The Steyr AUG bullpup gained limited popularity in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Several teams adopted it, and many operators found it to be an excellent entry rifle. It garnered quite the following, one that has continued on with Steyr’s latest release as well as with a couple of clones. The FN F2000 was introduced in 2001 and it too has enjoyed significant success. A colleague of mine with extensive experience as a Tier One operator swears by his and is a huge fan of the platform. While certainly not mainstream, the bullpup has stuck around and is gathering traction among operators. Bullpup designs offer some advantages, the most obvious being a standard 5.56mm barrel in a short platform. In most cases a 16.5-inch-barreled bullpup will be shorter than a 10-inch-barreled AR. The longer barrel contributes to better operational reliability and terminal ballistics. Controls are closer to the body, making operation easier in full kit, and with the weight pushed to the rear, the bullpup is comfortable to carry and easy to shoulder.
Most early attempts at the bullpup suffered from a few drawbacks that kept much of the tactical market away. Early bullpups used proprietary magazines, and every 5.56mm carbine that didn’t support M16 magazines has suffered in the U.S. police and tactical market. Non-AR magazines are more expensive, often require new pouches and make large inventories of magazines that are already in use worthless. Other issues are the bolt hold-open and drop-free magazines. American operators want both, while many European rifles have neither. You can argue it both ways, but as a rule, the police and tactical market want those features. Early rifles also used fixed optical or red-dot sights, but U.S. operators want a rail and the ability to use the sight of their choosing. Over the years, companies producing bullpup designs have worked to supply many of the above features. The latest entry, the Tavor SAR from IWI US, seems to have done the best job so far.
IWI US has brought to the general public a semi-auto version of the TAR (Tavor Assault Weapon), a proven rifle that’s been thoroughly tested in conflict. The SAR is a semi-automatic rifle assembled in the U.S. from both American- and Israeli-manufactured parts. Utilizing M16 magazines that drop free, the SAR tackles two of the most critical features most U.S. tactical users desire—the rest is pretty well squared away, too. The SAR is available in several configurations. The SAR-IDF model is a civilian copy of the TAR-21, which sports a 16.5-inch barrel and a built-in Mepro-21 reflex sight. Flattop SAR versions are available with either a 16.5- or 18-inch barrel and with a black or Flat Dark Earth finish. Models with 18-inch barrels also come with bayonet lugs installed.