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

IMI Galil ARM chambered in 5.56 mm with bipod deployed
IMI Galil ARM chambered in 5.56 mm with bipod deployed (Photo: IMI)

IMI Galil was a standard-issue rifle used by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for almost three decades. It was chambered in 5.56×45 mm NATO and also available in 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 in existence was brought and tested. In view 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 a variety of 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, which is itself 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 which 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 either 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 and is very reminiscent of the 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, these exhibit three white or pale green spots of light, generated by Betalight radiological sources. To sight, the weapon the three dots are lined up horizontally and the center one 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 is the version that 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 with 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. There is also the Galil SAR which 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. Compared to the original carbine, the MAR has a shortened barrel (210 mm), receiver, piston, gas tube, and foregrip. 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 in particular on increasing its reliability and accuracy under adverse or battlefield conditions.

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

Technical specifications: Galil

Manufacturer: Israeli Military Industries (IMI), Tel Aviv, Israel
Designed: the late 1960s
Service: 1972–present
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


In service the Galil appears to have lived up to its expectations; it is simple, robust, and accurate and it can with-stand desert conditions probably better than any other comparable rifle.

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