IDF Colt Carbine

Guns for the folks who really run guns
13

When Will toured Israel several years ago, the stubby little Mekut’zar
rifles were everywhere. He even got to shoot one himself!

Israel is a beleaguered nation forever at war. Her sundry neighbors invaded a mere 24 hours after she declared independence in 1948 and the Israelis have been fighting pretty much ever since. The only functional democracy in the Middle East, Israel also sports a gun culture like no other.

Actually, it’s not terribly easy to carry a gun in Israel. A permit is required and you have to show need. However, showing need is a fairly forgiving standard. Front desk staff at museums you visit are all armed as is the concierge at your hotel. Teachers frequently pack heat on field trips and tour guides are authorized weapons as well. What seemed really weird when I was there, however, was the remarkable prevalence of assault rifles amidst civilized Israeli culture.

Israel mandates universal conscription and Israelis enjoy a healthy Mediterranean diet, so almost all adults are military veterans trained in the use of firearms. As terrorism is an omnipresent threat, the Israelis embrace the concept of an armed society. Soldiers home on leave typically keep their service rifles close when out in public. It is not unusual to be standing in line at McDonald’s behind some young stud with a full auto assault rifle on one arm and his hot date on the other.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used a wide variety of weapons in the past. It is currently transitioning over to the Tavor X95 bullpup. However, there is one particular weapon unique to Israel that still sees widespread use.

The IDF Mekut’zar Carbine is a unique hybrid rifle made from American M16A1 rifles.

The DIY Assault Rifle

Since Operation Nickel Grass during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the United States has provided tens of thousands of M16A1 rifles to the IDF. Over time the Israelis realized these full-sized rifles were not the ideal solution for a nation of riflemen forever packing their weapons. For citizens trying to manage public transit, commerce, restaurants and the like, the 39.5" weapon grew cumbersome. Ever the pragmatists, the IDF bodged together a solution — the Mekut’zrar.

Mekut’zar is IDF slang for the CAR15 rifle. Add an extra “r” and Mekut’zrar literally translates to “sawed-off” or “shorty.” These unique rifles began life as full-size American M16A1s.

To undertake the conversion IDF armorers replaced the solid stocks with collapsible versions. The 20" M16A1 barrel was pruned back to just behind the gas port, while a new gas port was drilled to accommodate a carbine-length gas system as the front sight base was pinned in place. The barrel was also threaded for a standard M16A1 birdcage flash suppressor and the resulting tube was just shy of 13" overall.

These carbines usually retain the standard M16A1 upper receivers and include round polymer handguards. Optics typically mount directly to the carrying handle. The end result is a remarkably lightweight and easily portable rifle.

The raw material — The U.S. gave Israel thousands of Vietnam-era M16A1
rifles in the 1970s. The Mekut’zar is a locally crafted derivative.

Ballistic Philosophy

Down here in the American Deep South where I live, a substantial percentage of the general population is armed all the time. In every crowd in every restaurant, at little league ball games or in department stores somebody will be packing a concealed handgun. An entire thriving industry supports the practice. The hallowed tome you are currently clutching stands in mute testament to this fact. Now imagine the same situation but those armed citizens are packing assault rifles rather than concealed handguns. There you have Israel in a nutshell.

The guns these guys carry are not necessarily designed to most efficiently clear buildings or win three-gun matches. They are intended primarily to be comfortable. Like our concealed carry handguns, the weapons represent a compromise between portability and tactical efficacy.

Most of the rifles I saw in public in Israel eschewed lights, lasers, or similar cumbersome rail-mounted accessories. Many to most sported a basic optical sight but otherwise remain fairly austere. Most of the sights were either Israeli Meprolight units or Trijicon ACOGs.

All of the weapons I encountered in public in Israel included a loaded magazine underneath an empty chamber. The chamber was closed on a prominent orange empty chamber indicator secured to the weapon with a dummy cord. Occasionally there might be a weapon with two magazines clamped together, but this was the exception. Should they be called upon to use their weapons Israelis expect the engagement to be violent, chaotic and brief.

This elastic band thingy around the handguard softens the grip and
ameliorates rattling. The Meprolight M21 reflex sight doesn’t need batteries
while Meprolight tritium sights provide nighttime capability as well.

All of the weapons Will encountered in public in Israel featured orange
chamber flags (above) secured with dummy cords.

Accessorizing

There is an entire array of unique and eminently practical accessories IDF troops use to customize their rifles. Many rifles in the same unit sported unique stocks, foregrips and pistol grips clearly reflecting the individual users’ tastes. Most of this furniture was from FAB-Defense, an Israeli concern.

Slings were wide and even included a little pouch for earplugs. They were often padded for extended comfortable carry. Many sported unique unit insignia or cool-guy stuff like the Punisher emblem. Slings attached to the front and rear of the weapons via steel hooks and nylon loops or 550 cord.

Most rifles I encountered had green or black elastic bands wrapped around the forearms. These sleeves soften the handguards a bit and prevent rattling. They also look really cool.

Magazines include their own elastic bands connecting to the weapon via a dummy cord. Israelis really embrace dummy cords. Frequently you could tell somebody in public was carrying a concealed pistol by the little loop of curly cord drooping out from underneath an untucked shirt. Every component of a rifle that might potentially be lost was secondarily secured via a short length of nylon cord.

A loaded magazine is secured to the rifle via this nifty elastic rig from Zahal.org.

Building My Own Mekut’zar

My IDF clone began life as a Troy Industries XM177E2. This provided period authentic features for both the upper and lower receivers as well as plausible receiver markings. Troy receivers even have the auto sear pin etched in place to complete the charade. The buttstock is of the early rubber-coated aluminum style found on Vietnam-era CAR15 rifles.

The new thin-profile barrel was pruned back to 14.7" and the flash suppressor is pinned permanently in place to obtain the legal-minimum 16". The lower receiver could be registered as a short-barreled rifle and a realistic 13" tube crafted. However, to me the extra 3" was not worth $200 and the interminable wait for the forms to come back.

The sight is an Israeli Meprolight M21 reflex sight powered by fiber optics and an internal tritium lamp. The standard sights have been replaced by Meprolight tritium night sights. Once nicely accessorized with gear from Zahal.org, my rifle becomes a proper legal facsimile of the Israeli Mekut’zar.

Short and lightweight, the IDF Mekut’zar carbine is better rigged for combat
than the old U.S. M16s and much easier to tote all day.

Practical Tactical

The overall package is less than 7 lbs. and remarkably compact. With the wide padded sling in place, the rifle is comfortable to carry on protracted walks around my rural farm. However, should it ever be actually called upon for real, this lightweight stripped-down rifle is both an efficient and effective combat tool. Two or three guys armed with such weapons would be a formidable force in the face of urban terrorist activity. While terrorism is a perennial part of the Israeli experience, it seldom lasts very long.

We Americans are bad about hanging superfluous stuff onto the railed handguards of our tactical weapons. If there was a rail-mounted espresso machine, somebody would buy it. However, we could learn a thing or three from our Israeli pals about the practicality of carrying and using a long gun for real. When it’s something you’ll actually have to hump through a long day of work or recreation, sometimes “thin is in” and less really is better.

Zahal.org

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