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Since making my first AK-47 last year, I’ve become enamored with the weapon’s design and the simplicity of the manufacturing process. Through TTAG and the Dead Goose Society, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot quite a few different Kalashnikov platforms. When the IWI Galil ACE 32 in 7.62×39 arrived at TTAG’s secret above-ground bunker, I jumped at the chance to put some rounds through it.

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Straight out of the box, the ACE shows some features not found on standard Kalashnikov variants. For one thing, the ACE’s forward hand guards double as rail covers. They’re large and circular, reminiscent of the original M-16. With the push of a small indention, they slide off to reveal 270 degrees of Picatinny rails.

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That makes attaching lights, aiming devices, and a bipod quick and easy — a vast improvement over most AK platforms. The downside: the hand guard moves around a bit when you grip it. It takes some getting used to, and in fast fire I could feel the grip wobbling a bit.

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The Galil ACE shoulders and snaps-to far better than any other Kalash pattern guns I’ve shot, with the possible exception of the DGS AK47G SBR. It comes fast into the pocket of my shoulder, and easily aligns my eye to the sights. Partial credit to the ACE’s folding, collapsible stock.

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Everyone who used the stock found it difficult to collapse. But, unlike most folding stocks, our unofficial testers also discovered they could get a genuine cheek/stock weld. Now that I’ve folded and unfolded it a few hundred times, it operates much more easily than it did out of the box. The end result: a rifle with a small footprint that easily stores inside a vehicle that shoulders like a fixed-stock MSR.

I’ve never found the AK-47 to be a punishing rifle to shoot. The Galil ACE exhibits particularly light recoil. The adjustable stock and 8+ pound weight makes the gun a breeze to fire. The large, round front hand guards also move the shooters hand away from the piston. Even after long periods of sustained fire, the gun is never too hot to hold.

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When it comes to the guts of the gun, if you’ve seen a milled receiver AK-47, you’ve seen the Galil ACE (with a couple of minor differences). First, and most obviously, you’ll find the charging handle on the left side. The rounds still eject to the right, but there’s a reciprocating charging handle on the left side of the gun, slightly speeding up the reloading process. While the handle reciprocates, I never noticed it during firing.

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The two other major differences are all about out AK-ing the AK. A snug fitting gasket sits between the dust cover and the receiver, helping keep water and grit out of the works. On the left side of the receiver, a clever sliding cover sits under the charging handle that keeps the receiver closed to the elements.

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The total effect is an AK-47 style weapon — a platform that’s already well known for it’s durability in harsh environments — that goes the extra mile, keeping the environment out of the working parts of the gun.

Be advised: there are a few websites out there claiming the updated Galil ACE has a last round hold hold-open feature. It does not. When pulling the trigger results in no more bang bang, that’s how you’ll know it’s time for a fresh magazine.

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Speaking of replacing the magazine, the Galil ACE has a wide, ambidextrous lever that allows for the quick and sure release of your empties. This lever works well with either thumb, but, try as I might, I couldn’t get it to release with the magazine-slap technique. To be fair, I only get that right about half the time on standard AKs anyway.

The ACE’s trigger is a massive upgrade over a standard AK. Admittedly, that’s a low bar. The ACE’s trigger is a two-stage set-up with a fairly long take-up, followed by a five-pound snap with just a little bit of grit. The reset is very solid and short, like most two-stage models.

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Another aspect of the ACE worthy of note: the safety set-up. There’s a switch on each side of the receiver, but they’re configured differently. The safety on the left is a thumb safety. The safety on the right side is an index finger safety. So you can use either the thumb of your right hand or the index finger of your right hand to engage or disengage the safety.

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That’s all well and good and works well. But if you’re a lefty and shoot from the other side, the thumb safety is too close to manipulate with your index finger, and the finger safety is too far away to manipulate with your thumb. With a shift of your left-handed grip, it’s possible to manipulate the safety. Bottom line: the Galil ACE is not truly ambidextrous.

The ACE’s thumb safety is also quite stiff. Right out of the box, even after a good Rem Oil application, the safety was too stiff to move while keeping my hand on the grip. After a few hundred manipulations, the problem was mostly resolved.

However, some of the shooters that tried the gun still found it too stiff. Every right-handed shooter moved to the finger safety on the right side. The one left-handed shooter who had a go with the ACE stuck with the thumb safety, but had to shift his grip to flip it with his index finger.

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I don’t think there’s any other rifle I’ve reviewed that I’ve put more rounds through than this gun. I spent my obligatory 500 rounds through for reliability and accuracy testing. Then I took it to the annual Dead Goose Society shoot down in Goliad, Texas, and let some real AK pros get their hands on it.

All in all, shooters fired well over 1k rounds through this gun with no malfunctions of any kind, with all kinds of ammunition, save one issue with one magazine. The gun fed well with all Magpul magazines, as well as the one Bakelite magazine I own. It wouldn’t function with one of my waffle style steel magazine (which functioned just fine in three other AK-47s, including two stamped receivers and one milled receiver).

The Galil consistently dropped the magazine after the first round fired with that particular steel waffle style mag. It functioned just fine, though, with another similar style magazine. And it ran flawlessly in every other way over a month’s worth of shooting, by many different shooters. I shot surplus steel cased ammo, both FMJs and hollow points, as well as brass cased hand loads with both 123 grain and 150 grain bullets. All smooth as silk.

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Like many rifles chambered in 7.62X39, accuracy testing for this rifle was a multiple part process. The Galil ACE sports the best stock iron sights I’ve seen on a modern battle rifle, and that’s down to the front sight. It is a thin, tapered iron sight with a tritium insert. That means the sight can be quite thin, aiding in accuracy, while still bright during day and night firing.

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Using the iron sights, and surplus Red Army Standard and Wolf FMJ ammunition, I was getting consistent three-inch groups at 100 yards, firing off sand bags for five-round groups. Not horrible, but not great either.

Switching to hand loads, I dropped a full inch off those results, proving that much of the bemoaned lack of accuracy of the 7.62 round lies with the manufacture of the ammunition, not the cartridge itself.

As there’s a full rail on top of the ACE’s dust cover, the rear sight is also a few inches farther back than the traditional AK, giving a longer sight radius. Bonus! It also enables a magnified optic.

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Using a 4X scope and the 123 grain Hornady SST hand load, I shot consistent five-round groups just at over one inch. That’s better than any of my issued M4s ever shot, and a significant improvement over most AK-47s. It should also be noted that, even though there is a rail mounted on it, the dust cover isn’t suitable for a truly precision mount. It’s always going to wobble just a bit, at least in comparison to a drilled and tapped receiver mount.

The Galil ACE is a practical, comfortable, reliable, robust rifle with an excellent sighting system, capable of remarkable accuracy. If not for the rifle’s stiff controls and wobbly hand guard, the ACE would be a five-star firearm. As it is, it’s worth every penny of its premium price.

Specifications: IWI Galil ACE 32

Action: Gas piston semi-auto
Caliber: 7.62×39 mm
Barrel: 16” cold-hammer-forged, chrome lined, 1:9.5 r groove twist
Receiver: Milled upper block with polymer lower
Hand Guard: Tri-Rail with removable covers
Shoulder Stock: Side Folding Adjustable
Pistol Grip: Integral polymer with storage compartments
Front Sight: Elevation adjustable tritium night sight post
Rear Sight: Windage adjustable aperture
Overall Length: 38” (stock extended)
Empty Weight: 8.3 lbs
MSRP: $2,099 (found easily online for $1,709)

*rifle ships with one thirty round Magpul MPAG

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * *
For a semi-auto battle rifle, 1.25 MOA groups are great. Of course, ammunition choice makes a huge difference. The ACE proves the old adage that half the accuracy is in your round.

Reliability * * * * *
There was a consistent malfunction with one particular magazine that I couldn’t reproduce with similar mags. Considering the number of shooters and the number of rounds that went through this rifle, I’m perfectly comfortable taking the gun anywhere and trusting it with my life.

Customization * * * *
You can add optics to the top rail, as well as lights, aiming and signal devices to the sides, and a bipod to the bottom. It’s not in the same league as an AR as far as customization options, but for an AK, it’s great.

Overall * * * *
An exceptionally reliable, accurate, and comfortable shooting rifle. The wobbly hand guard gives an otherwise solid gun a cheap feel, and the controls are too stiff even after quite a bit of use. But if I needed a rifle in an extremely sandy or muddy environment, it would be very hard to beat the Galil ACE.

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54 Responses to Gun Review: IWI Galil ACE Rifle

  1. Nice looking gun, but the PRICE oww… the PRICE. That’s Arsenal AK territory with enough cash left over for some nice customizations.

    • Hideous to my eye – every simple, purposeful line gone, bloat everywhere. Bleccch.

      That said, I’m sure it’s a nice piece, but egads, the money. You’re right, there’s lots of quality to choose from at that price point.

    • The price was a surprise for me too. But then, I added up what a de-milled surplus AK would be, plus a top rail on the dust cover, side rails on the guard, an improved safety, collapsible stock and a CMC trigger would be. I ended end up at the same place.
      And that’s without a tritium front sight.

      • Yeah, It’s $100 more than I paid for my Arsenal SBR. (Not counting taxes.) When you’re putting $2k on the barrel, you better get some damn nice parts, not something that looks like an AK kit bash. (The stock personally offends me, it looks like they went with the cheapest POS they could find.)

      • There’s nothing ‘improved’ about that safety, unless you see ‘way more ugly’ as an “improvement”.

        Get a classic machined receiver MAK-90 Norinco (which has gone from $150 NIB back-in-the-day) to our current ridiculous valuation of around $500-600.

        It’ll shoot as well, and at least it won’t look like the a clay project the ‘special’ kids were assigned. Seriously, “well, what would it look like if we modelled it in marshmallows?” was the metric.

    • Mods are needed to make it not look so ugly…I’d still love to have one, hope I will some day, but man is that an ugly gun!
      (I’d like a better looking stock, and some optional front end furniture of longer length)

  2. What kind of bag is that?
    I’ve been wanting a scabbard style pack but not one of those giant 120L excursion bags.
    This one looks like it might be what I’ve been searching for.

    Oh, I want a Galil but I’m not going to pay close to $2K for one.
    Of course in a post Billary world $2K will probably look like a bargain.
    An old timer once said to me as I complained about the price of some local acreage “Nothing will ever be any cheaper than it is today.”

    • It’s become the hipster of MSRs. Once upon a time, I planned to pick up a cheap AK (or better yet, build one with DGS). But, I was too late and now it’s counter-trendy (which I don’t care about, but that also means expensive).

      So, now I’m trying to figure out how to build a nice AR for under $1k – and when you’re being tempted by a $900 upper from BCM, it’s tough.

    • The price was never the driver for the AK, at least not for me. At least for the last 10 years or so, they haven’t been inexpensive as compared to ARs. The interest in the AK for me was first about the manufacturing process. But then TTAG commenter RockOnHellChild replied to my distaste of the AKs ergonomics. He pointed out the simplicity in running the platform. No matter what happens, the drill for the gun is always the same. It limits your options. Limiting options, to a point, is a very good thing for me. I hate thinking when I’m dumb, and it’s been my experience that, in a firefight, everyone is dumb. And that goes doubly for me.

      • I don’t think you save nearly enough on ammo to justify the comparative expense of a good AK.

        And if you compare cheap rifles… I’d probably trust a 500-600 dollar AR more than a 500-600 dollar AK.

        • Which is both sad and depressing. 25 years ago a $120 Norinco AK (not a PolyTech, though they were made by the same folks in the same factory) was more reliable than a $600 AR/M-replica, back when that was real money.

    • History, longevity, simplicity, durability, fewer parts to worry about failing, much better recoil impulse (at least based on my experience compared to AR’s), fun to collect with all the differences each country put on their own variants, gun is easier to fix if there is a problem, no annoying twang going off in my ear after every shot, steel surplus mags can be used as a poor man’s Swiss Army knife go watch Polenar Tactical on YouTube if you don’t believe me, if you shoot it on its side the charging handle acts as a rudimentary front sight…..

      The AR does nothing for me. All the things people hail it for mean bunk to me.

  3. I picked up one of these a couple of months ago, in pistol form. Figured my first “AK” should be nice (like allll of my other stupidly expensive guns). It’s a very solid well put together gun. I do dislike the handguards and found them to be a little fat for my Medium sized hands and replaced them with some rail covers instead. The pistol version definitely needs to be SBR’ed, it porpoises like a bugger.

  4. As much as I like IWI firearms, this one’s too rich for my blood.

    For 7.62×39, I rather have an AR-15/AK-47 mutt, which is hella less costly than the Galil.

  5. First- I love this rifle and you will only pry it out of my cold dead hands.

    A few other notes:
    * For those who care, this gun is legal in MD (and also NJ I think, and elsewhere) if you pull the evil doohickey off.
    * The threads are 5/8×24, for your favorite muzzle device.
    * The rear sights pop off to make room for an optic (e.g. a 1-4×24). I love these iron sights, but my eyes are not 18 anymore.
    * Yes, it returns to zero within about 1MOA after you clean it. In this respect, the tight tolerances are a feature not a bug.
    * the cheek riser was a full 1.25″. A little much for me. But by pulling the rear sight off, thankfully its unneeded.

    My hand-guard was not loose. My controls and folding stock were pretty tight though, I can verify that. I consider this a feature of a well made rifle, not a bug myself.

    This gun is so smooth and has eaten everything I fed it without even a burp.

    Did I mention I love thus gun??

  6. I look forward to the .308 version. I have a Galil parts kit waiting to be put together, so I don’t think I’ll be snagging a new one.

  7. Jon, slightly off-topic, what do the new ITAR regs do to the guys like the Dead Goose Society when they do their garage builds?

    • The AR jams more,. is much harder to field strip, is far more complicated, fires a round that is much weaker.

      How do you not understand it’s “superiority”?

      • Not really / Are you kidding? / the bolt is the only thing I will agree with / what do you mean by weaker?

        Yes I own both platforms.

  8. I would really, really love a Galil or Tavor. But the prices! I paid $400 not too long ago for a WASR with a Tapco adjustable stock, UTG quad rail handguard with covers, top rail for a red dot or scout scope, a vertical grip, and a Tapco G2 trigger. Looks a lot like this Galil. I could buy a tritium front sight post, probably not as good as the one on the Galil, and a Williams peep sight for the rear if I was so inclined. All told I would have no more than $600 spent. I am not greatly experienced but I can do quite well at 100 yards. Not 1.5 MOA with custom loads off a sandbag, but shooting Tulas with my elbow on a bench, it was more than adequate if the target had been a bad guy. The simplicity of the AK makes me understand why the various communist regimes taught 12 year olds how to use it.

  9. Why is getting AK’s to have last shot hold open so hard? I am not much of a features guy but last shot hold open is a big deal. We are well into the 21st century, this should not be hard to do. Heck for about half the price you could get a sporter/paratrooper (not really for paratroopers I know) SKS that has a shorter barrel and will accept AK mags. The weight is about the same and you share some parts with an AK. You get last shot hold open and a truly much better safety.

  10. Easily found for $1,709 on line? How about the SIG 556R in 7.62×39 with STG 90 side folding stock, M1913 rail(s) that takes AK mags of all types? I have seen those go online for $1,000 or less.
    The SIG is what an AK looks like when the Swiss make one. Exceptional. AJMHO.

  11. I am amazed that they give it a 4 star rating for accuracy most of the AK platform rifles I have had the displeasure of shooting including the ones the enemy was using in Vietnam are far from accurate, three inches at 100 yards is terrible it multiplies as the distance is increased, if your man is 150 yards away you probably missed him. If you are looking for a “Spray and Pray” weapon then go ahead but for my 2 grand I want a far more accurate weapon. I would not waste my money. The original Galil rifle in Israel is very good in the 7.62 NATO but the 7.62X39 Russian round is just plain bad, the NATO 7.62 is a much more accurate round although most now use the 5.56 NATO. I feel for the lefthand shooters because all the auto/semi-auto weapons I know of eject from the right side.

  12. I wold like to add on the comment on the safety for left handed shooters. I too own the 308 and am a left hand shootter and while the safety does touch my shooting hand it in now way has affected my ability to shoot the rifle. Using a Trijicon MRO Have gotten an around 2 MOA @ 100yds off a bench. It took all of five mine for me to get use to the safety being there and then the rest is history. While this is not a truly ambi rifle, it still is very easy to get use to without sacrificing.

    • Thank you for the additional feedback on the safety…..I have not yet been able to handle the Galil, I’ll need to get one in my hands to see how the safety affects my left hand.

  13. While I’ve been always enamored with IMI weapons, I am disappointed in the Ace I purchased. Disassembly was straight forward enough much like the AK47, but reassembly, in particular the housing cover over the recoil spring has been frustrating no where near the simplicity of the original AK47.

  14. I am frustrated with the reassembly of the ACE, in particular the housing over the recoil spring, which seems to be difficult to reassemble.

  15. I actually went GAP 39-II with a cheek rest, not the rifle. Wanted something a bit shorter.

    Had the wobbly hand guard issue, wasn’t tightened down very well from the factory. Now it’s solid as a rock. I thought I loved my Tavor, but this sleek beast is giving it a run for its money!

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