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Author Topic: Life after Uzi  (Read 4161 times)
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« on: November 05, 2010, 03:59:43 PM »

Great article posted by IWI:

An Article published at "LAND WARFARE" SHEPHARD Volume 1 issue 4, August / September 2010 by William F Owen

IWI is famous for producing 9mm Uzi sub-machine guns, but its latest small arms projects reflect the needs of today’s Israel Defense Forces, reports William F Owen.


Like almost everything in Israel, reputation and mythology far outreach reality, although sometimes, the reality is just as impressive. Thus it is with Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), the break-away arm of Israel Military Industries (IMI) and maker of such legendary firearms as the 9mm Uzi sub-machine gun (SMG) and the Desert Eagle 0.50-calibre pistol. Despite their fame, neither weapon is now made.

The reality behind the myth is that IWI is one of the smallest ‘major light weapon producers’ in the world today. Compared with FN Herstal, Heckler & Koch and Colt, IWI is tiny, especially in terms of manpower and facilities, which lie in several scattered buildings hidden among the trees close to Highway 5 in central Israel.

Proud to tell everybody that it has been making weapons since 1937 (nearly ten years before the State of Israel was formed), IWI is arguably one of the foremost infantry weapons producers in the world, at least in terms of reputation. The Tavor rifle has been selected as the primary infantry weapon of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and a massive re-equipment programme is ongoing, with the US-supplied 5.56mm M16 assault rifles and M4 carbines being replaced by the distinct lines of the Tavor bullpup.


Bullpup weapons are not new, but the 5.56mm Tavor was a leap of faith for the IDF, which had no experience of such weapons, and it was not impressed by the initial reputation of the UK’s SA-80. However, testing of initial Tavor proto­types from the early 1990s revealed many advantages. What emerged was one of the most ergonomic light weapon designs ever brought into existence. Ease of use lies at the heart of every weapon developed for the IDF. ‘If it isn’t simple, it simply won’t work’ is a mantra that informs the entire design process, as is the fact that the weapon was designed with direct input from infantry soldiers. Senior officers got very little say in the process.

The basic version of the Tavor is the TAR-21 (Tavor AssaultRifle – 21st Century) which weighs 3.28kg with a 460mm barrel. However, this is not the model actually adopted by the IDF. Instead, it opted to field the CTAR-21, a slightly lighter version with a shorter 380mm barrel whichwasoriginally intendedasa ‘Commander’s’ weapon. Issued with the weapon was the ITL MARS (Multi-purpose Aiming Reflex Sight), which has a built-in IR and visible laser. This is the weapon carried by the infantry brigades currently equipped with the Tavor.

Modularity is key to the Tavor design so, as with weapons like the Steyr AUG, a variety of barrel lengths are available. Of particular note is that the entire trigger mechanism can be dropped out and replaced extremely simply. It is compact and self-contained enough for a spare trigger mechanism to be carried in a pocket.

The CTAR-21 is a remarkably comfortable weapon to shoot, carry and clean, as the author can attest from a day on the range. Reliability is an issue, and the Tavor was developed to cope with the wet and sandy conditions of the surf-zone. The weapon is aimed at special operations forces such as the US Navy’s SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) commandos. While ‘far more reliable than the M4’ may not mean much to reliability purists, it more than serves the purpose of the IDF.

The Tavor uses NATO-standard 5.56mm magazines and can thus benefit from the high-performing magazines available on the market today. For left-handed users, the IDF issues a new bolt head, and the unit armourer then spends five to ten minutes changing the weapon into a left-handed version, using all the existing parts with the exception of the standard bolt head.

One of the more interesting members of the Tavor family is the Micro-Tavor or X95. The Micro weighs 2.9kg, compared with the 3.18kg of the CTAR-21, and overall length of the weapon is about 5cm shorter. Although this may not sound much, it actually makes a significant difference when operating in urban environments or from combat vehicles. So significant is the difference that the IDF has adopted the Micro-Tavor as the standard weapon for all infantry and special forces units not already equipped with the Tavor. The X95 features a MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail and will be issued with the Meprolight MEPRO-21 reflex sight as standard.

The alternative to the ITL MARS sight is now the Meprolight MOR. Some IDF sharpshooter weapons will be issued with 380mm barrels and a Trijicon ACOG-type sight, but the basic IDF infantry weapon of the future will be a 59cm, 3kg weapon with a 330mm barrel. This is not a decision based on any sense of global trends or the opinions of senior officers. This is the result of combat experience in Gaza and the Lebanon.

The X95 can be converted into a 9mm SMG using nothing more than a boxed conversion kit. There is also a suppressed version for special operations.


As the IDF’s dissatisfaction with the M4 and M16 created the need for the Tavor, it was the IDF’s cool reception of the FN Herstal Minimi that resulted in IWI’s 5.56mm Negev being adopted as the standard light machine gun (LMG) of the IDF since 1995.

Actually heavier than the Minimi, the Negev design was optimised for reliability using both belt and magazine feed. The weapon can be fired, using the magazine, while the belt-feed tray and top cover are fully open. Of note is that the that the magazine feed is directly below the weapon and not to one side, as in the Minimi. What this means is that the belt bag clips into the magazine housing, which means changing belt bags can be done using one hand, while the weapon is held in the other. This is not possible with many other 5.56mm LMGs.

It is perfectly possible to fire the Negev from the standing position, and for more accurate shooting, the weapon is also capable of firing single shot. This makes zeroing the weapon comparatively simple, compared with LMGs only capable of fully automatic fire. The bipod folds forward as well as back, and the gas mechanism has only a few moving parts. No doubt this reflects the fact that the designers of the Negev spent many hours cleaning machine guns.

While the IWI catalogue differentiates between the Negev Standard and the Special Forces (SF) version, the actual difference is only the length of the barrels. It is perfectly possible to fit a 330mm SF barrel in place of the standard 460mm barrel. New-production Negevs all feature a MIL-STD-1913 rail on the top cover or anywhere else the customer may want. A side folding stock is standard.


Designed in the 1970s, the 5.56mm Galil was supposed to become the standard weapon of the IDF, but as with a great many indigenous Israeli projects, cheaper or even free US-built M16s quelled local production, and the weapon featured more in publicity photographs than actual sales. The Galil is essentially an improved version of the Soviet AKM, chambered for either NATO-standard 5.56mm or 7.62mm ammunition. The Galil has sold widely in both calibres to customers in South America, Africa and Asia. Today the Galil is almost never seen within Israel itself. However, this may be about to change.

The Galil ARM (Assault Rifle and Machine gun) has never been out of production and has been joined by the new Galil ACE. The ACE is essentially an improved Galil aimed at either customers who already have the Galil and want to keep it, or those who want to replace weapons such as the AKM or M16/M4 with a new-generation weapon that is not a bullpup. Described as ‘cheaper than the Tavor’, the ACE comes in a variety of barrel lengths, from 215mm to 460mm, and is available in three calibres – 5.56mm, 7.62mm NATO and Russian 7.62x39mm.

The weapon is available with five MIL-STD­1913 rails and features an M4-style telescoping buttstock in place of the earlier following stock. Existing Galil users can upgrade their weapons with the extending stock and the forestock with rails.

IWI no longer makes the legendary Uzi sub-machine gun, but despite the decline in the 9mm SMG market, the design lives on with the Mini-Uzi and Micro-Uzi. While both still exist in their standard model, the newer SF models have a Picatinny rail running along the top cover, and the cocking handle (which used to be on top) has been moved to the side. With Meprolight’s MEPRO-21 reflex sight fitted to the Micro-Uzi, it is possible to hit man-sized targets at a range of 180m. The MEPRO-21’s ability to function in bright sunlight is particularly impressive.


While not something you would expect from a weapon based on the AKM design, the 7.62mm Galil model spawned a sniper rifle derivative in the 1980s, although pundits argue about whether a semi-automatic rifle fed by a 20-round magazine is a sniper rifle or a marksman’s weapon. The widespread use by the IDF of US-supplied M21 and more recently M24 sniper rifles has again suppressed the domestic market acceptance for the Galil Sniper Rifle.

Like other weapons in the Galil series, the Sniper Rifle is optimised for simplicity of operation. The Nimrod 10x40 scope is matched to the barrel and ammunition, so when you select 300m on the elevation drum, this equals the zero at 300m, and so on in 100m increments up to 1,000m. This takes a lot of the ‘black art’ out of sniping, as does a lot of the IDF’s approach to technology. The weapons can be configured with MIL-STD-1913 rails if the customer requires.

Although IWI is close to being a one-stop shop for small arms, the most notable omission ‘is a 7.62mm machine gun, which is perhaps indicative of the popularity of the FN MAG 58 with the IDF. However, with an infantryman’s load increasing, a lighter 7.62mm Negev could make an attractive alternative to the MAG 58 in the dismounted role in much the same way as FN Hertal’s 7.62mm Minimi is gaining in popularity.


IWI reflects a much-neglected approach to small arms design: sticking with what works and designing weapons for soldiers to use, not weapons that engineers want to make. Given the IDF’s acceptance of this philosophy, there is no reason to believe this will change any time soon.


"Retreat, hell we just got here!" 
Capt L Williams, USMC, WWI (Belleau Wood)
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