IWI GALIL ACE—A BALLISTIC “HAMMER” WITH ROOTS BACK TO THE AK-47
Certain characteristics are considered essential for a rifle used in a tactical environment: reliability, portability, ruggedness, accuracy, ease of replenishment (i.e., ammunition, parts and magazines) and effective firepower for all situations likely to be encountered.
These parameters were reinforced in the crucible of World War II combat in all theaters of operation. Lessons were garnered, with each combatant nation having its own ideas on how to cope with post-WWII conflict. Engagements that result in exchanged rifle fire usually happen at closer than 200 yards, with the superior rate of fire often deciding the outcome.
Literally hundreds of books and articles have chronicled the history of rifle cartridges being shrunk after WWII. Our own path was 30-06, .308 Win and 5.56mm. However, an interesting twist in this story was that the 7.62 NATO/.308 Win was never finally put to rest; it held onto a role in many military armories around the world. In fact, 7.62 NATO/.308 Win-chambered battle rifles have remained favorites among LE, special operation units, non-military entities and civilians. The IWI Galil ACE 7.62 NATO joins the growing number of battle rifle platforms chambered in 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. These rounds’ potency in terms of ballistics and terminal effect makes them favorites among troops and law enforcement personnel in more rural environments. A quick look at the resurrection of the M14 and steady introduction of several AR-style rifle models all support this observation.
A Legend Updated
The IWI U.S. Galil ACE rifle variants are now steadily arriving on dealer shelves after the platform’s 2015 introduction. The Galil ACE joins other notable IWI US offerings such as the Tavor X95 and Uzi Pro making waves in the U.S. market. The original Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Galil was choked out of this market in the early 1990s due to Federal import laws. IWI US is making available the highly respected Israeli Galil via the enhanced Galil ACE. This is achieved by assembling the rifles from a combination of Israeli and American manufactured components at the company’s Harrisburg, Pa., facility. The Galil ACE is not merely a copy of the 1960s design. IWI took full advantage of the passage of time to improve and update the original.
The current IWI US Galil ACE 7.62 NATO rifle seeks improvement over the original IDF Galil in a number of ways. The Galil ACE makes use of a polymer lower for the magazine well, trigger guard and pistol grip. The upper receiver containing the action and hinged folding stock trunnion is mil led from ordnance steel. The railed forend on the Galil ACE is also derived from high-strength polymer. This translates to a rifle weighing less than 9 pounds that compares favorably to other 7.62 NATO/.308 Win rifles on the market. The trigger originally developed for the IDF Galil sniping variant is used with the Galil ACE 7.62 NATO, offering a pull weight of 5.5 pounds. The use of Magpul PMAG LR/ SR magazines (10 -, 20 – and 25-round) with the IWI Galil A CE 7.62 NATO is a real plus as well in terms of availability, reliability and pricing.
Besides shaving weight, the Galil ACE has its reciprocating charging handle moved to the left side of the steel receiver for easier/simpler weak-hand manipulation. A spring-loaded gate on the left side minimizes the chance of dirt/grime entering via the charging handle pathway. The original Galil had a distinctive vertically upturned handle on the right side. The absence of a rightside charging handle facilitated creation of a metal recess in the bolt carrier body ’s right side, which acts to further enhance reliability in harsh environments by preventing dirt, mud, snow or ice clogging and/or jamming the bolt group while functioning.
“ANOTHER NICE TOUCH IS THE TRITIUM VIALS INSTALLED IN THE FRONT POST AND REAR APERTURE SIGHTS FOR NIGHT USE.”
The Galil ACE gas tube is dovetailed into the receiver’s front block. This limits movement of the gas tube that can influence barrel vibration and thus degrade rifle accuracy. A recoil buffer is also present on the recoil spring. This serves multiple roles: cushioning impact of recoiling parts, easing wear on the rear trunnion and taming vibration to assist accuracy potential. All these details related to top cover and gas tube differ from the original AK method. Attention to detail is found with the ability to easily remove the rear aperture sight if an eye-relief-dependent optic is utilized, avoiding the necessity to mount the optic uncomfortably high to clear. Another nice touch is the tritium vials installed in the front post and rear aperture sights for night use. One note here is that orientation of the front sight needs paid attention to when sighting in. A further half-turn may be needed to keep the tritium vial focused rearward.
No Replacement for Displacement
The combination of the Galil ACE platform with the increased power represented in the 7.62 NATO cartridge is the key to the rifle’s appeal. This is speaking in terms of the lethality and effective range while still allowing for multiple rounds to be sent quickly downrange if needed in a close-range melee. In training courses experienced involving LE, military and private security contractors, the mantra of “one mag , one kill” is often repeated in relation to the M16/AR -15. While the 5.56mm round is often chided in terms of lethality, the 7.62 NATO/.308 Win does not suffer from this reputation. Reports from Afghanistan and Iraq have exposed the 5.56’s poor performance in putting an adversary down quickly with minimal rounds fired, especially at distance. This is why rifles such as the IWI Galil A CE 7.62 NATO are gaining popularity with the upgrade in power it offers. When faced with the possibility of confronting heavily armed and highly motivated terrorists, there is an affinity for the ability to lay down serious suppressive fire or to engage suspects with heavy body armor, behind barricades or in vehicles that may resist the effects of .223, buckshot or even slugs.
“ENGAGEMENTS THAT RESULT IN EXCHANGED RIFLE FIRE USUALLY HAPPEN AT CLOSER THAN 200 YARDS, WITH THE SUPERIOR RATE OF FIRE OFTEN DECIDING THE OUTCOME.”
Enhancement via Key Support Gear
In an effort to maximize the IWI Galil ACE’s potential in terms of accuracy and flexibility, a Trijicon AccuPower 1-8x28mm 34mm tube optic was mounted on the Galil ACE’s railed top cover. The 1-8x power range offered by the AccuPower solves any conundrum posed by other, more limited optic magnification options. Continuing the theme, a Trijicon quick-release mount was also utilized. One criticism often leveled against the AK-based rifle models is the difficulty of mounting scopes over the receiver. The IWI Galil ACE addresses these concerns with its railed upper receiver dust cover. IWI U.S. has accentuated previous Galil designs by securing the railed upper top cover tightly/securely via oversized release button at the end of the recoil spring protruding out of the top cover. A rubber grommet/gasket is also included. This ensures the rear aperture iron sight stays zeroed as well as other optics that may be mounted. The top cover exhibits no wiggle. In fact, removing and reinstalling takes some effort, but it’s worth it considering the advantage gained.
Products I have discovered helpful in testing the myriad rifles I’m fortunate to handle is the High Speed Gear (HSG) Sure Grip patrol belt and TACO magazine pouches. Many train and operate with multiple calibers either by choice or necessity. Others are tasked with training different weapon systems as part of their job description. The logistics of maintaining different belt systems or switching magazine pouches on one belt repeatedly is daunting. Imagine having to accommodate AR magazines one day, AK-47 magazines the next, AR-10/ SR25 magazines another training evolution, AK-74 magazines another time and so forth. You get the picture. High Speed Gear’s TACO magazine pouches and patrol belt were developed with this set of circumstances in mind.
“USE OF HIGHSTRENGTH POLYMER TRANSLATES TO A RIFLE WEIGHING LESS THAN 9 POUNDS.”
Multiple 7.62 NATO/.308 Win loads were tested from SIG Sauer Elite, Hornady, Winchester, Black Hills and Federal. Winchester steelcased FMJ loads hovered in the 3-inch range at 100 yards. SIG Sauer 150-grain HT and Hornady 165-grain SST loads delivered 1.75 inch groups at 100 yards, while Federal and SIG Sauer 168-grain Match loads impressed with 1.25-1.5 inch groups.
Range tests consisted of moving around barricades and simulated cover while engaging an assortment of paper and steel targets, including automobiles located at Echo Valley Training Center. One immediate positive comment was the ambidextrous safety/fire lever found on the Galil ACE. The right-side safety lever has been reduced in size as it is no longer required to act as dust cover. This is due to the Galil ACE’s reciprocating charging handle being moved to the left side. The right-side safety/fire lever is accessed via the right index finger or removing your hand from the pistol grip and using multiple fingers. On the left, just above the grip, there is another safety/fire selector meant to be operated by the shooter’s thumb. This was our favored method of use in terms of ergonomics.
After initial inspection and light lubrication, no cleaning of the rifle was performed. No issues were encountered in terms of reliability with 300 rounds fired. Special focus was paid to maintaining iron sight and optic zero by removing and reinstalling the top cover numerous times between evaluation scenarios. Initial concern was raised about heat transfer to the railed polymer forend. This proved a non-issue thanks to the effective heat shields and spacing between barrel/gas block and forend. In fact, even after multiple rapid-fire magazine dumps, the forend proved able to be gripped with a non-gloved hand. One observation is that the forend seemed short and could have been lengthened to better accommodate hand placement further out toward the end of barrel.
Israel’s appreciation of the AK as a fighting rifle carried over into the Galil and then the Galil ACE. The Galil ACE 7.62 NATO further accentuates these characteristics with an upgrade in ballistic horsepower. The full-length upper rail and forend is a nod to the advantages offered by red dot optics or possibly mounting a tactical light/laser without succumbing to the urge to hang items that are not necessary and ruining handling. The extended sight length and aperture rear sight are subtle refinements intended to upgrade the AK platform. The higher quality barrel, trigger and manufacturing found in the Galil ACE further enhance performance. All of this is accomplished without compromising rugged reliability in real-world environments.
IWI US Galil ACE 7.62 NATO
CALIBER: 7.62MM, .308 WIN
BARREL LENGTH: 16.5 INCHES
OVERALL LENGTH: 34.5 INCHES
WEIGHT: 8.6 POUNDS (UNLOADED)
SIGHTS: TRITIUM FRONT POST AND TWO DOT TRITIUM REAR APERTURE SIGHT
MAGAZINE: MAGPUL PMAG 10, 20 OR 25 ROUND DETACHABLE
|BLACK HILLS 168GR MATCH||2605FPS||1.5”||1.25”||1.75”|
|WINCHESTER 147GR FMJ||2835FPS||3”||2.66”||3.25”|
|SIG SAUER 168GR OTM||2630FPS||1.25”||.8||1.5”|
|HORNADY 165GR SST||2712FPS||1.66”||1.33”||1.9”|
|FEDERAL 168GR MATCH||2647FPS||1.33”||1”||1.75|
|SIG SAUER 150GR HT||2820FPS||1.75”||1.25”||2”|
|NOTE: (Three-5 shot groups. RCBS Chronograph used)|
Concerns related to over-penetration could be addressed with ammunition selection. For example, the Winchester PDX 1 Defender loads for the .308 Win featuring the Split Core Technology 120-grain bullet comes to mind. The Winchester Split Core .308 has a forward section where the lead core is not bonded to the jacket. This is done to enhance rapid and massive expansion. The lower portion of the core is welded to the jacket to hold the bullet together even though the nose section opens violently upon impact, dumping energy into the target and making sure the round does not over-penetrate a soft target such as a human adversary. This Winchester offering could prove a favorite load for law enforcement or even civilian personal defense when the ballistic advantage of the 7.62x51mm/.308 Win with minimal concern of over-penetration is required. Ballistic gel demonstrations witnessed in person and also via Internet indicate the Winchester .308 Split Core comes to rest after 12-14 inches of travel in the gel.
The current Galil ACE can be traced back to the IDF Galil, which in turn was inspired by the Finnish Valmet Rk62. The Valmet Rk62 itself is an improved AK derivative. Finland is a country of serious riflemen with a large, aggressive neighbor they’ve eyed warily for centuries: Russia. The Russian AK’s rugged reliability and ability to adapt to harsh operational environments earned begrudging respect from the Finns. The Valmet Rk62 sought to maintain AK reliability while improving accuracy. This was accomplished with the use of a quality barrel, extended iron sight radius, higher quality manufacturing techniques, tweaks to the gas tube and long-stroke gas piston operation. Israel’s Galil followed the Valmet Rk62’s path after IDF found the FAL wanting in terms of size, recoil and more importantly reliability. The Galil in 5.56mm was officially adopted by the IDF in 1972. However, the Galil immediately faced competition within the IDF by the large numbers of M16/M4s acquired from the United States. It made more fiscal sense to make the most use of the relatively inexpensive American rifle versus exclusive reliance on the Galil.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July-August print issue of World of Firepower Magazine.