An Israeli .308 AK? The IWI Galil ACE – Full Review

The new Galil ACE in 7.62x51mm from IWI US offers civilian shooters a semi-auto version of the classic Israeli battle rifle.

While I was working for a gun store specializing in rifles for police departments several years back, I came across two Micro-Galils. Chambered in 5.56mm, they were short, employing a 7.68-inch barrel and folding stock. Accuracy was acceptable for the day (under 4 inches at 100 yards), and above all, it ran. Based on the AK-47 action, the Israeli-designed firearm never malfunctioned in over thousands of rounds. Built from billet, it was all but indestructible.

A couple years later a .308 Galil crossed my path. Big bore ARs were in their infancy at this time, limited in production, expensive, and almost universally unreliable. Accurate for a few rounds, most would not make it through more than a magazine in harsh conditions. Attending a couple of “tracking” schools, the rifle of choice remained the Springfield Armory M1A, or a couple other foreign rifles, all in 7.62x51mm.  Whether tracking in the bush or anywhere else most professionals felt it the minimally acceptable chambering and would not field anything remotely unreliable.  While this Galil was a custom build, it was only moderately so and it was the best .308 rifle of this sort ever used. Its only drawback was its proprietary magazine and cost.

Well, thanks to the efforts of IWI US, we now have a new variant of the classic Galil in 7.62x51mm available here for civilian purchase. That rifle is the Galil ACE GAR1651, and I recently had a chance to try one out for myself. I was particularly interested in trying this one out as the new design addresses most if not all the drawbacks of the earlier design.

The ACE rifle has a side-folding stock that can also be adjusted for length of pull. Note that the rifle can be fired with the stock folded.

The rifle comes with a highly ergonomic grip that is superior to that of the AK, upon which the design is generally based.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 7.62x51mm (.308 Win.)
  • Barrel: 16 inches
  • OA Length: 36 inches (stock unfolded and collapsed)
  • Weight: 8.7 pounds
  • Stock: Folding and collapsible
  • Sights: Adjustable, tritium
  • Action: Long-stroke piston, semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 20+1
  • MSRP: $2,099

A New Beginning

IWI US starts with a milled steel receiver for strength and durability. Using polymer for the hand guard, magwell, grip and stock keeps things light. An AR-style folding stock is adjustable for length of pull and includes a rubber recoil pad. Cheek height is adjustable using a snap-on riser. The steel folding hinge locks things in place solidly. Unlike an AK-47, the gas tube is mounted using a dovetail slide machined into the receiver. It avoids unnecessary movement during firing and increases accuracy potential and consistency. The barrel is 16 inches long, cold hammer forged CrMoV, chrome lined, and uses a 1:12 RH twist rate. It is capped with a muzzle brake. The full-length, two-piece Picatinny top rail accommodates optics, red dots, and other sighting systems. Just like the Tavor X95 from IWI US (see our review here ), the hand guard has removable rail covers with access for accessories and/or a bi-pod. Sights are fully adjustable and robust with tritium inserts. Using a large knurled knob on the left side for charging it, it includes a cover to help keep out the elements.

The modernized Galil ACE has Picatinny rail sections for accepting accessories as well as optics.

Assembled in the United States from a mix of imported and US parts, this Galil accepts any SR25-patterned magazine. Using an ambidextrous magazine release accommodates both hands, as well as various reloading methods. Safety operation is ambidextrous with a thumb-activated lever just behind the trigger on the left side. The more traditional AK-inspired safety sits on the right side with an easy to access lever. An oversized trigger guard covers the two-stage trigger. It uses a curved shoe with a flat face and breaks at about 5 pounds. Weighing in at 8.7 pounds keeps it handy, and folding the stock allows it to fit in most carbine cases, bags, or the current crop of tactical packs.

The ACE features a left-side charging handle that the author found easy to manipulate.

Rather than add tons of stuff turning an otherwise light and handy rifle into a barbell with a trigger, I kept things simple. Testing was based on my previous training at a few tracking schools. Carried at the ready as a primary rifle, it was set up for fast targeting to deliver .308 power from 300 yards and in, most likely closer. It’s more about bringing the rifle to bear quickly while keeping it light. Sighting was enhanced with an Aimpont T2 Red Dot Sight mounted as low as possible. Aimpoint’s T2 is supremely rugged with a battery life measured in years. Its size allowed me to co-witness the iron sights, eliminating the need for the cheek riser. The Aimpoint mount has a quick release lever, making removal easy if necessary. My only other addition was a Surefire Scout light, this one using AA batteries.

Out of the box this rifle is not particularly sling-friendly with no QD mounts at all.  The stock hinge has a loop, and Magpul’s rail-mounted loop was added to the top rail. Just make sure you don’t mount the sling attachment over the hinge for the top cover. Magpul’s MS4 sling worked okay, but the hooks are a bit thick; HK hooks would work better.

Range Time

My first and most pressing concern was reliability. However, this concern proved to be unfounded. This rifle is as reliable as any semi-auto I have tested in 7.62x51mm, on par with the HK91, DSA FAL, and other battle rifles. It reliably fed and fired 10 different types of ammunition using bullet weights ranging from 147 to 175 grains. Polymer tips, BTHP, even flat point all fed without issue. However, the Galil is not brass friendly. Ejection is positive and with great authority, but most brass ends up dented at the case mouth. Most could easily be re-sized, but it is anything but pristine. Given it’s at home with both steel- and brass-cased ammunition, it is a great candidate for what mil-surp ammunition still exists in this chambering.  Hornady’s Steel Match ran very well in this rifle with solid accuracy.

Maybe the most desirable change over the original Galil is the use of magazines with an SR25/DPMS pattern. Several were used including those from DPMS, Magpul, Brownells, Larue, and Lancer, and all of them were flawless and dropped free using either of the rifles ambidextrous magazine releases. This rifle does not hold open on the last round, so you need to run the charging handle on magazine changes. Having run AKs for years, this presented no issues for me, but if you are new to the rifle it will take some getting used to. Reaching the left side charging handle was easy and could be accomplished with my palm or by grabbing the knob. Magazine changes can be accomplished with either hand easily from behind cover with the rifle in pretty much any position.  Safety manipulation is via your thumb on the left side with a lever just above the pistol grip, or by a lever on the right side of the action.

The author liked the brake and found that it reduced perceived recoil without creating too much blast and noise.

The best change in this rifle over my previous experience was the trigger. It’s a two-stage trigger typical of many .308 battle rifles. All my working rifles use triggers (two stage if possible) in the 4.5 to 5-pound range making this about perfect for me. This one measured just under 5 pounds. Tension on stage one was noticeable with a clear wall between stages. It was easy to maintain accuracy when precision was required yet could be run fast enough to make most 3-Gun types happy. Rapid-fire doubles and triples were easy and controllable. Precision shots from prone or supported were also facilitated. There is no “bounce” and it never failed to reset. The shoe is wide and flat, perfect for gloved hands.

While all the updates are welcome, the one most surprising was accuracy; this rifle was overall a 1- to 1.25-inch rifle at 100 yards. Documented test groups were all fired using a Burris 1.5-8X XTRII with an XTRII Ballistic CQ Mil reticle. My best group measured a tad over .75 inches using Remington’s 165-grain Accutip. With a 1:12 twist barrel the 168 grain is the sweet spot with solid accuracy with even lighter bullets. Even my Federal 150 grain AE was capable of staying on a 6-inch steel plate at 300 yards with consistency. Having a solid trigger sure helped, and the effective muzzle brake held recoil to a minimum.

Moving to 50 yards using just the Aimpoint T2 it was possible to stack the Remington, everything else was inside 1.5 inches. Shooting steel with the Aimpoint was pretty much an aim, hold, and hit proposition. Using my pack as a rest on the FJ’s bumper, I put 10 rounds on an 8-inch steel at 300 yards. After a few sighters for wind, I put six out of 10 on a 12-inch steel at 500 yards, the limits of this setup to me. Once the hold was figured out it was easy, so getting on a threat at that range would be even easier. Regarding the irons, made up of a typical ghost ring and post, once my holds were confirmed staying on a silhouette out to 300 yards was easy. With very little sight offset it adjusts from CQB distances to 300 yards with little effort.

The rear sight is protected by heavy wings.

The front sight is also protected by wings, and features tritium inserts.

Other Considerations

This rifle will certainly accommodate optics, but using a simple red dot sight remains my preferred setup. The rail is solid, but it is still attached to a cover. Using the Aimpoint T2, it never shifted zero even after opening and closing the top cover several times. To me, it is a candidate for a short, light, low power variable, probably with a mil lined to Horus T3, but that will just have to wait for the next test.

The author topped the rifle off with an Aimpoint T2 for closer-range testing.

As brakes go, the one on this one was far less obnoxious than expected. There was no blast directed at me, or the ground.  I would not want to be next to it in a fight, and it is loud, but it does mitigate recoil quite well. No fireball was ever evident, so it seems to do that well. Overall it was about as good as these get for use in the field.

The stock locks in place and never moved, and you can run the rifle with it folded. Folding to the right, it does not interfere with the charging handle. Like any AK some gas escapes out of the gas tube and the ejection port. Staying on the grip it never was hot to touch even under several rapid-fire strings. Excess gas was there, but no tearing up or coughing after a 10-round rapid fire string.

The Galil ACE is set up with easy-to-use and ambidextrous controls to ensure ease of operation.

Final Thoughts

Configured as tested this rifle was a joy to shoot, about perfect for the task set for it. Accuracy was excellent with controllability and a great trigger. It was reliable with every magazine I could find and fed several types of ammunition. Ergonomics are vastly improved over the original Israeli design, with ambidextrous controls and left-side charging.

The author found the rifle easy to employ, with magazine changes being quick and easy.

These are assembled in the US from some imported parts, so 922(r) applies making the use of US-made magazines a benefit. It would be nice to see some QD swivels like on the Tavor, but that is not an insurmountable problem. If you are looking for an accurate and reliable .308 semi geared towards hard use, this is a must add to the list. I found myself wishing it was around all those years ago tracking in the brush and desert, and it will see plenty of backcountry time soon.

To learn more, visit https://www.iwi.us/Galil/GAR1651.aspx.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=Galil%20.308.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • DAVID AMADEUS August 27, 2017, 11:28 am

    Maybe the feedback from the hive will show that the Galil Ace 308 has a future in the real world if a new lockup of steel for the
    attaching stock is designed, a longer forearm is made for hand purchase during firing, and a complete stock reconfiguration is built without all the plastic…:+)

  • David Sommer August 9, 2017, 10:00 am

    I just purchased one for $1,575. I love it. Extreme ruggedness, reliability and now accuracy. I just ordered a full length key mod handguard for it through Midwest Ind. for 200 dollars.

  • Harborman June 27, 2017, 12:22 pm

    I had a CETME and traded it for my first AR15 several years ago and regret it now. The CETME 308 was fun to shoot and was reliable. This looks like an excellent rifle.

  • Dan McLendon June 27, 2017, 2:15 am

    I am trying to identify a single .308 Winchester firing combat rifle for my collection. The ACE looks like a great candidate, especially at about $2000. Any comments from the readers? Any info and opinions would be much appreciated.

    DannyMac

  • Russ H. June 27, 2017, 12:43 am

    These are available for about $1800 online – I want one! Has to be one of the finest military style 308’s with a 16″ bbl on the market. Frankly, any Galil would do.

  • Bryan June 26, 2017, 11:28 pm

    Over $2,000.00 for a skinny 16″ bbl rifle? Good luck.

  • Z June 26, 2017, 10:40 am

    I’m curious about the energy at the muzzle of a 16″ barreled .308 vs. 7.62×39. I think of the .308 as mid to long range cartridge and the drop in muzzle velocity out of a 16″ barrel along with increased muzzle blast over the 7.62×39 causes me to question the benefit of a .308 Galil vs. the 7.62×39 Galil.

    • Alan June 27, 2017, 5:03 pm

      It’s Dependent on load of course, but if we take the standard Mil Spec ballistics of both, the difference is about 750-800 Ft/Lbs at the muzzle in favor of the NATO round.
      So there is a “benefit” if you like power and range.
      Bear in mind that the Soviet round was NEVER a good penetrator on anything but people compared to the NATO round.
      But that was never the Soviet battle doctrine for the cartridge.

  • Gregg Greenwood June 26, 2017, 8:55 am

    I own two FAL’s, a CETME, various 7.62 AK’s, and a beautiful Garand. But the best .30 caliber semi auto I own is an FN SCAR 17. I was thinking of it and mentally comparing it through this whole review. IMO, the only possible advantage of the GALIL would be price.. which I never saw mentioned.

    The SCAR is rugged, reliable, quite light for 7.62, handles recoil extremely well, and is even surprisingly accurate. It would be the obvious thing to compare them.

    • Jim June 26, 2017, 10:31 am

      See Specifications — MSRP $2,099!

    • Z June 26, 2017, 10:33 am

      2,099$

    • matthew martinez June 26, 2017, 4:24 pm

      Sounds like a man after my own heart. ive built a couple cetmes and hk pattern rifles not to mention some aks. and the 7.62×51 packs way more punch than the 7.62. the round typically uses a heavier bullet and case length ensures more powder to burn. both making more kinetic energy. as per drop id say buy some quality rounds. price is decent for a large rifle of this pedigree with hks going for as much with way more years on them.

  • Flep Vandergaard June 26, 2017, 7:58 am

    I like this rifle. I just picked up it’s little brother in 5.56NATO folding brace pistol form. I wonder why IWI chose not to incorporate the LRBHO on the 7.62mm NATO gun, seems so easy to do. The 5.56NATO guns have it! Frustrating, but otherwise a nifty carbine. I am gravitating towards this as my next IWI Galil.

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