Weapons: The Smallest Assault Rifle


December 8,2008: Four years ago, Israel introduced its new Tavor assault rifle. Two years ago, a more compact version, the MTAR 21 Micro-Tavor was introduced for special operations troops. This is the shortest 5.56mm assault rifle in service. It is 23 inches (590mm) long, with a 13 inch (330mm) barrel, and weighs 6.5 pounds. India bought 3,070 Tavors, then designed and built a version of the Micro-Tavor for their own special forces. Both Israel and India now have had considerable combat experience with the Micro-Tavor, and are satisfied with its performance. There have been a few tweaks to the design, as a result of troops feedback, but nothing major. The Indians added some interesting tweaks to their Micro-Tavor, which can be modified, by users, to fire 9mm rounds and use a silencer that does not add to barrel length.

The original Tavor is replacing the 5.56mm Galil and M-16s, and the 9mm Uzi in Israeli service. The Tavor is a bullpup design, which places the ammo magazine behind the pistol grip and trigger, and makes for a shorter and lighter weapon. The original Tavor came in two sizes; regular (28.4 inches long, 8 pounds), and commando (25.2 inches, 7.8 pounds). The Tavor has a rail on top, for mounting all manner of sights (as it becoming popular, mainly because it makes the weapon so much more effective.)

By comparison, the standard Uzi was 25.6 inches long and weighed 8.8 pounds with a 25 round magazine. The Uzi was designed for reliability and low cost manufacture. It was not very accurate and would sometimes fire by itself if dropped. Some 1.5 million Uzis were manufactured over the last half century and the weapon's reputation increased every time Israel won a war using it. But, like it's World War II predecessors, it was considered a crude weapon. Tavor attempts to answer the many complaints leveled against Uzi, the Galil and the M-16 (which Israel has used a lot because it got so many of them cheap from the United States).


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