IWI Galil ACE Gen 2: A Modern Take on the AK-47 Design

I have been a fan of Israeli Military Industries since I was a child after reading Soldier of Fortune magazine and having the Uzi imprinted on my consciousness. I was one of the first to buy the IMI Desert Eagle in .50 AE when it first came out in the late 1980s. Later in life, I carried the IWI Jericho and the IWI Masada as my defensive guns of choice. Finally, I have bought other IWI PCCs, rifles, and shotguns over the years. Though I know I have more guns in my collection from other manufacturers, there is no doubt that I am an IWI fan. It was no surprise that I bumped into the IWI Galil Ace Gen II. How I got there, though, was rather complicated.

I am relatively new to self-defense rifles and have certainly committed to “team AR-15” in regard to platforms. Up until this year, I have bought, built, and competed with AR-15s chambered in various rounds. As far as training, my trusty Smith and Wesson M&P-15 and Colt M4 have seen use across the country in multi-day rifle classes. I own a few AK-47 rifles but have not devoted the same amount of time to picking them out, personalizing them, or any time training with them.

As I continue to expand my defensive skills, I have been focusing more on becoming familiar with all major platforms. Though not the focus of this article, this focus is reflective of my thoughts in the case of the possibility of large-scale societal collapse. This also is in line with a quote from Clint Smith (emphasis added), “Be a student of weapon craft.  Nothing says you will fight with your gun.”  In other words, in a fight, you may have to pick up a different gun. Wouldn’t you rather be more familiar with as many platforms as possible in that case? Considering there are over 100 million AK-style rifles in the world compared to approximately 20 million AR-style rifles, this seemed an important area to become more familiar with.

As I was looking into courses for 2024, one of the ones that attracted my attention was IWI’s Galil (AK platform) course. Though I know my way around the AK platform, in my opinion, real knowledge comes from running a platform through experience. I knew I did not want to take one of my ‘budget’ or nearing ‘historical’ AKs to a class, so I started looking for a newer AK. After a little research, I started looking closely at the IWI AK platform, the Galil was a good transitional rifle from the AR to the AK.

IWI Galil Ace Gen I Versus Gen II

The Galil (currently the ACE Gen 2 Rifle with side folding adjustable buttstock) is IWI’s modern take on the AK platform, incorporating a polymer grip built into the receiver, left side charging handle, quality robust parts, with a proven design. The Gail Ace Gen II comes chambered in 7.62X39 and 5.45X39 with partial polymer lower magwells and 7.62 and 5.56 NATO with full polymer magwells.

Comparing the polymer lowers of the four chamberings of the Galil Ace Gen 2
The IWI Galil Ace Gen 2 comes chambered in 7.62 and 5.56 NATO with a polymer lower section that fully includes the magwell and in 7.62X39 and 5.45X39 with a partial polymer magwell. (Photo: www.iwi.us)

Looking at the original Galil Gen I, there are several changes/upgrades. Both come with A2 flash hiders that can be easily traded out if desired. The Gen II changed the front handguard to a free-float M-Lock that does a solid job of dissipating heat during normal shooting. The polymer grip is built into the lower receiver, making grip modifications more difficult, but unlike the Gen I, it does not reduce the variability of AK magazines that will work with the Gen II; the Gen II works with more options when it comes to AK magazines.

The Galil ACE Gen II 5.56 version is compatible with AR magazines (STANAG) and has a larger polymer grip section fully including the magwell. The Gen II has an ambidextrous safety with a typical AK-style safety on the right side and a smaller safety switch above the thumb of the grip on the left side. In the Galil Gen II (chambered in 7.62X39 and 5.45X39), the magazine release is to the rear of the magazine in front of the trigger guard.

The magazine release in the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO versions is ambidextrous and housed similar to an AR in the lower polymer part of the receiver above the magwell on the left and right of the rifle. Once depressed, magazines consistently drop free of the gun with gravity. The trigger is physically longer in the Gen II, is more ergonomic, and has a crisp break. The Gen II switched from a proprietary buffer system in the Gen I to an AR buffer tube in the Gen II, which allows for more aftermarket options. The stock easily folds to the right side of the rifle.

Internally, the Gen II is a typical AK with quality parts and a typical breakdown. The gas tube is keyed to fit correctly when it is re-installed. Finally, the Gen II does not come with stock sights and simply features a Picatinny rail along the top for mounting whatever sights or optics interest the buyer. Table 1 compares the numbers of a standard AR-15, AK-47 (AKM), and IWI Galil (in 5.56).

Table comparing the AR-15, AK, and Galil ACE Gen 2

Off to the Range with the Galil Ace Gen II in 5.56 NATO

Overall, the quality of all the components of the Galil ACE Gen II is what one has come to expect from IWI, and the overall look, function, and breakdown are high quality. I ended up purchasing the Galil ACE Gen II chambered in 5.56 NATO and added Magpul flip-up front and rear sights to the top rail, a Condor two-point sling (preferred by my wife), and a Sig Sauer Romeo5 red dot optic co-witnessed with the flip up sights. If this rifle becomes my wife’s (I am still awaiting the arrival of a Galil chambered in 7.62X39), it will likely also have a foregrip added.

The IWI Galil ACE Gen 2 with Sig Romeo5 Optics, and Magpul sights
The IWI Galil Gen 2 in 5.56 NATO with a few additions ready to go to the range.

It is this version of the Galil Ace that I packed off to the range to break in and zero the optics. It will not get a full break-in until the IWI Galil class later this year (I will review that class after attending). What follows are my initial reactions to this rifle based on running 300 rounds of PMC X-TAC 55 grain 5.56 ammo through it.


Overall, the Galil Ace Gen II is the ‘Glock’ of the AK world. It is functional and reliable, but also monotone black and does not have the classic AK ‘look.’  If you want a rifle that has the classic metal and wood furniture of the AK-47, look elsewhere.


Compared to other AK platforms, I found the Galil Ace Gen II to be slightly more accurate when bench shooting. Additionally, the lighter recoil of 5.56 made this comparison a little less fair when free-standing shooting, which the Galil excelled at.


The gun mounted naturally, and the sights came quickly into my natural sight line. Though a little heavier (due to the higher quality receiver), the rifle was well-balanced, with the weight more rearward. The trigger had a consistent break (just under 3 pounds according to a Lyman trigger gauge) and a fully forward reset. I found shooting this gun to be enjoyable as it matched the heavier weight of an AK with the lighter recoiling rounds of the 5.56 NATO. Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable rifle to shoot.


The ambidextrous safety and magazine release was easy to get to and intuitive, using my trigger finger to operate the magazine release (AR style) and the safety (AK style). I will likely use the left-side thumb safety, as I find myself defaulting to this safety more often than not. The safety is somewhat stiff out of the box, and both options (sides) require a little force to operate, though it had just started to loosen up a little at the 300-round mark. The magazine release was consistent and easy to operate, resulting in a clean drop of the magazine when empty every time. The charging handle on the left side is a marked improvement for quickly charging the gun or clearing a malfunction (induced with dummy rounds in this case) compared to the AK or AR, and there is a bolt release on the right side above the trigger.


I ended up zeroing the optics and working basic fundamentals and mechanics across the first 100 rounds, leaving me with about 200 more rounds to shoot. I ran the rifle through multiple shots, multiple targets, speed reloads, and shooting from various positions. The Galil experienced no malfunctions or other reliability issues through these activities.  Towards the end of these 200 rounds, I did notice the front handguard was starting to heat up a little (especially after running the last 56 rounds (2 mags of 28 rounds) through the rifle in quick engagements). Though not a huge deal, I might consider a foregrip, gloves, or another option if you are likely to be running large numbers of rounds through this gun quickly.


iwi 556
After testing I would likely switch to a single-point sling and consider adding a foregrip, but otherwise, the rifle ran perfectly.


By all metrics, the Galil ACE Gen II is what I was looking for as a functional and reliable platform to transition from the AR to more experience with the AK. It is different enough, though, that I will likely consider taking classes with a more traditional AK down the road. I look forward to getting more rounds behind this gun and determining how much I like it compared to the AR. If strength is not an issue (it is a little heavier, and its safety is initially a little stiff), looks are less important (it is a black block), and you want a highly reliable, well-made rifle from a company known for making quality products, then the Galil ACE Gen II may be right for you.

Joel Nadler is the Training Director at Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis and co-owner of Tactical Training Associates.  He writes for several gun-focused publications and is an avid supporter of the right to self-sufficiency, including self-defense. Formerly a full professor, he has a Ph.D. in Psychology and now works as a senior consultant living on a horse ranch in rural Indiana.  Feel free to follow him on Instagram @TacticalPhD.


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