Why the IDF Chose the TAVOR® Over the M4
Written by Winston Behle
For years the M4 honorably served as Israel’s battle rifle. When the time came to choose between the TAVOR® and the M4, it was only fair the IDF pitted the bullpup against its predecessor in a series of punishing tests. Between November 2001 and March 2002, two brigades evaluated the rifles in every imaginable scenario, condition and combat situation to determine which would come out on top. They specifically watched for Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF), accuracy and retention of zero using various sights, human ergonomics during extended periods of use (including marches as long as 37 miles), speed and accuracy of sighting in daytime and nighttime with iron sights, magnified and night vision optics and lasers, use with the M203 grenade launcher, and maintenance-relevant issues.
When the dust settled the TAVOR® emerged triumphant, besting the M4 and earning the right to become the standard issue rifle of the IDF.
While a fine weapon in normal scenarios, the M4 developed an allergy to dust and has had issues with jamming. This is obviously a massive problem in Israel where blowing fine dust and sand are not considered extreme conditions but the norm. The TAVOR® solves this problem by having a completely sealed mechanism which prevents mud, dust and dirt from getting inside. In fact, it’s perfectly capable of firing reliably after being submerged in water and covered in mud or sand.
In addition, the M4 relies on a direct impingement system which sends all of the gas to the bolt carrier, which dirties the bolt carrier and magazine causing the gun to malfunction if it is not cleaned regularly. The TAVOR®, on the other hand, uses a long stroke piston system similar to the internals of the AK-47. This long stroke piston system is simpler and more reliable than direct impingement and have enabled the bullpup system to go thousands of rounds without being cleaned or having a malfunction. Like the Energizer bunny, The TAVOR® just keeps going and going and… well, you get the picture.
The rise of terrorism and urban warfare has changed how we fight. Modern warfare is now indoors, in confined spaces and in and out of vehicles. As a result, the IDF wanted a rifle that was as compact as possible. The TAVOR® certainly fits the bill and is often shorter than many short barrel rifles (SBRs) while still packing a full length barrel. The SCAR, M4 and G36 feel like elephant guns in comparison. The TAVOR® was designed to kick down doors, swing around in hallways, shoot from cars while driving and “bring it” to any close quarter battle (CQB) situation.
Accuracy and Terminal Effects:
The bullpup design allows the TAVOR® to incorporate a full-length barrel in an overall package that is still shorter than an M4 with a 13” barrel. It is well known that the 5.56 round needs at least a 16” to 18” barrel to achieve the proper velocity needed to tumble and fragment when it hits its target. In addition, the higher velocity allows the round to travel farther down range without experiencing drop, thereby increasing its accuracy. While primarily a CQB rifle, TAVOR® users have reported being able to hit steel at 750 yards, which is well past the 5.56 standard range.
The TAVOR® is actually half a pound heavier than the M4 but it carries all of its weight in the rear, whereas the M4 carries its weight in the center and the front. Having the weight in the rear makes it easier for the operator to hold the rifle in a shooting position without fatiguing. In addition, it feels more natural to shoulder and it’s easier and faster to swing the light front end around. Another benefit of having the weight in the rear is that it allows controllable one-handed shooting.
The ergonomics of the rifle allow for a six points of contact hold which provides the operator with a more stable firing platform, making it easier to control the rifle, manage recoil and engage targets quickly and accurately.
In addition, tactical reloads are effortless and quick and can be done without taking your eyes off the target, breaking cheek weld or taking your hand off the pistol grip. You can change magazines with your support hand by flicking the mag release with your thumb and quickly inserting a new magazine without having to use the charging handle or bolt release if you’ve left a round in the chamber.
Since the TAVOR® does not have a folding or collapsible stock it is always at the ready and does not need to be deployed before being employed.
Easier to Fieldstrip and Clean:
The TAVOR® can be disassembled with nothing more than the tip of a bullet. One push pin holds the hinged butt pad in place. Remove that pin and it swings open to pull out the bolt carrier, clean it and put it back in a matter of seconds.
Forged in battle and declared perfected after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israel’s Hebrew Hammer, the TAVOR®, is here to stay, replacing the M4 and the 1960’s vintage M16 and taking Israel into the 21st century.