IWI Carmel, a new 5.56 assault rifle from Israel

By Paolo Valpolini

The name Carmel for a new assault rifle by Israel Weapons Industries (IWI), the Israeli small arms champion part of the SK Group, has been around for some while, the new infantry weapon being finally revealed at LAAD 2019, which took place in early April in Rio de Janeiro.

With two families of bull-pup rifles in its inventory, the Tavor and the X95, and one of conventional assault rifles, the Galil ACE, why did IWI felt the need for developing a new conventional weapon? “To remain among top small arms manufacturers we need to provide new solutions, new ideas and new products, in order to adapt to modern war and to answer the requirements of our existing and of our potential new customers,” Ronen Hamudot, Vice-President Marketing & Sales ay IWI tells EDR On-Line. “We need to look forward, as the development of a new weapon still required some 3-4 years, although we are trying to decrease this time as much as possible,” he explains.

While the bull-pup platform are relatively new, the conventional assault rifle in the IWI portfolio is based on the Galil, which maintains all its good points, robustness and accuracy, but its birth date might not be compatible with incoming tenders. The Tel Aviv-based company thus decided to start a whole new design, in order to be able to answer future tenders with two modern solutions, one bull-pup and one conventional, depending on customers’ preferences. Although the experience acquired with the former products has been fully exploited by IWI designers, the Carmel is in fact a wholly new weapon, which however maintains the company philosophy, especially as far as ergonomy is concerned.

A short-stroke gas piston weapon with rotating bolt, with a rate of fire of around 850 rds/min, the Carmel moving parts are all contained in a hard-anodised monolithic aluminium rail which is located inside the high strength impact polymer body of the rifle, thus ensuring maximum durability and reliability also thanks to the corrosion resistant coating adopted on all metal parts. Fully ambidextrous, the safety lever, magazine release, bolt catch, and non-reciprocating charging handle can be changed in seconds from side to side by the user himself. The gas regulator can be set in three positions, regular, extreme and suppressor, depending to conditions. Four different barrel length are available, all hammer-forged and chrome-lined: 10.5” (267 mm), 12” (305 mm), 14.5” (368 mm) and 16” (406 mm), all with a 6 right-hand grooves with a 1:7” twist rifling. To ensure maximum accuracy IWI adopted the free-floating barrel solution, a quick detachable system having also been used to provide maximum modularity, which according to the company ensures barrel changing in a matter of seconds. With the shorter barrel the Carmel length is 526 mm with the stock folded, 721 mm with stock opened and 806 mm with stock opened and the butt-stock fully extended, weight without magazine or sight being 3.3 kg.

As for the stock, this is hinged on the right, the Carmel being fireable even when the stock is folded. The butt-stock can be extended for 85 mm, allowing adapting the rifle to all sizes of soldier, an adjustable check-rest permitting to provide immediate aiming position with any sight adopted. IWI optimised the new rifle taking in count Meprolight sighting systems, the company also being part of the SK Group, although any other third party sight can be adopted. IWI leveraged its previous experiences in designing the pistol grip, to maximise ergonomy, while the trigger guard was designed to allow firing with gloves.

IWI is still delivering its X95 to the Israeli Defence Forces, the services having reverted to rifles fitted with also the full-auto mode while in the past they had decided to acquire them only in the semi-auto version. The national customer, which remains the main customer for IWI, is thus not immediately interested by the new Carmel, however some units received pre-production samples to test them and give their advice, other samples having been delivered around the world for testing. The new Carmel is now ready for production, all four barrels being available. Looking forward, no plan has been yet established for the development of the Carmel in different calibres, although a version in .300 BLK should be an obvious follow-up, considering the comparable energy of this ammunition with that of the 5.56 mm NATO round. “We definitely intend to develop a family of assault rifles starting with the current Carmel,” Ronen Hamudot tells EDR On-Line, “and we are also looking at the 6.8 mm Remington SPC for the 5.56 mm-based weapon, while for the bigger calibre, beside the 7.62×51 mm we are also considering the 6.5×55 Creedmor as an option.”

It was quite surprising to see a new assault rifle from Israel unveiled at LAAD in Rio de Janeiro: “Latin America was always a strategic market, it then became a challenged market for some years, as far as assault rifles were concerned, however now some requirements are emerging, following specific needs, and we decided to give the South American countries the opportunity to be the first ones to see our new product,” the IWI VP Marketing & Sales concludes, stating also that his company will derive commercial versions of many of its current products, as it intends to increase its market-share in the civilian domain, while the military will remain however its core business.

Photos courtesy of IWI