I was impressed by the IWI Galil ACE in 7.62×39 I reviewed last year. But even as I reviewed it, I was intrigued by the idea of testing the same gun chambered in the larger 7.62×51 NATO caliber. I can now report that the IWI Galil ACE in 7.62 NATO is as fascinating a firearm as the original Galil, chambered in a true battle rifle cartridge.
Like the 7.62×39 version, the “new” gun’s internals are, essentially, taken straight from the traditional Kalashnikov design. If you’re familiar with the AK/AKM-47/74, the NATO-chambered rifle won’t present any maintenance difficulties or manual of arms-related challenges.
The most obvious difference in IWI US’s Galil ACE rifle is the reciprocating left-side charging handle, allowing for weak-hand operation. It’s a difference without a distinction, after running the Galil and a traditional AKM-47 side by side I doubt that it speeds-up reloads.
The sliding cover that keeps dust out of the action (when you’re not working the charging handle) and the gasket that seals the upper dust cover are excellent at keeping out the elements.
IWI has always had the challenge of creating guns to run in both urban environments, as well as heavy sand and heat. With the Galil ACE’s weatherstripping, they’ve done exactly that, out AK-ing the AK for durability.
The rifle boasts a 16-inch chrome lined, cold hammer forged barrel. I generally prefer a 20-inch barrel on a .308 rifle. That has nothing to do with accuracy, and everything to do with the wind.
All else being equal, using a 168-grain Amax round, assuming 10 mph full value wind, I have to adjust for 4 more inches of wind at 800 yards with a 16-inch barrel vs. a 20-inch barrel. The longer barrel also delivers 50 more yards of supersonic travel.
As I regularly prove to myself, I’m not good at wind calls — I’ll take any advantage I can get. Yes, but, while the extra oomph aids predictability, it really doesn’t come into play until almost 1,000 yards.
All that said, this is a Designated Marksman rifle. While 800 yards is a stretch, 16 inches seems an ideal length for this gun’s intended role.
Just like the 7.62 NATO’s smaller cousin, this rifle retains the same awkward safety set up. There are safeties on both the right and left sides, but they’re not ambidextrous.
On the left side of the milled steel receiver is a pull/push safe to fire safety that’s manageable with your right-hand thumb. It was pretty stiff to start, but loosened up nicely with some work. Most right-handed shooters who are used to an AR go right to that without any problems.
FWIW I had three former IDF soldiers put rounds through the gun. They all found this safety and used it without issue.
The other safety is on the right side of the receiver. It’s higher, farther out and very stiff. For a left-handed shooter, it’s practically worthless. It’s just too far away to reach with your thumb.
Like everyone else who tried to use it, I assumed you use it with your firing hand’s index finger. But it’s far too stiff to flip off with your finger. No one firing it could use their index finger to put it back on.
Then I had foreign-born friend shoot the rifle. (Israel doesn’t “exist” where he’s from.) He picked up the Galil and slapped the right side safety down to the Fire position with the palm of his hand, just like on an AK. Well then, that’s what that’s for.
It reminded me that this gun is in still an AK-pattern rifle, with a few changes. The designers clearly kept that original manual of arms in mind.
As with the other version of the ACE this rifle gives you lots of options for mounting accessories.
The forward handguards also serve as Picatinny rail covers, hiding 270 degrees of rail. With a push of a button the handguards slide off to reveal plenty of space for forward grips, laser aiming devices, flashlights, bottle openers, tactical toilet-paper rolls, whatever your heart’s desire.
Unlike the 7.62×39 version, handguards fit nice and tight, and didn’t rattle or move during firing. Even during long strings of fire, the handguards never got too hot to hold — something that occasionally happens on other AK-pattern guns.
The only downside: The handguards are a little on the short side. The grips don’t go all the way out to the gas block, forcing the user to choke up a bit. More than one shooter complained about the resulting ergonomics.
The adjustable side-folding stock collapses to the right side of the receiver. Just like an AK, the gun will run just fine in that position. I doubted that I’d ever need this feature in any of my AKs — right up until I shot a huge feral hog running by the side of my truck, out of an open window, one-handed, with the stock still folded. Recoil aside, it’s a handy way to store the rifle.
Unlike some side-fold stocks, the ACE is well designed, making long strings of fire comfortable. It also includes a snap-on riser. Without it, the standard sights line up with a good cheek/stock weld. Once an optic was mounted, my face was far too low to see through the scope.
With a quick snap of the supplied riser — no tools required — my head was back in the right position. The riser never came off, even through handling. But it was quite a challenge to get back off again without breaking the tabs that hold it on. I consider that a feature more than a bug.
The supplied muzzle brake on the Galil ACE in 7.62 NATO is stout and aggressive. I normally hate brakes, but it’s appropriate on this rifle.
This isn’t a lay down, fight from your belly gun. At least that’s not the intent. The ACE was designed as a fighting gun. For that use, you’ll want fast follow-up shots, and to keep that muzzle down.
The ACE’s brake does the job very well. Controlled pairs at 25 and 50 yards weren’t a problem, nor was seeing my round strike at 100 yards through an Atibal Nomad 3X12 scope. (Make double sure you have ear protection, it’s a loud one.)
Unlike the ACE’s little brother, the magazine insertion and release on the 7.62 NATO version is much more like an AR than an AK. Gone is the familiar paddle release behind the magazine. Instead, release buttons are positioned on either side of the magazine.
They’re easy to find without looking, and present an obvious tactile change over the rest of the receiver. The gun ships with one mag. IWI recommends Magpul SR25-style magazines. I had no trouble with the supplied PMag or any of those I had on hand.
The magazine well is generously funneled; blind insertion is simple. I kept wanting to rock magazines in like an AK, mostly because I was running this gun with a Dead Goose Society AKM-47 side-by-side for comparison. Even so, the Galil’s mag well funnels mags in smoothly. I never had a magazine fail to lock in or drop.
The trigger is a solid “meh.” The break itself is fine — a little heavy at just more than 4 pounds — but fairly crisp. It’s the getting there, and getting there again that diminishes its performance.
It’s a two-stage trigger with a long take-up even in reset and there’s a little bit of squishy grit in there. Compared to a precision rifle it would rate a fail, but it’s certainly an improvement over the triggers on my service rifles. Not that that’s saying much.
I was once again impressed with the sight set-up of this rifle. It’s still the best I’ve seen. The rear sight has two settings: a small aperture for daylight and, with a flip, a large aperture with tritium markings for shooting in the dark. There’s a thin post with a tritium insert at the front. In either bright daylight or low light, I got a great sight picture, delivering just under 3-inch accuracy at 100 yards.
Even though the front sight is at the gas block and not all the way out of the end of the barrel, you end up with a slightly longer sight radius than you’d get a standard AK. That’s thank to the fact that the rear sight’s mounted on the dust cover, not forward of the receiver.
A full-length two-piece rail runs all the way from the dust cover to the gas block. That’s great for mounting different types of optics — a big advantage over a standard AK.
Because of the gasket and retention set-up of the dust cover, it’s far more stable than a standard AK. That said, the mounting will never be as solid as it would be mounted directly to the receiver. So some accuracy loss is likely there.
The 7.62 NATO version doesn’t lock the bolt open on an empty chamber. If you’re careful, you can get the bolt to stay back on an empty magazine if you manually manipulate it. But it won’t stay back when you go empty during firing. You’ll know it’s time for a new magazine when it goes click.
As I expected after my previous review, 7.62 NATO ACE ran flawlessly. Four other shooters and I put more than 500 rounds through the gun, from several different manufacturers. We never had a jam, misfeed, failure to eject, or malfunction of any type.
As with all of my reviews, I lubed the gun up prior to shooting and never serviced it again throughout the testing process. I shot surplus steel cased FMJs, Federal OTMs, Hornady AMax and Nosler Balistic Tip bullets through it. Both factory rounds and my own hand loads ran through the gun without any issues. Given the basic platform, I wasn’t surprised.
Like the Galil ACE in 7.62X39, the 7.62 NATO version is accurate enough. Using the dust cover-mounted Atibal Nomad scope, accuracy ranged from 1.4-inch to 1.8-inch 5-round groups at 100 yards off bags, depending on ammunition.
The best-shooting round was the Federal Gold Medal Berger 185gr OTM at an average of 1.4 inches for four 5-round groups. The worst was Tul Ammo’s 150-grain steel case round at 1.8 inches.
I was surprised with such a low deviation among weights and brands. I’m sure that would have changed if I had stretched the legs of the cartridge a bit. I was a little surprised that the 185-grain rounds actually fit the magazine. They did, but as you can see above, just barely.
It should be noted that this rifle isn’t a reloader’s friend. Put another way, it hates brass and seeks to destroy it.
The AK-style bolt bent and marred many of the case heads. Upon extraction, each case was heavily creased as it exited the receiver. The crease couldn’t be fully removed during resizing, and the brass wasn’t safe to use again.
For those of you who don’t wish to hand load, the ACE is a great rifle. If Uncle Sugar was paying for my ammunition again, I’d take a 7.62 NATO ACE over my M4 for combat any day. It runs perfectly, shoulders quickly, and delivers a wide range of .308 caliber projectiles with better-than-good-enough accuracy.
SPECIFICATIONS: IWI Galil ACE 7.62 NATO
Caliber: 7.62 NATO (7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester)
Operating System: Closed rotating bolt, long-stroke gas piston
Magazine Type: MAGPUL LR/SR25 GEN M3 magazine compatibility
Magazine Capacity: 20 rounds
Barrel Material: Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Overall Length: 36 inches (buttstock unfolded and collapsed)
Weight: 8.7 lbs. w/o magazine
Rifling: Right hand, 1:12 inch twist
Sights: Fully adjustable iron sights with Tritium front post and 2 dot Tritium rear aperture.
Features: Picatinny style tri-rail forearm with built in, slide on/ off rail covers with pressure switch access, weight reduction with the use of modern polymers
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance * * *
It looks like a stout battle rifle, as it should. As far as aesthetics, absolutely nothing seems to “flow” on this gun. The colors of the metal and the furniture don’t quite match.
Ergonomics * * * *
This is a weird gun, designed to be usable for people familiar with both the AR and the AK. For that, it accomplishes its task well. But that also means some compromises.
Customization * * * * *
This rifle comes from the factory ready to hang accessories. The standard sights are great, but a top rail makes it easy to mount a myriad of optics. The included cheek riser means you can actually use them.
Accuracy * * * *
For a battle rifle designed for stand-up fighting and the occasional use as a Designated Marksman Rifle, it does a great job. Every round shooting under 2 MOA is better than any of my service rifles. With decent ammo, groups closer to 1.5 inches at 100 yards is fine shooting.
Reliability * * * * *
This gun ran everything I, and several other shooters, could throw at it. Zero issues.
Overall * * * *
Just like everyone else who shot it, I really enjoyed this rifle. It gives the user a ton of options. As an autoloader chambered in 7.62 NATO, this could very much serve as your “one gun.” Points off for a mediocre trigger, not hitting the 1-MOA mark on accuracy, and for brass demolition.