By Mike Keleher
I recently won an Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) 17 round polymer framed Masada pistol, and have been testing it with great glee. (Deep in the year 2020, I rarely get to use the word glee in a sentence.) Not only has this pistol been free…I have also found it to be quite good in almost every measurable area.
I woke up to a phone call one Tuesday morning this fall from Adam Weber of Weber Tactical, telling me I had just won a Masada pistol, a Vortex red dot sight I could mount on the pistol, a Weber Tactical Trifecta multi-function kydex holster, 500 rounds of Fiocchi 9mm ammunition (Score!), Weber hat, t-shirt, coffee mug and anything else he had lying around the shop! As you may imagine, this really set the tone for the rest of Tuesday.
If you don’t know him from Adam (oh the puns), Adam Weber is a retired police officer who is also a competition shooter who started making custom kydex holsters way back in 2011 when he was still on the job. I have watched his company expand over time in it’s offerings and quality, and he is a heavy sponsor of 3-Gun competitions. In the Midwest, I would guess about half of all 3-Gun holsters I see around the circuit are now Weber Tactical holsters. I wear his holsters exclusively in all types of competitions. His company also produces top notch concealment holsters, gun belts and magazine carriers and can be found at www.webertactical.com.
(Author pictured here on range wearing a Weber Tactical holster with MLK retention hood and circular shield pattern reminiscent of a certain American Captain-no trademark infringement involved!)
Prior to the phone call, I was vaguely aware of the IWI Masada pistol being new to the market- a market already well saturated with high capacity, polymer framed, striker fired pistols. But I don’t dismiss any firearm which comes out of Israel lightly. They have a reputation I like- “It must work.”
As a federal agent and SMG instructor I spent a goodly portion of my range time behind the controls of the historic Israel Military Industries (IMI) Uzi submachine gun. I also got my hands on one of the original Israeli made Jericho pistols carried by a friend with the U.S. Marshal’s Office way back in 1990. It was a solid upgrade of the CZ-75 and is still being made by IWI. They also still produce legendary products like the iconic Desert Eagle, Galil Ace rifle and Micro Uzis.
In recent years IWI has taken a big bite out of the American compact firearms market with their bullpup designed Tavor carbine, available in 5.56, .300 Blackout, .308 and even 9mm.
Photo Credit IWI
They retooled that design and brought out the bullpup Tavor TS12-a 12 gauge shotgun with three internal magazines which can store up to15 rounds of “Get off my lawn” shells on board. Serious gear.
Photo Credit IWI
So getting back to the Masada, (which is the name of the mountaintop fortress famous for a year long last stand against the Romans at the end of the first Jewish-Roman war- geez I learn so much from you Uncle Mike….pay attention kids there may be a quiz on this later), this is a very likeable 17 round pistol which will remind you of other current designs, and at first grasp-just flat feels good in your hand.
The first grab is always important to me. It feels good with no distractions, lumps, bumps or rough edges. Squaring off on a target with the gun in alignment, I can lower the gun, close my eyes, then present the gun again and when I open my eyes find I am well within what I call a natural point of aim. Some of that is my mechanical process, but a lot of it is how the pistol sits in your hand- and this one fits very well in my midsized hands.
Size wise, it is about the same length as a Glock 17 (which is now considered a “full sized pistol” – but when it was introduced the Glock was considered to be “smaller” and actually very close to the size of a Colt Commander!)
The take down process to field strip the Masada is akin to the Sig 250/320 system. Lock the slide back and rotate the lock down before releasing the slide- but in an unusual move, you have to pull the trigger to allow the slide to come off the rails.
Like all new guns, I used some degreaser to clean out all of the internal works before shooting it and then put my choice of oil on the metal surfaces for rust protection and lubrication. Never trust the manufacturer to lube your gun for you prior to the initial outing. The pistol has rails embedded in the frame module like the Sig 250/320. A drop of \oil on each rail and some along the inside of the slide where the rail will run is plenty.
The Masada exterior is very smooth by design, and carries well and comfortably. No love handle abrasions and callus grind. The overall pistol looks like a lot of other new pistols, but you can tell a lot of study and thought have gone into this resulting design.
Looking at the pistol, I am reminded of both the current H+K VP9 and the Smith and Wesson M&P profiles. Internally, the chassis based fire control striker fired system (rated at a 6lb break) looks pretty close to the Sig P320 system (although no other Sig-like grip/slide modules are available yet, I would not be surprised to see IWI do something similar in the future.) The trigger of course features the now obligatory tiny protruding tongue trigger safety made famous by Glock.
Glock triggers- like ’em or hate ’em- remain a standard to judge all striker fired pistols against, and I really prefer the feel and break of the Masada trigger over all Glock factory triggers.
The Masada comes with all of the other state of art features you would expect from manufacturers who want to sell the gun to military, police and civilian populations- it has ambidextrous controls, three different sized back straps, excellent three dot sighs, a Picatinny rail and is pre-cut with supplied bolt-on plates to mount micro red dot sights like the Trijicon RMR, Vortex Venom, Leopold Delta Point Pro and Sig Romeo 1.
The pistol comes with two magazines which hold 17 rounds of 9mm and appear to be made by Meg-gar, the company who supplies Sig Sauer, Beretta and others with their “Factory” magazines. I immediately ordered up a spare mag from IWI’s website and it was a very reasonable $30. They do offer 10 round magazines as well- for those legislated into such reprehensible conditions!
Size wise the Madada is 7.4″ long with a 4.1″ barrel and weighs 1.43 lbs. By comparison, a Glock 17 is 7.32″ long with a 4.48″ barrel and weighs 1.8 lbs. A 15 round Glock 19 is 6.8″ long with a 4.02″ barrel and weighs 1.7 lbs. The 15 round S+W M&P 2.0 is 7.4″ long with a 4″ barrel and weighs 1.9 lbs.
Shooting the pistol was quite a pleasure, exhibited acceptable accuracy and it was 100% reliable with factory ammo, and with some reloads put together in 122 gr and 147 gr over some Red Dot powder. I have been using some lipstick red polymer coated bullets from the Acme Bullet Company of Wisconsin this summer/fall in my reloads. The Hi-Tek polymer coating over lead bullets makes them less messy than plain lead, and they are cheaper than full metal jacketed bullets for reloading. The wood boxes they come in are nifty too-I haven’t found a use for the boxes yet, but can’t bring myself to throw them out. Help. They are stacking up. Try Acme at www.acmebullet.com.
It took me a couple of magazines to sort out the sighting system. It appears to be a 25 yard combat hold zero-like Sig Sauer pistols-you cover the bullseye instead of putting the bull on top of the narrow front sight. I started out hitting a bit low with 115 grain ammo until I adjusted for combat sight picture, and after settling in a bit found the gun was plenty accurate as long as I did my part.
I ran some 147 gr loads through the pistol and through the magic of ballistics they of course printed higher than the lighter 115 gr loads.
This two inch group of 147 Gr FMJs shows the gun can shoot…and the vertical trail shows the shooter (your genial host) was looking over the top of the sights a bit while trying to shoot a really photogenic grouping…
Single shots, double taps, controlled pairs, two to the body/one to the head all felt a lot like shooting a Sig 320. The company touts the low barrel axis contributing to “reduced perceived recoil” but I did not notice anything different about squirting 9mms over any other similar pistol. I ran about 500 rounds through the pistol in two sessions with no problems, and look forward to shooting it more when I am not eating into my hypothetical 9mm ammo stockpile which I may or may not keep in an old abandoned ICBM silo straddling the US and Canada border. I also look forward to mounting the Vortex Venom red dot sight when it comes in.
Holsters are currently available from Weber Tactical with their Trifecta (which can be owner modified to outside waistband, inside waistband and appendix inside waistband -it’s like Legos for adults!) and from Muddy River Tactical, Vedder Holsters, Israeli made Front Line, Black Rhino Concealment and Alien Gear at this time, and there are a bunch more for sale on Amazon if that is not enough variety for you. My Masada also fit into some of my Sig 320 holsters and the double stack mags fit perfectly in my Sig 320 mag pouches. Your mileage may vary.
MSRP for the Masada is currently listed at $480 and I did find a couple hot deals this week on gun.deals.com for $442 and Classic Firearms.com had it for $439. There is a lot to like at that price- in the design, fit and function and the heritage. IWI says it is built to take military level use and abuse in harsh conditions. Here at the end of 2020, it may be much easier to get your hands on an IWI Masada than it is to find a bigger name brand pistol which are in HUGE demand and also demanding inflated prices.
I have not seen any torture tests yet, but like anything else built by IMI or IWI I would expect it to come through with flying colors and if you lay hands on one in time of need- it will go bang. It must work, because lives depend upon it.