Gun Review: IWI Galil ACE in 7.62 NATO-
Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
I was impressed by the IWI Galil ACE in 7.62×39 I reviewed last year. But even as I reviewed it, I was intrigued by the idea of testing the same gun chambered in the larger 7.62×51 NATO caliber. I can now report that the IWI Galil ACE in 7.62 NATO is as fascinating a firearm as the original Galil, chambered in a true battle rifle cartridge.
Like the 7.62×39 version, the “new” gun’s internals are, essentially, taken straight from the traditional Kalashnikov design. If you’re familiar with the AK/AKM-47/74, the NATO-chambered rifle won’t present any maintenance difficulties or manual of arms-related challenges.
The most obvious difference in IWI US’s Galil ACE rifle is the reciprocating left-side charging handle, allowing for weak-hand operation. It’s a difference without a distinction, after running the Galil and a traditional AKM-47 side by side I doubt that it speeds-up reloads.
The sliding cover that keeps dust out of the action (when you’re not working the charging handle) and the gasket that seals the upper dust cover are excellent at keeping out the elements. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
IWI has always had the challenge of creating guns to run in both urban environments, as well as heavy sand and heat. With the Galil ACE’s weatherstripping, they’ve done exactly that, out AK-ing the AK for durability.
The rifle boasts a 16-inch chrome lined, cold hammer forged barrel. I generally prefer a 20-inch barrel on a .308 rifle. That has nothing to do with accuracy, and everything to do with the wind.
All else being equal, using a 168-grain Amax round, assuming 10 mph full value wind, I have to adjust for 4 more inches of wind at 800 yards with a 16-inch barrel vs. a 20-inch barrel. The longer barrel also delivers 50 more yards of supersonic travel.
As I regularly prove to myself, I’m not good at wind calls — I’ll take any advantage I can get. Yes, but, while the extra oomph aids predictability, it really doesn’t come into play until almost 1,000 yards.
All that said, this is a Designated Marksman rifle. While 800 yards is a stretch, 16 inches seems an ideal length for this gun’s intended role. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Just like the 7.62 NATO’s smaller cousin, this rifle retains the same awkward safety set up. There are safeties on both the right and left sides, but they’re not ambidextrous.
On the left side of the milled steel receiver is a pull/push safe to fire safety that’s manageable with your right-hand thumb. It was pretty stiff to start, but loosened up nicely with some work. Most right-handed shooters who are used to an AR go right to that without any problems.
FWIW I had three former IDF soldiers put rounds through the gun. They all found this safety and used it without issue.
The other safety is on the right side of the receiver. It’s higher, farther out and very stiff. For a left-handed shooter, it’s practically worthless. It’s just too far away to reach with your thumb.
Like everyone else who tried to use it, I assumed you use it with your firing hand’s index finger. But it’s far too stiff to flip off with your finger. No one firing it could use their index finger to put it back on.
Then I had foreign-born friend shoot the rifle. (Israel doesn’t “exist” where he’s from.) He picked up the Galil and slapped the right side safety down to the Fire position with the palm of his hand, just like on an AK. Well then, that’s what that’s for.
It reminded me that this gun is in still an AK-pattern rifle, with a few changes. The designers clearly kept that original manual of arms in mind. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
As with the other version of the ACE this rifle gives you lots of options for mounting accessories.
The forward handguards also serve as Picatinny rail covers, hiding 270 degrees of rail. With a push of a button the handguards slide off to reveal plenty of space for forward grips, laser aiming devices, flashlights, bottle openers, tactical toilet-paper rolls, whatever your heart’s desire.
Unlike the 7.62×39 version, handguards fit nice and tight, and didn’t rattle or move during firing. Even during long strings of fire, the handguards never got too hot to hold — something that occasionally happens on other AK-pattern guns.
The only downside: The handguards are a little on the short side. The grips don’t go all the way out to the gas block, forcing the user to choke up a bit. More than one shooter complained about the resulting ergonomics.
The adjustable side-folding stock collapses to the right side of the receiver. Just like an AK, the gun will run just fine in that position. I doubted that I’d ever need this feature in any of my AKs — right up until I shot a huge feral hog running by the side of my truck, out of an open window, one-handed, with the stock still folded. Recoil aside, it’s a handy way to store the rifle.
Unlike some side-fold stocks, the ACE is well designed, making long strings of fire comfortable. It also includes a snap-on riser. Without it, the standard sights line up with a good cheek/stock weld. Once an optic was mounted, my face was far too low to see through the scope. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
With a quick snap of the supplied riser — no tools required —my head was back in the right position. The riser never came off, even through handling. But it was quite a challenge to get back off again without breaking the tabs that hold it on. I consider that a feature more than a bug.
The supplied muzzle brake on the Galil ACE in 7.62 NATO is stout and aggressive. I normally hate brakes, but it’s appropriate on this rifle.
This isn’t a lay down, fight from your belly gun. At least that’s not the intent. The ACE was designed as a fighting gun. For that use, you’ll want fast follow-up shots, and to keep that muzzle down.
The ACE’s brake does the job very well. Controlled pairs at 25 and 50 yards weren’t a problem, nor was seeing my round strike at 100 yards through an Atibal Nomad 3X12 scope. (Make double sure you have ear protection, it’s a loud one.)
Unlike the ACE’s little brother, the magazine insertion and release on the 7.62 NATO version is much more like an AR than an AK. Gone is the familiar paddle release behind the magazine. Instead, release buttons are positioned on either side of the magazine.
They’re easy to find without looking, and present an obvious tactile change over the rest of the receiver. The gun ships with one mag. IWI recommends Magpul SR25-style magazines. I had no trouble with the supplied PMag or any of those I had on hand. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
The magazine well is generously funneled; blind insertion is simple. I kept wanting to rock magazines in like an AK, mostly because I was running this gun with a Dead Goose Society AKM-47 side-by-side for comparison. Even so, the Galil’s mag well funnels mags in smoothly. I never had a magazine fail to lock in or drop.
The trigger is a solid “meh.” The break itself is fine — a little heavy at just more than 4 pounds — but fairly crisp. It’s the getting there, and getting there again that diminishes its performance.
It’s a two-stage trigger with a long take-up even in reset and there’s a little bit of squishy grit in there. Compared to a precision rifle it would rate a fail, but it’s certainly an improvement over the triggers on my service rifles. Not that that’s saying much.
I was once again impressed with the sight set-up of this rifle. It’s still the best I’ve seen. The rear sight has two settings: a small aperture for daylight and, with a flip, a large aperture with tritium markings for shooting in the dark. There’s a thin post with a tritium insert at the front. In either bright daylight or low light, I got a great sight picture, delivering just under 3-inch accuracy at 100 yards. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Even though the front sight is at the gas block and not all the way out of the end of the barrel, you end up with a slightly longer sight radius than you’d get a standard AK. That’s thank to the fact that the rear sight’s mounted on the dust cover, not forward of the receiver.
A full-length two-piece rail runs all the way from the dust cover to the gas block. That’s great for mounting different types of optics — a big advantage over a standard AK.
Because of the gasket and retention set-up of the dust cover, it’s far more stable than a standard AK. That said, the mounting will never be as solid as it would be mounted directly to the receiver. So some accuracy loss is likely there.
The 7.62 NATO version doesn’t lock the bolt open on an empty chamber. If you’re careful, you can get the bolt to stay back on an empty magazine if you manually manipulate it. But it won’t stay back when you go empty during firing. You’ll know it’s time for a new magazine when it goes click.
As I expected after my previous review, 7.62 NATO ACE ran flawlessly. Four other shooters and I put more than 500 rounds through the gun, from several different manufacturers. We never had a jam, misfeed, failure to eject, or malfunction of any type.
As with all of my reviews, I lubed the gun up prior to shooting and never serviced it again throughout the testing process. I shot surplus steel cased FMJs, Federal OTMs, Hornady AMax and Nosler Balistic Tip bullets through it. Both factory rounds and my own hand loads ran through the gun without any issues. Given the basic platform, I wasn’t surprised. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Like the Galil ACE in 7.62X39, the 7.62 NATO version is accurate enough. Using the dust cover-mounted Atibal Nomad scope, accuracy ranged from 1.4-inch to 1.8-inch 5-round groups at 100 yards off bags, depending on ammunition.
The best-shooting round was the Federal Gold Medal Berger 185gr OTM at an average of 1.4 inches for four 5-round groups. The worst was Tul Ammo’s 150-grain steel case round at 1.8 inches.
I was surprised with such a low deviation among weights and brands. I’m sure that would have changed if I had stretched the legs of the cartridge a bit. I was a little surprised that the 185-grain rounds actually fit the magazine. They did, but as you can see above, just barely.
It should be noted that this rifle isn’t a reloader’s friend. Put another way, it hates brass and seeks to destroy it.
The AK-style bolt bent and marred many of the case heads. Upon extraction, each case was heavily creased as it exited the receiver. The crease couldn’t be fully removed during resizing, and the brass wasn’t safe to use again.
For those of you who don’t wish to hand load, the ACE is a great rifle. If Uncle Sugar was paying for my ammunition again, I’d take a 7.62 NATO ACE over my M4 for combat any day. It runs perfectly, shoulders quickly, and delivers a wide range of .308 caliber projectiles with better-than-good-enough accuracy. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
SPECIFICATIONS: IWI Galil ACE 7.62 NATO
Caliber: 7.62 NATO (7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester)
Operating System: Closed rotating bolt, long-stroke gas piston
Magazine Type: MAGPUL LR/SR25 GEN M3 magazine compatibility
Magazine Capacity: 20 rounds
Barrel Material: Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Overall Length: 36 inches (buttstock unfolded and collapsed)
Weight: 8.7 lbs. w/o magazine
Rifling: Right hand, 1:12 inch twist
Sights: Fully adjustable iron sights with Tritium front post and 2 dot Tritium rear aperture.
Features: Picatinny style tri-rail forearm with built in, slide on/ off rail covers with pressure switch access, weight reduction with the use of modern polymers
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance * * *
It looks like a stout battle rifle, as it should. As far as aesthetics, absolutely nothing seems to “flow” on this gun. The colors of the metal and the furniture don’t quite match.
Ergonomics * * * *
This is a weird gun, designed to be usable for people familiar with both the AR and the AK. For that, it accomplishes its task well. But that also means some compromises. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Customization * * * * *
This rifle comes from the factory ready to hang accessories. The standard sights are great, but a top rail makes it easy to mount a myriad of optics. The included cheek riser means you can actually use them.
Accuracy * * * *
For a battle rifle designed for stand-up fighting and the occasional use as a Designated Marksman Rifle, it does a great job. Every round shooting under 2 MOA is better than any of my service rifles. With decent ammo, groups closer to 1.5 inches at 100 yards is fine shooting.
Reliability * * * * *
This gun ran everything I, and several other shooters, could throw at it. Zero issues.
Overall * * * *
Review: IWI Galil ACE the ultimate Rifle
As a young gun enthusiast, I did not pay much attention to the AK family of firearms. That wasn’t due to any bad experiences with AKs, but rather because I had no experience with them whatsoever. You see, in those days, when the Vietnam War was still a fresh memory our parents’ generation was trying to forget, AKs only came up in reference to the “commies” or “reds.” Kalashnikovs were either disdained or ignored altogether by my shooting influences. However, certain variants, like the IWI Galil line, improved and updated the AK’s basic design. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Valmet’s M62 and RK62 variants were among early AK offshoots that flew onto my radar. These svelte, Finnish-made battle rifles provided such upgrades as adult-size buttstocks, synthetic furniture, good iron sights and a flash hider that was designed to help shoot through wire fencing. I read everything I could find on the M62, which was not saying much in those pre-internet days. But the search nonetheless led me to the Israeli-made Galil family of firearms. Here was a design that incorporated the best of the AK and Valmet families’ features in one platform. Most commonly chambered in 5.56 NATO and carried in near-daily conflict by our one true ally in the Middle East, the Galil made frequent appearances in my adolescent daydreams—back when you could sketch out gun designs in the margins of your school papers without being arrested or committed.
Most mid-20th-century fighting-rifle designs that have endured into the new millennium have also been upgraded to meet evolving needs. The modern Galil is no exception. It comes to us now as the ACE platform, courtesy of Israel Weapon Industries (IWI). At the time of this writing, the IWI Galil ACE is advertised in two pistol and two rifle configurations. Both pistols are chambered in 7.62×39 mm and use 8.3-inch barrels. The only discernible difference between them is that one model has a stabilizing brace and the other does not. One rifle is likewise chambered for the Russian cartridge, while the other is designed around the longer 7.62 NATO. IWI US’s product literature also shows new-for-2017 pistol models chambered in 7.62 NATO and a 20-inch 7.62×39 mm. Several 5.56 NATO models were also introduced at the SHOT Show in January. All Galil ACE models carry the same improvements over the old Galil models like a smaller (left-side) charging handle, reduced iron-sight profiles, magazine commonality with other popular platforms and integral Picatinny rail mounting surfaces.
It is important to note that all members of the Galil ACE rifle family are assembled in the U.S. from a combination of American-made and imported parts to stay in compliance with 18 USC§922(r). IWI’s manuals remind the user that only U.S.-made magazines should be used in these rifles because the mag counts as three of the total number of U.S.-made parts required in order to stay on the right side of federal firearm regulations. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
I recently tested two Galil ACE rifles, and in spite of their different chamberings and receiver sizes, these modern Galil incarnations share many common features. The ACE’s reciprocating charging handle is manipulated through an easy-to-grab knob protruding through the receiver’s left side. A spring-loaded cover plate positioned below the charging handle’s slot moves down and out of the way as the handle moves rearward, then closes up to protect internal parts as the bolt moves back into battery. A polymer pistol grip—molded into a larger plastic section that is attached to the receiver—does not appear to be interchangeable with either AR or AK aftermarket parts.
Subtle differences in the lower receiver distinguish the two Galil ACEs. Note the variances in pistol-grip shape, the location and type of magazine-release actuator and in the trigger-guard geometry.
Right-side-folding stocks have the added ability to extend or collapse to any of six positions. Each rifle includes a polymer cheek rest that snaps over the buttstock to provide a raised support when using high-mounted optics. The rest can be attached in one of two positions on the stock to better fit the shooter.
The Galil ACE’s fore-end has a very stout, aluminum, assembly that provides rails at the three-, six- and nine-o’clock positions. Each section is protected by a textured, sliding cover. The six-o’clock cover has a slight bump at the front edge that should function as a sort of handstop for the pistol variants. Recesses are milled into the front of each aluminum rail section to allow pressure switches and cables to be inset into the fore-end. Covers can then be reattached while providing access to the accessory buttons beneath them. The outer diameter of the fore-end with rail covers attached is a tad wide for my liking at 2.3 inches from side to side. The bare-aluminum rails are pretty tough on skin, but a set of silicone, aftermarket covers would be a simple way to comfortably reduce the fore-end diameter. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Magazine-well differences are also obvious: the 7.62 NATO rifle uses LR/SR25-type magazines, while the 7.62×39 mm model uses standard AK mags.
Milled-steel receivers and stamped-steel gas cylinders are topped by linked sections of Picatinny rail. The gas cylinder’s bottom surface slides into receiver slots, but it still has some play when fully seated. Thanks to a stout return spring, the receiver cover is held under enough tension to keep it (and the rail attached to it) very tight. A set of robust iron sights are protected by steel ears on each of the ACEs I tested. A massive front-sight post is easy to spot through either of the rear apertures, and the larger hole and front post come standard with tritium inserts. An included sight-adjustment tool moves the rear sight for windage and the front sight for elevation in the same manner as the AR family’s sights are adjusted, though a bullet’s tip or other pointed object will work, too. Front-sight housings are transverse pinned to dovetails in the barrel and double as gas blocks (M16-style). They are positioned at the front end of each rifle’s handguard and provide seats for the gas cylinders to mate with.
Multiple sling-attachment loops are situated along the Galil ACE, including one on the left side of the folding stock’s large hinge. The right-side folder covers the selector on that side when fully closed, which is right where it stays until needed. The stock quickly deploys into a rock-solid, extended position. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
(l.) A proprietary, yet familiar-looking buttstock is shared by both platforms. (r.) Standard on the 7.62 NATO variant, an extended rubber butt pad is an accessory for the 7.62×39 mm rifle.
Internally, the Galil ACE rifles are very much AK-like in basic design. The long-stroke piston’s chrome-plated operating rod is affixed to the bolt carrier and the bolt itself is assembled into the carrier just like the rest of the AK family. Likewise, the trigger and hammer assemblies appear to be quite Kalashnikov-esque in design. When I asked a representative from IWI US whether an aftermarket AK trigger could be installed, I was told the company has not tested any aftermarket triggers or other parts. The Galil ACEs I tested both had very long pulls that stacked up quickly to the 6-pound, 9-ounce average measured on both rifles, which showed in my shooting results.
A small selector lever is present on the receiver’s right side in the familiar Galil location. This lever is positioned so that a right-handed shooter can actuate it with the right forefinger. We lefties are out of luck on that side, but the ACE’s left-side selector was retained from the older model Galils. The positioning—just above the pistol grip—is best-situated for righties, but a left-handed shooter can either bring their firing thumb over to the left side or use the trigger finger to manipulate the selector. Neither technique is great, but I know from long years of carrying right-handed rifles in harm’s way that you can become very proficient with these methods when needed. Still, a bit more ambidextrous design would be nice to see in this 21st-century upgrade. It’s not just a lefty thing; sometimes tactics necessitate weak-hand shooting, particularly in urban environments.
(l.) Magpul supplies magazines for both Galils, with the PMag AKM feeding the 7.62×39 mm ACE and a Gen 3 LR/SR25 PMag for the 7.62 NATO. (r.) Sliding rail covers allow purchase on the quad rail handguard at the three-, six- and nine-o’clock positions. A handstop cover is provided on the bottom rail.
Both rifles fieldstrip just like any other member of the AK family. The main difference I found was that the return spring’s guide-rod end protrudes through the rear of the receiver cover much farther than the small button on the back of a standard AK. This button locks very positively through the receiver cover and is a solid way to ensure the receiver cover stays in place. Traditional AK receiver covers are notorious for popping off when the rifle takes a hard hit or is in close proximity to a blast. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Because the rear of the Galil ACE’s receiver and stock hinge are higher than the line of bore, inserting a cleaning rod from the breech will cause the rod to rub the top of the bore due to the angle of insertion, eventually wearing the barrel prematurely. I recommend instead cleaning these barrels from the muzzle rearward, taking care to avoid damaging their crowns when inserting the cleaning rod.
These rifles are clearly intended for rough-and-tumble fighting roles, but I wanted to wring out their accuracy potential just the same. So, the first bit of shooting used a magnified riflescope and Shooting Illustrated’s standard test protocol. The Galil ACE’s fixed iron sights are sufficiently high that many one-piece scope mounts will not clear them. The rear sight is removable, but I wanted to leave it intact as designed, so I used an old backup scope mount that sits much higher than my normal rings. I also attached the snap-on cheekpiece to better align my shooting eye with the day scope. For close-in work, I brought a Meprolight Tru-Dot RDS Pro optic. As high as the fixed sights are, they do not co-witness with any of the red dot/reflex sights I have, so I planned to test the irons with no optics attached.
After cleaning and lubricating both rifles, I gathered three different ammo types per gun and headed out to see what they could do with me at the controls. Relatively lightweight bullets were chosen for testing the 7.62 NATO-chambered Galil ACE model, due to the odd choice of a 1:12-inch twist rate for that rifle’s barrel.
(l.) An A2-style “birdcage” flash hider caps the barrel of the 7.62×39 mm Galil, while the 7.62 NATO ACE has a muzzle brake for recoil mitigation. (r.) Unlike most AK variants, the rear sight is at the very back of the solid receiver cover. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
The 7.62×39 mm was first on the line and also presented me with my only functional problem. One of the loads I selected for this gun was Golden Tiger, steel-cased 123-grain FMJ-BT. This Russian-made ammo in this caliber is usually quite accurate, but the primers are notoriously hard to detonate reliably in anything other than AK-series rifles. Even my SKS will not pop them 100 percent of the time. I figured the Galil ACE’s AK influence would help it digest this ammo, but unfortunately I had an 80-percent failure to fire rate using Golden Tiger. That is in no way the rifle’s fault—this ammunition is just plain unreliable. After hand cycling through most of a dozen rounds to get my scope on paper, I dropped the problem ammo out of testing and moved on.
The 7.62×39 mm’s recoil was understandably tamer than that of its big brother and was helped along by a synthetic rubber buffer installed on the return-spring guide. Trying to shoot groups with the long, stiff triggers was difficult with each rifle. They tended to shoot three shots in five in a respectably tight group with two shots typically going wide somewhere along the way. I attribute that to the triggers, or rather my manipulation of them. Neither of these rifles was a tack-driver in their current configurations. Fortunately, ALG Defense debuted a purpose-built trigger for the Galil ACE rifle and pistol platforms during the 2017 SHOT Show. I have not laid hands on one, but if it is anything like the company’s AKT family of AK triggers, the new AGT will be worth every penny paid for the retrofit. Overall grouping tended to hover around 2 MOA, which is about what I expected considering their lineage and design. That is not quite up to par for DMR duties nowadays, but it is still well within what is required for a standard infantry-type carbine. As with so many out-of- box longarms I have evaluated, I am positive that better triggers would clean up these groups dramatically. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
Missions in some environments necessitated keeping my rifles readily accessible, but still out of the way until needed. I usually slung one across my chest, cinched in tightly with the buttstock folded or collapsed. We trained to quickly bring our carbines to bear on close targets with our guns carried this way. It is difficult under the best circumstances, but a fast-deploying sling, good sighting system and well-designed (ergonomic) rifle allow a practiced shooter to make hits quickly.
I repeated this drill using the 7.62 NATO rifle, with an SOB Tactical B-Sling attached. The fast-deploying B-Sling did its part and the Galil ACE, with stock folded and Meprolight sight attached, never failed to register hits.
Each rifle digested 100 rounds after initial zeroing and no malfunctions were noted beyond the bad ammo already mentioned. The 7.62 NATO model really put a hurtin’ on its brass during the extraction and ejection processes. It was not quite at the Heckler & Koch/fluted-chamber level of damage, but it was almost universally banged up to the point of being non-reloadable.
While time and exposure to other firearms have dulled the romanticism of my youthful battle-rifle dreams, I fully appreciate any gun that performs its core tasks with total reliability. You can train yourself to work with firearms that are not as ergonomically familiar (or friendly) as those you are used to. On several overseas tours, I carried heavily modified/butchered rifles that had lineages dating to the first half of the 20th century. They lacked several key features, but my teammates and I made them work. The Galil ACE is every bit a 21st-century redesign of a storied and battle-tested platform. Either of the ACEs I tested could fulfill the battle-rifle role with aplomb. Galil ACE SBR Rifle for sale
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