Israel has a history and a culture of innovation. After all, they didn’t make the AK-47, but with the Galil, they made it better. They didn’t invent the bullpup, but their Tavor is one of, if not the best versions of that platform. They didn’t invent the CZ-75, but with the inclusion of a safety/decocker, the IWI Jericho might very well be a better version of even that hallowed sidearm.
Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI) didn’t invent the serialized chassis, either. They certainly didn’t invent the striker-fired, polymer framed gun. But with the MASADA, they might just have created the best striker-fired, polymer framed serialized chassis pistol on the market today.
Stylistically, the semi-automatic MASADA is a deceptive mix. Aggressive cuts in the fore and aft ends of the slide make manipulation easy, but also serve to tie in an aesthetic that continues to the rails on the frame. That gives the gun a cut-up, industrial look. But take a closer look, and you’ll see that the rest of the gun is rounded throughout.
A good example of this is the blended and smoothed angles on top of the slide that lead to those cuts on the sides, and down past the nose, into the frame rail. It’s a smooth look that ends up sharpening at the slide cuts and rail.
Chassis pistols are a neat concept. When the concept is fully employed, you can swap between some calibers, as well as a wide array of frames, barrels, and slides. With a wide menu to support the serialized chassis, a truly modular firearm is possible.
Right now, IWI ain’t there and I can find no information that says it’s going to get there. IWI doesn’t seem to offer even a threaded barrel, much less different frames or slides.
That’s a big disappointment, as I’d choose the MASADA over the other chassis guns — any of them — on the market in a minute. But that’s only if IWI steps up and offers a full array of options. It’s still early in the handgun’s release, so I’m hoping those other frames, barrels, and slides are forthcoming. Fingers crossed.
Oddly enough, the included instruction manual provides no clue on how to remove the chassis from the frame. But if you’ve ever pulled one out of a SIG SAUER P320, it’s pretty obvious. If you haven’t, read the SIG P320 manual or watch a video online and you’ll get how to remove the chassis from the MASADA . The entire process requires no tools, and took me about 30 seconds to accomplish. It doesn’t require the user to pull the trigger, either.
Even with this base duty model, the MASADA gives the shooter options with sights, optics, controls, and backstraps.
The sights on this particular pistol are the standard white 3-dot version. They are completely functional for daylight shooting, but a much better version is the available tritium 3-dot option.
Both the front and rear sights are drift-adjustable. Unfortunately, the rear sight is ramped in the front, but with a small textured ledge. This makes one-handed emergency slide manipulation in the case of a malfunction hit-or-miss.
I am waiting for IWI to send me their own pistol red dot for testing, but the MASADA ships with interchangeable mounting plates for red dot sights like the Vortex Venom, SIG Romeo, Leupold DeltaPoint, and Trijicon RMR.
IWI ships the MASADA with three different sized backstraps. All three sizes have the same width and texture. Like most interchangeable backstraps, the primary benefit to most shooters will be that this allows a correct length of pull and allow for shooters with different sized hands to get their trigger finger in the optimal position for fast, accurate shooting.
The MASADA includes wrap-around textures on the large grip surfaces. The side texture is mostly ornamental, with relatively little grippiness. The front and rear, however, have a different, and much more aggressive texture, helping to lock the gun tightly into the shooter’s hand.
The slide lock/release, as well as the magazine release are ambidextrous, not just switchable from one side to the other. The MASADA also has one of the better laid out magazine releases I’ve seen on a polymer striker-fired pistol.
The magazine release isn’t quite square, but polygonal, with the larger area to the bottom of the gun. The texturing on the release is also in a bit of a pyramid shape.
Small details like this can have big results, and in this case, a very positive one. For my size-large hands, it means that my thumb simply has to sweep down to hit the button. There’s no awkward changing of my grip, and I never failed to hit the magazine even once, whether I used my right or my left hand, with or without a glove. Empty or full, the magazines never failed to eject quickly and completely.
The large ambidextrous slide stop/release was a bit more of a challenge. Not that it was hard to hit, but that it was easy to hit. Those size-large hands come with size-large thumbs, and I found it difficult to keep my firing hand thumb from hitting the slide stop, resulting in a lot of failures to lock back on an empty magazine. This is a common problem I have with guns that have pronounced slide stop/releases, and it goes away entirely when I drop my thumb for single hand firing.
This model didn’t come with a safety, but according to the IWI website, a model with an ambidextrous safety is being offered by special order.
The front of the frame includes a 4-slot standard Picatinny rail for mounting any number of lights and accoutrements. A quick Duck Duck Go search provided several examples of holsters for the MASADA ready to ship.
Each pistol ships with two 17-round magazines, made in Italy. Again, little things matter. Each of the magazine base plates have cut out ledges on each side. I never had a stuck magazine while shooting the MASADA, but if I had, these relief cuts would allow ample purchase to pull or pry the magazine from the pistol. Additional magazines are available from the IWI website for about $30.
Like most striker-fired polymer framed guns, the trigger on the MASADA is a solid “meh”. There is definitely some squishiness to the trigger, and some mush at the back of the break. However, it’s not too heavy, measuring right at 6 lbs on my Lyman scale. It’s also a surprisingly short pull with a solid reset. Unlike many other pistols in this category, I had no issues keeping the sights on target through the trigger pull.
As any duty-oriented firearm should, the MASADA operated with perfect, wonderfully boring reliability. I shot a little over 500 rounds through the gun over a few weeks time, and a couple of other people put another hundred rounds or so through it.
I mostly shot the Armscor 115gr FMJ, but I also shot IWI’s 115gr and 147gr Die Cut HP round, as well as 100gr frangibles, and 124gr HPs from a couple of different manufacturers. I lubed the gun with plain old Rem Oil prior to shooting it, and never again during the entire review. I didn’t experience a malfunction of any kind.
The external extractor may, at least theoretically, help with reliable extraction. It’s marked in red on the top edge, providing a subtle but recognizable loaded chamber indicator.
On the bench, the IWI MASADA was a solid, but not spectacular performer. Regardless of manufacturer or type, the heavier grains were universally more precise from the pistol’s 4.1″ barrel. No 115gr round shot better than any 147gr round.
Oddly enough, it was bullets from Armscor that bracketed the potential precision of the pistol. Shooting five-round groups from a bench at 25 yards and averaged over 4-shot strings, the worst performing round was the Armscor 115gr FMJ. That round printed an average of 2 1/4″. The best performer was, again, Armscor, but this time the 147gr hollow point, printing an average of 1 1/4″ groups under the same conditions. Every other round I tested fell somewhere between those two extremes.
I was impressed with the MASADA after my first range session. It’s a controllable, easy to shoot gun. A controllable gun is a fast gun, and that’s the impression that the MASADA leaves the shooter with.
In long, fast strings of fire, the front sight remains low throughout the recoil cycle. Combine that with a decent, short trigger, and quick follow-up shots are easy, either double or single-handed.
The MASADA is very much an example of the sum being greater than the parts. The trigger, the full and well textured grip, the deep “beavertail”, the mass of the full length slide, and relatively low bore axis all come together to create a great shooting experience. Every shooter who put rounds through this gun during my review came back with the same conclusion. It’s another striker fired polymer framed duty gun, but one that doesn’t feel like you are squeezing a brick on a stick to make bullets come out of it.
The Israeli Defense Force is a bit bipolar. It’s known for rapidly innovating and deploying solutions, and often holding on to worn out and outdated equipment at the same time.
Their current pistol, the Jericho, isn’t a bad gun by any means, but the MASADA is a solid step up and soldiers on the ground would be well served by it. Of course, the same can be said for shooters here in the US as well.
Specifications: IWI MASADA Pistol 9mm Pistol
Action: Striker Fired Semi-Automatic
Total length: 7.4″
Barrel Length: 4.1″
Barrel: Cold hammer-forged polygonal rifled barrel
Barrel Twist: 1/10
Weight: 1.4lbs w/o magazine
Sights: Fixed 3 Dot or Tritium
Rail: MIL-STD 1913
MSRP: $480 (about $450 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
All the textures, but they tie together well. The finish is smooth and even throughout.
Customization * * * *
At this point, additional backstraps and a couple of sight versions are standard. The addition of multiple plates for a wide array of optics is a plus. If the chassis option menu gets fully developed by IWI, this category has a lot of potential.
Reliability * * * * *
Perfect reliability using multiple types of rounds, standard and +P, with multiple shooters.
Accuracy * * * *
At the far end, a duty gun shooting 2 1/4″ groups is OK. Shooting heavier rounds cut that by another inch. Close to five stars, but not quite.
Overall * * * *
IWI has a solid performer in their first introduction to the pistol market in a long time, and their first ever striker fired polymer framed gun. It’s easy and enjoyable to shoot, reliable and accurate. If IWI fully supports the MASADA line with multiple barrels, slides, and frames, this gun would handily outperform the current competition, especially with a street price under $450.