Tavor T.A.R. 21 – Weapon of the Future

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Tavor T.A.R. 21 Standard Version

Tavor, the new Israeli assault rifle is lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed to become an “organic” part of the warfighter. It has already been chosen to arm the Israeli (IDF) and Indian elite troops, and is aggressively marketed worldwide, to become a weapon of choice for future infantry combat suits.

The name “T.A.R. 21” stands for “Tavor Assault Rifle 21st Century”.

Tavor is based on extensive research and development and close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It was selected by the IDF in 2003, following an extensive competition against the M4. The plant is gearing up to serial production delivering thousands of rifles starting 2006. The Givati infantry brigade is the first unit to be equipped with the new rifle, gradually fielding the new weapon, beginning with all Summer 2006 new recruits. By March 2007, the Golani infantry brigade and the Kfir infantry brigade are scheduled to get the new weapons, completing the initial procurement batch of 15,000 assault rifles.

Unlike conventional assault rifles, Tavor was developed to produce effective, fast and accurate fire in all conditions, including close combat. Its ergonomic design enables the soldier to operate the weapon as part of an integrated weapon system – such system does not rely only on technology, the system must rely on the human senses and capabilities, and respond best to the human needs. Tavor is well balanced and easily operated with a single (right or left) hand. Specific models can be configured for right or left handed users.

With its integral optical sight, it can be aimed and fire accurately with both eyes opened, maintaining constant eye contact with the target, improving the soldier’s peripheral vision and maintaining effective situational awareness. The compact weapon fits comfortably, aimed instinctively and fired instantly and effectively even by a heavily loaded warfighter, in tight enclosures, where the use of longer weapons is impractical. All Tavor models use flat-top design to accommodate advanced sights and accessories. The current model selected by the IDF is produced of black composites (the original was olive green), some models, such as the sharpshooter version uses Mil-Std 1913 (Picatinny) rail attachment mounting optical sights and other accessories. All versions have a foldable iron sights for backup.

Models

TAVOR T.A.R. 21:

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with 40mm M203 grenade launcher

TAVOR C.T.A.R. 21 – commander / compact:

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TAVOR S.T.A.R. 21 – sharpshooter:

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TAVOR M.T.A.R. 21 – micro version:

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TAVOR T.C. 21 – civillian version / semi-automatic only:

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History

The development of the new assault rifle, that should eventually replace in service the ageing M16A1, CAR-15 and IMI Galil assault rifles, began in Israel in the 1991. The new rifle was developed by the Israel Military Industries (IMI, now IWI) company, in close cooperation with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The new rifle first appeared on public in the 1998, and the IDF begin to test it in 1999.

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Tavor early model

The Tavor program included many technical and operational tests and the adjustment to the specific needs of the modern IDF soldier.  The weapon was ruggedly tested during a period of 3 years, has been qualified and approved by the IDF as the service rifle of the Infantry Forces and has been ordered by the IDF and other countries. The TAVOR is bullpup configuration with superior human engineering, reliability and accuracy, equipped with an integral reflex sight enabling to aim with both eyes open.

In various comparison tests, the TAVOR has proven to be significantly superior because of the operation advantages of the rifle:

  • Increased hit probability during exertion.
  • High reliability during function in extreme conditions.
  • Constant day & night use without zeroing.
  • Human engineering that increases user’s comfort and confidence.
  • Accurate, compact short rifle with long barrel.
  • Rear gravity center  (close to the user’s body) enables to hold and aim to front in movement.
  • Ambidextrous.
  • Advanced and accurate sighting system attached directly to barrel.

Description and Specifications

The T.A.R. 21 uses a bullpup design, as seen with the French FAMAS, the British SA80, Austrian Steyr AUG, Singaporean SAR-21, Iranian Khaybar KH2002, Chinese Norinco QBZ-95, and Belgian FN F2000. Bullpup rifles are configured in a layout in which the bolt carrier group is placed behind the pistol grip; this shortens the overall length but does not sacrifice barrel length. In theory, the T.A.R. 21 provides carbine length, but rifle muzzle velocity. The bullpup design is also used to minimize the silhouette of Israeli soldiers and to maximize effectiveness in turning corners in urban warfare. The T.A.R. 21 has ejection ports on both sides of the rifle so it can easily be reconfigured for right or left-handed shooters. However, this process requires partial disassembly, meaning that a rifle configured for right-handed shooters cannot quickly be shot from the left shoulder around the left side of an obstacle, and vice-versa, as most conventional rifles can be.

The T.A.R. 21 design is based on advanced ergonomics and composite materials in order to produce a more comfortable and reliable rifle. The T.A.R 21 is waterproof and lightweight. Accuracy and target acquisition are enhanced, by the use of accurate aiming, through the use of an integral reflex optical reflective sight, which projects the aiming point on the center of the sight. Tavor has an attachment for additional sighting devices, such as a 3rd generation night vision sight, which can be installed with no zeroing.

Tavor is gas operated, using rotating bolt action. All types use standard NATO 5.56 mm ammunition (M855/SS109), accommodate a 30 round magazine and sustain a rate of fire of 750-900 rounds per minute. The rifle accepts standard STANAG NATO magazines. It can also be mounted with the M203 grenade launcher.

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  • Caliber: 5.56 mm
  • Cartridge: 5.56 mm NATO M193/M855 (SS109)
  • NET Weight: 3.27 kg (T.A.R.) / 3.18 kg (C.T.A.R.) / 3.67 kg (S.T.A.R.)
  • Effective range: 600 m
  • In service: 2001 – present

Download official description Adobe Reader PDF file format »

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partially disassembled T.A.R. 21

Manufacturer

Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), former Israel Military Industries (IMI).

Tavor in Action

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Tavor in Guatemala
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Tavor in Guatemala

SA80 – the Most Accurate Assault Rifle

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L85A1 rifle. Carrying handle and front sight instead of more common SUSAT sight

SA80 (Small Arms for 1980s) is the designation for a revolutionary family of assault weapons. On its introduction, the L85 Individual Weapon (IW) proved so accurate that the Army marksmanship tests had to be redesigned. The British Army uses the L85 Individual Weapon that replaced the rifle and sub-machine gun, and the L86 Light Support Weapon (LSW) that produces higher volumes of fire and is effective at longer ranges. An infantry section consists of two four-man fire teams armed with SA80s: three IWs and one LSW.

Both weapons have been modified in light of operational experience, and had a major mid-life update in 2002, which resulted in the SA80A2 series – the most reliable weapons of their type in the world.

One new Under slung Grenade Launcher (UGL), designed to be mounted beneath the barrel of the IW, will be issued to each fire team, replacing the Rifle Grenade General Service (RGGS) and 51mm mortar – significantly reducing the ammunition load the infantry section carries, while enhancing its capabilities. The UGL will be able to fire 40mm High Explosive (HE), smoke and illuminating rounds out to a range of 350 m to destroy, obscure or indicate enemy positions.

History

The rifle’s history dates back to the late 1940s, when an ambitious programme to develop a new cartridge and new class of rifle was launched in the United Kingdom based on combat experience drawn from World War II. Two 7 mm prototypes were built in a “bullpup” configuration, designated the EM-1 and EM-2. When NATO adopted the 7.62x51mm rifle cartridge as the standard caliber for its service rifles, further development of these rifles was discontinued (the British Army chose to adopt the 7.62 mm L1A1 SLR automatic rifle, which is a license-built version of the Belgian FN-FAL).

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EM-1 prototype assault rifle

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EM-2 assault rifle. Officially adopted (UK Army) but never put into service

In 1969 the Enfield factory began work on a brand new family of weapons, chambered in a newly designed British 4.85x49mm intermediate cartridge. The system was to be composed of two weapons: an individual weapon, the XL64E5 rifle and a light support weapon known as the XL65E4 light machine gun. Both designs were based on the 5.56 mm AR-18 assault rifle, which was manufactured in Britain by Sterling Armament Company.

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Enfield SA80-IW. Designed for experimental 4.85×49 cartridge

In 1976 the prototypes were ready to be trialled, however after NATO’s decision to standardize ammunition among its members, Enfield engineers re-chambered the rifles to the American 5.56x45mm M193 cartridge. The newly redesigned 5.56 mm version of the XL64E5 became the XL70E3. The left-handed XL68 was also re-chambered in 5.56x45mm as the XL78. The 5.56mm Light Support Weapon variant, the XL73E3, developed from the XL65E4, was noted for the full length receiver extension with the bipod under the muzzle now indicative of the type. In this configuration both weapons underwent a series of evaluations, with a small batch of pre-production weapons being used by British soldiers during the Falklands conflict.

Further development out of the initial so-called “Phase A” pre-production prototypes led to the XL85 and XL86. While the XL85E1 and XL86E1 were ultimately adopted as the L85 and L86 respectively, a number of additional test models were produced. The XL85E2 and XL86E2 were designed to an alternate build standard with 12 components different from E1 variants, including parts of the gas system, bolt, and magazine catch. Three series of variants were created for “Environmental User Trials.” XL85E3 and XL86E3 variants were developed with 24 modified parts, most notably a plastic safety plunger. The E4′s had 21 modified parts, no modification to the pistol grip, and an aluminium safety plunger, unlike the E3 variants. Lastly, the E5 variants had 9 modified parts in addition to those from the E3/E4 variants.

After receiving feedback from users, addressing concerns and incorporating the several design changes noted, including adopting the rifle for use with the heavier Belgian SS109 version of the 5.56x45mm cartridge and improving reliability, the rifle was accepted into service with the British Army in 1985, designated the SA80 (Small Arms for the 1980s). The SA80 family consists of the L85A1 IW (Individual Weapon) and the L86A1 LSW (Light Support Weapon).

In 1994 production was officially completed. Over 350,000 L85A1 rifles and L86A1 light machine guns had been manufactured for the United Kingdom. They are also in use with the armed forces of Jamaica.

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L85A1 assault rifle

Original SA80 weapons (both L85 and L86) were plagued with many problems, some being very serious. In general, L85 was quite unreliable and troublesome to handle and maintain, so, finally, in the year 1997, after years of constant complaints from the troops, it had been decided to upgrade most L85 rifles then in service.

The upgrade program, committed in years 2000-2002, was completed by the famous Heckler and Koch, which was then owned by British Royal Ordnance company (German investors bought the HK back in the 2002). About 200 000 rifles were upgraded into the L85A2 configuration, out of total 320 000 or so original L85A1 rifles produced. While official reports about the upgraded weapons were glowing, the initial field reports from the British troops, engaged in the Afghanistan campaign of 2002, were unsatisfactory. Most problems, however, were traced to improper care and maintenance of weapons, and for now the L82A2 performs fairy well both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Other than the basic L85A1 variant, the SA80 IW also appeared in the shortened Carbine version, and in the manually operated L98A1 rifle, which got its gas system removed and a larger cocking handle attached. The L98A1 is used to train the army cadets for basic rifle handling and shooting skills, and the rifle is fired as a manually operated, straight pull magazine repeater rifle. The latest weapon in the SA80 family is the recently adopted L22 carbine, which is issued to tank crews of Royal Armoured Corps. This weapon is available in two versions, L82A1 and L82A2, the latter being fitted with additional Picatinny rail on the right side of front grip base.

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L22A1 Carbine

The current L85A2 rifles are recognized as reliable and very accurate, especially when using standard issue SUSAT telescope sights. The drawbacks of the L85A2 are somewhat poor balance (which can be improved with installation of HK-made 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher), right-side only extraction and rearward placement of the fire mode selector.

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L22A2 carbine

Description and Specifications

The L85 (SA80) is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire rifle of bullpup layout. The receiver of the L85 is made from stamped sheet steel, reinforced with welded and riveted machined steel inserts. The gas operated action has a short stroke gas piston, located above the barrel. The gas piston has its own return spring. Gas system has a three-positions gas regulator, one position for a normal firing, second for a firing in adverse conditions and the third for launching the rifle grenades (gas port is shut off). The machined bolt carrier rides inside the receiver on the two parallel steel guide rods, with the single return spring placed above and between the guide rods. The typical rotating bolt has 7 lugs that locks into the steel insert in the receiver, just behind the barrel breech. The charging handle is attached to the right side of the bolt carrier, and prior to A2 upgrade caused some problems by reflecting the ejected cases back into the action, thus causing stoppages. In the L85A2 configuration the charging handle was redesigned to avoid such problems. The charging handle slot is covered by the spring-loaded dust cover. The bolt and its extractor claw also were upgraded in the L85A2, to achieve more reliable extraction of the spent cases.

The trigger-hammer assembly of the L85A1 is also typical for a modern bullpup rifle, with the long link from the trigger to the hammer unit, located in the buttstock. The hammer assembly of the L85A2 was redesigned to introduce a slight delay before the hammer release when the gun is fired in the full auto. This did not affected the cyclic rate of fire but improved the reliability and stability of the weapon during the automatic fire. The fire mode selector is located at the left side of the receiver, well behind the magazine housing, and allows for single shots of full automatic modes of fire. The cross-bolt safety button is located above the trigger.

The barrel is rifled for a NATO-standard 5.56 mm ammunition, with 1:7 twist, and is fitted with a NATO-standard flash hider, which allows to launch the rifle grenades from the barrel.

The L85 is fed using NATO-standard (STANAG) magazines, similar to M16 type magazines, with the standard capacity of 30 rounds. Early L85A1 steel magazines caused a lot of troubles, as well as a magazine housing itself, which had a thin walls that could be easily dented, thus blocking the magazine way. Both magazines and its housings were upgraded in the L85A2 configuration.

The standard sighting equipment is the 4x SUSAT (Sight Unit, Small Arms, Trilux) telescope, with illuminated reticle. The SUSAT is mounted on a quick-detachable mount at the top of the receiver, and features an emergency backup open sights at tits top. The SUSAT allows for an accurate fire (mostly in single shots) out to 400-500 meters. For a second-line troops an alternative sighting system is available, that consists of the removable front post sight with high base and post protection “ears”, and a detachable carrying handle with built-in diopter rear sight.

The L85 can be fitted with the proprietary knife-type multipurpose bayonet. L85A2 rifles also can be fitted with 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher, using special handguard. Launcher is made in Germany by Heckler and Koch.

  • Caliber: .223 Rem / 5.56 mm
  • Cartridge: 5.56×45 mm NATO
  • Weight: 4.7 kg empty / 4.98 kg (with loaded magazine and optical sight)
  • Effective range: 400 m
  • In service: 1985 – present

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Manufacturer

Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield / UK.

SA80 in Action

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UK Soldier with L85

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US Soldier with L85

UGL

[via Modern Firearms, The British Army, & Wikipedia]

XM8 – Lightweight Assault Rifle System

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The XM8 assault rifle is a proposed replacement for the current M16 rifle and M4 carbine, the standard infantry weapons in today’s US military. The XM8 action is based upon the Heckler & Koch G36, a tried and true infantry weapon with a reputation for toughness and reliability.

The XM29 OICW project, which combined both an assault rifle and a smart grenade launcher, turned out to be too heavy, fragile, and expensive. The rifle part of the XM29 was adapted to become the XM8. The smart grenade launcher part of the XM29 is being developed separately as the XM25.

History

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The XM8 is a developmental U.S. military designation and project name for a lightweight assault rifle system that was under development by the United States Army from the late 1990s to early 2000s. The Army worked with the small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch (H&K) to develop the system to its requirements in the aftermath of the OICW contract, for which H&K had been a subcontractor to ATK (General Dynamics was involved in latter stages). Although there were high hopes that the XM8 would become the Army’s new standard infantry rifle, the project was put on hold in mid 2005, and was formally cancelled on October 31, 2005.

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The first 30 XM8 prototypes were delivered by November 2003 for preliminary testing. Later, at least 200 developmental prototypes were procured. Among the complaints during testing were too low a battery life for the weapon’s powered sight system and some ergonomics issues. Two other key issues were reducing the weapon’s weight and increasing the heat resistance of the hand guard, which would start to melt after firing too many rounds.

The main testing was largely completed, and the Army pushed for funding for a large field test. However, in 2004 Congress denied $26 million funding for 7,000 rifles to do a wide scale test fielding of the XM8 in 2005. At the time the rifle still had developmental goals that were incomplete, primarily associated with the weapon’s weight; the battery life had been extended, and a more heat-resistant plastic hand-guard added. The earliest product brochure lists the target weight for the carbine variant at 5.7 lb (2.6 kg) with the then current prototype at 6.2 lb (2.8 kg). The weight of the carbine prototype had since grown to 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) according to a brochure released by HK and General Dynamics in January 2005.

During the same period, the Army came under pressure from other arms makers to open up the XM8 to competition. The main argument was that the weapon that was being adopted was a substantially different system than for the original competition that ATK and H&K had actually won (XM29). Other issues were that the Army has a legislated obligation to prefer U.S.-based manufacturers, and that a previous agreement with Colt Defense required the Army to involve Colt in certain small-arms programs. The XM8 program was put on hold by the Army in 2004. The exact reason why this happened is a matter of debate; some combination of the aforementioned technical issues, funding restrictions, and outside pressure being involved.

In 2005, the Army issued a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) for the OICW Increment One family of weapons. This RFP gave manufacturers six months to develop and deliver prototype weapons with requirements very similar to the XM8 capabilities, but with the addition of a squad automatic weapon (SAW) configuration. Currently, no XM8 prototypes have been shown that actually match the capabilities of the M249 (e.g. fast barrel replacement, high sustained rate of fire, belt feed). The OICW Increment One requirement for the SAW includes fast barrel replacement and high sustained rate of fire, but leaves the ammunition feed choice up to the manufacturer.

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As of July 19, 2005, the OICW Increment One RFP was put on an eight-week hold, with an indication given that the program was being restructured as a joint procurement program including the Army and unnamed other branches. On October 31, 2005, the OICW Increment One RFP was canceled until further notice.

In an article in Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 26 2006 (Vol 43, page 30) we learn that “The US Army has again delayed the procurement of its future infantry weapons, this time for more than five years, and is working to field two interim guns in the meantime.”

Description and Specifications

The materials used to build the XM8 are almost entirely composites — with the notable exception of the cold hammer forged steel barrel. Preliminary tests in desert and Arctic conditions have shown XM8 to be a rugged weapon, though some complaints arose. It is reported to be capable of firing 15,000 rounds without cleaning or lubrication and up to 20,000 rounds before barrel replacement. The M16A2 needs to be cleaned often, and has a barrel life of approximately 7,000–8,000 rounds.

Internally, the XM8 uses a rotary locking bolt system that functions and fieldstrips like those used in the M16 rifle and M4 carbine. The bolt is powered by a unique gas operating system with a user-removable gas piston and pusher rod to operate the mechanism. Unlike the current M4 and M16 direct gas system with gas tube, the XM8 gas system does not introduce propellant gases and carbon back into the weapon’s receiver during firing.

While the XM8 was not exposed to battlefield conditions, it’s still a feat the current service rifle hasn’t come close to rivaling. During their Oct. 20-23 2003 trip to Germany, the weapons experts said they were impressed after watching Heckler & Koch engineers fire four high-capacity magazines, with 100 rounds apiece, in less than five minutes.

This improved reliability can be credited to differences in the XM8′s operating system from the one in the M16. For instance, a thin gas tube runs almost the entire length of the barrel in all of the M16 variants. When the weapon is fired, the gases travel back down the tube into the chamber and push the bolt back to eject the shell casing and chamber a new round. The XM8′s gas system instead is connected to a mechanical operating rod, which pushes back the bolt to eject the casing and chamber the new round each time the weapon is fired. So there’s no carbon residue constantly being blown back into the chamber, reducing the need to clean the weapon as often. You don’t get gases blowing back into the chamber that have contaminates in them. The XM8 also has a much tighter seal between the bolt and the ejection port, which should cut down on the amount of debris that can blow into the weapon when the ejection port’s dust cover is open.

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Details

  • Caliber: 5.56 mm
  • Cartridge: 5.56 x 45 mm NATO
  • Weight: 6.4 lbs | 2.8 kg empty
  • Designed: 2002
  • Produced: 2003 — 2004 (prototypes only)

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Variants of XM8

The XM8 is a modular weapon that can be adapted to different roles fairly easily. It can use any of four barrel sizes: 9″, 12.5″, 20″, and heavy 20″.

The 12.5″ barrel is the standard set-up, and with the adjustable buttstock, makes the Baseline Carbine variant. With the stock fully extended, it is 33″ long, the same as an M4 (which has a 14.5″ barrel). It weighs in at about 6.4 lbs, with a goal of being reduced to 5.7 lbs. The M4 with comparable accessories weighs nearly 9 lbs. The picture above shows an XM320 side-loading detachable grenade launcher mounted.

The 9″ barrel makes the weapon a submachinegun-like personal defense weapon (called the Compact Carbine) that would be ideal for vehicle crews. Also, it seems to be that Special Forces types would find it useful for urban raiding missions and the like. With the buttcap (as pictured on the right, second from the top) it is less than 21″ long overall.

There are two versions of the 20″ barrel. There’s a standard weight match-grade unit for sharpshooter work and a heavy-duty machinegun unit with a folding bipod for use as a sustained fire automatic rifle.

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See XM8 in action (YouTube video) »