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

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

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:

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:

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

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

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

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”:

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:


Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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12 of 64 comments
  • VwVwwVwv VwVwwVwv on Jun 23, 2016

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

    • See 7 previous
    • Nathaniel F. Nathaniel F. on Jun 24, 2016

      @K-Gunner I honestly haven't a clue what the issue is.

  • Uniform223 Uniform223 on Jun 23, 2016

    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...

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    • Nathaniel F. Nathaniel F. on Jun 24, 2016

      @Uniform223 It's from the early- mid-1990s, so it ain't recent!