S&T Tavor T21 Explorer Series
Date product posted
Wed March 7, 2012
S&T Tavor T21 AEG review by Booligan
Discuss this review HERE
Table of Contents:
Basic Gun Information
The Tavor T21 is one of the most sought after airsoft replicas, and before now, you had to throw down about $400-$500 to get the Ares model, which was, arguably, not worth the price. Now there is a new model out, manufactured by S&T, as part of their "Explorer" line. This gun features a textured polymer body, metal CQB length outer barrel, and a polymer gearbox filled with high quality metal components. The really impressive part about this gun is the affordable price, which comes in at less than $200! I'll be discussing all of the various aspects of this gun in this review, so keep reading for more info!
I obtained the T21 through Evike, who has it available HERE, priced at $179.99. This price is really impressive, considering the only alternative models out there cost almost three times as much. It is available in three colors, tan, black, and OD green, and obviously we'll be reviewing the tan model today. It qualifies for Evike's free shipping deal, which uses UPS ground. I received the gun a few days after I put in the order, and it arrived largely without any damage, which I'll detail later.
Basic Gun Information:
The Tavor T21 is a bullpup carbine that uses commonly available M4/16 STANAG magazines. It features a futuristic design and ergonomic layout, making it able to be easily wielded by left or right handed users. Like all bullpup rifles, the gearbox is located in the rear, making the length of pull longer than a normal carbine, so younger users with shorter arms may have issues shouldering the gun. The polymer construction makes the gun exceptionally lightweight for the overall size, but the textured finish and solid construction makes it feel great. The gun is a licensed item, imported through Spartan Imports, so it comes with intact trademarks for the real steel manufacturer, IWI.
Spartan Imports and S&T put together a nice packaging solution for the gun, with the box having a molded cardboard lower to hold everything together during shipping. The box also has an integrated carrying handle, allowing you to use the box as a storage option down the line. My first impression was actually based upon seeing the gun at SHOT Show a few months ago, and I'm glad to say that the retail version of the gun is largely the same as the model that impressed me at the show. The gun's textured finish really looks great, making it look like the real gun.
Along with the gun itself, you'll find an instruction manual, barrel cleaning/unjamming rod, and a single 300 round hi-cap magazine. My magazine was actually damaged during shipping, and the inner plastic winding mechanism won't stay inside the metal shell, due to a broken plastic nut retainer.
Weight: 4 lbs
Sight Radius: 11"
The externals of this gun are really what set it apart from other AEGs. It is a very convincing replica of the Tavor T21 carbine, and is designed in full 1 to 1 scale. On mine, I chose the tan colored replica, and it has a nice satin finish to it, which is enhanced by the textured finish to the polymer itself. There are black colored pieces sprinkled throughout the gun to keep it from being one big blob of tan.
From this point on, click on the thumbnails to view full size photos
Overview, right side
Overview, left side
The gun doesn't have a stock, as it's a bullpup rifle. The butt of the gun is built into the receiver itself, and it has a black colored butt pad with notches to keep the gun from slipping off of your shoulder. The cheek weld can be made quite solidly, however you are in-line with the top of the gun, and will need high rise mounts if you use an optic.
Stock portion of the receiver
The body of the gun is largely molded in one piece, housing the gearbox, all of the fire controls, as well as the barrel and hop-up system. This one piece construction makes the gun extremely solid, even though it's pretty much entirely made of polymer. The cocking handle can be pulled back, which pulls back the faux bolt, exposing the hop-up adjuster. The bolt actually locks back and can be released using the bolt release behind the magwell.
Receiver, left side
Bolt locked back
The fire controls are fairly basic, consisting of a trigger, selector switch with right sided indicator, magazine release lever, and the bolt release lever. The controls are largely ambidextrous, and I'm trying to determine if you can switch the selector switch over to the other side right now. The bolt release doubles as a decocking lever, which releases the spring tension for storage and to prevent spring wear.
Grip and trigger
Functional right sided indicator
Moving forward, you'll hit the handguard, which is ribbed for enhanced grip, and features a hand stop to keep your hand from sliding too far forward, in front of the barrel. The handguard is easily removed by pushing the button on the left side and sliding it forward off of the frame of the gun. This allows you to access the battery compartment, which is relatively small and limits you to small battery packs.
Above the handguard, you'll find the cocking assembly, which I believe can be switched from side to side. The upper assembly houses the iron sights, and I get a slight front to rear freeplay of about 1-2mm. Inside this portion, you can find the metal outer barrel, which is terminated in a 14mm threaded muzzle. The included flashhider is made of orange plastic, and I chopped it off to easily mount up another flashhider.
Top portion of the frame
Aiming this replica is assisted by the included flip up iron sights, and an optic can be mounted on the 20mm top rail. The sights are a little low for my tastes, but the rail allows you to mount up an optic easily. Again, I have a little bit of freeplay in this portion of the gun, so don't expect incredible optic stability. The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, but it requires tools.
Iron sights, folded
Iron sights, flipped up
Licensed trademarks can be found on this gun, specifically on the left side of the receiver. You will find an IWI logo as well as the model name and number. Unfortunately, right above the gorgeous trademarks, you'll also find a molded in "Made in China" marking, but thankfully, it's not too obtrusive.
The included magazine is a full metal hi-cap, holding 300 rounds and using a standard bottom winding design. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, my magazine was DOA, however I was able to test it with a variety of other magazines without issue. One awesome thing is that my Star Pmags worked fantastically in the T21, and they look amazing to boot.
Performance after a 500 round break-in period, using Matrix .20g BBs, shot through a Madbull Chronograph is as follows:
High FPS: 353.8 FPS
Low FPS: 348.2 FPS
Average FPS: 350.25 FPS
Rate of fire is fairly low for the stock power level, and I believe the stock motor is the cause here. Even using an 11.1v mid-output LiPo battery, I was only able to get 19 RPS, when I generally get 22-25 RPS with the same battery at the same power levels. I plan on tossing in a different motor and seeing if I get any improvement with the ROF.
Range and accuracy were much more promising, as I was able to easily hit my torso sized target out to 155' using .28g Echo 1 BBs. The hop-up is responsive and holds your chosen setting very well, easily giving enough backspin for moderately heavyweight ammunition. I'd comfortably bring this thing out either to CQB or for mid range field use.
Inside this machine, you'll find a special polymer gearbox that is filled with metal and polycarb components. Getting to the gearbox is not an easy undertaking, and I'd suggest following this guide, which will get you in the right direction: http://www.airsoftforum.com/board/Ares-Tavor-Disassembly-t211806.html
With the gearbox out, you'll discover that it's a pretty unique and quite beefy design. Yes, it's made of polymer, which may not stand up to super high FPS upgrades, but it's very well built and stuffed with quality components. The gun mainly uses V2 parts, with a standard cylinder, cylinder head, gears, cutoff lever, and even the tappet plate appearing to be standard components. The piston is polycarb with a moderately vented head. Airseal is okay, but a different O-ring vastly improved it on mine. Otherwise, the gears seem to be made of steel, and are quite sturdy as well as being well shimmed and lightly lubricated. 8mm metal bushings fill the gap between the gears and shell and are very well machined.
Right sided components
Left sided components
Faux bolt removed
Gearbox opened up
One of the best features of this gun is the quick change spring assembly. Simply unscrew the large flathead screw at the rear, and you can push in the spring guide, rotate it, and pull it out the back of the gun along with the spring. This lets you upgrade or downgrade the spring power with ease.
Wiring is all pretty decent quality, and the gun uses a microswitch trigger assembly. It is activated by a directly connected trigger rod, minimizing slop and free play. The short length motor is somewhat weak, and I plan on upgrading it immediately.
A plastic hop-up body is attached to the red anodized inner barrel, which is about 370mm in length. The hop-up uses standard components, so upgrades are easily accomplished.
Modifications to the internals of this gun are a piece of cake, especially with the quick change spring feature. Externally, you're somewhat limited, due to the lack of availability for T21 accessories, however with some creative thinking, you can manage to throw some rails on this thing and mount some accessories. I would suggest adding an optic of some sort, as I'm not a big fan of the iron sights, but otherwise, the gun is pretty damn good as is.
Finally, an affordable Tavor replica!
Strong, but lightweight construction
Textured finish looks and feels great
Licensed trademarks by IWI
Bullpup layout makes for long barrel length in a compact package
Locking bolt catch and spring release feature
Some users will be turned off by the polymer construction
Like almost all bullpup AEGs, it's quite back heavy
Limited battery space
Iron sights are quite low
Low ROF stock
Overall, I am really impressed with how the T21 turned out. My previous experience with S&T is limited to their AG36 grenade launcher, and the quality of their AEG offerings certainly seem up to par. They continue to produce unique and high quality airsoft replicas, and the T21 is certainly an awesome example. It is one of the most skirmishable AEGs that I've ever used, and I hope that S&T has a long future making kick ass replicas like it!
Many thanks again to Evike, and of course, Airsoft Retreat!