IWI Galil: Israel's Legendary Fighting Rifle

posted on September 21, 2022

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence. One day later, its neighboring nations invaded. That 1948 Arab-Israeli War ended in an armistice in 1949, although many other conflicts followed, and peace in the region remains painfully elusive to this day.

Defending the State of Israel—the nation’s official name—is a challenge. There’s not much room for strategic retreat, since the entire country is smaller in size than the state of New Jersey. In the beginning, military stockpiles were meager as well, domestic manufacturing barely existed, and supplies were scarce. Things have improved dramatically, but the fact that the militaries fielded by bordering countries still greatly outnumber those fighting under the Star of David is inescapable reality.

Fighting smarter and maximizing performance of available resources are two of the assets leaders in Jerusalem rely on to survive. That approach has served the nation well, particularly when it comes to the small arms issued to its troops.

The list of innovative and high-performance guns developed by Israel is a long one. The Galil, introduced by Israel Military Industries (IMI) in 1972, is among them. It was the low maintenance requirements to keep the AK-47 running caught the attention of the Israeli military after the Six-Day War in 1967.

Procuring any volume of the Communist Bloc’s standard-issue rifle was not possible, though, so Yisrael Galil and Yakov Lior designed the first Galils using Finish-made Valmet RK62 receivers—that country’s version of the AK-47. Because the United States was growing to become the nation’s primary ally, the gun was chambered in 5.56 mm NATO.

The gun would have been issued almost immediately, were it not for 1973’s Yom Kippur War. The firearm was fielded shortly after and served well until around 1994, when M16s and derivatives replaced it.  

In 2005, IMI—which was established 1933 and solely owned by reigning governments until this point—became an independently owned, commercial company. The new name is Israel Weapon Industries (IWI). Demand stateside for its products was heavy, and in 2013 IWI-US opened operations in the United States.

Factory-fresh Galils in their original configuration are no longer available but, thankfully, the company currently offers three semi-auto models of its Galil Ace chambered in 7.62 NATO. Each are based on the same time-tested long-stroke-piston, rotating bolt gas-operated system of operation. They come with 11.8", chrome-lined barrels with 1:12" RH-twist rifling.

Modern upgrades include the use of high-tech polymers to reduce weight and the addition of a Picatinny rail for optic mounting. The reciprocating charging handle is on the left side and they ship with adjustable tritium sights for low-light use. A single dot up front gets on target fast, while the pair of dots at the rear ensure proper sight alignment.

The Galil Ace SBR model has an MSRP of $2,099, overall length of 30.25" inches and it weighs 6 lbs., 11.2 ozs. (empty). There’s also a pair of pistol versions, one with a stabilizing brace, the other without one. MSRPs come in at $2,049 and $1,949, respectively, with weights of 6 lbs., 8 ozs. and 6 lbs. Overall lengths are 31.625" and 22.5".  


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