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Exercise Your Freedom | IWI Galil

Exercise Your Freedom | IWI Galil

Photo credit: Michael Ives

A certain type of American shooter has rightly lamented the long absence of the Galil. The original was a rugged, reliable, accurate smorgasbord, and the re-release—dubbed the “Ace” by IWI—is even better.

This feature appears in the June ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

We start with a plea: There is too much to say about the here-and-now version of IWI’s 7.62x51 Galil to do its considerable, interesting heritage justice.

That heritage, in fact, is a bit of a problem, and a cursory look hints at why. The late 1960s design by Yisrael Galili and Yacov Lior has unmistakable similarities to Mikhail Kalashnikov’s epic 7.62x39 with good reason. The beauty—or at least resemblance—is more than skin deep: At the heart of both are a robust, renowned piston system and .30-caliber projectiles.

That’s also where the comparisons—and comparers—would wisely stop. In surveying IWI’s update of the Galil to the “Ace” version, departures in power, accuracy and perhaps even reliability are beyond the reach of the forebear. As any AK or even original Galil buff will tell you, that is saying something.

How it’s done is a clearer tale. Where typical AK-style rifles were short-stroke systems of wood furniture and stampings, the Galil is long-stroke; polymer-fitted; and forged, machined steel. Where the AK tends to unvarnished utility and even oversimplification (selector and bolt lock in one control, really?), the Galil trumps with purposeful finesse. Best of all, where the average AK is, say, minute of truck tire, the Galil is more than respectably minute of angle from distances 7.62x39s can only envy.

This we lay at the feet of the 7.62x51 chambering; a surprisingly good trigger; and a 1-in-12, hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel. But gone, compared to the original, are “lower” metal—polymer fills in from grip to magazine well. Wisely flipped from right to left is the reciprocating charging handle, though the right side up/down safety (for the index finger, traditional doctrine suggests) and left side forward/rearward for thumb use remain.

Easy charging, well-protected innards, ambidextrous magazine release and a good trigger are right-out-of-the-box assets of considerable value. Photo by Michael Ives

Close inspection of the handguard reveals another bit of new cleverness: covered Picatinny rails at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. These are exposed for use separately via removable grip panels, and slotted to protect switch cables for accessories fit forward. These complement a full-length rail at the 12 o’clock position that comes fitted with tritium-enhanced iron sights while leaving plenty of room for an optic.

But it’s on the range where the new Ace really puts distance between itself and its predecessors. Despite being a folding-stock rifle on the lightweight, short-barreled side for a 7.62/.308, extremely sound overall ergonomics will let round count overcome even tough-shouldered prudence in a hurry. Ibuprofen and reflection make plain why this is so likely. A very effective compensator keeps the muzzle astonishingly flat, and pleasing accuracy (even with ho-hum ammunition) rewards almost any sort of shooting.

A tutored eye also can’t help but notice that the annoying curved-magazine shortcomings of the AK heritage are consigned to “the ash heap of history” (where they richly belong). The Galil instead goes Stoner-pattern, with good ambidextrous magazine controls, straight—hence, drop-free—insertion into a modern, flared magwell, and a ready, American taste for top-shelf magazines: namely Magpul’s LF/SR-25.

As we feared, we despair of saying all that needs to be said about IWI’s Galil Ace. The pedigree alone is fascinating and varied, and would include a nod even to John C. Garand. But the uniformly excellent field results are what drive us in the end. Across a wide range of .30-cal.-appropriate tasks, the Galil is high on the list of most shootable rifles we’ve ever tested.

Nuts And Bolts

Against a lengthy list of things done well—even very well—we have a few grumbles. Whether any prove substantive, especially in the long run, is another matter. Certainly, none of them would put us off of an easy-stowing, straight-shooting, omnivorous .30 caliber.

Different safety mechanisms from side to side strike us as a bit of an anachronism, though thumb on the left and trigger finger on the right actuation make a kind of sense. Particularly on the right side, it seems like a nod to the AK (and Finnish RK-62) roots of the design, but a more truly ambidextrous configuration would be preferable, especially for lefties. With either hand, however, they are stiff—and we do mean really stiff—at the outset. This has moderated noticeably as round count extends, and in the long run this gripe will likely evaporate.

There’s technique to acquire in using the folder, but the lock-up should actually become smoother and more secure with usage. Genius. Photo by Michael Ives

The iron sights are good ones, and we especially appreciate the default inclusion of tritium lamps—the idea that the aftermarket would readily fill this niche is sketchy. IWI made a good call to step right up with these. We’d like them even better if the “large” rear aperture were larger, though. The Galil is enticingly quick in CQB-type drills, especially for a 7.62x51 (thanks to that good comp, again), but the comparatively precise head position the aperture demands slows us down.

The last complaint—one of bolt hold-open—is a matter of taste as much as doctrine. The “with” and “without” schools of thought have had decades to hone their arguments, but we come down on the side of wishing “for,” if only to ease maintenance chores. We do think it’s fair to observe how much less a reliable rifle needs the feature, and the Galil, as we noted, was faultless at every turn with every ammo type we tested. Draw your own conclusions.

We had some pretty fabulous ancillary kit that we think helped us wring the most out of Galil’s Ace. Vortex we expect will be familiar, at least: You’ve encountered them often in our pages. For a 16-in. 7.62, they hesitated about 2 milliseconds before recommending a 1-6x24 Razor HD Gen II. It was a nearly perfect choice, too—both-eyes-open fast at the low end of magnification, and seeming to throw extra light on targets at the upper end. Most shooters sensibly slot this magnification range at short-to-medium ranges, but the light transmission and reticle precision of the Razor beg to be tested further out. Given the relative ease and consistency of our 300-meter hits (and on a quarter-scale silhouette), we’ll try it out further and update you.

Steadying us up for that longer game was—and will be—an Atlas bipod from B & T Manufacturing. Even if you don’t recognize the name, the bipod itself is all but unmistakable. Riddled with patents, versatility, ruggedness and just plain “cool,” it’s a precise delight. When paired with the Galil, we particularly liked how the Atlas—ours a “standard” 4.75- to 9.0-in. length, though longer (7-13) is available—let us position it on either end of the Galil’s 6 o’clock Picatinny with nary a shred of the excellent pan or cant functionality surrendered.

So what? Well, consider: The advantages of a bipod in many shooting situations are uncontested (and the Atlas demonstrates—even elevates—them in spades), but they also bring mass, bulk, angles and protrusions at the front of a rifle, especially if the folded legs point forward/downrange. A versatile mount setup lets you do this on the Galil, too, but Atlas legs can also fold to the rear, tucking their bulk and weight up closer to the center of mass of the rifle. That’s a nifty snag reducer and represents a handling improvement on the Galil to be sure, but it’s applicable to lots of other platforms as well—ready and rock-steady when you need it; out-of-the-way and compact when you don’t. Splendid.

Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.