TAVORX-95: Bullpup Excellence
ABOVE: The author ran the gun through some CQB drills with the excellent Innovative Arms Grunt-M suppressor attached. The suppressor is hearing safe even indoors and is a mere 5 inches long and weighs less than 1 pound.
In early 2014 this author did an article on the just released IWI US Tavor SAR-16 bullpup rifle (see SAR V18 N1). The Tavor had just been released at that year’s SHOT Show and though it was the talk of the show I don’t think that anyone could have foreseen just how popular and sought after this new rifle would become.
The Tavors’ closest competitor in the US was probably the Steyr AUG, but it lacked the versatility of the Tavor as well as being more costly. In the last two years the Tavor has proved that it is the bullpup rifle to have and IWI US has sold thousands of the rifles. It was even chosen “Rifle of the Year” and received the Golden Bullseye Award by “American Rifleman” magazine in 2014. I believe that it has been on the cover of every major firearms publication in the US as well as on many overseas. You would think that with that kind of accolades and the tremendous sales that the Tavor has produced that IWI US would be happy to just sit back and enjoy having the number one bullpup rifle made. But no. Not being a company to rest on their laurels, this year they brought to market their newest version on the Tavor rifle called the X-95!
While the Tavor SAR-16 was and still is an excellent rifle there were a few who complained about certain features of the gun. Probably the first and foremost complaint on the Tavor SAR-16 was the trigger pull. Merely by design, bullpup rifles, with their grips located forward of their actions all use some sort of trigger connecting bar to connect the trigger to the hammer. Usually these trigger bars are long enough that they have a certain amount of “flex” to them. This flex translates into a somewhat mushy trigger pull that doesn’t have a crisp break to it. The other biggest complaint that this author heard was in regard to the placement of the magazine release. On the SAR-16 the magazine release is situated just ahead of the magazine well. While this author didn’t have any issues with either the trigger pull or the magazine release, apparently there were those out there who did. This author just thought that “it’s a different rifle and with it comes a certain amount of training, get used to it.” IWI US didn’t see it that way. They fortunately wanted to please all shooters and hence the new X-95 was born.
The X-95 shares a lot of the same features as the original SAR-16. It is still a bullpup with a long stroke pistol type operating system. It still uses any Mil-Spec AR type magazine and fires from the same length, relatively quick-change removable barrel. It is still completely ambidextrous. It even shares much the same look and feel as the original Tavor. As with the original Tavor it is also caliber-convertible with conversions for both 9mm and .300BLK and more may be possibly on the way. But there are a few major differences or maybe a better term would be “improvements.”
First of all the trigger pull on the X-95 has seen a big improvement. It has been dropped from the 8 to 10 pound trigger pull on the original Tavor down to between 5 and 6 pounds. It also has a fairly nice break to it. It is altogether a nicer trigger which enhances the accuracy that can be achieved with this rifle. Another complaint that has been addressed is the location of the magazine release. On the new X95 the ambidextrous magazine release is located above and slightly ahead of the trigger, much as is the location of an AR-15 or M-4 trigger. Now users trained on these types of rifles can switch to the new X95 knowing that the fire controls are in the positions that they are used to.
Probably the only complaint that this author had with the 1st generation Tavor was the lack of forearm rails for adding lights, lasers or foregrips. On the first Tavor the only option that was available was a proprietary short section of Picatinny rail that could be bolted to the original forearm. The rail section was machined on a slant to match the contour of the forearm and because of this, regular rail sections could not be used. In order to add rails to the side of the gun the forearm had to be exchanged for a completely different aftermarket one, and most that were produced were fairly pricey. IWI US has also addressed this issue. The new X95 has what appears to be a standard ventilated forearm with gripping serrations molded in. The new forearm actually has sliding covers that can be taken off revealing Picatinny rail sections on both sides as well as the bottom. Each cover is independent so the user can take off only the ones needed to mount certain accessories. Each cover has a small built-in spring-loaded latch that when pushed allows the cover to slide forward off the forearm. Simple but very ingenious.
The charging handle on the new rifles has also been relocated. It has been moved from the 11 o’clock position on the front of the forearm to the side of the receiver right above the grip and trigger at the midpoint of the gun. It is still ambidextrous, being able to be moved to either side.
The X95 is still the same size and weight as the original Tavor but now has a more streamlined look. The bolt release on the X95 that is located right behind the magazine well has been restyled into a slightly smaller design that does not protrude down as far as its predecessor. It still works the same as the original. The big loop-style trigger guard and grip have also undergone some changes. First of all the entire grip and trigger guard can be removed with a single screw and replaced with a conventional-style pistol grip for those who prefer that. The new grip also has removable side panels which, one can only assume, will be offered in different sizes.
Testing on the X95 was done with a wide variety of magazine types and capacities. Every magazine that was tried worked perfectly in the X95. There were no malfunctions what-so-ever. The gun was even fired using the new MagPul D-60 drum. If you haven’t tried one of these 60-round marvels go get one. They work perfectly, are very rugged, easy to load and unlike most drum magazines they can be easily taken apart for user serviceability and cleaning. They can also be left loaded and will lock into a gun with the bolt closed. The D-60 drums are also compatible with most loading devices.
The X95 was shot for accuracy from a bench at 100 yards. We didn’t shoot it for long range accuracy, but the groups shot at the 100 yard mark showed that this rifle is well up to the task even out past 300 yards. The gun was fired using a variety of ammunition with various bullet weights and type. In the accuracy test one ammunition always shot extremely well. This was the Gorilla Ammunition loaded with the 77 grain Sierra Matchking boat tail hollow point. This ammunition produced groups of under an inch at 100 yards while most of the other ammunition used produced 1.5-to-2 inch groups. This should come as no surprise as Gorilla Ammunition has proven itself time and time again as one of the premium ammunition makers in the US.
During the testing the A2 style flash hider was removed and replaced with a relatively new 5.56 suppressor. The new suppressor was the Innovative Arms Grunt-M. The Grunt-M (mini) is a tiny suppressor that is just 5 inches long and weighs a mere 13.5 ounces making it the most compact and lightweight suppressor in its class. It has a one piece core machined from billet bar stock which means that it has no internal welds. This makes for a very durable suppressor that is also full-auto rated on barrels as short as 10 inches. It is made from stainless steel and it is a direct-thread on suppressor with ½ x 28 threads. It has machined-in wrench flats for easy removal from the host rifle and is available in your choice of Black, OD Green and Flat Dark Earth. This author has tested this suppressor with other “name brand” suppressors side by side, and I can’t tell them apart. This suppressor works as well as or better than other suppressors that are 7 or 8 inches long. Like all of Innovative Arms suppressors the Grunt-M can also be fired wet or dry. Several owners of the original Tavor have told the author that they noticed an excess amount of gas coming from the ejector port on their rifles, but the author did not notice this with the Grunt-M equipped X95. The X95 with the Grunt-M attached is still shorter than the standard M-4 rifle by about 6 inches.
The X95 has now become this author’s favorite 5.56 combat style rifle. It is ultra compact, highly reliable and now with the improvements that have been made it requires no add-ons to make it the rifle for any mission. For troops and LE the short length makes use from a vehicle very easy whether it is used in a squad car or HumVee. For CQB and room clearing it is the ideal weapon. It can be suppressed without changing any gas port settings and works with any Mil-Spec AR-style magazine or drum. The fact that this rifle can be converted to a pistol caliber 9mm carbine or a .300 Blackout rifle is an added plus for police departments on a limited budget. With the caliber conversions being able to be done quickly and easily it makes this a perfect gun for special forces that might need to change their firearms at a moment’s notice for a specific mission.
Not once during the testing was there a malfunction. With well over 500 rounds though the gun there was never a failure to feed, eject or any other problem. The accuracy was outstanding, and the durability of this rifle is second to none. IWI US has listened to their customers and made improvements that produced an outstanding rifle.