The Galil: A Review of an Israeli Icon

Israel used Belgium’s FN FAL as its main rifle before the Galil’s introduction. The FN FAL was less reliable than desired in the desert environment. During Israel’s Six-Day War in 1967, they noted that the Russian AK-47 being used by their enemies was utterly reliable. However, obtaining those weapons in great numbers was out of the question.

Israel wanted to implement the 5.56mm NATO round for its accuracy and flat trajectory, among other attributes. Yisrael Balashnikov, an immigrant from the Soviet Union who worked for them as a weapons designer (and later changed his name to Israel Galil), compared the AK-47 and FN FAL and aimed to create a weapon combining their best traits. Naturally, the FAL had a distinct accuracy edge over the AK, but the AK’s reliability was notable. He used the Finnish Valmet RK 62 as inspiration in developing the Galil.

The Galil first made its debut in 1972. Finally, Balashnikov’s (Galil’s) invention, the Galil, was approved for issue in 1972 with the Israeli Defense Forces. Before the Gailil could be issued, though, the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973. Israel decided not to issue a new weapon that was unfamiliar to its troops during a war (probably a wise decision).

A Galil from Century Arms.
A Galil from Century Arms. Overall, the rifle had a great fit and finish and functioned superbly. (Photo: Jim Davis)

The Galil’s Attributes


The Galil has some similarities to the AK. The action is very similar, and the Galil took on the AK’s reputation for reliability. It’s a robust action specifically built to operate in desert climates, and it does what it was intended to do.

The Galil’s gas system is very similar to that of the Valmet RK 62’s.


The Galil is far more accurate than the AK-47. This is especially notable given that the operating environment is desert, where wide open spaces mean that shots can sometimes stretch for hundreds of yards. The Galil’s ability to outshoot the AK gives troops armed with it a distinct advantage.


Like the Valmet series, the Galil’s sights are sensibly mounted on the top of the receiver cover. I’ve heard some say that mounting the sights on a receiver cover that can become loose and rattle around could affect accuracy. However, this does not seem to be the case with the Galil (or the Valmet, for that matter).

Aperture sights on the Galil.
Props to Galil for crafting a rear sight that is outstanding and mounted on the receiver’s cover. It features two apertures and allows great accuracy. Compared to the AK’s sight…well, there is no comparison. (Photo: Jim Davis)

The Galil’s rear sight is an aperture (some call them peep sights). The rifle I reviewed had an L-shaped design with two separate apertures (one large, one smaller) for short and longer ranges. The front sight is a hooded post. For dim light use, there are auxiliary front and rear sights that glow.

Overall, these are some excellent sights that are fast and easy to use and give a good sight picture. You’d be hard-pressed to find better sights. They definitely contribute to the accurate shooting of this rifle.

Flash Suppressor

Military versions of the Galil have a six-port flash suppressor, though the one I reviewed had some sort of flash suppressor/muzzle brake affair attached. The military flash suppressor not only suppresses the flash but can also serve to launch grenades. As well, it also sports a bayonet lug.


The metal side-folding stock is a marvel of artwork, in my opinion. It reminds me a lot of the stock on the Para-Fal and is comfortable when shooting the rifle. The fact that it folds means the rifle can be stowed in smaller spaces, which comes in very handy, especially when carrying the rifle in a vehicle. To top it off, the stock is quite sturdy and will hold up to considerable abuse.

The Galil's folding stock.
Similar to the stock on the Para FAL, the Galil’s is robust and comfortable when shooting the rifle. It also folds to the side for compactness. (Photo: Jim Davis)

Cocking Handle

Some serious thought went into the cocking handle, which is turned up vertically. It actually protrudes up over the top of the receiver slightly. This allows either hand to access the handle easily, making it ambidextrous.

Safety/Selector Switches

Yes, that’s switches, as in plural. There are two.

The selector, sights, and cocking lever can be seen here.
One of the safety/selector switches is standard AK-type. The other is on the left side of the trigger housing and can be manipulated using the right thumb. Both move in unison. Also note the cocking handle, which protrudes above the receiver, making it easy to reach with either hand.  The magazine release is easy to push. (Photo: Jim Davis)

One is in the standard AK-47 position on the right side of the receiver. When in the Up position, it covers the action from getting grit and filth into it. When down, it is in the Bang mode.

The other selector switch is located to the left of the trigger housing so that the shooter’s right thumb can easily manipulate it. I’ll tell you that it feels interesting when you move the thumb switch to the fire or safe mode, and you can also see and feel the AK selector move in unison. Both switches move at the same time, and it’s kind of neat.


Standard feeding for the Galil is from 35-round magazines. Some other versions also feed from a 50-round magazine. Most often, the 35-round magazines are preferred because they are less bulky and long.

Other Specs

  • The standard barrel length is 18.1 inches, and the barrel is chrome-lined for longevity.
  • The standard Galil weighs 8.7 pounds, which is not overly heavy.
  • The gun is 33 inches with the stock extended and 24.2 inches with the stock folded. As we said, it can be very compact.

The Galil at the Range

The Galil balances very nicely and feels solid in the hands. Given its weight with a loaded magazine, there is not much recoil at all, and rapid firing is child’s play at close range.

Beware — these rifles are addicting! As this rifle belongs to a good friend, I naturally tried to buy it from him, but he staunchly refused to sell it. (Hey, I had to at least try).

The Galil at the range.
The Galil is an addicting rifle; it is so much fun to shoot! The accuracy was excellent. (Photo: Author’s collection)

When fired, the Galil has a very cool and interesting impulse. It’s like firing an AK because…well, internally, it’s very close. The bolt is very similar to the AK. So it feels and sounds like an AK bolt, but it’s in 5.56mm, so that makes it slightly different. It’s different enough that when you fire the first few rounds, you actually pause, smile, and say, “This thing is really neat!”

At the range we were using, we didn’t shoot on paper for groups, as we were using steel disc targets. The Galil more than did its part to make hitting those discs at 100 yards a very easy job.

Reliability, as expected, was 100% perfect. I’ll note that this particular rifle was imported by Century Arms. The fit and finish was very well done, and overall, the rifle is spectacular. If you get an opportunity to pick one up, grab it!

Parting Shots

The Galil has an interesting development and history, being invented out of necessity by a tiny nation that’s surrounded by enemies. Designed for the brutal desert environment, it seems to work wherever it’s used. And a large number of other countries have adopted the Galil, so it is indeed serving all over the globe. That alone is a testament to its effectiveness. It embodies a number of drastic upgrades from the AK series, which all serve to make the Galil a vastly superior rifle.

It’s rare to find a Galil on the market these days, but if you do, you’d be well advised to pick one up. They make great defensive rifles.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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