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By Louis K. Bonham

I was excited in 2013 when a civilian version (the SAR) of IWI’s iconic TAVOR finally went on sale in the US. The Bullpup 5.56 rifle (note shown) offered long stroke piston action, a non-reciprocating side charger, standard AR mags, super-simple field stripping, gunsmith-free barrel, caliber and opposite hand changes; and combat-tested pedigree and reliability. At a $2k it was pretty pricey, but quality doesn’t come cheap. When finally got to I try one . . .

I was mildly disappointed. As Nick pointed out in his review , the TAVOR’s trigger was a mess: long, heavy and mushy. It made cheap AR milspec triggers feel good by comparison. The magazine release was located in front of the magazine — a configuration that seemed especially inconvenient in a bullpup configuration. The way it shouldered and pointed just didn’t click. While the SAR was fun to shoot, solid as a Mercedes, and did what was expected of it, I wasn’t going to be dropping two grand on that one.

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IWI hasn’t been sitting still. They developed the second generation TAVOR, the MTAR-21 (a.k.a., the Micro TAVOR or the TAVOR 2), which the IDI began to deploy as its standard issued infantry weapon in 2013. Earlier this year, IWI USA released the civilian version: the TAVOR X95, a semiautomatic with a 16.5” barrel and extra-thick buttplate to make it NFA-compliant.

The X95 retains most of the celebrated features of the SAR (including the best back-up iron sight implementation anywhere) while a number of mission critical improvements.

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The Trigger From Hell™ is no more. In its place: a much improved trigger pack (which will also fit in your SAR if you want to change). I don’t have a trigger gauge, but it feels to me to be about a 5 lb. pull. There’s a fair amount of take-up and a bit of creep, but it breaks cleanly and has a very positive reset. No one is going to mistake it for an Elftmann or other premium AR trigger pack, but it’s a major improvement over the old one. It was more than adequate for sending rounds downrange and on target.

The X95 now sports an ambidextrous magazine release above and forward of the trigger well, comparable to that of an AR. It’s a well-ventilated all-polymer unit, with integral Picatinny rails beneath easy-off covers at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock locations.

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IWI moved the charging handle rearward, improving ease-of-use it and freeing up space on the hand guard. More of the weight has been moved to the rear, and the size of the buttstock is slightly enlarged. The bolt release remains in the same location (behind the magazine), but it’s more recessed. The buttplate angle and pistol grip are slightly more vertical. If you dislike the “cutlass” style grip and trigger guard, it can easily be replaced with a more traditional version.

The solid-as-a-rock X95 has a much more ergonomic feel than the equally rock-like TAVOR SAR. Whether due to the weight redistribution, the different grip and buttstock angles or the combination thereof, the X95 shoulders and points much more naturally, especially when moving.

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For testing, I removed the factory “birdcage” flash hider and installed a Sig Sauer QC flash hider so that I could use a Sig suppressor (SRD762Ti-QD). I shot about 800 rounds of 55 grain FMJ ammo (PMC Bronze, PBR Value Line, and even some ancient (circa 1980) American Munitions Corp. ammo), half unsuppressed and half suppressed.

While the T&E gun came with a new Magpul magazine (Gen3), I used an assortment of USGI, Remington, Magpul, Lancer, and Thermold magazines, and an EOTech 512 holographic sight. I ran a variety of drills and courses of fire from both strong and weak sides, occasionally switching to a similarly sized SBR for comparison.

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Shooting unsuppressed from the strong side (i.e., right handed), the X95 is probably the softest shooting 5.56 I’ve ever handled. Follow-up shots from prone, kneeling, sitting, standing (supported and unsupported) and moving positions were virtually automatic. The X95’s ergonomics are nothing short of sublime, especially in comparison with the similarly-sized SBR. And unlike the SAR, there was no exhaust in my face, even after long strings of fire.

Shooting a side-ejecting bullpup from the weak side is a bit unnerving; the brass was being ejected right into my beard and the exhaust goes right into your face. Overall it was not too bad and the gun performed as expected. (There’s a user-installable conversion kit available for lefties.) Shooting suppressed was a slightly different story, with noticeably more recoil and exhaust. Individual shots from the strong side were no real problem, but mag dumps or other long strings of fire definitely had me gasping for breath.

The problem: the unused left side ejection port — blocked when configured for right hand operation — leaks exhaust into your face with the increased backpressure from a suppressor.
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(Aftermarket gasketed covers reportedly solve this problem.) IWI’s .300 Blackout conversion kit will include an adjustable gas block that should allow the user to tune it for suppressor use, but I really wish IWI had included this feature on the standard model.

Shooting weak side suppressed was no fun: every shot had me choking and wondering if my beard was on fire.

On the very first (Magpul) magazine, I had failures-to-feed after the first and third shots. I later had one double feed when shooting suppressed, likely due to the magazine (an old Thermold). Other than that, the X95 fired and cycled perfectly, even after long strings of fire that had the barrel smoking.

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The new magazine release works great; USGI and other all-metal magazines always dropped free with no problem, as did brand new Magpuls. However, many of the polymer magazines (Lancer, Thermold, and used Magpuls) wouldn’t reliably drop free when empty. Quick shakes wouldn’t dislodge them. It took only the slightest touch to strip them, but it was definitely a consistent issue.

Obviously, shooting with an unmagnified holo sight and cheap ammo isn’t a fair way to assess the accuracy of a gun, especially with old eyes at distance. The X95 was clearly delivering well within “minute of bad guy” in the drills I was running, and indeed better accuracy than my SBR. Other reviews have reported about 2 MOA groups under ideal conditions. I’ll be doing followup testing with some decent glass and match ammo to see what I get.

The X95 is a big improvement over the “old” gun. It’s shorter and more ergonomic while retaining the weildability that made the TAVOR the bullpup of the moment. Why would you buy the previous model instead of the X95? Why indeed.

Specifications: IWI TAVOR X95

Caliber: 5.56×45 / .223 (chamber is 5.56). Conversion kits will be available for .300 Blackout and 9×19
Barrel Length: 16.5”. 18” and 18.5” barrels are also available
Rate of Twist: 1:7
Overall Length: 26 1/8”
Weight: 7.9 lbs
Operation: long stroke gas piston, locking bolt (right or left ejection specific). 9mm conversion is blowback operation
Capacity: Standard AR Magazines
Finish: Polymer body available in Black, Flat Dark Earth, and OD Green. All metal parts treated for corrosion resistance
MSRP: $1,795

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics: * * * *
Shoulder it, and it feels like an extension of your arms; superb for moving around. Magazine release, charging handle, and bolt release are convenient and intuitive. Unsuppressed, recoil is extremely well-managed. The trigger is much improved, but still could be better (aftermarket accurizing triggers from the usual suspects are available).

Reliability: * * * *
While I suspect that the minor issues I encountered may have been magazine-related, they were still there and keep me from giving it five stars.

Customize This: * * * * *
Nick gave the SAR five stars here, and the X95 has even more options. You can trick out this this bullpup pretty much however you want.

Overall: * * * *
IWI has definitely improved things. Add an even better trigger, an adjustable gas block and a better seal on the unused ejection port and it would be perfect.

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30 Responses to Gun Review: IWI TAVOR X95 Carbine

  1. If I had that much money to plop down on a rifle I would look pretty hard at it. But I won’t be selling my piston AR anytime soon

    • take a look at the desert tech mdr. its much better and not much more then the tavor or the x95. operates a hell of a lot better based on reviews i’ve read/seen. im looking at getting one in about a year or so.

  2. No accuracy tests? I have been hearing some mixed reviews from the likes of MAC and others that are claiming that they can’t squeeze anything better than 3 MOA out of the thing. Sure its a short package, but for $2k I would want it to be at least as accurate as an SBR AR platform that can be had shooting 2 MOA for under 1500$.

    I look forward to the accuracy tests with the good glass, if I’m going to throw down that cash for a whole new platform I want to know its worth the money. I hope the 3 MOA crowd just got bad guns.

    • Weather permitting, I’ll be doing it this weekend. Given the mixed things that I’ve been reading about the X95’s accuracy, I want to make sure to do it as well and as transparently as possible (bench rested, good glass, match ammo, multiple shooters).

    • Tim over at Military Arms channel said the accuracy is pretty bad. But, it’s a bulpup, it’s not going to be super accurate. It’s made to be compact, with a full length barrel to get the most out the 5.56. Ballistics out of SBR’s are atrocious.

      I want one for sure, but the $1800 street price is steep. The new mag release is awesome as long as your mags drop free. I’m not a trigger snob, so the X95 trigger is good for what it is. Definitely better than the original Tavor. I’ve dry fired them both side by side, and it’s nice. They’re the same size, but the X95 feels so much smaller. It’s a weird mind trick.

      • Why would it be less accurate just because it’s a bullpup? So long as it has even a half-decent trigger, which the review makes it sound like it does, it should do better than 3 MOA with an experienced shooter.

    • With an SBR, you also have to pay the $200 f-you fee to the Feds, and also it’s registered.

      At least with the X95 and other bullpups, it’s only a Title I arm and there’s no federal registration or tax.

    • Thats what I was thinking. In order to justify a $2K purchase of a 5.56 rifle I’m going to need to be impressed. Right now I see less customizability (than an AR) no accuracy testing that would make me think it is anything to write home about compared to a similarly sized SBR, and little other reason other than the cool factor of a bullpup.

      I love the look of the rifle, but from what I’m hearing from guys like MAC is that there is 3MOA groups out of this gun with a 16.5 inch barrel. 3MOA out of any $2,000 AR platform with a 16.5″barrel would be laughed at nowadays.

      • You are right to be skeptical, but as I’m sure you realize there are a lot of variables that go into determining ‘accuracy’.

    • As noted in the article and in my comment above, given the conflicting reports on this issue I wanted to do a deeper dive under better conditions before making any call on accuracy.

      Weather permitting, I’ll be testing it this weekend at Best of the West’s rifle range with this glass and mount:

      http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/01/tyler-kee/gear-review-swfa-ss-hd-1-6×24/

      and at least eight different flavors of match grade ammo plus at least four of range ammo.

      Based on comments on various discussions forums, I’ll be shooting off front and rear bags (on concrete shooting benches) and will use 20 round mags. Course of fire will be 5 round groups at 100 yards, at least four groups per flavor of ammo. There will be at least two experienced shooters shooting groups with the same ammo on the same gun. I’ll run a Boresnake followed by a fouling round after about every 100 shots, assuming of course that the RSO is cool with that.

      If you have any suggestions for improving the envisioned testing methodology, hit me with them.

  3. Why use a thick buttplate instead of a longer barrel? Is it because they are too lazy to get the timing right, or did i miss something in the law?

    • Remember, NFA requires both a 16″ minimum barrel length and minimum OAL of 26″.

      The “original” Micro TAVOR uses a 13″ barrel and a much thinner buttplate, and has an OAL of about 22 3/4″ (including the flash hider). Certainly, IWI could have made the X95 NFA compliant by using a longer barrel to get to the minimum OAL, but that would have added additional weight and also moved the center of gravity of the weapon forward. My guess is that they opted for the minimum NFA barrel length to keep it as light and retain as much of the “rear weightedness” of the original as possible, and the thickened buttplate was thus necessary to get past the NFA OAL minimum.

  4. I have an ‘old’ Tavor I like quite well. It’s true that it’s not match accurate….but then again I’m not a match shooter. I have no problem with the mag or bolt release, either, btw.

    What I find most interesting about the X-95 is how quickly IWI got customer requested changes to market. I guess it remains to be seen how well they executed all the details, but with the consistent failure from so many gun manufacturers to provide what their customers want, IWI seems to be way ahead of the pack.

    • Their biggest “customer” is the Israeli military. Almost all of the changes were implemented on their behalf, not to please the overseas markets, and have been in service for quite some time now.

  5. Looking at the comparison picture showing X95 alongside an AR, I can’t help but notice that X95 has a very long LOP, especially given that AR on this picture has the stock half-extended. Since you cannot shorten X95, wouldn’t it make it very awkward to use when wearing plate carriers and such?

    • Again, in it’s military configuration (13″ barrel, thin buttplate, 22 3/4″ OAL), it’s designed for that.

      BTW, the stock is all the way out on the SBR in the photo; but you are correct, the LOP is a touch longer on the X95 than the SBR. It still is very comfortable to shoulder and shoot.

    • About the length of pull… I never held a firearm before, so take my thoughts for what they are, and they may not make sense because my articulation is shot, but wouldn’t the magazine being behind the grip allow for your forward hand to nestle in closer to it? I’ll try to explain, on a conventional, the magazine is in front of the grip, you would have to reach over the magazine to use the forearm, with the bullpup you don’t need to reach over the magazine because it’s behind the grip, and I feel that it would make the length of pull feel a little bit shorter, or more comfortable. Again, I have never held neither a conventional rifle, nor have I held a bullpup. I’m going on flawed logic that I gathered looking at them, but it makes sense to me.
      This whole comment made no sense at all…

  6. Call me crazy, but I actually prefer the original Tavor. Sure the new one has a better trigger and nice rails pace up front, but there are downsides to it as well. I don’t like the finger grooves on the pistol grip. My hands are too fat for them. Also I actually prefer the mag release of the original. No I have never accidentally bumped it.

    Apparently there are accuracy issues with it too. While no tack driver mine is 2-2.5″ with wolf gold. Good enough for what I want it for. Stock trigger as well.

  7. I have the original Tavor in OD green and will be getting an OD X95 before the summer is out.

    I think the accuracy issue with the X95 has been overblown. On the MAC video the gun would hold 2-3 MOA with ammo it likes. For a service rifle this is acceptable and is what you would expect from a military issue M-4.

    Everyone is comparing this to an AR-15 and that is understandable, but a top quality basic AR is going to run $1k before you start adding the Geissele trigger, a free float rail, and all the other goodies you will want to consistently shoot sub MOA groups.

    A DD Mk18 upper with a 10.3″ barrel is around $1100 and you still need a complete lower, buis, optic, etc. Also don’t forget the $200 tax stamp since you are building a SBR and the months of waiting for the ATF to process the paperwork. After you are done if you want to take it out of state you can file more paperwork with the ATF and wait a few more weeks.

    After all that hassle you have a fun toy that is massively loud with less than optimal ballistics. It is also longer than the X95 or a SAR21 even with the stock collapsed. Now, I’m not a hater, once mid July hits and I don’t need a CLEO sign off to build a SBR I’m going to be making a 10.5″ AR (I can’t use a trust in IL).

    So yes a X95 is kind of expensive at around $1700-1750 shipped, but you get a rifle with a 16.5″ barrel that is smaller than a 10.5″ AR-15 with no paperwork and no waiting. You can even let your son borrow it without having anyone end up in prison or sell it without having to part it out or dealing with more ATF hassle.

    Even though not as popular as the AR both the original Tavor and the X95 have pretty good aftermarket support from Gear Head Works, Manticore Arms and Midwest Industries.

    For example if the length of pull bothers you Manticore offers scalloped butt pads that take 1″ off the length of pull and still maintains the minimum legal OAL. Sealed port covers are available from Manticore and Gear Head Works. Someone makes a slightly larger port buffer to throw the brass more forward if shooting off the weak shoulder is bothersome. Great triggers are available from Geissele and Shooting Sight. Conversion kits for 9mm are available and we are told .300 is coming.

    So while I understand the argument that an AR-15 is cheaper, in many cases it isn’t a fair comparison.

  8. How come someone is still using Eotech, should everyone follow Vikers etc words and return it? Does it become unusable automatically? 🙂

  9. Are the pic rails that are hidden underneath the plastic covers at the 3,6, and 9 position metal or plastic?

  10. The user cannot change the side of ejection on either the Tavor or X 95
    IWI will not sell the lefty bolts to the public
    They insist you send it to them for the conversion
    Another reason to buy a Steyr Aug instead of a Tavor
    Steyr will sell you a lefty bolt and it takes one minute to switch to lefty ejection on the Aug

  11. I dont like the closeness of the muzzle to the face and support hand, with the wind coming towards you the hot powder could get nasty. That and the price. However the IDF does put them to good use against terrorists. They have their purpose but the bullet comes out the same from a 500.00 AR15. Maybe more accurately too.

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