IWI US Galil ACE Pistol: Rejuvenating an Israeli Classic

By Todd Burgreen, Photos by Ethan Burgreen

The IWI US Galil ACE pistol with stabilizing brace is now steadily arriving on dealers’ shelves after its introduction in 2015. IWI US had to overcome various manufacturing and BATF compliance issues to get this highly anticipated product into the hands of users. The Galil ACE joins other notable IWI US offerings making waves in the US market, such as the Tavor SAR/X95 and Uzi Pro.

The original Israeli Galil was choked out of the US market in the early 1990s due to federal import laws. IWI US is now not only making available the highly respected Israeli Galil, but has enhanced it in the form of the Galil ACE. This has been achieved by assembling the rifles from a combination of Israeli and US-manufactured components at their Harrisburg, PA facility. The Galil ACE is not merely a copy of the 1960s design. IWI took full advantage of the passage of time to improve/update the original Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior design. The pistol brace version reviewed herein was definitely not contemplated by the two original designers.

The current Galil ACE can be traced back to the Galil, which in turn was inspired by the Finnish Valmet Rk62. The Valmet Rk62 is itself an advanced AK derivative. Finland is a country of serious riflemen with a large, aggressive neighbor it has eyed warily for centuries … Russia or the Soviet Union. The Russian AK’s rugged reliability and ability to adapt to harsh operational environments earned begrudging respect from the Finns. The Valmet Rk62 sought to maintain AK reliability while improving accuracy. This was accomplished with the use of a quality barrel, increased iron sight radius, higher quality manufacturing techniques, and tweaks to the gas tube and long-stroke gas piston operation. Israel’s Galil followed the Valmet Rk62’s path, after IDF found the FAL wanting in terms of size, recoil and—more importantly—reliability. The Galil in 5.56mm was officially adopted by the IDF in 1972. However, the Galil immediately faced competition within the IDF from the large numbers of M16/M4s acquired from the US. It made more fiscal sense to use the relatively inexpensive US rifle instead of relying exclusively on the Galil.

This article will use the IWI Galil ACE pistol as the vehicle to address a class of weapons that can no longer be ignored or dismissed as a fad. I am referring to the growing number of pistol models that have arisen by removing the buttstocks of rifle-pattern weapons. For individuals without legal access to an NFA Class 3 Short Barrel Rifle (SBR), the rifle caliber pistol may well be the closest approximation of this firepower in such a compact package. Along these same lines, the increasing number of states issuing concealed carry permits while honoring other states’ permits is another reason that rifle caliber pistols are currently so popular.

The IWI US Galil ACE seeks to improve the original Galil in a number of ways. Galil reliability and performance has never been doubted, however its near 10-pound weight drew criticism from troops, especially when compared to the 6-pound M4. The Galil ACE makes use of a polymer lower for the magazine well, trigger guard and pistol grip. The upper receiver containing the action and hinged folding stock trunnion is milled from ordnance steel. The railed forend on the Galil ACE is also derived from high-strength polymer.

The Galil ACE 7.62x39 pistol features an 8.3-inch 1:9.45 RH twist chrome-lined hammer-forged barrel with a removable A2 style flash hider. Galil ACE .308Win and 5.56mm variants are also available. The pistol’s overall length is 28 inches and 19.5 inches with the brace folded to the right. Its weight is 6.5 pounds. As well as shaving weight, the Galil ACE now has its reciprocating charging handle on the left side of the steel receiver for easier/simpler weak hand manipulation. A spring-loaded gate on the left side minimizes the chance of dirt/grime entering via the charging handle pathway. The original Galil had a distinctive vertically upturned handle on the right side. The absence of the charging handle on the right-hand side allowed a metal recess to be created on the right side of the Galil ACE’s bolt carrier body. This measure further enhances reliability in harsh environments by preventing dirt, mud, snow or ice from clogging/jamming the bolt group during operation.

The IWI US Galil ACE pistol with stabilizing brace (GAP39SB) evaluated in this article is chambered in 7.62x39 and fed via AK magazines. A Magpul AK magazine arrives with the pistol. IWI US literature mentions that a US-made magazine was used for 922r compliance purposes. AK magazines are not made to a tight “standard” pattern, dimensionally speaking. Therefore, a plethora of AK magazines was evaluated with the IWI US Galil ACE. These magazines included US Palm, Magpul, TAPCO, Bulgarian (smooth and waffle) and I.O. Inc., as well as multiple surplus steel magazines; even drum magazines were tested. US Palm, Bulgarian “waffle” and drum magazines were a “no-go” in the Galil ACE. A centrally located magazine release reinforces ambidextrous functionality. Magazines do not drop free and there is no last round hold open provision or bolt open device found with the Galil ACE.

Other enhancements to the Galil ACE include a full-length two-piece metal Picatinny top rail along the upper receiver and gas tube for mounting optics. IWI US has accentuated the previous Galil design by securing the upper top cover tightly via an oversized release button at the end of the recoil spring protruding out of the top cover. A rubber grommet/gasket is also included. This ensures that the rear aperture iron sight stays zeroed, as well as other optics that may be mounted. The top cover exhibits no wiggle. In fact, removing and reinstalling takes some effort but is worthwhile considering the advantage gained. Following this theme, the Galil’s gas tube is dovetailed into the receiver’s front block. This limits any movement of the gas block that can influence barrel vibration and thus degrade rifle accuracy. A recoil buffer is also present on the recoil spring. This serves multiple purposes: cushioning the impact of recoiling parts, easing wear on the rear trunnion and taming vibration—therefore improving accuracy potential. All of these details related to the top cover and gas tube differ from those of the original AK method.

A further nod to current firearm trends is the Picatinny polymer tri-rail forearm. Slide on/off rail covers are standard. The rail covers allow for pressure switch access for lights or lasers. The Galil ACE pistol comes with a right side folding brace. Attention to detail is found with the ability to easily remove the rear aperture sight if an eye relief dependent optic is utilized, avoiding the need to mount the optic uncomfortably high to clear. Another nice touch is the tritium vials installed in the front post and rear aperture sights for night use. One note here is that the orientation of the front sight needs to be monitored carefully when sighting in. A further half turn may be needed to keep the tritium vial focused rearward. The Galil ACE comes equipped with the trigger type used in the Galil sniper rifle. This is a nice upgrade offering a 5-pound pull after an initial take up. The Galil ACE pistol emerges from the box remediating known AK shortcomings in terms of mounting optics over the receiver.

Anyone looking for a hard-hitting weapon will certainly appreciate the Galil ACE pistol. The functionality of a .30 caliber weapon utilizing 30-round AK-47 magazines incorporating a proven gas-piston operating rod system is hard to deny. Thus, no matter the situation one may find him/herself in, whether it is a rural setting featuring longer distances or an urban environment requiring CQB-style tactics, the IWI US Galil ACE pistol can satisfy the mission.

It was decided to take full advantage of the Galil ACE pistol’s flattop upper by mounting a SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 red dot sight. The “closed” design of the ROMEO 5 limits the effect that weather or other environmental conditions may have on its performance. Rain, snow and debris, amongst other adverse conditions, cannot interfere with the red dot being projected on the lens, which enables accurate shooting under any conditions. The ROMEO 5 is IPX7 rated (immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter) and features SIG SAUER’s MOTAC Technology. In short, MOTAC is motion sensing technology. MOTAC immediately powers up illumination when it senses motion and powers down when it does not after a period of time. This serves to greatly extend battery life. The ROMEO 5 boasts 50,000+ hours of battery life with the readily available CR2032 battery. The battery inserts into the side of the mounted sight, allowing quick replacement without removing the sight from the weapon, and therefore eliminates the need to re-zero. The sight also has two night-vision compatible modes.

Independence from set eye relief requirements is one of the major advantages of the red dot sight. This is borne out when working in tight confines or finding oneself in awkward firing positions to maximize cover. Keep both eyes open and if you see the red dot on target pull the trigger. The adjustable intensity of the SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 red dot sight allows you to tune the 2MOA dot reticle as needed, whether in low light or bright conditions. A pistol like the Galil ACE, which is created from an assault rifle by removing the rear stock, is a perfect candidate for the ROMEO 5 red dot. The SIG SAUER red dot will surely assist in realizing the full potential of these types of weapon platforms.

Multiple 7.62x39 loads were tested, such as Hornady, Wolf and Red Army Standard. Wolf and Red Army Standard steel-cased FMJ loads hovered in the 3- to 3.5-inch range at 100 yards. The Hornady 123-grain SST loads delivered 2-inch groups at 100 yards. Range tests consisted of moving around barricades and simulated cover while engaging an assortment of paper and steel targets, including automobiles, located at Echo Valley Training Center. One immediate positive comment was the ambidextrous safety/fire lever found on the Galil ACE pistol. The right-side safety lever has been reduced in size, as it is no longer required to act as a dust cover. The right-side safety/fire lever is operated with the right index finger or by removing your hand from the pistol grip and using multiple fingers. On the left side, just above the pistol grip, there is another safety/fire selector, meant to be operated by the shooter’s thumb. This was found to be the favored method of use in terms of ergonomics.

Many will argue that there is no defensive/tactical value in such a non-traditional pistol as the Galil ACE pistol with stabilizing brace; just use a full-size rifle or typical handgun. However, some will be lured to the Galil ACE pistol for the intriguing nuance of maintaining handgun status with a semblance of rifle performance based on manipulation techniques. Its ability to be transported more discreetly than a full-size rifle may translate into it being the weapon most readily available if a situation arises unexpectedly while away from one’s home or main weapon location.

Various methods were used while test firing the Galil ACE pistol. These included two-handed holds, such as that used with a typical handgun or the SAS sling tension method initially made popular in the 1980s. Another method was attempted based on the way in which Czech Special Forces run their Skorpion machine pistols. The buffer tube is floated/placed on the cheek, providing three points of contact for more stability and thus accuracy. This quickly emerged as the preferred method of using the Galil ACE pistol.

Several hundred rounds were fired through the Galil ACE pistol for this article. After initial inspection and light lubrication, no cleaning was performed. No reliability issues were encountered. Special attention was paid to maintaining iron sight and optic zero by removing and reinstalling the top cover numerous times between evaluation scenarios. Initial concern was raised about heat transfer to the railed polymer forend. This proved a non-issue thanks to the effective heat shields and spacing between the barrel/gas block and forend. In fact, even after multiple rapid-fire magazine dumps, the forend proved able to be gripped with an ungloved hand.

The fact that the Galil ACE pistol is classified legally as a handgun offers a certain amount of flexibility to users who have a concealed carry license. If considering the Galil ACE pistol for serious defense or in a tactical role, it would be best to regard it as a personal defense weapon (PDW) rather than a rifle. The Galil ACE pistol is definitely more potent and offers a longer effective range than a traditional pistol, especially in the hands of a user trained to appreciate its nuances.



Hornady Ammunition


Echo Valley Training Center

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N9 (November 2017)
and was posted online on September 22, 2017


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