Hassles for Lefties
The first and most critical issue is that the SAR can’t readily be changed to accommodate a left-handed shooter.
While this may not be a big deal for most civilian shooters, it can be for police—at least during their rifle qualification course of fire. Many such courses have a phase where you shoot from behind cover.
Often, it is required that you fire from both sides, shouldering your rifle on the weak side. If you fire the SAR from your left shoulder, you will get hot brass in the face, and there is no way to convert it for left-handed fire quickly. Here is what it takes to convert from the standard right-hand configuration to left-hand configuration:
- Remove the top flattop rail (Allen wrench required)
- Remove front swivel and lock
- Remove foregrip group
- Remove the cocking group
- Disassemble the cocking group and reinstall the cocking bar and handle on the right side
- Remove the barrel
- Covert the dust protection cover by removing the gas cylinder and dust reduction plate, then reposition the plate so that the cocking hole is on the right side
- In reverse order, reassemble the weapon and it is now ready for left-hand operation.
Obviously, this is not possible during a phase of qualification, or in a gunfight. So you will have to take hot 5.56 brass and powder in the face in the short term, just like soldiers firing pre-case deflector M16s.
Tight Mount and Watch the Mags
The second issue for me involves the “me friendliness” handling issue. When I began working with the SAR, I noticed that there is so much weight in the buttstock compared to standard carbines that it felt ungainly.
The stock weight wants to make the SAR slide downward off the shoulder, bringing the barrel up as you are mounting it. M4 and AR-15 rifle stocks weigh next to nothing, and the weight is well balanced and distributed more to the front.
The SAR needs to be mounted tightly into the shoulder, more tightly than the M4 before firing. This is an issue that can be overcome by spending time with the SAR, and understanding the handling difference involved. A single point sling, which I didn’t mount, would be helpful for keeping the SAR in a good position for mounting.
The final issue is the magazine release. The magazine release is a large lever located on the underside of the stock to the rear of the magazine well. It is exposed and can be bumped accidentally, resulting in an untimely dropping of the magazine.
That happened during testing a couple of times. But once we were aware of why the mag kept dropping out of battery, we were able to keep the magazine in place.
Let Loose the Bullpup
For live fire testing, I enlisted the help of an experienced SWAT officer, Sgt. John Groom, recently retired after a long stint as a team sergeant, sniper and training officer with the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department.
I wanted John’s input to balance any opinion that I had already formed of the SAR. Sgt. Groom had never handled one prior to our test at the range. The first thing he noticed and liked was its extremely compact size.
While the SAR came with a single 30-round polymer Magpul magazine, we opted to test it with standard aluminum 20-round magazines, in order to take the fullest advantage of its maneuvering capability.
We both felt that 30-round magazines hang down too far and could get hung up on gear. Sgt. Groom said that his team used 20-round magazines for their entry M4s for the very same reason, and never felt at a disadvantage.
The SAR comes equipped with a set of clever folding sights that disappear right into the top rail. In fact, unless you look carefully, you won’t even see them when they are in the closed position.
Since they are truly backup sights, I opted to mount a SIG STS 081 Mini-Red Dot sight on a rail riser. The extra boost was required to get the compact sight up to eye level.
A number of other folks who have tested the SAR had the biggest complaint about the trigger. As is true of all bullpups, the trigger assembly needs a connector to reach back into the stock, which imparts a mushy type of feel as opposed to the crispness that is possible on rifles whose triggers sit directly beneath the action.
Neither John nor I felt the trigger was an impediment. With just a bit of practice it was easy to figure out and get accurate shots on target. Make no mistake about it, however, the SAR will never be selected as a sniper rifle.
We fired the Tavor off the bench at 100 yards using 55-grain Hornady TAP, as well as 55-grain FMJ ammo. Accuracy hovered around the four-inch mark, and would likely have been better if I had not selected a close-quarter combat optic, but that is where the SAR works best.
We worked some close range drills, firing double taps, triple taps and going for headshots. The out-of-the-box reliability was high. As expected the SAR ran well and performed well as a close-quarter combat gun.
Sgt. Groom liked the SAR better than I did. In his case and mine, M4’s are what we are used to. If I was issued an SAR for SWAT use, I could certainly get used to it, but I might have to swear off M4’s for a while.
There you have it. The Tavor SAR is solid and reliable, but isn’t for everyone. If you have a need for a compact carbine, one that needs no adjustment of the stock before shouldering and firing, then the Tavor SAR would work. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to check one out at your favorite gun shop and take it from there.
Action Type: Semi-automatic bullpup
Operation: Locking bolt, long stroke gas piston
Barrel: 16 ½ inches and 18 inches
Magazine: 30-round polymer Magpul
Rate of Twist: 1:7
Sights: Folding iron sights
Stock: Bullpup design, synthetic
Weight: 7.9 lbs
Overall Length: 26 1/8” or 27 5/8”
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