My sergeant calls me and several other soldiers over and orders us to stand in a “Chet” (three-sided box formation). We stand in the middle of the rocky field near our base, squinting from the strange twilight of the sun through the dusty haze. We know that today is the day we will receive our “packal” or specialty . . .
Top: X95, Middle: X95L, Bottom: X95GL
Are we the “Matolistim” (soldiers with an M203 strapped to the front of their Micro Tavor)? No, the IDF usually saves that for fire team commanders. We certainly aren’t “Simonistim” (carriers of the long-barreled Micro and door busting rifle grenades called “Simon”).
Could we be the “Negevistim” (carriers of the fierce Negev LMG)? Or possibly the “Magistim” (two-man teams for the FN MAG a.k.a., M60)? Certainly not, I reason as I look at the scrawny crew of soldiers that are gathered, including two Ethiopians who may weigh less than an M60 and reflect on my 5’5″ self.
Our squad commanders approach, armed with felt-tipped markers. They write on our foreheads. One writes 3.9 written on mine. My friends were crowned with the word Leor, 41.9cm, and 300m. With some frantic discussion and flipping through notebooks, we realize we’re to be the “Kalahim,” IDF marksmen. (The 3.9 stands for the optimal eye distance from the Trijicon ACOG.)
We rushed to the armory to turn in our standard x95s and received the X95L, or Kalah. With it we’re handed foregrips, a Trijicon ACOG with illuminated doughnut sight and the “Leor” (a 3 or 4 power night vision scope).
Fast forward, 16 months later. I stood overlooking the Lebanese border with my Kalah at my side, guarding Israel from the baddies. I can hear sporadic shooting and explosions coming from Syria. I’ve gone through field training, practice operations, real deal operations, and thousands upon thousands of rounds with this gun. She isn’t perfect, but she has never treated me wrong, and shares my pillow every night.
This X95L would certainly not look out-of-place in the Star Wars universe. Compared to the original Tavor, the X95L looks like it has lost weight in all the right places, while maintaining its robust, utilitarian design. It has.
IWI slimmed down the Tavor X95L by giving it a less bulky stock. The magazine well is also considerably trimmer. They put the top rail on a riser, separate from the fore-end/handguard. The pistol grip’s got enough room for a gloved finger and…that’s it. No trees, bushes, small animals, kneepads, or anything else pulling the trigger. Though it has large lateral serrations on the sides, the pistol grip can become quite slick. The X95L’s sides are interchangeable; it’s only a matter of time before replacements are available.
The X95L’s fore-end has a top and small bottom rail, and a Harris style bi-pod with screws with built-in spaces for pressure pads. The barrel extends a bit past the fore-end, tipped with standard AR/M16 threading and a birdcage flash hider. Overall length: just 26.5 inches. Did I mention that my barrel is exactly 16.5 inches long? Compared to a tanker’s M16 “commando,” it’s amazing how much more barrel length the XL95 provided with a smaller overall length. (This will probably be the profile and length of IWI’s US version.)
The X95L is Kalashnikov-easy to run. To those who complained about the standard Tavor’s paddle release magazine, be happy. It’s gone. Enter the trigger finger-accessible, swap side-able AR-style magazine release.
Operation and firing is super simple. Insert the magazine, pull the conveniently located left side non-reciprocating charging handle, flip the safety off with your thumb, and pull the trigger.
No bang? Malfunction fixing is as easy as a Danish tourist in Tel Aviv. Cant the X95L to the left (while shouldered, about 60°) and take a look right down your nose. Is the bolt closed? Rack, bang. Is the bolt half-open? Drop the magazine, rack, insert new mag, rack, and bang. Is the bolt fully open? Drop mag, insert new mag, hit the now sleeker and smaller bolt release.
This you can do without breaking cheek weld or taking your eye off the optic. Sadly, but understandably for the modern combat rifleman, the X95L only has a “safe” and “semi” firing mode. No giggle switch.
The disassembly process is the same as the standard Tavor. Pop out the captured pins and the guts slide out the hinged butt plate. Boom, ready for basic cleaning.
Want to do more? The X95L’s bolt carrier group comes apart into five pieces, none of which are tiny. (I watched a soldier accidently almost swallow his firing pin, so still don’t give the parts to a toddler or somebody with a similar level of intelligence).
Same story for the trigger pack. Pop the pins, pull out the trigger pack. I don’t know if the X95L’s trigger pack is the same as the one in the US-sold Tavor. My Google-Fu suggests that the bolt group and the trigger pack are indeed the same. If it is, that would be amazing. If it isn’t, IMI better get on that. [ED: the U.S. Tavors receive a proprietary trigger pack.]
The X95L is on the heavy side, weighing in at 7.5-ish pounds naked without an optic or magazine. Much like the Tavor, all the “junk is in the trunk.” I would put money on being to hold the gun shouldered and on target longer than 99 percent of people with a non-bullpup rifle. Especially with a full magazine.
Thanks to the X95L’s weight and balance and barrel location, recoil is a straight back affair. The force is minimal. There’s problem with target reacquisition — should your sight leave the target to begin with.
From what I have heard about the factory Tavor trigger, I’m lead to believe that the X95L’s trigger is the exact same. Take-up is lengthy with a hard break point. When it snaps, it is crisp and clean. Over travel is minimal and trigger reset arrives with an audible “click.” Despite the trigger’s flaws, double taps, triple taps, and 29-round taps are fast and easy.
Along with being marksmen and distance shooters, the IDF calls on Kalahim as point men (and women) in urban situations. I was the point man of the spear tip squad, in the spearhead platoon of our company. In other words, I went first.
Ergonomically, the X95L performs beautifully in both open and urban areas. The X95L’s length is the same as an SBR, but with a full length barrel. “Slicing the pie” and other CQB-oriented tasks is as easy as pie; you can move around freely. Point shooting is a reassuringly natural possibility.
Switching the X95L’s magazines is the same as any bullpup. On all models of the Micro Tavor, the magazine release and reduced profile of the bolt release allow for faster reloads and less chance of accidentally releasing the bolt prematurely. Those worried about accidental premature release should train just using the charging handle. (Or seek medical advice about premature release.)
One ergonomic downside to the X95L: it’s difficult to use the gun as a blunt instrument. Due to its length, the range of your “stab” and “chop” moves are severely limited. On the positive side, a butt-stroke or elbow stock-chop are both devastating due to the rearward weight. Another problem (albeit specific to my bipod-equipped XL95): the bi-pod gets in the way of “chop” and “stab,” especially when the legs are extended. Don’t ask me how I know.
While I’m bitching about the XL95’s bipod, it cuts up your hand something horrible during Krav Maga and forces you to use a vertical grip. Or the BUISs. They suck, and my front sight snapped off like a twig when I took a small tumble down a mountain. Just saying.
The standard-issue IDF sling looks like a seatbelt from a Toyota Camry with some steel clips attached to it. That’s because it is.
Here is where I would normally insert pictures of targets I punched holes into with all different types of ammo. Sadly, there were several restrictive factors. First, cameras and cell phones weren’t allowed onto the shooting range. Second, besides standard 55 grain 5.56 ammo and M855 green tips, we didn’t have any other ammo to shoot.
Anecdotally, with both rounds I was able to make single-ragged-hole groups at 25 meters. The barrel has a 1:7 twist to throw m855 green tips accurately and quickly to the desired target. I’ve pushed this rifle to substantial distances, easily able to put round after round into a target roughly the size of a head wearing a Russian helmet at 300m.
The X95L’s best for tactical situations from under one meter to 600 meters. That said, it isn’t limited to this application. The X95L’s compact size and ease of staying on target for extended periods make it appropriate for competition and hunting. It’s also an extremely fun gun to shoot. Plus, I’ve heard Israeli models have a thing for guys with an X95L (something about not having to compensate with a long rifle). Expect RF to own one soon.
Magazine: STANAG, full AR-15/M16 compatibility
Weight: Unloaded, roughly 7.5lbs.
Available accessories: the threaded barrel can accept AR flash hiders and suppressors. Generous top rail space allows for any combination of lights, lasers, optics/night vision, thermal vision, etc.
Ratings (out of 5 stars):
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The X95L fits the arm and body well regardless of attire or ceramic plates on your chest. From the biggest guy in our platoon (a dude who got leave from the army to play basketball) to the smallest, the rifle fit well. Shooting across the Golan Heights is as easy as performing arrests in West Bank dense urban epicenters.
Accuracy: * * * *
The gun is mechanically accurate. The trigger, however, makes the gun difficult to shoot, especially for someone used to the triggers on hunting rifles and AR-style rifles.
Takedown and cleaning: * * * * *
Every pin involved in the removal of the bolt and trigger pack is captured. There are few guns that allow for a full cleaning of the trigger in a matter of minutes, not hours. With practice, it can be reassembled in seconds.
Looks: * * * * *
The X95L’s sci-fi looks and functional beauty are gorgeous. IMHO.
Customizability: * *
The top rail allows for optics but the fore-end has extremely limited rail space (due to the built-in bipod). The stock can’t be switched out and the pistol grip is proprietary. IWI is releasing the civilian version of the X95L to the US market soon. Aftermarket parts companies will be all over it.
Reliability: * * * *
I rarely had problems running the gun; the only issues were magazine and ammunition related.
Overall: * * * *
The X95 serves multiple roles without compromise. If you don’t like the original Tavor, give the X95 a try. With its improved ergonomics and less bulky profile it’s a new gun.