Thursday morning I took a trip up to the IWI US facility in Harrisburg to talk to the folks responsible for what has really become my go-to rifle and probably among my favorite rifles of all time. They have a fantastic facility which has a long history in firearms dating back to Mr. Kassnar’s previous ventures under KBI Inc and Charles Daly. I can’t go into too much detail since I’m not a media rep and wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but I was able to have a chat and wander around the warehouse discussing future plans, pitching questions from customers and getting a feel for IWI as a company.
It’s an exciting year for Tavor owners and those looking to get their hands on one, because the aftermarket is taking off like a rocket and IWI has several interesting things in the pipeline on their end as well. I should be getting a Timney Tavor trigger kit for T&E sometime in the near-ish future, and at least two or three other people have announced trigger kits or adjustable components already. Galloway Precision has a whole page of Tavor goodies, most of which are still in prototype, and naturally CAA/Mako Group has a host of polymer doodads that suit either the Tavor or most other rifles.
In talking to Cole, IWI’s resident customer service head honcho, their excitement was equally palpable. The success of the rifle, the awards brought home from SHOT show and the surge in interest for aftermarket products has them buzzing too. The first thing that will stand out is that Cole and the folks at IWI are extremely passionate about their products and have that small business vibe about them where everyone who works there is almost like family. Judging by the amount of pro-gun bumper stickers in the parking lot and my conversations with Cole about all things firearm related, not just Tavors, the crew there just plain loves guns and takes pride in their work.
Though they’ve got their hands full keeping up with demand, particularly on the FDE rifles where the stock bodies are in scarce supply from Israel, IWI is still working on adding to the lineup. New ban state legal models will be rolling out sometime this year, a Magpul-ish OD green is an official color shooting for late this year or early next, and contrary to some reports the 5.45×39 conversion kits are NOT canceled. The confusion on the 5.45 kits came from having to postpone them due to issues with the magazines, but they’re still in development. On the accessory side of things, range bags built to carry both a rifle and conversion unit as well as mags for both are in the works and look great.
They’ve taken customer feedback very seriously and will be launching spare parts “survival kits” as early as this coming week. Spare parts were my first suggestion when I began talking to them in November 2012, and now in less than a year from market launch they’re putting parts kits out there. Given that many new to market firearms don’t see spare parts for years, or only have them trickle out in fits and spurts, that’s no small feat. It’s also uniquely challenging for them in that they’re also dealing with the Israeli factory who initially saw no purpose to selling spare parts because “nothing breaks”!
I didn’t want to take up too much of Cole’s time right before lunch, so I picked up the rifles and mags I had on order along with a handful of shiny new 2014 IWI catalogs and headed back home. Now that I had four more Tavors on hand split evenly between both colors, I decided it would be fun to compare them a little and see what has changed in the nearly 23,000 rifles that have been produced since retail launch last March. That’s an impressive feat of production, especially given the logistics between IWI Israel and the factory here in Harrisburg. The highest serial I have is T00229xx.
So what has changed between my day one rifle and this most recent batch? Not a lot, and it’s very minor. The finish color on the top rail and integrated sights is a little lighter, more of a gray than a black, and a few small parts have minor engineering changes. The rail has a new T-mark number font and the numbers are no longer color filled from factory. The edges of the rail slots aren’t rounded over like the earliest rifles. Still the same quality with only the tiniest changes to help speed up production.
Here’s the interesting part though: it turns out a 16.5″ FDE rifle weighs two ounces MORE than an 18″ black rifle! Don’t believe me? Here you go:
By the way, the 0.7 ounces on the black rifle would be from my ambi safety addition. The rifle is almost exactly 8 pounds unloaded without a magazine or any of my addons. I checked my rifle against another newly produced black 18″ rifle in the 22,000 serial range and they’re identical. It’s the FDE polymer making up the difference!