I’ve been dreaming about having a Tavor in my gun safe since, well, I’ve had a safe. The bullpup rifle has the look of something from the future. But it also has a well-earned battlefield reputation after more than 30 years of service with the Israel Defense Forces, not to mention a passionate following among many civilian shooters.

Yet, the Tavor eluded me for years, so I was very excited when an IWI Tavor X95 chambered for 5.56 NATO arrived at my local FFL for testing. Excited enough that I’m done with this intro. Let’s just dive right into the gun.


Table of Contents

Tavor History
X95 Specs & Features
Shooting & Reliability
Bullpup Opinions 
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts

Tavor History

 

Marines and IDF Soldier
The Tavor offers a compact package for cramped environments. Original Caption: “U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Hector Olmo-Sanabria, a rifleman with Marine Rotational Force Europe 17.1, posts security next to Israeli soldiers in an urban environment training evolution in Israel, March 28, 2017.” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)


Militaries and gun makers around the world have toyed on and off with the idea of bullpups for over a century, dating at least back the British effort to develop the bullpupped Thorneycroft bolt-action carbine in 1901. The real arms race started with advances in semi-auto rifles in the mid-20th century, which lead to a slew of bullpups hitting the scene since the 1950s. But the Tavor was something different.

It offered more than just spacey looks, and entered service with the Israel Defense Forces in 2001. Needless to say, that also meant it started getting some serious press as one of the main rifles used by a nation that was no stranger to conflict. 

Israel wanted a homegrown firearm to replace its M4 carbines and better meet its particular battlefield needs. In 1995, Israel Military Industries – later privatized to Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) – started the design process and decided the solution was to develop a compact bullpup that could operate in harsh desert conditions and confined urban spaces. 
 

Marines and IDF Soldiers
The Tavor and M4 meet again in Israel. Note the size difference even with the "compact" M4 on the right. Original caption: “U.S. Marine Cpl. Scott Groves, a rifleman with Marine Rotational Force Europe 17.1, patrols with Israeli soldiers in an urban environment training site in Israel, March 28, 2017.” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)


At the same time, the shorter bullpup option provided a platform that would work well with Israel’s modernized and mechanized military. The first Tavors started entering service for field testing in 2001. We won’t dig into all the testing and field trials. Suffice it to say, desert sand is a harsh mistress for semi-auto rifles, and the result was the IDF’s standard adoption of the improved X95 in 2009. 
 

X95 Specs & Features

 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
If you want compact with a full-length barrel, bullpups are the way to go. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Like previous Tavors, the X95 operates with a closed rotating bolt and long-stroke gas piston. It comes standard with a full “knuckle bow” instead of the traditional trigger guard, not a terrible feature in close quarters, I guess. If that’s not to your liking, the highly modular X95 allows you to swap the entire grip out for a pistol grip and trigger guard. 
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
This version of the grip can be swapped for one that only has a trigger guard. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


It hosts an AR-like thumb safety lever that is made of polymer and can be swapped to a left-hand position. Unlike past Tavors, there are ambidextrous magazine releases forward of the trigger instead of a lever in front of the magazine well at the rear. Unlike ARs, the bolt catch/release is in the rear behind the magazine well.

Normally, bullpups are notoriously unfriendly to left-handed shooters, who are doomed to hot brass pelting them right in the face. So, the X95 offers the ability to swap the bolt handle, ejection-port cover, and internals to make the gun fully left-hand friendly. 
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The safety and bolt handle can be swapped to the other side for lefties. And the magazine release up front is ambi already. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The same is true for the ejection port and cover. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I’ve tossed in some other general specs bellow: 

Overall Length: 27.375 inches with muzzle device
Barrel Length: 16.5 inches (13-18.5 options as well)
Length of Pull: 14.75 inches
Weight: 7.9 pounds
Trigger Pull: 6.2 pounds
Rifling: 1:7 twist with six grooves
Barrel Material: Chrome-lined, cold-hammer-forged CrMoV
Stock Material: Reinforced polymer


Related: Gun Review – IWI Tavor X95 13-Inch SBR (Video)
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The top rail has integrated sights that are fully adjustable but easy to tuck away if you want to use an optic. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
Much of the Tavor can be called "made in Israel." It's still worth noting that per U.S. law and IWI's website the "Tavor X95 rifle is assembled in the US from imported and US parts." Either way, the quality is solid. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Adjustable front and rear sights are integrated into the top 14.5-inch Picatinny rail. Speaking of rails, at first glance, the X95 seems a bit sleek for a modern military rifle. I mean, where are all the rails for high-speed doodads like lights, lasers, and other accessories? 

Well, there are Picatinny rails located on the left, right, and bottom of the rifle under the foregrip panels. I do like these grip panels and how they work with a simple button. But they make the rifle’s foregrip quite chunky. It comes in at 2.13 inches wide and 3.6 inches tall with a rather short length of just 6.75 inches. Although, the bottom panel also has a built-in hand stop at the front, which is appreciated.
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The grip panels are pretty darn nifty, and they beat a lot of the AR options out there that I've used. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


There are variants in .300 Blackout and 9mm, and the rifles come in three general color options: black, OD green, and flat dark earth. 
 

Shooting & Reliability


The gun is heavy at 7.9 pounds. While it is short and offers a rear center of gravity, that weight is very noticeable when you pick it up. Between the weight, long-stroke piston, and 5.56 chambering, the felt recoil is very manageable for rapid follow-up shots. 

I didn’t mind the trigger pull on the Tavor, which came in at 6.2 pounds. I would call it crisp for a bullpup and just a bit of mushy. It felt less crisp than I’m accustomed to on AR-style rifles, and that’s to be expected. Bullpups are just not known for fine triggers because of the design. 
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
Bullpup triggers aren't known to be great. In fact, the last two I tested were arguably rather terrible. But the Tavor is a decent trigger for the platform. There are also enhanced triggers that can be purchased. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The trigger is in front of the action, requiring a long transfer bar to activate the sear. There’s no getting around that easily with a bullpup. The Tavor does a decent job, and the trigger felt far better than the Steyr AUG I recently tested.

I’ll confess I felt a bit clumsy at first with the Tavor. The safety, trigger, bolt handle, and magazine release were easy enough to master. Reloading it turned out to be a different issue. Having to reload behind the grip widens your workspace considerably.

I felt awkward trying to shift my support hand behind my shooting hand to insert new magazines and hit the bolt release. That rear bolt release is also the bolt catch, so locking back the bolt manually is a pain. I could train around all those things over time. After a few magazines, it was not much of an issue.


Related: Four Years Later – IWI Tavor SAR Revisited


Shooting the X95 was a blast. I had no malfunctions whatsoever. I did find that IMI magazines did not function in the gun, but all of my Magpul, steel GI, ETS, and even 60-round ATI Schmeisser mags worked fine. I shot 200 rounds of a mix of Wolf and Tula steel-cased ammo, 200 rounds of Winchester M855 62-grain Green Tip, 140 rounds of 55-grain Federal American Eagle, and closed it out with 60 rounds of Federal 77-grain Gold Medal
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The Tavor ate anything I fed it from any mag I gave it with just one exception. The IMI mag on the right will not run predictably in it. IWI actually notes this on its site: "You should only use magazines made in the USA in your Tavor X95." (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Accuracy from a shooting bag offered easy groups of 1-2 inches at 50 yards. However, when I shot offhand, I faired far worse. My groups doubled in size from what I would expect when shooting my ARs offhand. Part of that is my inexperience with bullpups, but I think part of that is also one of the limitations of the platform.

The shorter length also meant I had less room to adjust my hands. This pushed my support hand back, bending my elbow and causing some wobble. I could train to shoot better, but I suspect I couldn’t train to shoot it better than I can shoot an AR. 
 

IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
What can I say. The butt of the rifle is heavy. It does come standard with an integrated rubbed pad. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Balance was another issue. The AR platform puts the center of gravity between your shooting and supporting hand. I find this makes the gun feel lighter and easier to manipulate. The X95 balances to the rear, which felt less stable to me. Again, I’m a lifetime AR shooter, but I did pass the gun off to a friend who was new to shooting, and he noted the same thing.

Don’t take any of that to mean I didn’t love the gun. I did. It ran like a tank in rain, snow, and the summer heat. It’s also fun to shoot. This short package brings a lot of firepower and feels authoritative in the hand. Just don’t expect to immediately shoot it like a competition AR when you take it to the range for the first time. 
 

Bullpup Opinions

 

Bullpup Rifles
Some people absolutely love bullpups, and some people hate them. You have to consider their purpose. They have great advantages and some pitfalls. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Folks seem to either love or hate bullpups. I find them to be immensely cool and fun to shoot, but they have some drawbacks that are hard for me to get around. I personally think they take more time to master than, say, your standard AR-15. Operating the Tavor requires you to use controls and features across a wider area of the gun on both sides of your shooting hand. However, you must remember the reason it was created in the first place.


Related: Ode to the Bullpup - Love & Hate for the Stubby Rifle Family


The gun was required to operate in confined spaces. The Israeli military was specifically looking for something that ordinary and mechanized units could use in the desert, urban terrain, from vehicles, and in close-quarters shooting. But they also still wanted a full-length barrel. The X95 hits the nail on the head for all of those.

This wasn’t really meant to be a range gun. It had to be carried for long periods, and shorter firearms have a lot of advantages there. Just ask anyone who has had to lug around a 39.37-inch M16A4 – the U.S. Marine Corps’ recent standard – next to someone else with a 29.75-inch M4 Carbine. Ten inches can be a real pain in the butt. 
 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Pure cool factor
  • Very reliable
  • Takes common AR-pattern magazines
  • Lots of Picatinny rail
  • Highly modular
  • Fully ambidextrous 
  • Compact length with full-length barrel
  • Built-in adjustable iron sights 
  • Trigger pull is good for a bullpup 
  • More room for a suppressor
IWI Tavor X95 Rifle
The bolt catch/release can be very fast to use, since it is right where you inserted the magazine. But loading the gun and releasing the bolt from the rear can put you a bit off ballance without practice. Of course, you could always just use the bolt handle. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Cons:

  • Rear balance can be awkward
  • Heavy
  • Controls take a bit of practice 

Final Thoughts


I would love to keep this Tavor X95 in my safe, but it has to head back to the Guns.com Vault. I really like it, and it was an absolute blast to shoot. For now, I have scratched my Tavor itch. Honestly, if you have never tried one, they are worth a closer look.

The gun runs like a tank, turns heads at the range, and offers a ton of modularity. You may have to practice a bit to master it, but this short bullpup has a lot to offer. Plus, it’s a great break from the ocean of AR-style guns on the market.  

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