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Simply Israeli: The IWI Masada Does the Job for Less

It’s been 29 years since Israel Weapon Industries came out with a new pistol. Its last, the venerable Jericho, is still in use around the world, but the hammer-fired pistol design has been largely bypassed by the current crop of plastic-fantastics. With the 2019 release of the Masada, IWI now catches up, hoping to bypass its competitors in the modern, striker-fired pistol market.

It’s not a fancy pistol, but its features and size lead us to believe IWI hopes the Masada will make inroads in the military and law enforcement markets. Based on the modular aspect of its design, we consider the Masada you see here to be the first round of a new line of IWI pistols that’ll lead it far into the future.

Lessons from Others

IWI combined some of the best features of its competitors, intentionally or not, and incorporated them into the Masada. It’s the mating of the SIG Sauer P320, the FN 509 Tactical, and Glock 19X. All these guns have something in common; versions of each were submitted for the U.S. Army’s 2015 XM17 Modular Handgun System solicitation.

We made fun of the Glock 19X when it was released because the company gave customers the opposite of what they asked for. It was a full-size, G17 frame with a shorter, G19 slide — not groundbreaking. And it had features no one wanted, such as a lanyard loop, while missing other key desires, like forward serrations and a red-dot-ready slide. But the G19X met the size requirement laid out in the Army’s MHS solicitation. (We disliked the G19X so much that we converted it back to a G19 by cutting the grip with a Sawzall on an episode of RECOILtv.)

The Masada ships with interchangeable backstraps to fit the pistol to your hand, and plates to mount your favorite MRDS.

While the FN 509 was announced in 2017, the red-dot-ready 509 Tactical wasn’t released until 2018. The main differences between the 509 and the 509 Tactical are a threaded barrel, higher magazine capacity, and the ability to mount a mini red-dot without sending your slide out for milling. The enhancements also impacted the 509’s price, taking the base 509 at $679 up to $1,049 for the 509 Tactical.

One of the coolest features of the SIG P320 is the serialized chassis, which can be removed from one frame and popped into another without gunsmithing or the need to file any additional paperwork, as long as you don’t make changes that raise NFA concerns. This feature is what set the SIG M17 and M18 apart from other pistols. Instead of trying to meet all the requirements of the MHS solicitation with one whole gun, SIG offered a modular chassis system that could be shared between a compact frame and a full-sized frame.

The Masada has external features similar to the FN 509 Tactical and the Glock 19X, while its configurable heart resembles the internals of the SIG P320.

On the Outside

The Masada was announced a couple of years ago, but it took the company until this year to get the new pistol into production. When the first images were released back in 2017, the pistol didn’t have an optics-ready slide. When we saw the revised Masada this year, we were pleased to learn the slide is now red-dot-ready and includes mounting plates for the Trijicon RMR, Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, SIG Sauer Romeo1, and Vortex Venom, as well as a blank plate if you don’t want to run an MRDS.

Mounting a red-dot onto the slide is stupid-easy. You don’t have to remove any pieces under the slide; all that’s required is to sandwich the polymer mounting plate and optic between the provided T10 screws and slide. IWI thoughtfully includes a T10 wrench and multiple screws for different sights.

Key parts are easily removed from the Masada during field stripping.

The slide also has forward and rear slide serrations, so if you like to press check using the front of the slide, you can do that with the Masada. Nothing fancy, the Masada comes with three-dot, dovetail slide pistol sights, while tritium night sights are optional. We didn’t care one way or another about the basic white dots, since we sure as hell weren’t going to shoot a red-dot-ready pistol without a red-dot. We installed a SIG Romeo1 with a 3MOA dot.

The Masada is truly ambidextrous with magazine release buttons and slide stops on each side; no need to disassemble the pistol to swap the mag release to the other side. Interchangeable backstraps accommodate small, medium, or large hands. To swap them out, hammer out the roll pin and pick your preferred size. While the roll pin doesn’t allow for the option to change the grips quickly, it’s secure and you won’t need to change the backstrap once you find the best fit for your hand.

A beavertail ensures a high grip and helps bring the bore axis lower, relative to your grip. Attaching a weapon light is possible thanks to the Picatinny rail on the frame. The first frame we got didn’t fit any of the lights we had, but IWI fixed the problem as soon as they heard about it— more on that later. A flat, textured trigger guard is ideal if you like to hold the front to help negate muzzle flip. The smooth trigger guard undercut is comfortable when gripping the pistol; it lets the middle finger of your shooting hand sit slightly upward, which makes gripping the pistol with large hands a bit easier.

On the Inside

It’s what’s on the inside that matters, right? In the case of the Masada, we’d say that’s true. With the serialized part in the chassis, IWI joins SIG in the next level of pistol modularity. This is where simplicity comes into play from the Israeli brand. The Masada chassis is extremely minimalistic, but with beefy springs that appear to be easily replaceable at the end-user level.

A simple chassis design makes the Masada lighter than similar
pistols.

The function of the Masada’s action is similar to most other striker-fired pistols, but the difference is the chassis and its design. IWI undoubtedly saved weight with the simple design of the chassis, which is made up of three main springs and a trigger bar that literally has the disconnector machined into it. The other moving pieces, sear and firing pin safety lever, are held in place by a pin running across the width of the chassis and a double torsion spring. The most unremarkable aspect of the chassis is a curved trigger with a center-mounted trigger safety. Compared to the SIG P320, the Masada’s chassis is lighter and less complex. The trade-off for simplicity is a little bit of safety, because you have to pull the trigger to disassemble the Masada.

Remember we mentioned a different frame above? We now fully appreciate the ability to change grips, because the original frame wasn’t production-ready — it had a rail, but the angle of trigger guard interfered with the fit of most weapon lights. When IWI learned about this problem, they told us they would fix the issue immediately. Within a couple of weeks, we had a new frame delivered to our doorstep. Being able to change the whole look and external features of the pistol without buying a new one is outstanding.

On the Range

We shot about 600 rounds of various types of ammo through the Masada, from defense to burner to match-grade. It shot like a polymer duty pistol; it didn’t blow our skirt up, but it was accurate and performed as expected without a single malfunction. No malfunctions is saying a lot, considering we committed what some would call gun abuse by not cleaning or lubing the pistol up at all; we took it out of the cardboard box it arrived in, mounted the MRDS, and started shooting.

It had muzzle flip comparable to similarly sized plastic guns; we can’t expect more from the type of gun that it is. When performing reloads, the small-ish mag release button wasn’t easy to reach with tiny hands. But we’d rather have an unobtrusive mag release than take a chance of it accidentally getting depressed when we don’t want it to.

Don’t worry about those three white dots, just use the MRDS.

Two steel 17-round magazines ship with the pistol, but if you’re in a gun-oppressed state, 10-round mags are available. As for plussing up on spare mags, it looks like your only option is to pick up factory IWI mags at $30 each. There’s no aftermarket or common-design mag that’ll fit the Masada out there.

LAG Tactical was one of the first companies to roll out holsters for
the Masada.

With a flawless 600-round introduction to the Masada behind us, we’re looking forward to getting a few thousand rounds through it. It’ll be interesting to see how the polymer mounting plate holds up.

Is it Worth it?

The Masada has many of the features of better-known, field-proven pistols, and it performs just as well. With so much potential for growth amid the hopeful release of different frames, the Masada could give the SIG P320 a run for its money. And with the Masada’s $480 price tag — lower than any of the other pistols mentioned — we think the new offering from IWI is surely worth it.


Specs
Caliber: 9mm
Weight unloaded: 1.4 pounds
Magazine capacity: 17+1
Overall length: 7.4 inches
Barrel length: 4.1 inches
MSRP: $480
URL: https://iwi.us/


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