Having faced a mortal threat for all its four decades' existence, Israel has
become a modern-day Sparta, with an extensive military industry unmatched
among nations its size.
Israeli military equipment is notable less for its pure innovation than for skillful
and informed adaptation of existing designs, with an eye for reliability and economy.
One of the most famous examples was the mounting of television cameras on
radio-controlled model airplanes that allowed Israel to inflict a humiliating defeat
on Syrian air and air-defense forces in 1982.
The Galil rifle is a typical Israeli product that breaks no new ground, but it
combines features from many existing arms into an effective whole.
Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops were armed with the FN FAL rifle in the
Six-Day War of 1967, and there were calls after that conflict for a lighter
and handier individual weapon. A design team led by Israel Galil tested a
variety of arms, including the AK-47, M16 and Stoner 63. It reached the
conclusion many before and since have - it liked the 5.56 mm cartridge of
the M16, but preferred the AK-47's conventional piston to the M16's
direct-impingement gas system.
It selected one of the most up-to-date variants of the AK-47 from which
to work-the Valmet M62. The Finnish firm provided the first 1,000 receivers
for the new rifle, which was officially adopted in 1972. Insufficient quantities
of the Galil were available at the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, so Israel
was provided large quantities of M16 rifles by the United States. These continue
to be used alongside the Galils.
Civilian semi-automatic Galils are imported by Action Arms in two versions.
The ARM most closely duplicates the military version. The AR is a lighter-weight
gun with a plastic fore-end and with the bipod deleted. Both are available in
7.62x51 mm and 5.56x45 mm.
The first reaction of everyone who handled the Galil ARM tested here was
surprise at its considerable weight. At 10 lbs., 2 ozs. unloaded, it is half again
as heavy as the original M16. This emphasizes that European and other nations
have not necessarily regarded the switch from 7.62 mm to 5.56mm in terms of
reducing weapon weight, but rather in terms of reducing ammunition weight
and volume. The Galil's heft is about the same as the FAL's but the soldier
can carry much more 5.56 mm ammunition.
The next attention-grabbing point is the very long magazine, a descendant
of the Stoner 63 box. It is interesting that the Israelis eschewed interoperability
between their M16s and Galils, but perhaps they wished to avoid the compound
curve required by the M16's 30-round box. Action Arms offers an adapter that
allows M16 magazines to fit the Galil, and also brings in the 50-round magazine
used in the squad-automatic role by the IDF.
The long magazine requires, in turn, long bipod legs. These are suspended
from a large casting that incorporates the gas cylinder, front sight base and
front sling attachment staple. To lower the bipod, pinch the feet together
and lower the bipod from its recess in the bottom of the fore-end. A strong
wrapped-wire coil spring spreads the legs when they are fully downward.
The bipod is equipped with a wire cutter that uses the bipod legs for leverage.
The U-shaped bracket that retains the bipod legs is the mounting point for
an FAL-type carrying handle. This allows the rifle to be carried briefcase
fashion when the buttstock, also of FAL pattern, is folded. This is one of
the simplest folding buttstocks; it is pressed down to unlatch, and relatches
automatically when returned to the unfolded position.
Another FAL feature the Israelis apparently liked was the "left-handed"
operating handle that allows cocking or clearing with the trigger hand on
the pistol grip. The AK-47 is a "right-handed" gun whose operating handle
extends to the right. The designers apparently grafted an FAL handle to
the AK-47 bolt, pointing upward. This allows easy operation with either
hand, especially in the hip-level patrolling carry the Israelis favor.
One of the Galil's most interesting features is the safety. The AK-47 safety
is a long lever on the right side of the receiver that blocks the operating
handle's channel when pressed upward into the "safe" position. The bolt
may be partially retracted to allow examination of the chamber.
The system is well-proven, but requires that the firer either operate the
safety lever with the left hand or remove the trigger hand from the pistol
grip to release the safety. The Galil features a thumb safety lever connected
directly to the conventional safety. When pressed forward, it drops the
left-hand safety out of the path of the bolt into the "fire" position. (The
standard safety lever may be used in the traditional fashion if desired but
is inconvenient with the buttstock folded.) The thumb effort required is
noticeable, though not excessive.
The sighting system is a combination of Valmet and M16 features. The rear
sight is mounted on the receiver cover - in contrast to the usual AK-47
location atop the barrel. It has an M16-type L-shaped aperture with settings
for 300 and 500 meters. The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation,
the latter by raising or lowering the sight post. Windage is adjusted by turning
a pair of opposing screws to move the sight block left or right. The instruction
manual indicates that both windage and elevation are varied about 6" at 100
yds. per turn.
The Galil is also equipped with the most effective night sight system seen
here recently. The T-shaped front sight is hinged at the rear of the front
sight ring and retracts to a protected position when the regular sights are
in use. The husky U-shaped rear sight is mounted at the front of the rear
sight base and is flipped forward into position. The L-shaped day sight
aperture is flipped into an intermediate position to allow use of the night
The night sights are marked with a minute amount of radioactive tritium.
This glows in the dark, allowing alignment of the front sight with a pair
of glowing dots in the rear aperture. The dots were very bright, allowing
easy viewing in a partially darkened room.
The Galil allows easy installation of a telescope sight. A dovetail milled into
the right side of the receiver accommodates a mounting base with a hex-recessed
screw and a pair of aligning roll pins. The block is tapped into place with a
non-marring mallet, the screw is turned into a recess in the receiver, and the
scope mounting base can be secured to the block with a large thumbscrew.
While military versions have a scope base that mounts the scope alongside
the receiver, MID fashion, for the U.S. market Action Arms provides a curved
scope mount that positions the scope above the receiver. The mounting rail
is affixed to a rectangular box that allows use of the metallic sights.
Disassembly of the Galil is perfectly conventional, except that the cover latch
is unusually long. This, no doubt, contributes to the secure retention of the
receiver cover, but requires a bit of extra manipulation when that part is
To disassemble the Galil, ensure that the gun is unloaded, remove the
magazine and place either safety lever in the "fire" position.
Carefully press forward on the cover latch, then pull upward on the rear
of the receiver cover. Then draw the cover rearward and off the receiver.
Press the latch piece forward out of its dovetail in the receiver, lift up
slightly and allow the recoil spring to press it rearward. Then withdraw
the latch piece, recoil spring and guide rearward from the bolt and set
them aside. The bolt then may be pulled to the rear of the receiver, where
it can be lifted slightly and then withdrawn from the rifle.
The bolt head is readily removed by pressing it to its farthest-rearward
position and turning a quarter-turn counter-clockwise. It then may be
withdrawn forward out of the breechblock. The Galil's operating rod is
chrome-plated and shares with the Valmet rifles the star-shaped projection
behind the piston head. The gas tube is simply withdrawn directly to the
rear. No further disassembly is recommended, nor should it be required
under normal circumstances. Reassembly is in reverse order.
The Galil ARM was fired for accuracy, with results shown in the accompanying
table, and function-fired with Federal, Hansen, PMC and Samson ammunition.
The Galil has a 12" rifling twist for M193 and equivalent ammunition.
As might be suspected from its weight, the Galil is an unusually mild-recoiling
rifle. Muzzle climb is virtually non-existent. Flash is well-controlled by the
FN-type flash hider. Empty cartridge cases are ejected at a rather high angle
forward of the shooter.
The rifle's 6-lb. trigger was excellent by military standards - even by current
commercial standards. The sighting system is a vast improvement over the
open sights of the AK-47 family, though the adjustment system isn't exactly
that of a target gun. The folding stock provides above-average comfort
for its type, though purchasers of the 7.62 mm version might want to consider
the optional wood "sniper" stock.
In all, the Galil ARM is a fine example of the Israeli talent for selecting and
blending features from a variety of arms into a harmonious whole.
This article is one of many that were published in 1988 by the NRA in their
book entitled "Semi Auto Rifles". ISBN 0-935998-54-3