Down at Big 3 East, last March, IWI USA VP Mike Kassnar, set aside fifty X95s for the writers in attendance. I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on the X95 for review. I have only had a little trigger time behind the older Tavor SAR. I recall one of my earliest experiences was with an 18″ FDE Tavor that someone got and he put a QD Gemtech suppressor on it. It had a Mepro sight and we were hitting steel off hand at 200 yards with ease. However when it was suppressed, there was a significant amount of gas to the face. I was perplexed. The Tavor has a long stroke gas piston operation. I was under the impression that was one of the benefits of shooting a piston operated gun as there would be less gas returning into the chamber and thus less gas to the face. I was wrong. There are a few companies that make gaskets to further block the gas escaping from the factory blocked left side ejection port. Such as Manticore Arms’ Port Cover and Gear Head Works FLEx Swivel.
I was curious to see if that would be the case with the X95. I requested a QD suppressor from Silencer Shop to test on the X95. They sent me a Griffin Armament M4SD and a Gemtech GMT-Halo. Right off the bat the Gemtech would not work on the X95 flash hider. The X95 flash hider design is slightly different than that of the standard A2 flash hider. Here is a photo of the X95 flash hider on the left, next to a standard A2 bird cage on the right.
The X95 flash hider looks shorter but that is because IWI does not use a crush washer. Instead they use a jam nut. Nothing wrong with doing that, but the problem arises when trying to attach a QD suppressor like the Griffin Armament M4SD.
The M4SD QD system has a U-shaped fork that slides onto the lowest indentation of the A2 flash hider. The bottom of the U-shaped fork has a flat rectangular lobe that rests on the flat at the bottom of the A2 and locks the suppressor onto the flash hider. You can see the flat tab in the photo above. It locks into a flat circle sheet with a notch cut out just for the flat tab. I tried installing the M4SD on the IWI flash hider on either to top or bottom indentation but it would not work. The Gemtech GMT-Halo on the other hand works on either flash hider but is not as quick to detach as the M4SD. The knurled collar slides over the flash hider and inserts onto the indentation on the flash hider, Then you slide the suppressor down over the flash hider and screw on the knurled ring onto the suppressor. One thing I noticed between shooting both suppressors, the Gemtech is lighter and quieter than the M4SD. But due to the QD nature of the Gemtech design, I prefer the M4SD method of attachment. Often the GMT-Halo knurled ring would seize up on the threads of the suppressor. Adding the heat from the suppressor makes it difficult to quickly detach. The M4SD is easier. You just lift the thin locking plate and pull the wings of the fork out. Then the suppressor slides off the flash hider. You can do this even when the suppressor is warm.
Shooting the X95 suppressed was surprising. I did not notice any gas except when I did a test of walking and shooting. But I only smelled the gas. It was not stinging my eyes like a CMR-30 suppressed or an SBR AR-15 suppressed. I was using Wolf Gold .223 rem ammunition and did not experience any issues.
However this was not the case with my friend Greg’s Tavor SAR. As my friend James Grant and FN America will attest, I manage to make things not work that have had flawless records until I show up. I wanted to test Greg’s Tavor SAR suppressed to see how gassy the SAR is compared to the X95. We shot it with the Gemtech suppressor and Wolf Gold Ammo that I used on the X95. There was a considerable amount of gas much more prominent than the X95 but that was not the problem. The problem was the amount of FTE malfunctions. Using the GMT-Halo suppressor and Wolf Gold .223 ammo seem create the perfect combination to cause reliable malfunctions in the Tavor SAR. Brass would fail to eject and flip 180 degrees before the bolt would slam forward. Here is a photo of the brass after clearing the malfunction. In the video below you will see the malfunctions on camera. When we ran different ammunition with the GMT-Halo suppressed Tavor SAR it ran fine.
My friend Greg commented that the X95 “feels smaller”. And yet when put side by side or laid on top of one another they look very similar in size and shape. If you notice, the Tavor SAR has a more raked back angle to the grip, whereas the X95 is more vertical.
The X95 has the charging handle closer to the CG of the gun and closer to the shooter. This allows for a tri-rail to be installed forward of the charging handle. Underneath the hand guards are polymer picatinny rails. After shooting the X95 for a while, I prefer shooting it with the handguards than without. I find the factory handguards to be very comfortable to hold onto while shooting.
Along with the addition of fixed picatinny rails there are also QD sling holes at the leading edges of the side rails. The center QD sling hole has been relocated to be above the magazine well compared to the SAR where it was directly behind the charging handle slot. this allows for better balance when slinging the gun.
Another noticeable change is the magazine release. Instead of the SAR trigger release, in front of the mag well, the X95 has an AR15 style mag release. It is ambidextrous but does not move like an AR15 mag release. AR15 mag releases push straight in perpendicularly to the receiver. The X95 is hinged. So when you push the mag release button in, it swing into the receiver. A small but subtle difference. Also the resistance of the mag release is higher than that of your standard mil-spec AR15. The location is also not quite the same. As Tim Harmsen mentioned in his X95 video, the button on an AR is further forward than the X95. The X95 button is almost directly above the trigger.
The bolt release block has become much smaller on the X95 compared to the SAR version. When closed, the bolt release is flush with the bottom of the receiver. I found it a bit more difficult pulling the bolt hold down to lock the bolt open. I figured out pushing the leading edge of the bolt release up is easier when trying to lock the bolt open.
Handling the X95, I found my middle finger often slid up behind the trigger when manipulating the X95 and keeping my index finger off the trigger guard. The X95 grip is modular though. It comes from factory with the standard Tavor cutlass style hand/trigger guard but in a couple weeks the pistol grip with regular trigger guard will be available. I think I would prefer the newer style trigger guard over the cutlass style.
The trigger of the X95 has also been upgraded. One of the few complaints about the Tavor SAR is the trigger. The SAR trigger is about 8lbs. The new X95has a 4-6lb trigger. The X95 triggers will be available in the future and are backwards compatible with the SAR. I believe they will retail for $199.99. Also I would like to have ambidextrous safety selectors. I don’t need them but I do prefer to switch the safety back on with my trigger finger rather than my thumb.
The X95 runs like a champ. I have not had any complaints or malfunctions suppressed or unsuppressed. The only issue really came up was magazines. Loading the X95 on a closed bolt with a loaded mag is not as easy as an AR. Of course one can always download a magazine to make life easier. Loading on an open bolt is the best but locking the bolt back is a bit awkward. Also trying to shoot the X95 with my Magpul D60 drum is challenging. The distance between grip and magazine are too close and my wrist hits the drum mag. I imagine shooting a beta mag would be even more difficult. One tip I picked up from a Zahal video, is for when you want to run with coupled magazines. Zahal says that the IDF method is to run mags in opposite directions. That way when you reload you have to rotate the magazine 180 degrees. This keeps the spare magazine always on the inside of the gun so it doesn’t protrude away from the gun and hit your forearm.
The new IWI X95 retails for $1795 and have already shipped out to distributors. According to Mike Kassnar at Big 3 East, they shipped out 650 units the day before Big 3 East. FDE versions of the X95 have been seen online. Tim Harmsen has some as do other distributors. I have yet to see anyone with a OD X95. I am eager to see an X95 in 9mm as well as the .300 blk versions later this year.