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RAT Worx Gives the IWI Tavor a Makeover with the ZRX 9mm Suppressor

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 17

Set Phasers to Quiet

Part sci-fi blaster, part carbine, the soon-to-be-released RAT Worx ZRX 9mm integral suppressor for the IWI Tavor is something Han Solo would have killed for (and George Lucas probably would have re-edited four times thereafter).

RAT Worx has been manufacturing Steyr and Tavor parts since 2008 in collaboration with Manticore Arms, which has input on the designs and is the master dealer for the end results. One of its niche products has been the ARClight rail, which extends the Tavor’s forearm and allows for a flashlight to be mounted internally, flush with the end of the rail. The progression from rail to can was accomplished by the addition of a removable baffle system that fits into a custom ARClight rail, resulting in the ZRX 9mm Tavor suppressor.

The ZRX system is comprised of three parts, namely the fore-end (an extended version of the ARClight Commander rail), the muzzle brake, and the 9mm monolithic sound baffle. Together, this system creates a unique integral suppressor that adds just 20 ounces and 2¾ inches to the overall package. Despite the addition of mass to the front of the gun, it’s mitigated by the usual butt-heavy bullpup weight distribution, resulting in neutral balance with the can installed. The Tavor’s center of mass ends up directly over the grip and trigger, so the carbine doesn’t feel front-end heavy at all.

The modified ARClight rail system accommodates Magpul MOE polymer rail segments and most Impact Weapon Components’ Mount-N-Slot accessories, allowing the user to install almost any grip, light, laser, or pressure switch.

Installation

The ZRX system is engineered around the Tavor 9mm conversion, so the first step in its installation is converting the weapon from 5.56mm to the appropriate caliber. Fortunately this takes all of 25 minutes to complete, including fast forwarding through the various videos available on YouTube that address the procedure. This technological crutch was handy, as the installation instructions that came with the conversion kit are all but worthless. At least the kit includes almost all of the tools needed to install the new barrel, with the exception of a hammer and punch. No angle grinder required.

The RAT Worx Tavor System comprises three components: the rail, muzzle brake, and suppressor core shown here.

Once the 9mm conversion kit was installed, it was time to add the ZRX suppressor, which took a scant 10 minutes to achieve. To be exact, it took 10 minutes after the ATF eventually got around to processing the paperwork — about three weeks for the Form 3 to wend its merry way through the system, like a rat passing through the digestive tract of a sedentary taxpayer-financed anaconda. Those of you who actually fund the system and want to file a Form 4 to have the suppressor transferred to you…well, you know how long that takes.

On the bright side, the ZRX muzzle brake replaces the factory flash hider, the ARClight rail replaces the factory fore-end, and the monocore baffle — the registered NFA serial numbered part — slides into the rail for a snug fit. Everything is held together with eight hex screws on the top and bottom. It’s a pretty simple system and easily comes apart for cleaning and maintenance, in stark contrast to the federal government.

Performance

The ZRX 9mm suppressor was first unveiled at the annual Bullpup Shoot in 2014, where attendees sent more than 3,000 rounds down range through a ZRX-equipped Tavor. With the entire fore-end and suppressor made of aluminum, we were somewhat concerned that it would eventually get too hot to handle. “The rail area is so large that it takes quite a while for the suppressor to heat up and cause any issues,” says Allen Millhouse, RAT Worx CFO. “At the Bullpup Shoot, it was late afternoon before the suppressor became uncomfortable to hold after being fired all day in the hot sun.” Compared to a .223, the 9mm burns a teensy bit of powder. Like a barbecue, less fuel means less heat.

We took our test Tavor out on a cool 55-degree day in Seattle (and really, are there any others?) and immediately fed it 200 rounds consecutively in under five minutes. The housing never reached a level above pleasantly warm and was nowhere near hot to the touch. While we imagine that leaving the gun out in the blistering sun, coupled with a few mag dumps, would render it uncomfortable to hold, this could be mitigated by using the many slots to mount a rail and fore-grip. Plus, there are these neat things called gloves.

Our test gun was fed 115-grain ball ammo from Atlanta Arms and Freedom Munitions, along with 147-grain JHP from Winchester. With the 147-grain subsonic offering, the Tavor was eerily quiet, producing decibel readings in the low 120s using a non-scientific sound meter and a well-calibrated ear. The 115-grain rounds produced hearing-safe shooting sound levels — way better than those found in a handgun with the same ammo, due to the length of the Tavor’s 16-inch barrel. The microscopic powder charge is completely burned in the first 10 inches. After that, the bullet is just loafing along, taking its own sweet time to exit the tube — under no particular time constraints, it cruises toward the target in hipster-esque fashion. You get the impression that it’ll impact just as soon as it’s finished its latte, and when it does, it’ll be totally ironic and wearing skinny jeans. Of course, there’s still a supersonic crack, but that’s like, so Soundgarden, and therefore forgivable. For reference, unsuppressed 9mm is typically around 159 decibels. And screw hipsters. Throughout all our range time, we experienced zero stoppages, no matter what ammo we stuffed in the mags.

Maintenance

Throwing large amounts of 9mm through a small space in an abbreviated timeframe is one way of revealing any flaws in the system, but our test gun showed very little signs of use, even after hundreds of rounds. With the baffles being quite large, there’s a lot of room for gas and sound expansion. We asked RAT Worx if the expected life of baffles would be an issue because of the materials employed in its construction. “The suppressor has shown no wear at all because of its design,” Millhouse says. “The stainless steel muzzle brake takes up all the blast wear, diverting the gasses and slowing them down. The anodizing on the aluminum baffle shows absolutely no wear. Suffice to say we have no idea how long it will take to wear it out — I don’t know if we could afford enough ammunition or guns to do so.”

Conclusion

Aside from the initial buy-in of the 9mm conversion kit, this has to be the most fun upgrade you could apply to a Tavor, apart from including it in a photo shoot titled, “Chicks of the IDF.” With a $400 price tag for the ZRX system, plus the customary $200 tax stamp, it seems like a no-brainer. The ZRX-equipped Tavor is light, well balanced, and a blast to shoot. And to quote Elmer Fudd, it’s vewy, vewy quiet. It feeds IWI-modified UZI magazines, and you can buy extras for about $25.

There are a couple areas in which we see room for improvement. We’d like KeyMod and M-Lok ARClight rails instead of just the Magpul slots, but then again, maybe the VHS-versus-Betamax debate will be settled by the time you read this and only one winner will be standing victorious over the bloodied corpse of the rival system. We would also really like to see a 5.56mm can, which would obviate the requirement for the conversion kit. RAT Worx says it’s currently prototyping high-pressure versions, so given the impetus the SHOT Show has on development schedules, maybe we’ll see something soon.

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