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Space Force Bullpup Shotgun: IWI Tavor TS12

The IWI TS12 Shotgun – Do Androids Dream of Israeli Guns?

If your childhood didn’t include watching colonial marines vying to nuke xenomorphs from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure) or mobile infantry going on a bug hunt and taking coed showers, then this piece might not entirely be for you. Those feature films certainly inspired the imagination at a primal age, but the official announcement of the formation of the United States Space Force on December 20, 2019, started ringing some bells.

No, the USSF won’t be fighting in orbit anytime soon. And no, even if we’re involved in orbital combat, it definitely won’t look like either of the movies we mentioned. In the guise of outfitting the TS12 for a hard (realistic) near-future science fiction, we found some DoD and NASA employees who wanted to nerd out with us on these subjects. And learned a lot along the way. Before we dig into those Kurzwellian thoughts, let’s talk a bit more about the IWI Tavor TS12.

THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS ALIVE AND WELL! READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

THE BASE

We first got our hands on a Tavor TS12 last year, at a shoot hosted by Big Daddy Unlimited. To be honest, it certainly looked cool, but the words “bullpup” and “shotgun” hardly go together like quarantine and PornHub. After our brief experience, we knew we’d have to perform a longer review — and man, do those lines just scream Space Force.

As the name implies, this is basically a 12-gauge Tavor, but there’s more going on here. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with a box magazine à la the Saiga-12, IWI wanted to stick with the standard (and relatively reliable) tubular magazine.

The TS12 actually has three tubular magazines, but this is far from the first time we’ve seen this. The Roth Performance XRAIL system famously extends the capacity of a Benelli M2 to 25 shells with four automatically rotating tubes; it never really caught on but go way back to RECOIL Issue 9 for a full review. More recently, we’ve seen manually operated shotguns with dual magazine tubes, such as the Kel-Tec KSG and the Standard Manufacturing DP-12. As for the IWI Tavor TS12? It bridges the gap. The Tavor TS12 is a gas-operated shotgun with three tubular magazines that have to be manually rotated when empty.

Of course, being based on a Tavor rifle means this guy’s a bullpup. All told, you’re jamming up to 15 shells into a shotgun with an 18-inch barrel that has a factory overall length of just over 28 inches. In fact, it’s shorter than our 13-inch-barreled Remington V3 TAC-13, which we registered as an SBS to legally put a stock on (full details in RECOIL Issue 42), but with three times the capacity.

The futuristic looks brought us to the table, but we stayed for different reasons.

CONTROLS & OPERATION

While the Tavor TS12 initially appears heavy and ungainly, it feels quite different once it’s in your hands. The simple crossbar safety selector is easy to manipulate. You can load or top-off from either side of the shotgun. The lock to rotate tubes is a snap to hit with your trigger finger. Though the tri-tube arrangement may look ungainly, the operation isn’t. When one tube goes dry, simply push the locking lever and rotate in either direction. The first shell in the next tube automatically chambers when rotated into place and is ready to fire.

Very clearly, the Tavor TS12 was meant to be totally ambidextrous, and there’s even a vestigial ejection port cover on the left-hand side. However, at least at the time of this writing, your TS12 will have to be sent to the American IWI facility in Pennsylvania to fully convert it for left-hand use. The charging handle is easy to use, well-located, and can be swapped for a lefty.

There’s an “H” setting for higher pressure shells, which reduces gas flow, and an “L” setting for all of the cheap stuff. Changing this setting requires the use of a tool of some kind, and in a pinch, the handguard can be removed to do it without tools.

The handguard itself, equipped with ample Magpul M-LOK slots for accessories, is held in place with a ratcheting barrel nut, similar to a Remington 870 magazine tube locking nut. A wire spring acts as a stop between gas settings, but we found it far too easy to lose. If we were IWI, we’d definitely readdress it.

The barrel itself is threaded for Benelli/Beretta choke tubes. This inspired us to contact JMAC for a custom brake, detailed later in this piece.

AT THE RANGE

One of the common complaints we’ve heard about the TS12 is that no one seems to be able to quite lock down what ammunition to use. In the extensive 60-page manual, IWI recommends shells with velocities over 1,250 feet per second. But as with any semiautomatic shotgun, the real truth emerges when you shoot it.

Despite whatever recommendations you hear, with the TS12 and virtually any other semiautomatic shotgun, you should always grab as many different types of 12-gauge ammo that you can. Try each out, first with the gas set to high and checking for function — not just if it’ll fire, but also if the first shell from the next tube will properly load.

For every load that works, tear off the part of the box that lists key specifications like make, load, dram weight, etc. Then, using a marker, write down the gas setting. Put this little piece of cardboard inside the shotgun case for your next outing or shopping trip so you know what to buy the next time around.

For us, cheapo Federal bulk pack cycled and loaded just fine, as did the Winchester equivalent. The main problem child for loading was Suprema, which sometimes wouldn’t fully cycle resulting in a stovepipe malfunction and otherwise wouldn’t feed and chamber properly when rotating tubes. But, boy oh boy, did the Tavor TS12 absolutely love every round of buckshot we fed it. But our experience isn’t universal. Check for yourself and document it.

Given the tri-tube magazine arrangement, combined with a bullpup layout, we were initially concerned that shells would be difficult to load. As a right-handed shooter, we found the left-side loading gate to be fairly easy to adapt to, and nothing was weird and out of place like we’re used to with bullpup rifles. At least one loading gate was simple to reach no matter what shoulder the shotgun was fired from.

It may seem strange that 15 shells loaded and ready up-front didn’t ruin the balance of the TS12 too much, until you remember that as a bullpup, most of the heavier operating parts are right against your shoulder and not a foot in front of your face. This little guy balanced great, and we’re still a tad mystified as to how they managed to cram an 18-inch barrel and 15 shells inside.

The hefty 10-pound-1-ounce trigger initially left us wanting, but to be fair, this is a shotgun and not a precision rifle. Still, we were easily able to effectively shoot targets with multiple hulls in the air. Worked over by a good gunsmith, we have no doubt this would be more than acceptable for a competition situation and is A-OK out of the box for combat, if one required the use of a shotgun outside of breaching a door lock.

 

OUTFITTING OUR SPACE FORCE SHOTGUN

We wanted to explore how the Tavor might be configured for hypothetical Space Force duty. Half of what you see here is reality, and half could be possible in the near-future per the engineers and scientists we talked to.

Obviously, we need a sighting system. While any RDS would normally do, we wanted something more future-forward. The Hartmann MH1 optic isn’t just another red-dot sight; it has an internal battery and CR123A backup. The optic itself can be programmed via a USB port, using your computer to change all sorts of settings. Refine your power consumption? Sure. Change the “shake-awake” time? That too. Ensure that the optic doesn’t remain powered on while in a weapons rack? Go forth and conquer. The MH1 represents a level above the previous RDS standard, albeit with enough features to make the laggards pause.

We normally attach a regular white light to any weapon, but we decided to play near-future and turn a SureFire Guardian light into more than what it was previously. Though the current versions are intended to be handheld, its multiple outputs inspired our imaginations.

While the current standard Guardian features dual reflectors for different lighting needs, future models could be adapted for one to be white/IR light and another as a laser designator. It’s at this point that you realize we’re playing with the near-future and not the future itself. But it’s a possible and, dare we say, likely future.

The SureFire Guardian itself is attached to the rifle with the use of magnetic attachments. We’ve seen this before on items such as some Velocity Systems low-pro rigs, and magnetic attachments are common in zero-gravity environments.

These attachment points could also easily be configured as data transfer points. The TS12 and magnetic attachments could also be used for the rifle to communicate to the weapon-mounted lights and other settings. Any internal batteries could be designed to passively capture power via power-over-Wi-Fi.

UNITED STATES SPACE FORCE

After talking with contractors and engineers for JPL, Boeing, and NASA itself, we believe we have a good lock on near-future capabilities. Some of the lessons learned were strange at first but rang true.

Why are all EVA astronaut and cosmonaut suits white? At first it seemed that it might simply be easier to see in orbit, but that’s only part of the rationale. The real fact of the matter is that with current and near-future technology, white is the most reflective color. Star Wars told you a half-truth, despite nearly every “Star Wars” gun being white for reasons that remain unexplained to those of us in terrestrial space.

While Special Forces units could operate on the “dark side” of any planet in any color or camo, unless their suits were white (and therefore reflected as much light as possible) they’d absorb more sunlight, to the point their guns would cook off in minutes if they were black. Sorry, Martian Marines on The Expanse.

The International Space Station experiences a sunrise every 90 minutes. Though not all situations will have the same sort of rotation schedule, this illustrates severe limitations on dark or black spacesuits with current and near-future technology.

Fighting in zero gravity, whether outside or inside a vacuum, means that recoil is a real problem. Per a Boeing staffer, “Do you have a big, f*ckoff muzzle brake to cut recoil?”

Indeed, we found a big, f*ckoff muzzle device from JMAC Customs. It was originally designed for Saigas, but it’s now produced for the TS12 — you’re welcome.

Previously, JMAC Customs made externally threaded shotgun devices for the Vepr and Saiga, but JMAC made us a custom device that’s compatible with internally threaded Benelli/Beretta choke tubes. We sent them one just to make sure.

Like all good muzzle brakes, the larger the load, the larger the effect. Light loads didn’t do much, while high-brass buckshot and slugs made the JMAC device far more effective. Which equates to a muzzle device being more effective in zero gravity.

As for the ammunition itself, just as in your house, you need to worry about where your shells and projectiles go. Generally speaking, orbital stations are far more robust than most believe, as they’re largely equipped to combat micro-meteorites traveling at high velocity. Even still, you wouldn’t want conductive particles wreaking havoc inside a habitat. Most likely, shotgun loads would be restricted to emergency use and consist of a ceramic, nonconductive payload with an industrial epoxy holding everything together. We made some of these shells by reloading all-metal shotgun hulls, and we wish SAAMI specified the same for clarity.

Ideally, security officers using one of our Space Force Shotguns would be braced against a bulkhead while firing, even with the enormous recoil-breaking muzzle brake. With or without a bare muzzle, if not securely braced, you’ll take flight.

Operating in zero gravity is completely different than on a terrestrial level, so forgo that traditional sling and instead use a system similar to an automatic keychain or self-retrieving badge holder. Combat astronauts would care little for gravity but would want their lethal implements to be close at hand.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Most people who try to tell you what the “near future” will bring are full of it. The reason why we can make these predictions is the same reason why Jules Verne got very close to the capsule and crew size of Apollo 11 in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. He talked to best experts in the field at the time — those at the pinnacle of current scientific knowledge can make accurate predictions of future technology.

Verne thought the future NASA would use gunpowder as fuel, because he couldn’t quite see a world with liquid rocket fuel. Undoubtedly, some of the predictions here will be incorrect, but we’re confident most of them will prove true.
The future is now, at least most of it. Standby.


[You can visit IWI online here]


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