Meet the Tavor: Israel’s Beast Rifle That Fires 800 Rounds a Minute
Security, Middle East
Key Point: Israel doesn’t fool around when it comes to its national security.
In the 1990s, Israel developed an innovative new rifle designed specifically for the urban Middle Eastern battlefield. A compact weapon that moved freely indoors, the Tavor was one of the few so-called “bullpup” assault rifle designs to enter service with a modern military force. The unique design of bullpup weapons allows them to have a shorter overall length, but the design comes at a cost.
The 1990s saw a fundamental change in the nature of Israel’s wars. The first Palestinian Intifada protests in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip ran from 1987 and 1993. The First Intifada was in many ways an insurgency, with nearly three hundred Israeli and approximately two thousand Palestinians killed over the span of six years.
The Israeli Army was at the forefront of Israel’s response but found itself somewhat unprepared for the dense, urban “battlefields” of the First Intifada. Although the Israeli Army had fought in urban terrain before, most notably in 1967 Six Day War and the 1982 Invasion of the Lebanon, this was different. The six-year campaign was almost entire conducted in urban terrain, on Israeli territory, and required Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forces to repeatedly enter mosques, homes and other buildings often on a daily basis.
Most modern assault rifles are often, owing to their overall length, ill-suited for urban operations. Assault rifles that are shouldered, in order to use iron or optical sights for precise fire, can easily run into walls, doorways, and other objects, slowing their use and rendering the user vulnerable. The M16A1 assault rifle is 38.81 inches long, meaning soldiers must take care to avoid getting hung up on objects in their path while at the same time anticipating contact with the enemy.
One way to make a weapon more indoor-friendly is to shorten the barrel length. This has the unfortunate side effect of increasing muzzle flash, gunshot noise and perhaps most importantly, shortening a firearm’s effective range. This is not advantageous for a country that could find itself fighting in both cities and deserts.
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