means that after about five rounds, you get as much gas in your face as if you were shooting a suppressed full auto M4 with a 7 inch barrel. For those who have never had the pleasure of asphyxiating on firearms exhaust while shooting before, I can tell you it is not a good time. Add a silencer into the mix on this gun and the blowback would be more than I would find comfortable.
The Ugly (Truth)
At the end of the day, what we have here is a one trick pony. It’s amazing for home defense and will top my list for that purpose from now on, but for everything else you would want to do with a firearm (other than having it as a range toy) it falls short.
Despite the many, many drawbacks, the gun is still fun to shoot. So if you’re looking for a range toy and can drop 2 grand without blinking an eye, then I think you’ll like this gun. But if you’re looking for a gun that will do more than satisfy your craving for a trendy niche gun, this is not the firearm you are looking for. IWI TAVOR SAR
That said, I still want one. No one ever said that every rifle in your collection needs to have a purpose . . .
Caliber: 5.56×45 / .223 (chamber is 5.56). Conversion kits available for 5.45×39 and 9×19
Barrel Length: Available in 16.5” and 18” versions
Rate of Twist: 1:7
Overall Length: 26 1/8” (16.5” bbl) or 27 5/8” (18” bbl)
Length of Pull: 15.75”
Weight: 7.9 lbs
Trigger Pull Weight: 11.5 lbs
Operation: long stroke gas piston, locking bolt (right or left ejection specific)
Capacity: Accepts AR-15 magazines
Finish: Polymer body available in Black or Flat Dark Earth. All metal parts treated for corrosion resistance
Ergonomics (Handling): * * * *
When moving around, especially in tight places, the gun excels. But if you’re trying to take a precision shot, good luck trying to get anything close to a stable shooting position.
Ergonomics (Firing): * * *
I had a nightmare about that trigger. No, seriously. A guy was coming at me, and no matter how hard I pulled on the trigger it wouldn’t fire. It just kept creeping backwards and getting harder to pull, until he caught me. And then I woke up. Recoil, however, is extremely well managed and feels much lighter than an AR-15. IWI TAVOR SAR
Reliability: * * * * *
No issues whatsoever, despite my attempts to the contrary.
Customize This: * * * * *
Switch sides for all the components with ease, change barrels, add gadgets… whatever you want to do, the TAVOR will let you do it. Like taking the “Barbie for men” idea to the next level. The only thing that might make it more customizable is if it were made out of Lego bricks.
Overall: * * *
An amazingly fun range toy that works fantastically well in home defense scenarios, but that’s it. And for $2,000, I was expecting more.
IWI Tavor SAR Passes a 12,000-Round Torture Test With Ease
FIRING THOUSANDS OF ROUNDS OVER TWO YEARS DAVID BADHE’S IWI TAVOR SAR HAS PROVEN ITSELF TO BE RELIABLE, ACCURATE AND EXTREMELY VERSATILE.
I have been running a 5.56mm NATO Tavor SAR from IWI US for more than two years now. One of the first available, this particular model has been around since IWI began offering semi-auto Tavors to the U.S. I’ve tested the SAR in temperatures ranging from -14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, from sea level to altitudes of 10,000 feet. It’s endured dust, rain, mud, muck, snow and even some hail. I’ve carried the SAR on long hikes, bouncing it around rocky hills and through the woods. Seldom out of reach, I’ve taken it all over the country. IWI TAVOR SAR
I’ve used the IWI Tavor SAR in training courses, from CQB distances out to 1,000 yards. The carbine has fired over 12,000 rounds—ammunition ranging from military surplus to match grade, including steel-cased rounds. I’ve used it with several sound suppressors and many other accessories available on the market. This is easily the most thorough testing I have ever completed. What follows are my conclusions based on this testing, including what accessories have proven the most valuable to me.
IWI Tavor SAR Is a Battle-Proven Bullpup
No rifle I’ve ever tested so far has proven as reliable as the IWI Tavor SAR. Bullpup designs are different, but once you get past those differences, they offer several advantages. At close range, the 16.5-inch-barreled Tavor SAR handles like an AR with a 10-inch barrel, minus the reliability issues. It truly excels when it comes to working in tight spaces or around barricades. Moving to a kneeling or prone position is a breeze, and the SAR is easy to carry for long periods of time because its weight is mostly centered and toward the rear. Sure, it’s not a lightweight rifle, but it carries like one. The SAR also fits nicely in the latest covert bags.
IWI’s Tavor SAR’s accuracy is solid, well within realistic deployment needs, and that has not changed since day one. Using the factory trigger, 1-inch groups with Silver State 64-grain PPT and Hornady 60-grain TAP ammunition are the norm. Install a Geissele, Timney or ShootingSight trigger and sub-1-inch groups are possible. Equipped with a scope, hits on an IPSC steel silhouette target are regular. During a recent training course, I made first-round hits at 600 yards using an EOTech sight and magnifier from an unsupported prone position. Zeroed at 50 yards, repeated hits out to 300 yards were a cinch from kneeling. The Tavor is no DMR, but it is as accurate as any rifle built for combat. IWI TAVOR SAR
Gear Head Works makes the Tavor Modular Forearm (TMF) and the Fulcrum Located Extra (FLEx) swivel, a metal plate that replaces the plastic factory ejection port cover and offers a QD sling swivel. It gives you the ability to switch between single- and two-point slings quickly and firmly. During department training, this addition proved invaluable in rollover prone and off-hand shooting.
The TMF is a machined-aluminum forend that allows you to mount rails and a 1-inch light in the center. My SureFire Scout light with a KM2 conversion proved useful in both low-light and IR environments. The TMF’s sides provide a solid handhold, perfect for my needs.
Manticore Arms offers the LUMA safety lever for the Tavor SAR. Several options are available, but the LUMA is made of aluminum and is ambidextrous. You can mix and match medium or slim levers as necessary. I installed medium LUMA levers on both sides, which made it easy to use the carbine with either hand. IWI TAVOR SAR
Another must-have is Galloway Precision’s extended shell deflector. Deflecting brass farther forward and away from the operator, this add-on allows you to shoot the SAR from either shoulder without brass bouncing off your chin. Unless you roll your cheek over the ejection port, you’ll forget it is there.
I used several sights and optics with the SAR. Cycling through red dots, holographic sights and scopes, the Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5x24mm SMRS was the most versatile. Its generous eye relief makes it usable in most any position. Any shorter optic with good eye relief should work fine. It needs to mount forward, so a one-piece AR mount is probably required. I also added a Trijicon RMR on a one o’clock rail for work up close. If you mount the scope at a typical AR height, you can co-witness it with the SAR’s flip-up front and rear sights.
The SAR’s factory trigger is commensurate with true mil-spec M16 triggers. However, I tested three different aftermarket triggers in the SAR from Geissele, Timney and ShootingSight. All are complete, non-adjustable units that drop in easily. Timney’s Tavor trigger is a single-stage unit housed in aluminum with a 4-pound pull. ShootingSight’s two-stage TAV-D trigger is modeled after the M1A trigger with a 5-pound pull weight. Geissele’s Supra Sabra, modeled after the company’s SSA, is a crisp two-stage design with tool-steel internals. IWI TAVOR SAR
Timney’s trigger was very crisp, making it much easier to achieve pinpoint accuracy. The take-up is long compared to an AR’s—that comes with any bullpup’s transfer bar. But the trigger was predictable, clean and crisp. I prefer two-stage designs, so the ShootingSight and Geissele models suited me well. Geissele’s Super Sabra feels much the same as the proven SSA trigger. The take-up is a bit longer, but the second stage is predictable. Both the TAV-D and Geissele will likely meet any police policies and were flawless in testing.
If you like to extend your support hand as far as possible along the forend, the Tavor SAR is not for you; it isn’t a race gun. Its balance allows it to swing very quickly, so “driving” the gun is pretty easy. It works perfectly with a plate carrier, and others who have tested it did not feel cramped. If your arms are exceedingly long, it may feel a bit short.
The Tavor SAR has become my favorite go-to 5.56mm rifle. I use it for department training and courses. It fits perfectly in my Haley Strategic Incog bag for discreet carry. Set up correctly, it is completely ambidextrous and usable in any condition and at any practical range. If you want a rifle that really works and you are willing to move outside the mainstream, the Tavor SAR may just be the perfect rifle for you. IWI TAVOR SAR