IWI TAR-21 (Tavor) History

For decades, the Israeli Army has relied on its tried and true line of Galil and M16 automatic weapons in various battlefield camouflages - assault rifles, carbines, snipers and designated snipers, to name a few. In 2001, the situation changed with the new standard Israeli infantry assault rifle becoming the TAR-21 "Tavor" designed and built by Israel Military Industries (IMI). Design work on the rifle began in 1991, culminating in a "bull-fight" configuration.

The impetus behind the project was to develop a gun of a close-quarter nature more suitable for urban combat - a type of warfare the Israeli military faces on a daily basis - while maintaining a strong mid-range capability in an open environment.

The bullpup configuration has gained traction in the military, with many militaries recognizing its inherent advantages (though conversely there are limitations). The "bull-fight" layout primarily dictates that the internal operating actions of the automatic weapon take place behind the trigger assembly and pistol grip. This allows the stock to incorporate most of the internal functions normally included in a standard long gun regular firing. This allows the assault weapon to use a full-length barrel in a more compact form - essentially retaining the ability to fire rifle-caliber cartridges from a carbine-like body. The compact profile provides a firmer grip and sits closer to the body, excelling in urban combat environments.

The user's shooter sits below the center of the frame, with the rest of the weight balanced by the shoulder area and the seconds hand on the fore grip.

Some bullpup critics point to the close proximity of the bullet ejection port to the shooter's face and the bullpup design's preference for right-handed shooters. Additionally, the narrower muzzle means the operator must be careful not to put his/her hand in front of the gun.

Since the gun's internal functions are primarily centered on the rear of the gun, this area of ??the gun carries most of the weight, making it difficult to control the gun during fully automatic fire ("muzzle climb"). Despite these limitations, the pit bull configuration is best suited for close quarters combat - usually within the range of standard infantry.

The Austrian Steyr AUG was one of the first notable widespread uses of the bullfighting configuration.

Following the 1982 war with Lebanon, Israeli authorities realized the limitations of their current stockpile of assault infantry weapons, especially in urban combat. It was not until 1993 that major internal steps were taken to find suitable replacements for automatic weapons, leading to the 1994 Tavor project, led by Zalmen Shebs. The team chose a bullpup configuration and introduced the design to the Israel Defense Forces in 1995. In 1997, the Israel Defense Forces began to put the Tavor on track, primarily around the ergonomics and functionality of the weapon within the framework of the standard IDF infantry. The year 2000 marked the beginning of intense field testing, exposing the weapon to the brutality of warfare.

In 2002, Tavor was issued to an IDF company for a true local presence. In 2003, the IDF officially announced its intention to bulk purchase the Tavor Assault System - the TAR-21 - to make it the IDF's standard assault rifle.

The first series works meant the first series-quality copies were delivered in 2006.

Like other new generation automatic bullpup weapons, the TAR-21 uses lightweight composite materials in its construction to maintain a more manageable operating weight. The no-trap layout also allows for a more ergonomic grip, especially during the hours of work of the rank-and-file soldier on patrol. While the ambidextrous setup is uncommon on many standard assault rifles and is essentially right-handed, the TAR-21 actually utilizes an internal feature that allows the weapon to eject spent cartridges to the left of the shooter's right side - This is a truly nimble end product. However, in order to use this feature, the rifle must be opened and slightly reworked before use. Like other new bullpup designs, the TAR-21 uses a red dot sight by default.

Other optics of your choice are also available for more accurate shots.

According to previous Israeli Army guidelines, the TAR-21 accepts M16 STANAG series magazines. The weapon fires from various magazine counts, with 30 rounds being the standard. Each magazine is curved in the usual M16 fashion and has two rows of staggered lugs. The magazine is inserted into the magazine behind the pistol grip. The operator can also manage safety, semi-automatic or fully automatic mode via a selector switch.

The weapon is primarily chambered for 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges, but can also be chambered for 9x19mm Para and 5.56x30mm INSAS (Indian Army). Fire is gas-powered, with a rotating bolt system, with a rate of fire of up to 900 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second.

Effective range is up to 1,800 feet, depending on the type of ammunition selected.

TAR-21 has come in various forms since its inception. The base designation "TAR-21" stands for Standard Infantry Assault Weapon. The GTAR-21 has a similar layout but includes the M203 breech block 40mm single-shot grenade launcher, a common member of the M16 family of weapons.

The CTAR-21 is a compact version of the TAR-21 rifle, bringing the series more into the realm of specialized carbines. This shorter form - with a shorter barrel - allows for close combat in tight spaces. This is ideal for special forces, commando members and even vehicle crews. The MTAR-21 - or "Micro Tavor" - was designed as a more compact version of the TAR-21 weapon system, primarily for special forces.

The MTAR-21 is unique in that it can be retrofitted into a 9mm submachine gun form with a higher rate of fire that fires pistol-style cartridges rather than rifle caliber competition. It is also designed to accommodate a 40mm grenade launcher and a suppressor under a pedestal. STAR-21 is a designated marksman form, which means it is issued at the squad level to elements trained to be snipers (rather than the snipers themselves). A dedicated sniper unit allows accurate, repeatable fire from a distance, which is helpful in engaging targets outside the range of standard assault rifles.

These versions come standard with a stabilized bipod assembly (folded under the front end) and a Trijicon ACOG 4x scope. A civilian version of the TAR-21 exists in the form of the Tavor Carbine TC-21, offering only semi-automatic fire.

Despite being relatively "novel", the TAR-21 family of weapons has been widely used by foreign militaries allied with Israel or believing in its illustrious history of firearms manufacturing. These include Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, Thailand and Ukraine. The Thai army is replacing its M16 rifles with Israel's TAR-21 series. Ukraine is expected to license the manufacture of the weapon locally. India, priced at $17, is one of the biggest users of the TAR-21 series.

7 million deals were signed in 2002 for thousands of TAR-21 automatic weapons from Israel. The Indian TAR-21 rifle is known as "Zittara" in the Indian Army. They were joined by Georgia, which received thousands of TAR-21s for $65 million.

IWI TAR-21 (Tavor) Specification


- Close Combat (CQB) / Personal Protection

- Frontline/Attack

- remote precision


Total length:

720 mm (28.35 in)

Run Length:

460 mm (18.11 in)

Weight (not loaded):

3.27 kg


Adjustable iron; optional optics



Gas powered; rotating bolt

Muzzle velocity:

3,000 ft/s (914 m/s)

Rate of fire:

800 rounds per minute

Valid range:

1,805 ft (550 m; 602 yd)


TAR-21 - Infantry Assault Rifle Base Form

GTAR-21 - Based on TAR-21; introduced support for suspended 40mm grenade launchers.

CTAR-21 - Carbine styling; shortened barrel; for special forces.

STAR-21 - Designated Marksman Rifle; folding bipod; standard-issue telescopic sight.

MTAR-21 "Micro Tavor" - Compact Version based on the TAR-21 with improvements; 5. 56mm and 9mm cartridge support with modification kit.

Zittara - Indian Army designation of MTAR-21 "Micro Tavor"; chambered for the Indian 5. 56x30mm MINSAS cartridge.

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