I wonder how many “best hog hunting rifle” stories have been told? Seriously, four years ago we ran a top ten hog hunting rifles story that still has traction on Google. But it’s not 2012 anymore and after spending the night hog hunting with the newest offering from IWI US, the Tavor X95 I am compelled to share this story with you. I loved the Tavor, and the X95 takes it to a whole new level!
I’m not going to get super technical here, but instead take you along for a night of tactical hog hunting with the X95. Along the way, you’ll discover why I think it may be the best hog hunting rifle, yet.
Setting up the X95 Tavor for Night Hunting
I’ve become a bit partial to both spotting hogs and targeting them using thermal optics, so I mounted an IR Patrol from Ultimate Night Vision (UNV) to my X95. It’s equipped with an Alamo Four Star designed mount that allows removing the optic from your rifle to hand hold for spotting or mounting to a helmet and then remounting to rifle while retaining zero. The optic is not bulky and suits the compact X95 form nicely.
However, hog hunting can change quickly so I like to run a white light in case of close encounter of the feral kind. Since I was also using a helmet mounted rental PVS-14 night vision monocular from UNV I added a Wilcox RAPTAR Lite ES to the left side rail of the X95 Tavor. The RAPTAR Lite has both visible and IR laser pointers but I could not use them on the Tavor SAR’s 45 degree rail as its mount point easily flexed. The forend mounting options on the X95, however, are a substantial upgrade to the Tavor SAR. They are rock solid picatiny rails, located at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock (in addition to the full length 12 o’clock rail). Removable polymer panels cover the rail sections. The covers are so well integrated into the overall X95 design that you might not even realize that the rails are hiding beneath them.
Some people have complained about Tavor triggers, and I get it. The factory trigger is heavy. The X95 trigger is better than the SAR trigger, but I wanted to try the latest generation Timney drop in Tavor trigger pack. Like others reported in the past, I’d had some light primer strike issues with prior generation Tavor triggers from Timney, but the latest one has run literally 100% for me.
Having set up my new X95 for night hunting, I loaded Barnes Bullets 70 grain Vortex rounds into a Hexmag and G2 PMAG, jumped in my jeep with one of my best friends and rolled out.
The X95 on the Hunt
It’s after 10:00 p.m. now and dark outside. We’re off the highways on dirt roads driving lights out using the rental PVS -14s for navigation. The X95 is riding muzzle down between my right leg and the jeep’s center console. If you’ve ever ridden a late model jeep, you know they don’t have the roomiest passenger compartment. Add the steering wheel and the shifter and you might wonder how driving with the X95 wedged in there would work out.
Well it works out nicely. With its 16.5” barrel, the X95 Tavor is just twenty-six and a hair inches long so its buttstock stays out of the way. I’m able to quickly bail out of the jeep grabbing the rifle as I go.
The hogs in West Texas often feed in giant open wheat field where they easily see you coming on moonlit night. They know the sound of vehicles stopping so we generally will park some distance off and stalk up on the groups. This can take time, and I like using a Viking Tactics sling to carry my rifles on nights like this. The X95 added a third QD sling mount at the back of the top rail point giving us more options. Depending on your optic choice and the rest of your load out on any given day or night, you may find this additional mounting point helpful.
Exiting the vehicle, we charge our guns. If for no other reason, the charging handle on the X95 Tavor needed to be moved rearward to allow for the rail cover implementation. Instead of being located at the forward end of the rifle, the charging handle now rests in line with the front of the trigger guard. Ergonomically, this makes for a tighter handling set up. I had no complaints with the Tavor SAR charging handle, but this is yet another improvement I’m pleased with on the X95.
In various fields at various distances we engage hogs through the night. It’s a different kind of adrenaline driven fast paced hunting, but the camaraderie and friendship are as great as every prior generation of hunters enjoyed. Tactical reloads before engagements are normal, but occasionally we end up reloading with hogs still running. In nod towards American familiarities, IWI replaced the Tavor SAR lever style mag release with an AR button style release actuated by your index finger. I imagine many people will appreciate this and I’ll grow accustomed to it easily enough. That said, I’d really gotten to the point of preferring the support hand lever release on the prior generation a wish that was an option for the X95.
In the final analysis, a superbly designed rifle that isn’t reliable in function and consistently accurate is mostly a range toy. My 5.56 Tavor SAR was infinitely reliable and along with the renowned Fred Mastison my brother and I put rounds on steel at 600 yards with that platform. I don’t have as many rounds downrange with the X95 yet, but running with the factory and Timney triggers it was 100% reliable in the preparation shooting and on this hunt. The Barnes 70 grain Vortex loads landed on target and literally dropped wild hogs in their tracks.
I fully expected to love this updated short bullpup Israeli rifle. I’m eager to see what aftermarket accessory companies like Manticore Arms, Ratworx and Gearhead Works come up with for the X95. I hope to run a 300 Blackout model from IWI soon as well. If you were holding off getting a Tavor, hoping for a better rail interface, an improved trigger, more sling points, a less bulky feel or an Americanized magazine release, it’s time to jump on board and pick up an X95. It is my new favorite hog hunting gun!