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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.