IMI Galil: An Israel’s derivative of legendary AK-47

Andreas Berg

IMI Galil ARM chambered in 5.56 mm with bipod deployed

IMI Galil was a standard-issue rifle used by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for almost three decades. It was chambered in 5.56×45 mm NATO and available in a 7.62×51 mm NATO caliber. The rifle was succeded by IWI Tavor.


The Israeli army decided to adopt the 5.56 mm cartridge after the Six-Day War of 1967, and in the following two years, every 5.56 mm rifle was brought and tested. Because of their location, much emphasis was placed on reliability under hot, dusty conditions.

IMI Galil was a standard-issue rifle for almost 30 years. It was succeeded by IWI Tavor
IMI Galil was a standard-issue rifle for almost 30 years. It was succeeded by IWI Tavor (Photo: IDF)

Of the various models tested, the IMI Galil, designed by Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior in the late 1960s, most closely met the requirements, and development went ahead; Galil was approved for adoption in 1972, but it was some time before it actually got into service and it is not, even now, a universal issue through-out the Israeli Defense Forces. It was produced by Israel Military Industries (IMI), now Israel Weapons Industry (IWI). The rifle has been exported to some other countries, however.


The IMI Galil has been designed to fill the place of three weapons – the assault rifle, the submachine gun, and the squad automatic weapon or light machine gun. It can also fire various grenades, and a short-barreled version has been developed for use by Special Forces.

Mechanically, the Galil leans heavily on the legendary Kalashnikov AK-47. It is closely based on the Valmet Rk 62, an improved version of the Soviet AK-47. It uses a similar method of gas operation, with a cylinder above the barrel and a similar gas piston-cum-bolt carrier assembly. The bolt has two locking lugs and a cam pin that follows a track in the carrier, which drives it to rotate for locking and unlocking. The first Galils were manufactured using Valmet Rk 62 receivers. Most Galil’s are chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO or 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges.

IMI Galil Series AR Diagram
IMI Galil Series AR Diagram (Photo: XY)

The cocking lever is attached to the bolt carrier so that it can be used for positive bolt closure in the event of fouling, and the change lever for single shot or automatic fire is on the right; when moved to the ‘safe’ position, it closes up the cocking handle slot against dust and also restricts the movement of the handle and bolt. The trigger and firing mechanism uses a hammer reminiscent of the M1 Garand rifle design.

The foresight is a post adjustable for elevation for zeroing and concealed within a ring shroud and a flip-over rear sight set for 300 m and 500 m ranges. Both sights have auxiliary night sights folded down behind them; when raised, they exhibit three white or pale green light spots generated by Betalight radiological sources. To sight the weapon, the three dots are lined up horizontally, and the center one is aligned with the target. The barrel has a flash hider which doubles as a grenade launching spigot, and the bipod joint incorporates a wire-cutter.


The Galil was produced in various variants:

  • IMI Galil AR
  • IMI Galil ARM
  • IMI Galil SAR
  • IMI Galil MAR (Micro Galil)
  • IMI Galil sniper
  • Other variants (Galil Magal, Galil Ace, Galil Golani, Galil Marksman Assault Rifle Mark 1)
A UN peacekeeper from Nepal with the 7.62mm Galil SAR
A UN peacekeeper from Nepal with the 7.62mm Galil SAR (Photo: UN)

Galil in Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)

The Israeli army used the 5.56×45mm NATO caliber IMI Galil in three basic configurations:

  • The Automatic Rifle Machine-gun (ARM) with a bipod, wire-cutter, and carrying handle would become the standard service rifle issued to front-line infantry troops. This version famously features a bottle opener in the front handguard.
  • The Automatic Rifle (AR) without the bipod, wire-cutter, and carrying handle was issued to support troops and military police units.
  • The Short Automatic Rifle (SAR), with a shortened barrel, was issued to vehicle crews, army staff, and specialty troops.
  • The Galil may be found with a wood or plastic stock and handguard (Galil ARM) or a folding metal stock and plastic handguard (Galil AR); the Galil ARM is fitted with a bipod and carrying handle for use as the squad automatic weapon. The Galil SAR resembles the Galil AR but has a shorter (13 in – 332 mm) barrel.

Galil MAR (Micro Galil)

The Galil MAR, or the Micro Galil, is a reduced-size version of the Galil SAR (706 mm stock extended / 465 mm folded), weighing 2.98 kg (6.57 pounds) empty. The MAR has a shortened barrel (210 mm), receiver, piston, gas tube, and foregrip compared to the original carbine. The firearm is fed from a 35-round steel magazine which can be clipped together to increase reload speed.

UN peacekeeper in Africa armed with a Galil MAR
UN peacekeeper in Africa armed with a Galil MAR (Photo: XY)

Galil ACE

The Galil ACE series is based upon the mechanism of the IMI Galil but uses a modernized design and materials to increase its accuracy and lower its weight while maintaining the Galil’s ergonomics, ease of maintenance, and reliability under battle conditions. Emphasis was placed on increasing its reliability and accuracy under adverse or battlefield conditions.

It is the primary standard-issue assault rifle of the Colombian Army, Navy, Air Force and Colombian Police, the Chilean Army, and the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Technical specifications: Galil

Manufacturer:Israeli Military Industries (IMI), Tel Aviv, Israel
Designed:the late 1960s
Type:Gas-operated, selective fire
Caliber: 5.56 mm (.223) and 7.62 mm (.308)
Barrel:20.6 in (524 mm)
Weight (empty):8.8 lbs (4 kg)
Effective firing range:300–500 m sight adjustments
Rate of fire:650 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity:35-round detachable magazine


The Galil appears to have lived up to its expectations; it is simple, robust, and accurate. It can withstand desert conditions probably better than any other comparable rifle. The fact that the very country who procured the Galil in the first place still made greater use of the M4 and M16 does not stand the Galil in excellent stead.

They were fine assault rifles, but they were heavy & expensive to produce. The US offered the Israelis boatloads of M16 & then M4s for substantially discounted rates & it made no sense to buy Galils. They later tried to alleviate some of these issues by replacing the wood parts w/ plastics, but IDF had already made the decision to switch to the M16/M4 platforms.

Related Post

Leave a Comment