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Firearms

IWI Zion-15 Rifle: Quality and Value

The Zion-15 was Israel Weapon Industries’ (IWI) first M-4 variant rifle, bringing the company into the AR-15 market. IWI traces its roots back to 1933 when Israel Military Industries (IMI) began production. IMI produced several iconic weapons for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) over the years, including the Uzi submachine gun and Galil rifle. The Israeli government spun off and privatized IMI’s small arms division in 2005, creating IWI as the IDF’s weapons manufacturer and supplier.

IWI’s Zion-15 is a quality rifle at a competitive price. (Author’s Photo)

IWI expanded into Europe and the United States, offering quality products for civilian use. The Zion-15 was introduced in 2020. IWI offers the Zion-15 in three configurations: the 16-inch barrel Rifle, the 18-inch barrel Special Purpose Rifle, and the 12.5-inch barrel SBR. Most IWI products are made in Israel, but the Zion-15s are made in the US. We recently got our hands on the Zion-15 Rifle (with the 16-inch barrel) and took it for an extended spin. Here’s what we found, but first, let’s cover the rifle’s specs.

IWI Zion-15 Rifle Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56 NATO
  • Action: Semi-Auto
  • Operating System: Direct Impingement
  • Magazine Type: NATO STANAG
  • Barrel Material: 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium HB – Nitride Finish
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • 7075 T6 Aluminum Upper and Lower Receivers
  • Overall Length: 33 inches with collapsed stock; 36.25 inches with extended stock
  • Weight: 6.9 pounds (unloaded and without magazine)
  • Mid-Length Gas System
  • Rifling: 6 right-hand grooves with a 1:8 twist rate
  • 7075 T6 Aluminum 15-inch Slim Profile M-LOK Handguard
  • Stock: Adjustable B5 Systems SOPMOD
  • Mil-spec charging handle
  • A2 Birdcage Flash Hider

IWI Zion-15 rifle
We ran the Zion-15 with Meprolight’s M22 Reflex Sight. Great combo. [Author’s Photo]

Features

At first glance, the Zion-15 looks much like other AR pattern rifles, but perhaps a little better. A closer look reveals something different. The Zion-15 is a bit understated, but it’s almost sneaky good. IWI delivers a nice package without much fanfare.

Inside the Zion-15

Our first impressions after handling the rifle were positive. It’s solid, with no play between the upper and lower receivers. That held through 550-odd rounds on the range. We were surprised when our initial field strip revealed the lower receiver-mounted nylon tensioning screw. None of our other ARs have that feature. We loved it because we can’t stand loose tolerances. We feel like that can be almost as bad as a loose barrel when it comes to accuracy. Nice touch. And if you don’t like that feature, you can always loosen it a bit.

IWI AR-15 bolt carrier group
The Zion-15 features a closed-profile bolt carrier group and magnetic particle-inspected bolt. [Author’s Photo]

The closed profile bolt carrier and Type 1 hammer offer smooth operation, which we noticed when running the gun. The nitride-finished bolt is stamped “MP,” meaning it was magnetic particle inspected for defects. It should hold up very well. We noticed a little wear on the bolt carrier after 500 rounds, but nothing unusual. The nitride finish is holding up, and everything looks and feels good so far.

The mid-length gas system makes for a soft-shooting rifle, enhanced by the B5 Systems stock, which we’ll get to shortly. The heavy profile barrel probably helps a bit with recoil and mitigates heat, though the Zion gets hot like any other firearm. But the barrel will stay accurate longer than lighter barrels.

The Zion-15, like all IWI AR platform rifles, also features a steel barrel nut, as opposed to aluminum. This may seem a small thing, but US Special Forces require steel barrel nuts thanks to their greater resistance to heat. Barrel nuts do get hot, and like the barrel itself, heat can reduce accuracy. A hot aluminum barrel nut will negatively affect accuracy faster than a steel nut.

The mil-spec trigger is a little heavier than our other ARs, coming in at around 7 pounds, but we quickly got used to it. The buffer tube is made from 7075 T6 aluminum.

Accessories and Ergonomics

The B5 Systems SOPMOD stock is nice. It has a great cheek weld surface, is fully adjustable, and offers quick-detach or traditional sling attachment points. There’s also a battery storage compartment for when your electronics run dry. The great ergonomics help with felt recoil. The B5 Systems Type 23 pistol grip is an unexpected plus, offering superior grip texture and a more vertical grip angle, which we prefer. It seems to provide easier reach to the controls and just feels more natural. Nice job, IWI.

The slightly flared mag well offers easier reloads, and the controls are very positive. My son and co-tester usually shoots left-handed, so the lack of ambidextrous controls affected his operation. Keep that in mind if you’re a lefty.

B5 Systems stock and pistol grip on an AR-15 rifle
The B5 Systems furniture is a nice touch. (Author’s Photos)

The 15-inch slim-profile handguard features generous M-LOK slots at every position except 12 o’clock. And we love that the handguard is free-floated, so there’s no pressure on the barrel. The Zion-15 has a full-length rail up top, maximizing your accessory options. IWI includes an M-LOK QD sling mount with the rifle.

Running the IWI Zion-15 Rifle

We ran 550 rounds through the Zion-15 over several range trips. We used 55-grain Igman .223 ball and 62-grain PMC X-Tac M855 Green Tip 5.56 ammo. There was a relatively even split between those two brands. The Zion-15 is not equipped with iron sights, so we ran it with a Meprolight M22 Reflex sight. We zeroed the rifle at 50 yards, which we accomplished with two 5-round groups followed by a 5-round confirmation group. We also fired two 5-round groups from 100, which yielded 2-MOA accuracy. The rifle shot beautifully from the bench, but those were the only bench shots we took. We don’t see it as a bench rifle. It’s a defensive rifle, so we ran drills with the rest.

Our most common drills were the 2-2-2 drill at 7 yards, Dot Torture at 15 yards, and a 2-2-2 variation at 7 yards and 7 yards transitioning to 50 yards. Once we learned our holds with the M22, we quickly got used to the Zion’s slightly heavier trigger, though our initial drills were a little ragged.

We were soon holding 2 to 3-inch groups at 7 and 15 yards, which we duplicated every time we shot those drills. Transitioning to 50 yards was as much getting used to the optic as the rifle. Both performed very well once we learned where we were hitting. Our transition drill involved moving laterally to make the longer shot. We used Caldwell 2:1 ratio silhouette targets at 50 yards. We were all over the place at first, though usually within the 8-ring. Soon, we were able to settle down to consistently landing our shots in the 9 and 10-rings.

man shooting an AR-15 rifle
The 15-inch M-LOK rail provides plenty of real estate for your favorite accessories. [Author’s Photo]

The Zion 15’s easy recoil definitely helped our follow-up shots at all ranges. We think the upper and lower’s solid fit probably helped at least a little. The rifle is also very light, coming in at just under 7 lbs. empty. It was handy and was easy to bring up and on target.

We built mag changes into our drills, and the Zion 15’s controls responded well. My son had to adjust to the right-handed controls, but that’s part of shooting well. He ran some drills right-handed since he’s truly ambidextrous. He just prefers shooting left-handed. We took turns shooting the Zion, with the other using another rifle.

We’re happy to report that the Zion-15 ran with 100 percent reliability throughout our testing. But that’s what we expect from IWI. We used the included Magpul Gen 3 Window PMAG, along with other PMAGs and some Troy Industries Battlemags. All ran great.

Final Thoughts

My son and I both loved the Zion-15. It’s obviously a quality rifle. The tolerances are tight with no rattling. It was smooth and accurate. The B5 furniture made it comfortable. It’s just a nice firearm. But, as I said before, that’s what we expect from IWI. Between us, we own four IWI pistols, and they all run like champs. We were confident the Zion-15 would too. And that’s what it did. It just ran. We purposely didn’t clean it until we finished our testing. Not that 550 rounds is all that much. But it’s worth mentioning. Our only complaint is the lack of ambidextrous controls.

close-up of a man firing an IWI Zion-15 rifle
Call me a fanboy if you want, but the Zion-15 is a fantastic rifle. [Author’s Photo]

But I’ve purposely left one feature until the end. You can buy this rifle for about $850. It’s an absolute steal at that price. However, IWI has always delivered high-value products. I constantly recommend their handguns because the quality-to-price ratio is off the charts. I think the Zion-15 is the same. I’ve run more expensive ARs that are inferior to the Zion. I’ve refrained from using the phrase “at this price point” in this review. It implies that the Zion-15 is a “budget” rifle. It’s relatively inexpensive, yes, but it’s far from “budget.” Rather, it’s a competitively priced, high-value, quality rifle from a very reputable, experienced company.

If you’re looking for something like that, you owe it to yourself to check out the Zion-15. Yes, I know I sound like an IWI fanboy. Think what you want. All I know is that I’ve now run five different IWI firearms, and every one of them has performed flawlessly. Reliability and performance are where it’s at. The Zion-15 rifle delivers both.

The post IWI Zion-15 Rifle: Quality and Value appeared first on The Mag Life.

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