With SHOT Show around the corner, news, hints, and clues concerning new products are already starting to trickle out. Today’s development relates to IWI-USA, who looks to be introducing a new product – but the big news isn’t the product itself. It’s the implication of the product.
Cutting to the chase, IWI is releasing an AR-15. That’s not the big deal – I’ll get to that in a second.
The IWI ZION-15 will be a 100% US made AR-15. It looks to be an upper-tier AR, competing along the same lines as brands selling complete rifles in the $750-$1,000 range. The ZION-15 will come standard with a button-rifled 16” barrel and mid-length gas system rather than the more conventional carbine-length gas system typically used on 14.5” M4 barrels, which gas system was initially carried over to 16” civilian rifles without modification. According to IWI, there are plans to offer a cold hammer forged model in the future as well. It will use an F/A bolt carrier and a high pressure tested/magnetic particle inspected bolt. The rifle will have a pistol grip and stock made by B5. The handguard will be a free-float aluminum tube with M-Lok interfacing. See the instruction manual attached to this post for greater detail.
IWI’s testing for the ZION-15 was intense. With the proper ammo, the carbine will allegedly produce sub-MOA groups (tighter than 1” at 100 yards). IWI claims that the rifle was torture tested with 10,000 rounds of full auto fire and then re-tested for accuracy, and that the rifle saw minimal performance degradation after rigorous durability tests.
MSRP is $899. Other models may be introduced in the future, including pistol-length models, and possibly AR-10 variants.
At this point, everything but the bolt carrier group, third-party furniture, and barrels are made in the USA by IWI.
And that’s not the big news.
According to insiders at IWI, IWI-USA just made an 8-figure layout to bring manufacturing to the USA, and the machines are turning as we speak. IWI-USA previously just imported Israeli guns, but now they will be able to manufacture their own small arms in the US.
According to IWI, this is a proactive measure to protect the company from potential import bans. If there is ever legislation passed that would prevent IWI from importing guns or parts from Israel, IWI will have the capability to manufacture parts and possibly even complete guns here, so stateside consumers aren’t left without support for their IWI products.
I personally speculate that we will see this as a potential 922(r) workaround. Guns like the Carmel Rifle and the forthcoming Masada Compact cannot be imported into the US or even “sporterized” in a way where they can meet 922 for importation. IWI could potentially manufacture receivers and compliance parts here, and have the guns built from US and Israeli parts at their US facilities. Asked for comment, IWI did not deny this possibility, but they also emphasized that they have no desire to manufacture traditionally IWI/Israeli small arms in the United States so long as they can legally import them. In other words, this is not a prelude to complete manufacturing of the Tavor, Galil, or Masada in the USA unless they are forced to move in that direction by an import ban.
This is again, just guessing, and partially wishful thinking that this move seems specifically targeted to bring the IWI ARAD – IWI’s new piston-operated state of the art combat rifle – into the US. Again, the ARAD is not presently importable, but it very likely shares a majority of its manufacturing process with the AR-15. IWI had no comment when asked about this possibility. You can find out more about the ARAD here.
So the “news” for today is that a new, well-designed AR-15 from a trusted manufacturer is on the way. But the real story is the potential product that IWI’s investment in domestic machining could bring to US consumers in the future. Personally, I would be shocked if IWI’s significant capital investment was going to just manufacture AR-15s.