The Galil’s design is optimized for operation in arid conditions and is based on the Finnish RK 62, which itself was derived from the Soviet AK-47 assault rifle. It was selected as the winner of a competition for the Israel Defense Forces that included many other rival designs (among them, the M16A1, Stoner 63, AK-47 and HK33) and was formally accepted into service in 1972, replacing the FN FAL.
The Galil series of rifles are selective fire weapons operated by a Kalashnikov-pattern gas-driven piston system with no regulator. The weapon is locked with a rotary bolt with two locking lugs that lock into recesses milled into the receiver.
When fired, a portion of the propellant gases are evacuated into the gas cylinder through a 1.8 mm (0.07 in) port, drilled at a 30° angle in the barrel, and a channel in the gas block. The high-pressure gases drive the piston rod (which is attached to the bolt carrier) rearward. During this rearward movement, a cam slot machined into the bolt carrier engages a cam pin on the bolt and rotates the bolt, unlocking the action. The arrangement of parts on the bolt carrier assembly provides for a degree of free travel, allowing gas pressure in the barrel to drop to a safe level before unlocking. To the immediate rear of the chrome-plated piston head is a notched ring which provides a reduced bearing surface and alleviates excess gas build-up. As the bolt carrier travels back, it compresses the return spring guided in a hollowed section of the bolt carrier and the return energy contained in the spring drives the moving assembly back forward, stripping a new round from the magazine and locking the action. The cocking handle is attached to the bolt carrier on the right side of the receiver and reciprocates with each shot; the handle is bent upwards allowing for operation with the left hand while the shooting hand remains on the pistol grip.
Galil rifle in Israeli service
The Galil is hammer-fired and has a trigger mechanism patterned after the trigger used in the American M1 Garand. The rifle’s fire has three positions: “R” (British terminology for “repetition” or semi-automatic fire); the middle position, “A”, produces fully automatic fire; and pushing the lever fully forward will activate the safety.
The Galil prototypes used a stamped and riveted sheet metal steel receiver, but due to the higher operating pressures of the 5.56x45mm cartridge, this solution was discarded and the designers turned to a heavy milled forging. As a testament to its heritage, early prototypes were fabricated using Valmet Rk 62 receivers manufactured in Helsinki. All exterior metal surfaces are phosphated for corrosion resistance and then coated with a black enamel (except for the barrel, gas block and front sight tower).
The weapon is fitted with a high-impact plastic handguard and pistol grip and a side-folding (folds to the right side) tubular steel skeleton stock. The rifle can be used with a sound suppressor. The weapon features a bottle opener and wire cutter built into the bipod. The bottle opener feature was included to prevent damage to magazines being used to open bottles, due to the large civilian reservist components of the IDF. Wire cutters were included to reduce the time necessary for IDF troops to cut down wire fences common to rural areas in Israel.
Early production models were supplied with barrels that had six right-hand grooves and a 305 mm (1:12 in) rifling twist (optimized for use with M193 ammunition), while recent production models feature a 178 mm (1:7 in) twist barrel with six right-hand grooves (used to stabilize the heavier SS109/M855 projectile). The barrel has a slotted flash suppressor with 6 ports and can be used to launch rifle grenades or mount a bayonet lug attachment (it will accept the M7 bayonet).
The Galil is fed from a curved, steel box magazine with a 35-round capacity (SAR and AR versions), a 50-round capacity (ARM model) or a special color-coded 12-round magazine blocked for use exclusively with ballistite (blank) cartridges, used to launch rifle grenades. The magazine is inserted front end first in a similar manner to the AK family. An optional magazine adaptor enables the use of M16 type STANAG magazines.
The L-shaped rear sight has two apertures preset for firing at 0–300 m and 300–500 m respectively (the rear sight can only be adjusted for elevation). The front post is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation zero and is enclosed in a protective hood. Low-light flip-up front blade and rear sight elements have three self-luminous tritium capsules (betalights) which are calibrated for 100 m when deployed. When the rear night sight is flipped up for use, the rear aperture sights must be placed in an offset position intermediate between the two apertures. Certain variants have a receiver-mounted dovetail adapter that is used to mount various optical sights.
The standard rifle version which is fitted with a high-impact plastic handguard and pistol grip, a side-folding (folds to the right side) tubular metal skeleton stock as fitted to all variants except the Galil Sniper.
The SAR carbine variant of the AR is configured with a shorter barrel (332 mm). Due to the shorter barrel a corresponding shorter piston and gas tube as well as a unique gas block are found on the SAR.
The ARM light machine gun variant is additionally equipped with a carrying handle, folding bipod and a larger wooden handguard. The wooden handguard remains cooler during sustained automatic fire and has grooves for bipod storage. When folded, the bipod’s legs form a speed chute for rapid magazine insertion; the bipod will form a wire cutter and the rear handguard ferrule, which retains the bipod legs, can be used to open bottles by design, in order to prevent soldiers using magazine lips for this purpose which damaged them.
The 7.62 mm Galil is derived from the 5.56 mm base version. The rifle retains the general design layout and method of operation of the 5.56 mm variant. In 7.62mm the Galil is available in several different configurations including a SAR carbine, full size AR rifle and ARM light machine gun. These weapons are fed from 25-round box magazines (previously 20-rounds). The barrel has four right-hand grooves with a 305 mm (1:12 in) rifling twist rate.
The 7.62 mm Galil Sniper (Galil Tzalafim, or Galatz) is a derivative of the ARM that is used with high quality 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition for consistent accuracy.
The precision rifle is a semi-automatic-only rifle with a similar operating system to other Galil variants, but optimised for accuracy. The rifle is fed from a 25-round box magazine. It uses a heavy profile match barrel that is heavier than that used on other variants. It is fitted with a multi-functional muzzle device, which acts as a flash suppressor and a muzzle brake. It can be replaced with a sound suppressor which requires the use of subsonic ammunition for maximum effectiveness.
The weapon was modified with a two-stage trigger mechanism with an adjustable pull force, a wooden buttstock that folds to the right side of the weapon and a heavy-duty bipod, mounted to the forward base of the receiver housing that folds beneath the handguard when not in use. The buttstock is fully adjustable in length and height and features a variable height cheek riser. The rifle comes with mechanical iron sights and an adapter used to mount a telescopic day sight (Nimrod 6×40) or a night sight. The mount is quick-detachable and capable of retaining zero after remounting. The precision rifle is stored in a rugged transport case that comes with an optical sight, mount, filters, two slings (for carrying and firing) and a cleaning kit. Recent production models feature synthetic plastic furniture and a skeletonized metal stock.