Throughout history snipers and their equipment have held
the military's interest only during periods of armed conflict.
Between wars they languish in a limbo buried under higher
priorities. But Israel's state of siege never ends, so it stands
to reason that sniping would occupy no small role in Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) tactics. Yet until recently their snipers
have made do with little more than exhausted M14s - junkyard
remnants of American military hopes left rotting in the jungles
of Southeast Asia.
Working in close support with the army, an Israel Military
Industries (IMI) weapons division team commenced development
of an indigenous sniping system in 1980. Taking note of Russia's
success at mass producing the Dragunov, large-scale series
production without serious compromise of the accuracy potential
was a key objective. The resulting rifle, while not totally
satisfactory in my opinion, is, nonetheless, a sincere effort
to comply with the user's requirements.
Starting with the Galil rifle, itself an extensive modification
of the Kalashnikov system (early prototypes were in fact
assembled with Finnish Valmet M62 receivers), IMI's response
to the infantry's need to strike at multiple targets both quickly
and accurately checks in at 18.3 pounds, complete with scope,
bipod and loaded magazine. While Israeli soldiers are well-known
for their ability to hump with awesome loads, this is still far
too heavy. Overall length with the stock unfolded and the
muzzle brake installed is approximately 43 inches.
Built around the Galil's heavy forged receiver, chambering is
for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. Since snipers will employ
match-grade ammunition, adding in essence a different cartridge
to the pipeline, the belted .300 Winchester Magnum would
have been a superior choice, as it provides less variation in
point of impact at long ranges.
Firing from the closed-bolt position, the Galil is gas-operated
without an adjustable regulator. When the trigger is pulled,
the hammer drives the firing pin forward to strike the primer.
The bolt has been fitted with a strong firing pin spring to prevent
premature ignition of more sensitive commercial primers - an
especially important feature as the auto safety sear has been
eliminated from this semiautomatic rifle.
After ignition of the primer, a portion of the propellent gases
passes through the barrel vent into the gas block pinned to
the barrel. Gas enters the cylinder (to which a small spring
has been attached to secure its retention during reassembly)
and drives the piston rearward. The piston is hard-chrome
plated for ease of maintenance. A notched ring in back of
the piston head provides a reduced bearing surface and permits
excess gas blow-by, which is vented into the atmosphere
out six ports in the gas cylinder. The bolt carrier is permanently
attached to the piston. After a short amount of free travel,
during which time the gas pressure drops to a safe level, the
carrier's cam slot engages the bolt's cam pin and the bolt is
rotated and unlocked as the carrier moves rearward.
Primary extraction occurs as the bolt is rotated. Empty-case
ejection is typically violent. Cases are severely dented by
the ejector (milled into the left receiver rail) and thrown to
the right and front as much as 40 feet (an undesirable
characteristic with regard to position disclosure). At this
time, the recoil spring is compressed and its return energy
drives the carrier forward to strip another round from the
magazine and chamber it.
The Galil's hammer spring is made of multi-strand cable. Both
the trigger and sear springs are fabricated from conventional
single-strand wire. The two-stage trigger on SOF's test specimen
breaks cleanly at 3.25 pounds. But the right-side selector lever
is the same stamped sheet-metal bar common to all Kalashnikovs
and every bit as noisy. Something should be done about this.
The top position, marked "S," is safe and blocks upward rotation
of the trigger bar. In this position, the bolt can be retracted only
far enough to inspect for a chambered round. There is also a
thumb-operated selector switch on the left side. By means of
a two-piece hinged bar inside the receiver, the rearmost position
of this selector is safe, and pushing forward with the thumb will
place the weapon in the firing mode, marked "F."
Taken from the Hungarian AKM/AMD-65 series, the Galil's gray-plastic
pistol grip exhibits excellent human engineering. Of more than
adequate length, with a sharp bottom flare to prevent the hand
from slipping, the grip has been attached to the receiver at precisely
the correct grip-to-frame angle.
Protected by the front of the trigger guard, the spring-loaded,
flapper-type magazine latch [requires that the magazine] be
inserted from the front and rolled back to engage the latch.
Two tough, all-steel, ribbed 25-round magazines are issued
with each rifle. Both the magazines and the receiver are
finished with black baked enamel over phosphate. All other
steel components (except the piston) are phosphate finished.
Carrying handle and bayonet stud on the ARM have been deleted.
The retracting handle remains attached to the bolt carrier
and bent upright to permit cocking with either hand - a useful
No small portion of this rifle's horrendous weight is consumed
by the 20-inch, heavy, stepped barrel. Its four grooves twist
to the right with a turn of 1: 12 inches. A faster 1: 10 inch twist
would have offered greater bullet stabilization at ranges
approaching 1,000 meters.
A large 4-inch muzzle brake has been threaded to the barrel.
It has three rows of exhaust ports of five holes each positioned
to the rear of four transverse compensator cuts arranged two
abreast. It can be rotated offset to the right or left to accommodate
right- or left-handed shooters (unfortunately, to no avail). It's
quite effective but retained by an allen-head set screw which
will surely loosen and disappear in the field.
Two-piece wooden handguards, without the ARM's longitudinal
grooves, are attached to the barrel and receiver by screws
through a hole at the rear of the gas block and into the bottom,
front portion of the receiver. The bipod, attached to the gas
block on the ARM, has been moved 9.5 inches to the rear and
mounted to the end of the forearm assembly to avoid interference
with the barrel's vibration pattern. While this location enhances
the operator's ability to quickly engage targets on the flanks
without lifting the rifle off the ground, it has an unfavorable
effect on accuracy. Stored under the handguards, this sturdy,
supposedly adjustable bipod, unlike that of the ARM, cannot
be used to cut wire or open beer bottles. That's of small
consequence, but one of the legs on our test specimen refused
to retract. Command height can be varied from approximately
eight up to 10 inches, with two intermediate positions.
The buttstock can be folded to the right for transport, reducing
the rifle's length of 33.6 inches. Although this feature would
usually be undesirable when accuracy potential must be maximized,
the Galil's rugged stock latch is every bit as rigid as a fixed
stock. The clumsy-looking wooden buttstock has an adjustable
spring-loaded cheekpiece. Locked by a slotted screw on the
right side which slowly backs off during firing sequences, the
operator soon finds his eye well above the scope's ocular.
The rubber recoil pad can also be adjusted for height.
The rear end of the Galil's recoil-spring guide rod, which serves
as a retainer for the sheet-metal receiver cover, is extended
to ease disassembly and lock the cover more securely to the
receiver body. This is especially important as the rear sight
has been mounted on the receiver cover. While this does not
provide the rigidity offered by the receiver-mounted rear sight
of the Kalashnikov series, the trade-off is a longer sight radius
of 19 inches.
The rear sight is a flip-up peep style with 300- and 500-meter
apertures. The hooded front-sight post is adjustable for windage
and elevation zero. Elevation adjustments are by means of the
UZI front-sight tool. Windage adjustments are made by loosening
and tightening the two opposing screws which move the entire
front-sight assembly in its dovetail on the gas block. The front
sight hood forms an additional aiming circle just within the rear-sight
aperture to further assist sight alignment and speed target
Galil's tritium (betalight) night sights set for 100 meters have
also been retained. To use, at dusk or night, the front betalight
is flipped up to expose a luminous vertical bar which is aligned
between the two rear luminous dots. When the rear tritium
sight is flipped up for use, the rear peep sights must be placed
in an offset position, midway between the two apertures. But
all of these are, at best, for emergency use only, since the heart
of any sniper system is its optical unit.
Knowing full well that mounting a scope on a Galil (or Kalashnikov
or FN FAL) sheet-metal receiver will result in unacceptable vertical
dispersion, IMI has wisely welded a dovetail base to the receiver's
left wall. Interface with the optical sight is by means of a sturdy,
all-steel, quick-release mount. While its heavy construction and
latchwork seem to ensure maintenance of zero through repeated
removal, it offsets the scope to the left, which prevents left-handed
shooting. One advantage of this setup is that the iron sights remain
The milspec Nimrod scope mounted on the Galil sniper rifle is
manufactured in Japan by a subsidiary of KOOR Industries, an
Israeli firm. It has a fixed magnification of six power, an ideal
compromise and more reliable than any variable-power scope.
Objective and ocular diameters are 40mm and 32mm, respectively.
The field of view is 19.6 meters at 300 meters (3 degrees 45
feet). The eye relief is about 3 inches. Heavy bars are superimposed
over the crosshairs on the right, left and bottom. There are
two auxiliary crosses, one for aiming at 900 and 1,000 meters,
the other for high-trajectory ammunition.
Range estimation with the reticle pattern duplicates that of
the Dragunov/RPG-7 optical sights. At the bottom of the field
of view is a baseline below five short steps. The step closest
to the baseline is marked "10" for 1,000 meters, while the farthest
is marked "2" for 200 meters. The three steps in between
correspond to 800, 600 and 400 meters in ascending order.
Just align the target's groin with the baseline and match
the top of his head with the appropriate step. Dial the correct
distance into the range drum on top of the scope (calibrated
in 50-meter clicks from 200 to 800 meters for 7.62x51mm M118
match ammunition) and fire away. The windage drum, located
on the scope's left side, provides five mils of adjustment to
the right or left in 1/2-mil increments. This method is simple,
quick, reliable, adequately accurate and requires a minimum
A constantly centered reticle pattem has been achieved by
inversion of the lenses. Each scope is equipped with protective
caps, a rubber eyecup and two ocular filters: amber for overcast
light and neutral density for extreme brightness. Night vision
equipment can also be incorporated. The scope tube is black
anodized aluminum. This is an excellent military optical system
which meets the user's requirements at all levels.
Each rifle is also equipped with a fitted, foam-filled drop case
with nylon carrying handles and sling, four-piece cleaning rod
with brass tip and the standard IDF cleaning kit consisting of
a tan, plastic container with plastic oil bottle, cotton-rope
pull-through and nylon bristle brush. A wide, black nylon sling
of sufficient length for carry at waist height, in the IDF fashion,
is attached to the buttstock sling stud with a sturdy steel
spring-hook that rotates 360 degrees and to a hole in the
front end of the gas block by black nylon cord.
Our test specimen was equipped with a sound suppressor
manufactured by Jonathan Arthur Ciener. User maintainable,
this suppressor is 17 inches in overall length, with a 1.5-inch
diameter phosphate-finished outer tube and a weight of
approximately 2.5 pounds. Thus, complete with the suppressor
and a loaded magazine, the Galil sniper rifle checks in at
Maximum performance with this rifle is supposedly achieved
with Lake City's M118 match ammunition (so-called "Special
Ball") and its 173-grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) projectile.
This is an unfortunate choice, as Lake City Arsenal has failed
to produce consistent M118 match-grade ammo in more than
a decade. Instead we selected Federal's match ammunition
(M308) with its fine 168-gr. Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) bullet
for our test. It departed from the Galil's heavy barrel with
an average velocity of 2,622 fps. Ciener's suppressor dropped
this by only 68 fps with no change in the point of impact or
loss in accuracy.
Our best group at 100 yards was 1.6 inches. However, most
groups hovered around 2 inches under minimal wind conditions.
Although no semiautomatic rifle can ever reach the accuracy
potential of a turn-bolt, this is mediocre performance at best,
as M14 rifles, at half the weight, can be tuned to achieve 1
MOA groups (although this will not last for more than 800 to
1,000 rounds). Since the Galil's forged receiver is quite rigid,
the optics of high quality, the scope-to-rifle interface apparently
secure and the buttstock adequately stable, the problem
almost certainly lies with the barrel.
It seems to be of no better quality than IMI's .30-caliber
Browning machine gun barrels. Substitute a Douglas Number
1 Contour Premium barrel and this rifle would turn 1 MOA
all day long. Douglas uses 4140 chrome moly steel barrel
blanks which are carefully heat-treated before they are
bored, reamed and button-rifled. Equally important, in
caliber 7.62x51mm NATO the bores are cut to .309-inch,
as subsequent stress relieving not only collapses all radial
stress but will spring-back the bore to the correct groove
dimension. No doubt about it, the very best match-grade
barrels hail from either the U.S., Austria or West Germany.
Over the course of our test, more than 300 rounds were
fired and we experienced two stove-pipes and several
failures to feed when the bolt was retracted by hand.
There were no other stoppages of any kind. As expected,
felt recoil was almost imperceptible, but firing from any
position other than the prone is not practical with this beast.
Although it's as quiet as any modern .30-caliber rifle sound
suppressor (since the . 30-caliber projectile leaves the
muzzle at a velocity above the speed of sound, the downrange
"crack" is not eliminated). Ciener's unit, when fitted to a
Galil, is badly in need of a gas-relief valve similar to that
fitted to the original Sionics suppressor fielded during the
Vietnam War. When you contain propellent gases in a
suppressor tube, they will eventually migrate either forward
or rearward. Most will be exhausted into the atmosphere
from the muzzle end of the suppressor. Back pressure will,
however, drive some rearward. In a Kalashnikov-type rifle
they will invariably exit out the square cut at the end of
the sheet-metal receiver cover, directly into the shooter's
face. This would prove more than just irritating to snipers
in a combat environment.
Militaiy snipers require both high first-round hit probability
and the ability to fire rapid succeeding shots. Bolt-action
rifles cannot meet this latter criterion. The Galil sniper rifle
is based upon a reliable, battle-proven system. It shows
great promise, but we need to shave off at least five pounds,
screw in a more accurate barrel and effect some other minor
modifications. This can be accomplished without sacrificing
the potential for mass production. It has just recently been
accepted for service by the IDF.
first published in the April 1987 edition of
Soldier of Fortune Magazine