A Visual Tour of the Tavor’s Childhood: From Napkin Doodle to Israel’s Rifle

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The history of the IWI Tavor is a subject that has interested me for close to a decade. The rifle’s history doesn’t seem to have been well-documented so far, at least in sources I have read; yet available on the Internet are many of the original concept images and mockups of the weapon. So, instead of writing a history on the Tavor, which I cannot yet do (although I am working on it!), let’s take a look at these concepts, and see how they evolved from the first drawings to the final product. (Note: About half the photos in this article came to me via a thread on bullpupforum.com, so thanks to them.)

In these early design sketches, you can see how the rifle’s aesthetics seemed to evolve first, although at what stage of this process the operating mechanism was designed, I cannot tell:

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Note that apparently the rifle was intended to be a bullpup from the beginning. One can also see that in the last sketch, titled “AAR 90” as the Tavor was then named, the barrel appears to be drawn too low to actually fit all the way back in the receiver.

The next stage of development seems to have been ergonomic trials with non-firing mockups:

76 75 ab3a06011080x500 72 74 71 Tavor-Versia

 

It was at this time, evidently, that the six points of contact concept began to take shape:

63 61 62 6571772926-660x443 77

On the design team for the Tavor was Zalman Shebs, seen here posing with an early mockup or prototype:

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tavor-1

A concept drawing of the very organic looking prototype Shebs is holding above. Image source: tonnel-ufo.ru

 

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And a better shot of the prototype itself, showing the flowing contours. Image source: bullpupforum.com

 

Eventually, what appear to be firing prototypes were created:

79 tar-m203-alone 80

What’s most interesting to me about the Tavor’s development was the intimate involvement of industrial design company Versia Military in the design process. Tamir Porat, head of Versia Military, explains the company’s ethos regarding making a weapon more aesthetically pleasing, and therefore more competitive on the military market:

 

Interestingly, the involvement of Versia with the Tavor continues today. Not only has the Tavor been aesthetically updated with the smaller X95 carbine, but Versia also debuted in 2013 a new even more futuristic-looking Tavor shell, called the “Meron”:

DSC_0474 meron_c Meron3

That’s about all there is to see for now. Hopefully this tour of the Tavor’s design history was interesting; stay tuned to TFB for more neat bullpup concepts!

Images sourced from:

http://tonnel-ufo.ru/eanglish/weapon/automatic-assault-rifle-tavor-tar-21.php
http://www.israel-weapon.com/?catid=%7B9490BE81-EAFC-456A-ADC5-D042220A1625%7D
http://www.isayeret.com/content/weapons/assault/tavor/overview.shtml
http://www.miltechmag.com/2013/06/isdef-2013-new-versia-military-design.html?m=1

http://thearmednovelist.tumblr.com/post/37080771124/versia-military-design-meron-rifle


http://www.versiamilitary.com/case_studies.php?id=3
https://bullpupforum.com/index.php?topic=2556.0
https://bullpupforum.com/index.php?topic=3220.0



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Tom

    The Meron because who needs military sales when every sci fi film made will want your rifle.

    • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

      And the Killjoys TV series.

  • Emanuel

    Some of those drawings remind me of the Vektor CR-21

    • Joe Schmoe

      The inspiration actually came from the Aug, as per Versa’s comments:

      “The basic inspiration for the design came from the futuristic-looking Austrian made AUG Steyr, but with a much more menacing appearance.”

    • LCON

      I was thinking that to, both were designed around the same period and based off the AUG for influence.

  • Major Tom

    The Meron looks like I’d be wielding a mini-fridge.

    • KestrelBike

      chilled beer-can grenade launcher?

      • Major Tom

        With options for “less loaded” ammunition like Coke and Pepsi.

  • PK

    “Versia also debuted in 2013 a new even more futuristic-looking Tavor shell, called the “Meron””

    WAAAAAAAAAANT. Don’t care if it’s only ever a mockup or airsoft, I love it. Completely impractical looking, doesn’t matter.

    Man that just looks neat! There’s just something about the aesthetics I enjoy, it’s very cyberpunk.

    • Anomanom

      I have to agree 100%, never had much interest in the Tavor, but that is nice looking. Do want.

  • Pseudo

    yeah so what’s the purpose of that last shell, because it looks badass! I would imagine it must also serve some sort of purpose. Any info?

    • Tahoe

      I’m spitballing, but it looks to have a detachable cover for a GL mount in front; adjustable cheek riser and buttstock; built-in bipod and, of course, accessory pic rails.

  • Joshua

    Lol good luck clearing a stoppage on the Meron.

    • crackedlenses

      My head says that the Meron is unpractical and a waste, but that look….

  • BrandonAKsALot

    Worrying about the way a rifle looks first is exactly what I’d expect from Israeli design. Can’t be ultra-tactical if your rifle isn’t couture and sexy.

    • Xanderbach

      Like their soldiers!

      • vwVwwVwv

        turn yourself in the same situation, survive and than we can talk.

        • What the flip did I just read.

          • 624A24

            The Ode to Thy Sexy Weapon it seems.

          • Sgt. Stedenko

            a bad acid trip

        • Cymond

          “you do not date the less sexy girl cuz she works beter or stuff.”

          I have. I still wonder about her, where life took her. She was a wonderful woman. I never understood why no one else saw that.

          • vwVwwVwv

            you say it, “no one else saw that”,
            what do you mean with was?

            sorry my english is not mor than whats left from school.

          • V, “saw” is the past tense of “see”. So he is wondering why no one else could see that she was a wonderful woman, at the time.

          • vwVwwVwv

            so he saw what others cant see, hidden beauty is for sure
            one of the most beautyful kinds of beauty.
            i have asked why “was” cuz i am
            curious.

          • Oh, sorry, I misunderstood your question.

          • vwVwwVwv

            by the way, did i ever said what a great blog this is?
            i am realy adicted to your work here and
            the interesting coments.
            great job.

          • Hey, thanks for the feedback! Glad you like what we’re doing here!

          • vwVwwVwv

            no compliment, just tell you the truth, its imense, realy
            lots of history, new developments, links all around.
            a good mix with informations i wuld not
            have without reserche. for
            example on model
            of the tavor
            looks like
            the Vektor cr 21 and the basis is a AK so i see konektions
            cuz vektor worked together with IMI and they had
            an own version of the galil the R4 …

            its allways great here.

          • Cymond

            I will try to use simple english.
            Nathaniel is right. No one else could see her hidden beauty, her inner beauty.
            She was my first true love. She moved away 15 years ago. A year after she moved away, one of her “friends” mocked me for dating her. He said that I was loney & desperate because she was not very pretty on the outside. I disagreed. I could see her inner beauty. It was all I could see. I visited her about 12 years ago. I was surprised to learn that I was still her only boyfriend. That made me sad. I was there to be her friend. I had a new girlfriend (now my wife). It was hard to control my feelings when we were alone, but I was strong. I did not break, did not do anything wrong. I am married now, and my wife is a wonderful woman, but I will never forget my first love. I will always care about her, even love her.

            I can only tell you about the kind of person she was when I knew her. I cannot say “she IS” because I do not know her now. Maybe she changed. Maybe she is lonely and unhappy. Loneliness can make a person mean and cold. I hope she is happy. I hope she found love and family.

          • vwVwwVwv

            oh, was, sounded for me like if someon is gone, you know.
            life can be hard but thats what makes it interesting,
            all the best for you all. 😀

          • Xanderbach

            Oops… Seems I was misheard (8 days ago)… I didn’t mean looks before function, I was merely commenting that there are some attractive Israeli soldiers. On a related note (to later comments) I am a combat veteran and have also done HEMA, learning the Sigmund Ringeck school of longsword fighting. So I know function outweighs form- I have a parts-build Maadi AK as my go-to gun, since it’s lightweight and keeps on working. Definitely not a pretty gun. The lacquer on the stock appears to have been applied with a rake.

          • vwVwwVwv

            sorry, not miss heard, i was lost in the languages,
            i missunderstood you completly, my apology.

            it is funny to read ringeck, talhofer, lichtenauer
            as someon fluent in german, language changed a lot
            since then, i love especialy talhofers reports
            about ordeal fights of the nonaristocrats,
            strange stuff was seen as
            law in thees times.

            lots of Hema
            “fighter” forget that for lots of fighters the
            sword was a tool to get tight to the “enemy”
            there was a fortune to make in medeval wars.
            capturing a welthy knight was the aim, not killing.
            its funny when you go in a strike and make
            a nice uochi mata or osoto gary, throw them
            to the ground and find out thatthey dont
            know falling. fencing is something
            for boys and i am beyond 40
            still a big boy, sometimes. 😀

  • iksnilol

    Sooo… we can call the Tavor the napkin-rifle?

    • UCSPanther

      A lot of machines and components began life as concepts and sketches and in some of the most unlikely places.

      One good example was the old Avery Company in the US, a premier manufacturer of tractors and agricultural equipment back in the early 1900s, and famous for their innovation. The founder, Robert H. Avery drew up a seed drill in the sand of his cell when he was locked up in the infamous Andersonville POW camp during the US Civil War. After his release, him and his brother Cyrus went to work and founded their company namesake.

      Sadly, Avery Manufacturing, like so many at the time, was forced to close its doors for good when WWII broke out.

  • vwVwwVwv

    is there something new about the accuracy problems of the x 95?

    • K-Gunner

      The “problems” come from a video MAC did where he scoped and bipod mounted his X95 and shoots a variety of ammo, declaring it’s accuracy inconsistent but satisfactory for combat. The “problem” as I see it is that people expect DMR/SPR accuracy out of a weapon not designed for that role and other Internet experts proclaiming “for $1800 I expect MOA accuracy”. Well hell, for the price of a Ferrari I expect it to fly and be submersible.

      • vwVwwVwv

        i tested the IDF version, it was ok, my rifle is the HK-MR7 its 308 and
        it has a longer barrel but the idf mikro was ok, is the US model made by iwi?

        i dont think i will get one here in germany but i dont need a bulpub
        and am more interested in precision than in compact form,
        i usualy drive not in APC’s and dont jump from planes
        any more and no gun looks beter than the
        m16-m4….

        • K-Gunner

          Lucky you! That HK is awesome! Yes, the US Tavors SAR and X95 are IWI manufactured. Like you, I have precision rifles so the X95 isn’t meant to fulfill that role.

          • vwVwwVwv

            the HK is good but i do not compare a 308 to a 223 and
            a gunsmith made some litle things to it, its
            for competition, i use selfloaded
            amunition….
            lucky? i rather would have the second amendment and use
            rifles made in china. i cant carry for seldefence,
            am able just to have two semiauto
            rifles and two multishoot pistols,
            som carabines and thats it.

            israel is from germany 4 houers flight away. a ticket costs around
            350$, no big deal, so i kombine shooting in a kibuz with
            holyday. knowing the language for me its
            like for an american to go from
            LA to SF i think.

            somehow i expect an answer from iwi on the precision thing,
            we will see.

          • steveday72

            Here in the US we cannot get any firearms from China either. Russia is on the “ban list” too, thanks to the current White House resident.

          • vwVwwVwv

            you know, the AR 15 in Orlando made by bishop Stoner
            was a mean rifle, it grabbed the poor muslim and turned
            him in to a assoult muslim. with the assoult muslim
            the mean AR 15 entered the nightclub and
            and fired the assoult muslim…..

            gun-neurosis is a
            grave problem, they want only armed criminals.

      • Incorrect. MAC was trying to verify issues others had seen and posted to ARFCOM. Since then, the accuracy issues have been verified many times.

        Inconsistency resulting in 4-5 MOA spreads with match ammo is not “minute of man” it’s a serious accuracy issue.

        • K-Gunner

          What do you/others believe is the issue? Does the Tavor SAR suffer from the same problem?

          • I honestly haven’t a clue what the issue is.

  • Uniform223

    Great read!

    The picture of the soldier with the optic on the hand guard must be old though. I haven’t seen an M4 or AR-15 with a carrying handle in ages. The last time I saw one was on my M16A2 or similar found in gun stores…

    • steveday72

      Israel still uses them. I don’t know if they use flat-tops at all … every photo I’ve seen (mostly of hot Israeli chicks with their rifles slung) shows stubby M16’s with carry handles.

    • It’s from the early- mid-1990s, so it ain’t recent!

  • I would counter that the cruciform sword looks that way because it’s an excellent way to protect the hand while still using steel economically. Later on, as steel became cheaper, the cruciform shape was abandoned despite soldiers being just as Christian in the 1500s and 1600s as they were in the 1200s.

    Armor was gilded because only very rich people could afford good plate, and rich people can afford to spend on frivolities. Today, the same effect is visible in the European hunting rifle market, especially when compared to the American hunting rifle market. Euro rifles are all gilded and highly attractive, and cost $3,000 for a “plain” gun and up. American rifles are brutal parkerized steel and black plastic, like a Savage 110 or T/C Dimension.

    I’m not against firearms as art, quite the opposite. Yet wars are won today not by wealthy knights and their retinues, but by economic superpowers fielding the most deadly, most efficient weapons possible. There is virtually no room for a gilt-edge on today’s metaphorical swords.

    • LCON

      the Cruciform sword also looked the way it did as it was a totally practical weapon of war.
      Against an unarmored Enemy You can hack and Slash. Against an armored foe you can half hand the blade and use it as a short lance. or flip the sword around and use the guard as a hammer or use the pommel for some pummeling,

      Swords changed shape as Armored knight became less the threat as Pikemen, Crossbows, archery and firearms meant that the mass Infantry was now easily able to unhorse and un can Sir Lancealot. rendering the Knight’s Elite status a relic. As Armor phased off the battlefield the hacking and slashing and stabbing became the more critical role of the sword until the early modern era when trench warfare turned the advantages of the sword into weakness.

    • vwVwwVwv

      sorry but somehow my answer dont apears, its not out of arogance,
      it is blocked or something.

      • It’s not showing up in Pending Comments, sorry.

        • vwVwwVwv

          🙂

  • Because the guy wanted to. I am not saying artistry isn’t important, I am saying that modern wars are wars of economy.

    • vwVwwVwv

      if you compet in a fight, shooting competitions are kind of
      sterilised fight, in boxing or judo you know how important
      feeling is for the fighter and for the result.

      we have wars of economy and are getting the but kicked
      by guys from stoneage but good spirit, look is important,
      we humans are visual animals.

  • Actually, you see cruciform hilts in many places, from pre-Christian Europe, to Arabia, to India.

    Cruciform hilts are a terribly practical design. The span of the bars on the guard means an enemy swordsman has to get a very severe angle on your hands to hit them, plus they can be used in other ways, including holding the sword reversed and using the guard as a pick. For all this, a cruciform hilt is very flat, making it easy and comfortable to wear.

    When cruciform hilts don’t show up, it’s often an indicator of a different way of swordfighting. Migration and Viking era swords for example have short stubby grips (despite many of their users being no less Christian than the later medieval peoples), because a cruciform hilt gets in the way when fighting with round shield and sword in the manner common at the time. The Japanese katana and wakizashi have almost no guard, in fact I’d argue that a tsuba acts essentially as a hand stop only. This is because swords were were primarily self defense weapons and weapons of ritual and capital punishment.

    • vwVwwVwv

      i am to much a fan of your work here to expand this.
      i will if you are more amused than angerd, i cant
      read it between the lines my english is not
      good enough and swords are no firearms…. 😀

  • This show is garbage. Don’t take it as having a thing to do with how ancient weapons were used. Instead, I can recommend a channel called scholagladiatoria on youtube and several others.