Just to preface this light review, there have been tons and tons of full on, in depth reviews and video testing of the IWI X95, from Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defense Journal (same articles, one might be more accessible to readers), our own Edward O or TV Press Pass, Tim from Military Arms Channel/ The Bang Switch, and even a member of the Israeli security forces, in addition to all the videos of good footage on the internet. So in no way is this write up ground breaking but is simply my views on the rifle from recently shooting it at Bullpup 2015.
So I’m a big Tavor fan to begin with, and thus was extremely interested in the X95 and one of the primary reasons why I wanted to go to Bullpup 2015. In my eyes, the full length rifle is akin to the Garand, and the X95 is akin to the M14, an amazing rifle that just got better. That being said I was somewhat disappointed that IWI USA didn’t show up to the shoot, due to some conflicting times with Law Enforcement demonstrations they were putting on. Either way, they either sold an X95 prototype to Rat Worx, or let them borrow it for the shoot, but thanks to the employees of Rat Worx, Bullpup 2015 did have an X95 on hand to get some trigger time in.
Forward Rails inventiveness- In today’s world, it sometimes gets tiring of watching the same thing being reinvented, to take the picatinny to Keymod, to M Lok systems. Although what IWI did with the rail system on the X95 isn’t revolutionary, it is refreshing to see their attachment system. Basically they’ve got three rail covers that are molded to the contour of the overall handguard, and when all placed on, form an extremely smooth feel when gripping the firearm, while at the same time allowing some good ventilation to take place through their open design, and the vents in the picatinny rail itself. The attachment system is superb in that it is secure, yet a no brainer to take them off. This is usually my biggest beef with any such attachment systems is in how much effort has the manufacturer made it so easy to work, that it actually works against the weapon system and becomes a fault by allowing too easy removal, and possibly accidental removal. I cannot see that happening with the tabs on the rail covers. The bottom rail has a hand stop, because that muzzle is certainly very close to the end of the rail, and I’m sure putting a forward grip on it would alleviate it even more. What I don’t like though, are the rails themselves, but I’ll get to that in the next section.
The KRISS phenomenon- The reason why I call this the KRISS phenomenon is because one of my buddies mentioned this about the KRISS. When the submachine gun came out, everyone agreed that it was more or less great, the .45 ACP “tamed” in something the size of an Uzi. However, for us in the civilian market we had to either contend with it being an SBR, having a faux suppressor or no stock in pistol form. Either way, all three forms were almost not worthwhile enough to have the actual firearm apart from the SBR. My point is, is that the gun was designed from the ground up and for compact, full auto fire, and if you can’t have that, then the thing almost negates itself by all the other options. I apply this same logic with the X95. With it, rifle design has reached a stage where we can have a 13 inch barrel in something as long as the KRISS fully extended, in 5.56 or 5.45. So we have the ability to reach out to the ranges that a T/O rifle squad would be normally expected to perform to their maximum range (300-600 meters), in probably the most compact soon to be main issue battle rifle in the world, and not only in full auto, but insanely controllable in full auto. But that leaves us with the SBR. My whole point throughout all this, if you’ve been following me, is that if the thing isn’t in the 13 inch SBR form, then like the KRISS, in my opinion, it negates itself, and I really don’t see the point in having one for. But that’s just me, not you, so if you want that 16.5 inch barrel that appears long, go have at it. In the meantime, I think it’s a far, far better option to have an 18 inch full size Tavor, with the barrel protected almost all the way to the muzzle through the use of after market handguards, and get that maximum velocity barrel in the desired short bullpup format.
The Tackiness- In some ways it got better and in some ways it got worse. In my opinion, IWI almost purposely made the original Tavor with an odd handguard (I know it works for the Israelis, but in the States…), with a plastic safety, with a plastic charging handle, a plastic bolt hold open device, and so on. It’s almost as if they counted on the after market products to really take off with companies like Manticore, Rat Worx, Gear Head, Midwest Industries to make things like higher top rails, metal safeties, improved butt pads, and so forth. I think they worked that into the X95 in that they fixed the plastic safety with a metal one, fixed the bolt hold open with a metal one, which is great (and really one of the downfalls of the full length rifle). However what I think is ridiculous are the picatinny rails, which are all polymer. Polymer? On a combat rifle? I’m sorry but these aren’t the Nerf guns I blogged about earlier with picatinny rails, these are modern infantry rifles that need to stand up to the rigors of combat, and within that realm, plastic rails aren’t going to cut it. Now, of course Glock, M&Ps have polymer rails and they work great, I’ve certainly never seen one chipped off or broken because it was polymer but it is a lot smaller. I asked the Rat Worx rep about it and he said that IWI wanted polymer rails because of the weight reduction. To which my argument is, the weight saved by the reduced length of the rifle itself is almost enough already, I’ll take that extra couple of ounces of steel rails if that means anything mounted won’t rip off the rail with it. Interestingly enough, the original X95s with the round handguards did have metal rails instead of the polymer ones.
Then we have the removable polymer handguard or trigger guard. The X95 can come with both options, either having a protective handguard, or a small trigger guard. Personally I think the protective handguard is the way to go, because of that protection that it affords the entire grip. In addition it lends itself nicely to a hasty foregrip and it falls into place with how the Israelis teach their fundamentals of shooting by resting the rifle against the left forearm as the left hand grips the actual handguard. Personally I’d prefer a solid grip instead of one that could get ripped off if enough force was applied to it. But then again this is coming from the guy who dummy cords everything and ratchets his bicycle car mount down with steel wire. However, having that option for a user configurable handguard/triggerguard does have a distinct advantage.
Controllable on Full Auto- From most of the potential buyers of the rifle (to include me) the full auto selection unfortunately won’t be in the cards. Regardless, I’ll cover it in this review. Watching the video of myself firing it on full auto, it appears that the gun almost rocked downward, but that just might be because of my abysmal performance with the FNC video and learning from it and getting a better grip on it. The actual engagement of automatic fire is the same as the AUG trigger in that the shooter pulls the trigger completely to the rear for auto, but only half way for single shots. Takes a bit to get used to, but the system is absolutely brilliant. Single shots are cake, but when you want full auto, that long trigger pull is all that has to happen. This all takes place while the selector is switched to “A” of course and not on “R” for semiautomatic fire.
Another thing you might notice is that the butt pad is completely flat compared to the full length rifle with the pad that sticks out. One of the reasons for that extra length was to make it fully compatible with current US regulations regarding length, however with the X95 being an SBR to begin with, this didn’t have to be met. In addition the shape of that buttpad and the receiver itself makes it similar to the P90 in shape and thus certainly helps with recoil mitigation, making it able to really nicely tuck it into a shoulder pocket.
User controls- The largest difference between the full length rifle and the X95 is the new placement of the ambidextrous magazine release above the trigger, exactly where it should have been on the rifle. People tend to think of the Tavor as a 2000s invention but the thing has been around in protype form since the 1990s, so seeing that the magazine release was in an odd place in front of the magazine doesn’t seem so out of place after all considering the time it came in and the need for experimentation. In addition because the length has been reduced, the charging handle slot has been moved closer to the trigger as well, directly on top of it actually. This is excellent as handling the charging handle is almost like operating a handgun slide, directly on top of the trigger. In addition to that change, the charging handle itself is beefer and much more robust than the full length rifle one.
My biggest issue with the controls on both the X95 and the full length rifle is the position of the bolt lever in the rear of the magazine. Its speed in actuating the bolt is certainly unmatched when it comes to other bolt release systems in other rifles, but what about manipulating the rifle to fix malfunctions? During a malfunction of any sort, the primary goal should be to lock the bolt to the rear, then proceed to deal with the malfunction, whether that is ripping the magazine out or clearing the chamber. Well you can do that with any model of the Tavor but you have this odd combination of holding the rifle to rear by charging the bolt handle, then bringing your right hand back to press down on the bolt release. All the while there isn’t any positive control on the actual rifle because both hands are in this coordinated motion and the rifle is most likely up in the air, and not pointed downrange where it should be. I really think that the release should take the position of the old magazine release, that way the shooter can maintain his position, even looking through his optic, while simultaneously attending to the malfunction. Granted, most shooters are going to be doing more magazine changes than fixing malfunctions (or at least I hope!), but I see this as a flaw in the design that any amount of user operation can’t get around.
Would I buy it?- Despite my issues with the plastic rails and removable grip, I’d absolutely be buying this thing, but only in its SBR form as I mentioned earlier with the KRISS phenomenon. Having a legal 16 inch barrel on the X95 almost negates the compactness it offers, and at that point I’ll take the extra 2 inches with the 18 inch rifle that’ll truly optimize the 5.56 round in terms of velocity. When will it be available for sale and for what MSRP? I haven’t heard anything at this point, Tim from Military Arms Channel said it would be two years, and his article was written in 2013. Now it’s almost done with 2015 and still no word on release dates and prices. For Tavor fans already out there, the great thing about the X95 is the backwards compatibility of it with the full length rifle in terms of the bolt group and various other small parts, in addition to the familiarity of the user controls and rifle itself.
I wanted to just put every Youtube video I could find on here, to make this post really comprehensive and thus you could get a glimpse of the X95 from every angle so to speak. But I’ll just post the one that I think does into some details that others don’t, and that is from TV Press Pass.