Being the “Jewish Marksman” and all, I am often asked “when are you getting a Tavor?” For those that haven’t heard of it yet, the Tavor is the newest rifle from IWI. People in the online gun community refer to this new rifle as the new “Jewish rifle” or new “Israeli rifle.” (Actually, the Wikipedia page suggests that although the gun was designed in Israel with the IDF in mind, the rifles to be had here in the US seem to be manufactured here as well.) The IDF has almost completely transitioned from the M4 (the military version of the AR-15) to the Tavor. Right now this semi-automatic is the hottest and most sought-after rifle on the US market, and they are slowly trickling in. So why don’t I have one, and why am I not currently planning to?
As it turns out, I am currently putting a lot of thought into the Jewish Marksman’s home defense plan with respect to firearms, and have come to the conclusion that a SBR (short barreled rifle) or similar firearm makes more sense than our current plan, which relies on unshoulderable handguns. To make a long story short, a shoulderable firearm is almost always more accurate for the user, and a SBR or SBR-like weapon is almost equally maneuverable. The ATF defines a SBR as a shoulderable firearm with a barrel length less than 16″. Thus you can put a stock on a Glock pistol, but doing so creates an SBR. In my home state SBRs are legal, but a federal registration is required beforehand, along with a $200 stamp tax. Some folks argue that a “bullpup” style rifle with the barrel set further back into the stock, such as the Tavor, offers the same maneuverability as a SBR but without the need for federal registration and taxes because the barrel is still 16″. Further, proponents of bullpups point out that such rifles are typically more powerful than a short-barreled SBR in the same caliber (longer barrels means more complete powder burn, thus more muzzle velocity). This is a fine theory regarding bullpups, but until the Tavor came along, many reviewers of other bullpup rifles found them ergonomically deficient.
But at the end of the day, I don’t see myself getting a Tavor, for several reasons. For me, a rifle would be either for indoor home defense in the quasi-SBR role, or as a long range (600 yd) competition rifle capable of 1MOA or less with metalic sights. So first off, I tend to not want to be an early adopter of firearms. There are sometimes annoying “bugs” that need to be worked out of designs, and significant improvements are made in later generations. Second, it is unclear what the market will be for replacement parts and barrels over the long term. Compared to say, an AR-15 or AK-47 which has a humongous after-market parts industry, the future of the Tavor in that respect is completely unknown. I’m sure the IDF has huge stockpiles of spare Tavor parts, but American distributors do not at this time. Third, it is unclear how or if the Tavor can be customized for 1MOA-standard target shooting. The AR-15 platform can be used to build world-class metallic sight target rifles, but it is unclear how to get there with a Tavor, and long range precision shooting is my primary sporting interest. Fourth, I do not see traditional rifle cartridges as an ideal home defense option for my situation, and I have yet to see any reviews of a rumored 9mm conversion kit for the Tavor, nor does it appear that other 9mm versions of the Tavor will hit the US market anytime soon. Fifth, the price of the Tavor equals or exceeds other SBR options, even factoring in the tax stamp. Sixth, some of the SBR options I am considering, such as simply putting a removable stock on a Glock, are highly concealable even with the stock attached, and has the option of removing the stock when desirable for concealment or transport. The Tavor is not very concealable, although there are some smaller SBR versions (not yet available to US market), but that puts us right back where we started with a tax stamp. Now, if my home state made SBRs illegal (as I understand some states do), then it might be a different ballgame…the Tavor with a 9mm conversion kit might be a very viable candidate for the home-defense role.
But doesn’t everyone need a “range toy?” Frankly, since I’ve been shooting .308 in a bolt gun in competition, I’ve come to enjoy, yes enjoy, recoil and muzzle blast as part of the fun and challenge of rifle shooting. It’s the same fun one experiences shooting a .45ACP pistol as opposed to a 9mm. And if I do go smaller in the future for competition, it will probably be to a .260 or similar cartridge, not the .223, which is simply not the best option for long range (although arguably the most economical). So the idea of another .223 rifle for fun just doesn’t excite me, and certainly not so given how much more expensive the Tavor is over an AR-15 platform, which I already have. Frankly, I’d rather just plink with a .223 bolt gun or even a .22LR AR-15, which again, I already have. There are supposedly going to be Tavors made in .308 and even .300BLK, but again, what’s the excitement over the AR platform in either caliber (AR-15 or AR-10) to justify the price? I like to go to the range to make hard precision shots that most people don’t bother with…I find it meditative and relaxing (some call it “yoga for Republicans”). Some people go to the range to fantasy “role play” cowboys, police or Navy Seals, and the Tavor’s looks certainly lend itself well to that role, and to each his own.
As for a “battle rifle,” I’ll admit I’m not really qualified to opine in that area. But it seems to me that for citizens who want such a rifle for SHTF scenarios, an AR-15 or AK-47 would be a better choice primarily because the American market is filled with aftermarket parts and has a huge ownership base, and the Tavor simply does not, even if in theory the Tavor were the better rifle, functionally speaking. I know if me and my neighbors had to hunker down following a hurricane (or rioting in the wake of a potential George Zimmerman acquittal?), there are more than a few friendly neighbors with/from whom I could borrow/lend/trade AR-15 springs, pins, bolts, etc. (and troubleshoot) if need be within walking distance. Tavor breaks down, you’re on your own unless you’ve kept enough spare parts around. That could change, but could also take decades for the market to shift. So for whatever ergonomic advantages the Tavor may have over an AR-15, for Americans I would still say the AR-15 is a better choice until Tavors and their parts come down in price significantly.
At the end of the day, the scales tip in favor of other options for my needs. That is not to slight the Tavor, as the rifle has received nothing but outstanding reviews from sources I trust, namely MAC and Jerry Miculek. But I think people ought to think long and hard before selecting a Tavor over some other (AR-15 based or otherwise) solution for their individual needs, especially if the rifle is to have duties other than being a range toy. And if you really want one, if the rifle really does have mass US appeal, then I suspect prices will drop and a used market will open up, unless IWI has some plan to keep the number in US circulation low to maintain a higher price. Also, like anything else in the gun business, anything successful will be cloned. IWI is not the only manufacturer with bullpup experience, and improvements in its designs could be implemented by others.