For those who are familiar with the AK-47, the Galil ACE semi-automatic rifles will look familiar. They're based on the combat rifle developed by Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior in the late 1960s, who in turn borrowed heavily from the Kalashnikov design. The Israeli Galils have not been available for sale in the United States since the early 90s. Thanks to IWI US, Inc., the American subsidiary of the famed Israeli firearm manufacturer Israel Weapon Industries, that's about to change. The up-to-date ACE rifles and pistols will start arriving this spring, with the first offerings to arrive chambered for 7.62x39 mm ammunition.
The original Galil was relatively heavy for its class, weighing in at around 9.5 lbs., depending on the configuration. The updated ACE variants incorporate modifications along with the use of polymer components to reduce the overall weight. The rifle tested for this review tipped a digital postal scale at 8 lbs. 3 ozs. without a magazine installed.
The 16” chrome-lined barrel is cold-hammer forged and fitted with a removable five-port flash hider. The streamlined gas block is pinned in place at three locations, features a bayonet lug, and supports and protects the height-adjustable Tritium night sight front sight post. The steel housing for the windage-adjustable rear sight aperture is welded to the stamped sheet steel receiver cover. A total of 14.5” iches worth of aluminum Picatinny railing, divided between the gas tube and the receiver cover, provides a 36-slot mounting solution for optics.
The cleverly designed, rounded polymer handguard is divided into three sections. With the press of a button, the left, right and bottom sections of the handguard can be independently removed to expose an underlying 4.25” accessory rail. The left and right rails have molded-in cutouts to accommodate the cord and pressure switch of a rifle-style light or laser module.
The Galil ACE receiver features two distinctive sections. The upper receiver block, which supports the action and buttstock, is milled from ordnance-grade steel. The lower portion of the receiver is a single piece of high-impact polymer which incorporates the magazine well, trigger guard and a lightly textured pistol grip. The bottom of the grip swings open to provide access to storage space inside.
The six-position adjustable polymer buttstock is mounted to the receiver via a skeletonized hinge that allows the stock to fold over to the right side of the receiver. A removable cheek piece, which simply snaps in and out of place, provides an additional 1.25” of height for proper sight alignment when a scope is mounted to the rifle.
The original Galil had a right-side vertical charging handle mounted to the front of the bolt assembly. The ACE features a bolt handle mounted horizontally on the left side of the receiver. The right side of the receiver cover is closed to protect the action from the ingress of dirt and grit while a spring-loaded dust cover on the left side of the receiver slides up and down just enough to allow the reciprocating charging handle to move freely back and forth while protecting the action. The bolt does not lock open on the last shot.
This rifle's action is driven by a long-stroke gas piston system comparable to that of the M1-Garand, AK-47 and the IWI Tavor. It can be field stripped for cleaning without tools, much like an AK platform.
Removing the receiver cover reveals a rubber gasket attached to the rear of the recoil assembly to keep the cover from rattling. The single round wire recoil spring is supported by a tube-type guide rod. The bolt carrier group and gas piston clearly show an AK heritage in their design. When the recoil assembly and bolt carrier group are removed from the receiver, the gas tube slides out for easy cleaning and better access to the interior of the gas block.
A two-stage Galil Sniper trigger group, based on the M1 Garand trigger, is installed instead of the original Galil configuration in order to improve the rifle's accuracy. This particular rifle’s trigger was clean and smooth with a 4 lb. 13 oz. trigger pull according to a Lyman digital trigger gauge. Shifting the movable stock provides a length-of-pull (LOP) between 12.00 to 15.25”.
The ambidextrous safety has an interesting and useful configuration. The right-side lever, although abbreviated in length, is located up on the receiver. It swings up into the “safe” position and down into the “fire” position like an AK-47. The left side lever is positioned down low against the pistol grip where it can be easily pressed forward into the “fire” position by the shooting hand. The ambidextrous magazine release lever, located directly in front of the trigger guard, is pressed forward towards the muzzle to remove a spent magazine. The ACE accepts standard AK magazines and arrives with one U.S.-made Magpul PMAG MOE 30-round polymer magazine.
At the shooting range, the ACE handled like the thoroughly broken-in and battlefield-proven platform that it is. The overall fit and finish was tight and clean. All of the controls and the factory iron sights worked properly. The bolt assembly cycled smoothly right out of the box, much more so than the other AK variants I've worked with. The trigger also felt smooth and broke cleanly with each shot. Off the bench, the rifle felt handy and comfortable to hold with its ergonomically designed grip, hand guard and buttstock.
Using the provided polymer 30-round PMAG magazine and a generic stamped sheet-steel 30-round AK-47 magazine, the ACE was fed as wide of a variety of 7.62x39 mm ammunition as I could acquire. From steel-cased full-metal jacket military surplus rounds to brass-cased hunting loads, this rifle digested them all without any malfunctions.
Formal accuracy testing consisted of five, five-shot groups fired at 100 yards from a bench rest using a Leupold VX-R Patrol 3-9X 40 mm Firedot TMR scope. Although this rifle is clearly based on the AK design, it demonstrated a superior level of accuracy potential compared to several of its cousins.
The best single group of 0.83” and five-group average of 0.98” was produced using the Federal Premium 123-gr. Power-Shok soft-point load. Double Tap's Rifle Defense 123-grain polymer-tip rounds averaged 1.20-inches, followed by Winchester’s PDX1 Defender 120-gr. split-core hollow points at 1.23”. New production Romanian 123-gr. full-metal jacket loads, taken out of a 700-round tin can, turned in an average of 1.83”.
It's not uncommon for brand new guns entering the market to have a couple of kinks or hiccups that need to be worked out. Although it is new to the U.S. market, IWI’s Galil ACE variant has been in service overseas for several years, and it shows. This platform offers a best-of shooting solution that combines the proven reliability of the AK-style gas piston system with modern tactical features, a smooth action and trigger, and the affordable 7.62x39 mm cartridge. Look for these rifles and pistols to start arriving on dealers’ shelves in the spring of 2015.
IWI Galil ACE Semi-Auto Rifle
Manufacturer: IWI US, Inc.
Model: Galil ACE SAR
Action: Gas Piston Semi-Auto
Caliber: 7.62x39 mm
Barrel: Cold-Hammer-Forged, Chrome Lined
Muzzle: Removable Flash Hider
Receiver: Milled Upper Block with Polymer Lower
Hand Guard: Tri-Rail with Removable Covers
Shoulder Stock: Side Folding Adjustable
Pistol Grip: Integral Polymer with Storage Compartments
Front Sight: Elevation Adjustable Tritium Night Sight Post
Rear Sight: Windage Adjustable Aperture
Optics Rail: Full-Length Picatinny Rail
Magazine Release: Ambidextrous
Barrel Length: 16.00 Inches
Overall Length: 38” (Stock Extended)
Weight: 8.3 lbs. (No Magazine)
Capacity: 30 Rounds
Twist: 1:9.5” RH
Rifle Grooves: 4
Accessories: One Magpul PMAG Magazine, Owner's Manual