Special Operations: A Tavor For Every Situation


July 1, 2019: The Israeli firm (IWI) that introduced the Tavor 5.56mm assault rifle in 1999 is now delivering a variant, the Tavor 7, for snipers and special operations troops. The Tavor 7 is still a bullpup (magazine behind the trigger) design but uses the larger 7.62x51mm round that is popular with sniper rifles and machine-guns. Tavor 7 can also fire full automatic (600-900 rpm) but since it uses a 20 round magazine the primary market, snipers and commandos, will rarely use the full auto option. Israeli special operations units will begin receiving Tavor 7 in 2020 and some Israeli snipers will later have it as well.

Tavor 7 is heavier, at 4.1 kg (9.04 pounds) empty than the original 5.56mm Tavor. .Adding a loaded magazine, sniper sight and other accessories to Tavor 7 pushes that to 5-6 kg. The basic Tavor 7 is 730mm (30 inches) long with a 432mm (17 inch) floating barrel (for greater accuracy). Unlike other Tavors the 7 model uses the short-stroke recoil system, which improves accuracy for snipers. Tavor 7 can also change its barrel quickly and there are two barrel lengths available. The longer barrel (better for sniping) increases the overall length to 806mm (31.7 inches). Tavor 7 also has four settings for the gas operated recoil system (regular, extreme, suppressed, and off). This option is popular with snipers and special operations troops who use different types of ammo (like lower power, quieter types and a sound suppressor for stealthy operations) and the gas regulator options improve performance.

The commercial (semi-automatic only) version of Tavor 7 was available in 2018, selling for $1,700-2,000 depending on options (color, barrel length and so on). The commercial version is meant for police, hunters and collectors and will probably outsell the more expensive military version.

The original Tavor appeared in 1999 when Israeli firm IWI introduced a new 5.56mm bullpup assault rifle design known as TAR-21 (Tavor Assault Rifle). This weapon weighed 3.6kg (7.9 pounds) with a loaded 30-round magazine. This weapon was 720mm (28.3 inches) long with a 460mm (18.1 inch) barrel. The STAR-21 (Sharpshooting Tavor Assault Rifle) was designed as a squad support weapon with optical sights and a longer, heavier barrel. The CTAR (Commando Tavor Assault Rifle) uses a shorter 380mm (15 inch) barrel and is designed for tank crews and special operations forces. Thus it weighs 3.5kg (7.7 pounds). The MTAR (Micro Tavor Assault Rifle) uses a very short 250mm (10 inch) barrel and is designed for police and undercover use; it weighs only 3.2kg (7 pounds) . Tavor is gas operated using the less troublesome long stroke system. On full automatic, it puts out 750-900 rpm (rounds per minute).

In 2018 IWI introduced a compact shotgun based on their innovative military bullpup type rifles. The Tavor TS12 is a 3.6 kg (8 pounds, empty) 12 gage semi-automatic shotgun that can carry up to 15 rounds in three tubular magazines. Since you can have one round in the chamber, max capacity is 16 rounds. The 714 mm (28.34 inch) long shotgun is definitely compact and has a 466mm (18.5 inch) barrel and a movable Picatinny rail for accessories. IWI marketed the TS12 in the U.S. as a “home defense” weapon and for hunting. It initially sold for $1,400 and most civilians needing a shotgun for protection have access to much less expensive shotguns. The TS12 has obvious appeal to police who often use non-lethal “beanbag” rounds for riot control or dealing with violent and deranged people who are difficult to subdue. The military also has “combat shotguns” for special situations. Israel has been training a lot of its troops for urban warfare and operations in Hamas “combat tunnels” so there is a small market there as well. But the big market is always the United States while if American troops use something unique in combat, many other nations will adopt such weapons for their own use.

Since 2006 Tavor military rifles have been exported to over a dozen countries. In 2011 Indian special operations troops began receiving thousands of Tavor assault rifles because their locally made rifles were of such poor quality while the Tavors already had an excellent reputation.

The original TAR-21 replaced various 7.62mm, 5.56mm and 9mm weapons Israeli troops had been using for decades. After the 1960s the U.S. M16 became popular but a locally made 9mm submachine gun was also popular. Even with the introduction of TAR-21 there were still some larger caliber (7.62mm and up) sniper rifles, but these were relatively few in number. While TAR-21 could easily be converted to use 7.62/39mm (AK-47) ammo a new design was needed to handle the more powerful NATO standard 7.62/51mm round.


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