IWI MASADA Performance Out of the Box … Gun Smith Not Required


IWI US has an excellent reputation for producing efficient “all business” weapon designs. “Hell and back” reliability is a hallmark IWI trait that it will not compromise on. IWI US began operations in 2013 and brought the first commercial versions of the Tavor SAR to the U.S. market. IWI US pedigree goes much further back. Let’s indulge in a little history.

The story of IWI US begins in 1933 when Israel Military Industries (IMI) Ltd. began firearms production in Israel under the British Mandate. In the late 1950s, IMI began collaboration with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with the goal of developing the small arms systems based upon the demands of troops fighting in urban areas and harsh arid terrain of Israel. IWI arms are also a function of the harsh political environment in which Israel finds itself. Not only do implacable enemies surround Israel, but they also exist within Israel’s own borders. In 2005, the Israeli government decided to spin off and privatize the small arms division of IMI, and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) Ltd. was born. IWI US, Inc. is a proud member of the SK Group. This includes IWI Ltd., IWI US, Inc., Meprolight Ltd. (electro-optical systems), Camero-Tech Ltd. (through-the-wall sensing systems), Israel Shipyards Ltd. (ship manufacturing and repair) and Uni-Scope Optical Systems Ltd. (optical periscopes, riflescopes and binoculars).

Personal defense handguns have certain basic tenets that are simple to list, yet complex and somewhat nebulous in achieving. Such things as trigger pull, ergonomics of operating controls, sights, capacity and “carryability” all contribute to overall feel of a handgun. One thing that is not negotiable is reliability no matter the operating conditions.

Choice is what makes the free market economy so tantalizing. What am I talking about? Sure, there are existing polymer striker-fired pistols on the market, but that does not stop other companies from introducing their take on the topic. All of this leads to productive competition with the consumer benefiting. IWI’s reputation lends credence to any new introduction on its part; especially its first foray into the crowded striker-fired polymer market space. When the IWI MASADA arrived in the U.S., the opportunity to test and evaluate was seized upon. The Israeli take on the striker-fired handgun is worth exploring.


The MASADA features fully ambidextrous controls, and well-thought-out ergonomics provide for natural and instinctive aiming. Three interchangeable backstraps allow for end-user tweaking for the best fit. The MASADA’s frame is made of high-strength, impact-resistant, fiberglass-reinforced polymers. IWI has conducted extensive testing to make sure the MASADA can function and endure in any environment.

Mounting plates arrive with the IWI US MASADA to allow it to mount four of the most popular red dots on the market.

The MASADA trigger is set at a 6-pound pull weight. Trigger snobs will wrinkle their nose at this. The MASADA is a personal defense/service weapon, not a competition piece. The MASADA trigger pull is clean with no crunching or grinding. A graph of the trigger pull would be interesting as there is something about it that positively resists words. Reset in length is minimal with positive tactile feel. This translates into a handgun that can send rounds downrange rapidly and accurately.

Sights on the MASADA are the standard-issue, three-dot affair. If the end user wants to replace these, the MASADA uses SIG SAUER pattern-cut sights; thus, aftermarket P320 or P226 sights will work giving customers plenty of options, including extended height suppressor sights. What am I talking about? The MASADA has the ability to mount various red dot sights straight from the factory without having to resort to a gunsmith to mill the slide. This is accomplished via four adapter plates that accommodate Trijicon RMR®, Vortex VENOM, Leupold DeltaPoint® Pro and SIG SAUER ROMEO1™ miniature red dots. A blank plate covers the rear receiver when no red dot is being used. The plate mates seamlessly to the slide. A packet of screws and an instruction manual are included with the MASADA, explaining red dot mounting procedures. Having a slide milled to a specific red dot sight limits your flexibility in choosing various red dots. The IWI is a solid alternate method.

IWI US MASADA is a viable candidate for personal defense with a reasonable price making it even more attractive. Its ability to accommodate various red dot sights is an added bonus.

The miniature red dot concept seeks to answer how best to enhance the handgun. The solution is the same as the one most users had already opted for with their rifles—add a red dot sight. The explosion of factory-ready, red-dot-compatible handguns is proof the industry has heard customer demands. IWI integrated this into the MASADA. It will be interesting to see how long before a threaded barrel option arrives.

The IWI MASADA arrives with two 17-round magazines; 10-round magazines for those living in restrictive states. Well-made front and rear serrations ensure a solid purchase when manipulating the slide. The 4.1-inch, cold-hammer forged, 1:10RH barrel has polygonal rifling. Weight when empty is 22 ounces. Ambidextrous slide lock levers and magazine release buttons are standard. The polymer frame features a MIL-STD 1913 accessory rail for lights/lasers.

IWI US MASADA disassembled.

The IWI MASADA disassembles quickly via locking the slide open and rotating the takedown lever downward on the frame freeing the slide from the frame. There were no tool marks evident and no lateral play in the slide’s fit to the frame or barrel to slide. The barrel locks up tight when in battery. The MASADA operates via a modified Browning’s locked breech short-recoil method with a single locking lug milled above the barrel’s chamber. The MASADA’s slide mass and shape are engineered to aid in increased muzzle control for double taps or longer strings of fire. A low bore axis relative to the shooter’s hand allows for a very stable sight picture no matter how many or how rapid rounds are fired.

Test and Evaluation

Group fired offhand at 15 yards with the IWI US MASADA during initial range orientation. A L.A.G. Tactical Defender holster was used during T&E.

Considering that the MASADA’s design is intended as an everyday carry (EDC) handgun, it was decided to dedicate some time evaluating the IWI MASADA, working around vehicles, breaching facades, door entries and other CQB activities. L.A.G. Tactical, Weber Tactical, ANR Design and CrossBreed have holsters in the product lineup to accommodate the MASADA. A L.A.G. Defender holster was chosen for use at Echo Valley Training Center’s onsite Hesco Shoot House and 360 Range, which were ideal test locations. A premium is placed on a quick handling accurate handgun such as the MASADA with multiple rounds fired in quick succession—the norm to put a target down. The natural pointability of the MASADA comes into its own in this realm.

A variety of ammunition was employed during the author’s MASADA T&E with a mix of manufacturers, bullet weights and profiles.

A variety of 9mm loads were tested with the MASADA including Federal Syntech and HST, Hornady XTP and Black Hills Ammunition JHP. An ammunition can featuring a smorgasbord of random brands and types was also used. Loads fired spanned 115 to 147 grain with hollow-point and FMJ bullet types. Significantly, no malfunctions were experienced while test firing over 350 rounds with the MASADA.

The IWI US MASADA is the answer for the concealed carry practitioner wanting a handgun with maximum capability and adaptability.

The IWI MASADA produced 2- to 3-inch groups at 25 yards when fired from standing, unsupported positions. The MASADA’s trigger was a positive, keeping in mind it is a service handgun. A negative encountered was the profile of the magazine release button. The MASADA had to be shifted in the hand for the thumb to comfortably drop a magazine. This is one of the nebulous items of handgun design; someone with a different hand profile may have no issue.

The MASADA’s various mounting plates mate seamlessly to the slide. This one features the Trijicon RMR.

A Trijicon RMR was mounted on the MASADA. The polymer mounting plate was initially a concern. Plastic will never instill the same sense of sturdiness as metal. However, the plate acts more as a spacer than a mount with the screws installed down into MASADA’s milled slide. One note of advice is to install after-market, co-witnessing iron sights if contemplating carrying the RMR-equipped MASADA as a personal defense weapon. This is easily achievable thanks to the MASADA’s compatibility with SIG SAUER sights. The adding of heightened suppressor-style iron sights acts as both back-up sights and quickly fixes the shooter’s eye to the red dot stationed above the front post. Both eyes open is strongly suggested; it is a must to get the most out of the red dot concept. Point shooting with the MASADA is still very possible via using the red dot’s window as a ghost ring—albeit a large ghost ring—if forced to react spontaneously to a threat. The advantage of using red dot sights in the competition environment is well-known.

The RMR-equipped MASADA came into its own, and it was hard to resort back to only iron sights. Groups with the IWI MASADA were markedly smaller with a red dot mounted versus iron sights. This statement became more true as distances increased. The ability to consistently ring a steel man popper target at 50 yards, even out to 100 yards with regularity, was validation why red-dot equipped handguns are here to stay.

Considering the amount of time we spend in/around our vehicles or structures, training scenarios involving them make sense.

As many “maturing” shooters can attest to, the single-focus plane of the red dot is simpler to shoot accurately than coordinating front and rear sights. Shooters can now do as nature intends for them to do, focus on the threat with both eyes open—all simply because the concept uses the eyes in a more normal manner.

The IWI MASADA’s ergonomics and handling characteristics were quickly appreciated. The grip frame with enhanced texturing and overall balance of the handgun minimized felt recoil. The key point with the MASADA is that it is eminently adaptable to individual carry needs thanks to the red dot mounting system. The IWI MASADA arrives ready to go right out of the box. The ability to use the MASADA as an everyday carry handgun is what sets it apart from other endeavors incorporating red dots on pistols.



BARREL: 4.1in

OA LENGTH: 7.4in

WEIGHT: 22.8oz

SIGHTS: 3-dot Iron sights/Mount plates for install of red dots

GRIPS: Interchangeably sized backstraps


MSRP: $480



Federal 124gr HST   1080fps 2.66in        2.33in

Black Hills 115gr JHP EXP   1120fps 3.33in 2.8in

Federal Syntech 124gr TSJ 1010fps 3.25in 2.66in

Hornady 124gr XTP 1069fps 3in 2.75in




Federal Ammunition


Black Hills Ammunition


Echo Valley Training Center


Hornady Manufacturing


L.A.G. Tactical