Major Pandemic was fortunate to be one of the first writers to get his hands on the newly introduced Galil ACE GAR1651 .308/7.62×51 NATO, and I have had a chance to wring it out pretty well. What I will say is, this is my favorite among the .308 semi-auto rifles I own. It is not the lightest, the prettiest, or even the most accurate, however it can take a ton of abuse and still deliver bullets where they need to go. I not only like this 8.7-pound rifle, I love it.
A Little History of the Galil
For those not familiar with the original Galil line, it was developed in the 1960s and has continued refinement to current times. The rifle and has been tuned and tweaked over the years by IWI into what many say is the pinnacle of AK perfection. All the features and accuracy of military M16/AR platforms, but with AK reliability and power—indeed the perfect AK.
At the time of the initial development, the Israelis had just finished the Six-Day War that resulted in capturing thousands of AK-47s. Upon inspection and testing, they were impressed with the simple cleaning, durability, and dependability of the AK platform but wanted accuracy similar to U.S. M16s. From that point Yisrael Galil started the development of an updated AK design, which addressed those needs, and the gun was adopted and used by the Israeli army.
At its core, the Galil platform is truly a born, bred, and refined battle rifle designed to deliver premium performance in any environment. The challenge of course was that this exceptional weapon was about five times the cost of decent European AKs and still substantially more than surplus M16 rifles that were basically given to the Israelis by the U.S. The result was that M16s were the widely adopted weapon platform until the release of the Tavor and later X95 rifles which again featured highly-reliable piston systems. Luckily, the rather pricey Galil continued to be needed for certain military applications and thus development was continued by IWI.
IWI has previously released Galil rifles and pistols in 7.62×39. Now, it has brought the 7.61×51 to the U.S. market. To get the 2016 recall out of the way, the reason for the initial IWI Galil recall was not a functional flaw. Instead, it was a BATF compliance issue. In the eyes of the BATF, they perceived the first imported Galil models to be somewhat easily converted to full auto due to their three-pin receiver design. IWI complied, but that mandatory replacement recall delayed the release of all other Galil models in the U.S.
The IWI Galil Ace GAR1651
At first look, IWI’s Galil ACE GAR1651 7.61×51 rifle looks a bit clunky until you handle and shoot it at which point each design feature of the GAR1651 becomes apparent. The Galil ACE 7.61×51 is not a project rifle that you are going to do a bunch of upgrades to, because the design itself does not lend itself to that flexibility. About the only customizing will be Cerakoting, or adding Picatinny accessories, however someone at some point will offer some type of aftermarket handguard.
Weight has been trimmed everywhere including a trick borrowed from the H&K MP5. IWI utilizes a complete polymer lower grip, mag, and trigger cover assembly similar to the MP5 which means you are stuck with the grip and integrated controls. Luckily, the ambidextrous magazine release and selector are very ergonomically positioned and work well. By integrating the controls, magwell, and grip, an ounce here and there are saved from various parts needing to be bolted together.
Another proprietary component is the folding buttstock that makes this rifle an ideal traveling companion. Though the ACE GAR1651 7.61×51 does have what appears to be a mil-spec-style folding stock, the buttstock tube is not compatible with AR-15-style buttstocks. The upside is that the buttstock setup is fabulous and includes a squishy recoil pad and a clip on cheek riser for when an optic is used.
Up front, the substantial bark of the hammer forged, chrome lined, 1:12 twist, 16-inch barrel is actually increased with a superbly effective muzzle brake. This rifle stays flat like no other .308 I have shot, and the recoil seems less than most AK-47s. This 7.61×51 rifle can deliver a boatload of highly controlled firepower on target quickly. What I loved about the IWI GAR1651 7.61×51 design was that it accepts standard, inexpensive Magpul LR20 .308 PMAGs. From my perspective, these, and the Lancer .308 mags, are simply the best .308 magazines on the market.
They work and have fixed a lot of non-working DPMS pattern AR .308 rifles. I also own at least 100 of these mags, so I was thrilled that they could see use on another platform. To me, this makes it all the more easy to justify a gun that already takes the same magazines as the .308 ARs and Ruger Precision Rifles I already own.
Shooting & Accuracy
Shooting the Galil ACE GAR1651 7.61×51 NATO is pure joy. The charging handle is on the left side where it is easy manipulated without the AK-flip-hand-over-receiver maneuver. All controls are ambidextrous while the magazine seating and release is smooth and problem free from the semi-flared magwell. The included tritium front and rear adjustable sights deliver everything a shooter would want from fixed combat sights. The rear sight can be removed if needed to accommodate optics. The front handguard is well thought out, comfortable, and conceals easily accessible 9-, 3-, and 6 o’clock Picatinny rails, however it is the only component I am a little nit-picky over after being spoiled with long KeyMod and M-Lok handguards.
You can blow through a lot of not particularly cheap-to-shoot ammo quick with this gun because it delivers recoil at, or less than, most AK-47s, but with literally zero muzzle rise. My Century C308 HK91/G3 clone has a light recoil. The Galil .308 has far less recoil and does not walking up with each shot. It was interesting shooting and testing them side-by-side. The Galil is quite a bit more expensive, but more accurate, delivers less recoil and is a lot faster to shoot. Part of that could be that the Galil has a billet-milled receiver, which is very stiff compared to similar platforms with stamped receivers—the Galil is Solid with a capital S.
Of note, this gun has eaten well over 500-rounds of all types and grades of ammo and I have yet to have a single failure. Regardless of the group down range, the Galil ACE is an extraordinarily dependable firearm.
The Galil is a one-inch 100-yard capable gun. However, it does take a bit of work to find the match-grade load that the Galil .308 likes to accomplish that. My best group was with Hornady 155-grain A-Max Match that netted a stunning .8-inch group. Federal Gold Match ammo was not far behind that with a .89-inch group. Inexpensive military surplus ball ammo accuracy was variable based on the lot, manufacturer, and source, with 100-yard groups as small a 2 inches and as large as 6 inches. What should be noted is that like the HK91 clones, this Galil is hard on brass and probably not a reloading-friendly rifle. It does not chew up brass like the HK91, but it does put a very consistent dent in the side of every case shot and more than often dents a case mouth.
I did clip on a Geissele Precision Mount with a Bushnell Elite 4.5-30x to see what the gun could do. The Galil has an integrated top Picatinny rail that extends to the front of the handguard. IWI has apparently figured out how to cam in the top cover to make it solid enough for an optic mount. The top cover does not just bang into place like an AK, but once you get the hang of the cover reinstall it goes quick and returns the optic to zero.
Improvements made since the original Galil was first developed include:
Charging handle (reciprocating) moved to the left side of the milled steel receiver allowing for weak hand operation
LR/SR25 magazine compatibility. You should only use magazines made in the USA in your Galil ACE rifle. Use of an imported magazine may put you in violation of 18 U.S.C § 922(r).)
Weight reduction with the use of modern polymers
Full length 2-piece Mil-Std Picatinny top rail
Picatinny style tri-rail forearm with built in, slide on/ off rail covers with pressure switch access
Side Folding adjustable telescoping buttstock with 2 position removable comb on all rifle models
Fully adjustable iron sights with Tritium front post and 2 dot Tritium rear aperture
Caliber 7.62 NATO (7.62x51mm)
Operating System Closed rotating bolt, long stroke gas piston
Magazine Type MAGPUL LR/SR25 GEN M3
Magazine Capacity 20 rounds
Barrel Material Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, Chrome lined
Barrel Length 16″
Overall Length 36″ (Buttstock Unfolded and Collapsed)
Weight 8.7 lbs w/out Magazine
Rifling Right Hand, 1:12 inch twist
Stock Color Black
Sights Adjustable with Tritium front post and 2-dot Tritium rear aperture.
Restricted States Sales of this rifle may be restricted in certain states and the District of Columbia. Please check with your local authorities regarding your local firearms laws.
Optional Equipment N/A
The Galil ACE GAR1651 7.61×51 NATO fits into a really unique and nice niche. It is a light and nimble 8.75-pound battle rifle that can still deliver shocking accuracy with the right match grade ammo. Historically, .308 AR-format rifles are irritatingly finicky in the best of environments—one primary reason I advocate buying working AR .308 rifles and certainly a reliability trait someone does not want in a military rifle that is abused in harsh conditions.
The Galil has overcome that reliability hurdle with the AK-based pushrod long-stroke piston system which works insanely well on the .308/7.61×51 round. This gun is destined for a 1-4x optic and could be “The Gun” to take on hunting trips around the county… at least I know it would work in all conditions, and with the right ammo, deliver accuracy beyond good enough for hunting. I think this could be the new go-to .308 battle rifle. The Galil ACE GAR1651 7.61×51 NATO may not be a beauty to look at, but it is a beauty to shoot.
Are you a Galil fan? Do you prefer a .223 or .308? Why? Share your answers in the comment section.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.