17 September 2014

FWS Forgotten Weapons: The Israeli Galil Assault Rifle

Guns, especially military small arms can be expression of the global events unfolding at the time of their production and usage. Such was the products of Stoner and Kalashnikov, the AR-15 and the AK-47. These two military assault rifles became the symbols of the struggle between the East and West. The Eagle and Bear, the Communists and the Free World. NATO and Warsaw Pact. Often the loyalties of nations caught between these two superpowers during the Cold War could be clearly seen in which assault rifle their soldiers carried into battle. However, in Israel during the 1970's through the 1990's, this ally of the United States would fluctuation between the AR-15, the AK-47/74, the FN FAL, and their own domestically produced military small arms. However, events after the Six Day War in 1967, the Israeli military turned internally due to threat of arms embargo for production of an home-grown assault rifle. The Israeli Military Industries (IMI) Galil assault rifle would be the product of that desire. However, by mid-1990's, the IDF appeared to have abandoned the Galil for the Colt M-16 and M4 carbines, placing the Galil labored into mechanized and artillery units and Israeli Law Enforcement. FWS will be discussing one of the more interesting combat-tested assault rifles of the 20th century in this installment of the continuing Forgotten Weapons blog series. Personally, the Galil is one of my all time favorite assault rifles, and I would love to own one.

Special Thanks to FWS Reader Yoel!
I've said before and I'll say again, FWS has some of the best readers on the internet. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Israeli reader Yoel for his expert work on this blogpost. He provide FWS with research, his own experiences with the Galil while he served in the IDF, and prospective on the Galil via an Israeli POV.  FWS could not have done this one without him. This one's for you, Yoel!

The Historical Context of the Galil
When the Galil was developed, the world was a very different place than today, and it someways, it was more unstable, and yet more stable. If that statement doesn't make any sense, any you didn't live through the Cold War. After World War II up until the fall of the wall in 1989, the United States with NATO and other allied nations around the world squared off against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and their allied nations. For decades, the threat of World War III and mutual assured nuclear destruction loomed over our heads. Despite a few tense moments, like 1962 and 1973, the two superpowers never engaged in open warfare, and the nuclear arsenal slept soundly. While under the threat of a nuclear holocaust, the US and Russia fought proxy wars,like Afghanistan and Vietnam, and some have considered the Arab-Israeli conflicts as proxy wars between the Superpowers. The Galil would also be born during a time when the global community became more involved in Middle East policies, events, and politics.

Is the Galil a Bastard Lovechild of the AR-15 and AK-47?
When I first learned about the Galil, some people said that it was a combination of the M16 and the AK47. Well, sort of. When it comes to the world of military grade assault rifles, the global firearms market was divided up into the AK-47, the FN FAL, and the M16. Often, loyalty to one superpower might that you used their assault rifle, the Israelis were different. The Jewish state was surrounded by their enemies, and they need a unifying weapon system with the reliability of the Soviet Kalashnikov rifle, but fired the 5.56mm NATO round that was better in terms of full-automatic fire accuracy. In someways, the Galil was a fusion of certain elements of both assault rifles.  
There is another parent of the weapon: the AK from another mother, the Finnish Valmet M62. Some consider the Valmet M62 assault rifle the “Cadillac” of the AK world, due to correcting a few of the original AK design issues. The M62 was used by the IMI design team as a basis for their own AK clone, and some consider the M62 the real father of the Galil (this is starting to be like an episode of Maury Povich!). Confirming this further, the Galil prototypes were built with Finnish made M62 receivers. The Finnish Western AKs were seen in American action movies, masquerading as an AK. In the end, the Galil has been called the best AK clone that chambers the 5.56x45mm cartridge.
The Unique Features of the Galil
Much has been made of several unique elements incorporated into the Galil, especially the bottle opener, The bottle opener itself is the stuff of myth and legend on the Galil, however, many are mistaken on where the bottle opener is located and on which variant of the Israeli rifle the bottle appears. The bottle opener is only on the light machine gun variant, the ARM, and it is NOT located in the forward bipod-wire cutter assembly (looks like a claw) as often seen online. 
While you could use the wire-cutter for a bottle opener, the real bottle opener is actually located in the rear of the foregrip, in the bipod handguard assembly. This is a little notch that fits a Coca-Cola bottle nicely. So, why does the Galil have a bottle opener?  When the Galil was being designed, field-used Uzi submachine gun had their magazines damaged by soldiers using them to open soda bottles. To avoid this fate by the Galil, IMI installed the bottle opener. The wire cutters were developed to counter the wide-use of barbwire, and once again this feature was only included on the ARM variant. One features was incorporated on all models of the Galil was the ability to launch rifle grenades, via a special blank 5.56mm cartridge. Several munition types were available, including a practice dummy round. In addition to the rifle grenades, the Galil could also use an conventional 40mm grenade launcher system, similar to the US M203 launcher system.  

The Story of the Galil
Since the foundation of the Jewish nation in May of 1948, the Israelis have had to protect their existence from their Arab neighbors. In those first years of Israel, their soldiers used whatever would shoot, from British Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles, to captured enemy weapons.  By the time of the Six Day War of 1967, the IDF was using the Belgium FN FAL, the AK, and the Uzi submachine gun. The assault rifle/battle rifle FAL was considered "the gun of the western world" and competed against the AK.
The IDF fully-automatic FAL came in two forms: "Alpeh", the standard battle/assault rifle, and the "Beth", the light machine gun variant. While the FN FAL is a fine weapon, the sandy battlefields caused jamming issues with the FAL. So much so, that some IDF soldiers traded their FALs for their enemies' AKs or a carbine version of the Uzi. This Uzi variant was used in the battle to recapture Mount Hermon. After the war, Israel Military Industries (IMI) firearm designer Ysrael Galil Blashnikov and head of IMI's small arms division, Ya'akov Lior conducted field interviews with IDF soldiers and asked them about their experiences with small arms.
Many praised the AK, calling it "the tiger of the desert", and they condemned the FAL for jamming in dusty and sandy conditions. This cause Blashnikov and IMI to design an Israeli assault rifle family from the design elements of the Egyptian AK47. Sources differ, but IMI and Galil used the Finnish M62 AK clone as a basis for the new weapon system, but the stamped steel was replaced with solid steel. At this point, the IMI and the IDF made the decision that the new batch of Israeli made assault rifles would chamber the 5.56x45mm instead of the FN FAL's 7.62x51mm or the AK 7.62x39mm. Part of this was due to their relationship with United States and the control ability of the 5.56mm round while being fired on full-auto. Several prototype 5.56mm weapons, one by Blashnikov that was later nicknamed "the balashnikov" and the other by the designer of the Uzi, the Lt. Colonel Uziel Gal, were pitted against the Stoner 63, the M16, the AK, the H&K HK33. Given the IDF's high standards for the new weapon, the two prototypes were put through brutal desert warfare testing by the Golani Brigade. At the end, the Galil and the AK remained, and Galil's design was approved for production and adaptation into the IDF. Some sources differ, saying that the Lt. Col. Uziel Gal design was the only native Israeli design in the hellish tests, and when the AK won the competition, IMI's Ya'akov Lior put Ysrael Galil Blashnikov was tasked with construction of an Israeli AK that chambered the 5.56mm round. Either way, the Galil was the Galilee (Galil in Hebrew) region of Israel and approved for service in May of 1973. By the time of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Galil was only in a handful of units, causing the IDF to continue to use the FN FAL and the Uzi.
After the war, it is believed that the IDF continued to issue the Galil, and replaced the FN FAL once and for all. The first real major combat use of the Galil came when the IDF was sent into southern Lebanon to end the threat by the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization, and other factions in the chaos that was Lebanon in the late 1970's and the 1980's. During this invasion and occupation that lasted from 1982-1985, the Galil was one the primary weapon of the regular IDF army, but it did serve along side the US M16s. After the operations in Lebanon, the history of the Galil becomes a bit of a mess.
There are two varying stories told about the fate of the Galil and the rise of the M16 carbines in service with the IDF. However, the reasons are not normally debated on why the Galil never reached full distribution in the IDF (see below for those reasons). Some sources say that after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the IDF put the M16s away in storage, and continued the issuing of the Galil, and it wasn't until the Galil received its first full combat deployment in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 that the issues with the Galil became clear.
IDF used what they had on hand as a temporary replace for the Galil, those surplus US M16s. The stock was modified and issued, while the Galils were fielded to mechanized and artillery units. The other story is that Galil was rejected by IDF Special Forces, and those elite units continued to use the AKs. At some time in the late 1970's or early 1980's, the IDF SOF tested the M16 carbines, and preferred it over other weapons. It is believed that the Special Forces stamp of approval caused the rest of the IDF to reexamine the M16 cabrines and by the 1990's, the M16 replaced the Galil in frontline units. While the Galil which was issued to the mechanized and artillery units. Either way, the fate of the Galil was the same: replacement. By 1990's, the American various M16 carbines and the new M4A1 were the standard issued weapon of the IDF infantry and the IDF Special Forces. While the much hearty Galils were issued to tanker crews, artillery personnel, that typically did not maintain their little-used assault rifles as much as frontline soldiers. And that is the way that it is currently: the M4A1 is on the frontlines, and the Galil is in the rear with the gear. After nearly forty years, both the M16 and the Galil will be replaced by the Tavor.

Why Did the IDF Replace the Galil for the M16?
Once again, this statement is not entire true. The IDF did not entirely replaced the Galil for the M16 carbines. In reality, the Galil, some AKs, and the various M16 carbines served alongside one another in the IDF and Israeli law enforcement even up until today. In actuality, the M16, AK, and Galil of the IDF will all be completely phased out with the new IWI Trevor bullpup assault rifle and its variants by 2016. However, it does seem like the IDF did replace the Galil with the M16 carbines like Colt Model 653 and the recent M4A1, especially if you even casually view pictures of the current IDF. The story goes back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the enemies of Israeli attacked, and the newly adopted Galil assault rifle was just being fielded to the military. 
While the Galil was used during the conflict, it was in small  numbers. The older IDF standard, the FN FAL was also used, along with AKs, and a carbine variant of the Uzi. It was during this war, that the United States gave Israel military aid via the Operation: NICKEL GRASS. Items like M48 Patton tanks and other heavier weapon systems were delivered along with a vast array of M16A1s and the carbine variant. From 1973 onwards, the Galil and the IDF modified M16s served in various units around the military, but by the 1990's, the M16 carbines had become the popular and standard choice for the IDF. Here are the reason why and why not:
  • Weight- To solve some of the issues of cracking associated with the AK, IMI constructed the Galil out of machined solid steel billet action instead of stamped steel sheet action of the AK, created greater weight. The wire stock was one way to reduce the weight of the Galil.  This was a common complaint from Israeli soldiers about the Galil, and when they had a choice between the M16 and the Galil, the mostly picked the M16. For example: the Colt Model 653 carbine weighs in at 5.6lbs, while the Galil AR weighs in at 8.7lbs. 
  • Cost- Some sources cite that the US military aid M16s were basically free, and that was one motivation for the IDF to use the M16 over their own domestically produced assault rifle. Some debate this, and say that the Israelis had use most of their US foreign military support money to buy US made products, and in that case, it was free money. That is one of the reasons that the IDF currently uses the M4A1 carbines. Even today, the IWI is examining constructing the new Trevor in the US so that they can use their FMS. Clever.
  • Accuracy-Some online sources have claimed that the Galil was less accurate than the M16. This is point made whenever the M16-vs-AK47 debate is waged, and I do not think that it is a valid reason. Assault rifles are NOT DMRs or sniper rifles, and the accuracy of the Galil was comparable to then-current assault rifles. 
  • Ergonomics-Another reason for the M16 being selected over as to do with the feel and operation of the weapon. I can testify that the M16, especially the carbines, are a handy weapon with a good feel. I use a CAR-15 paintball gun for a very good reason, they feel good in the hand, and that cannot be said about the AK. While the AK is not the worst gun I've ever held or shot, it is not has handy, and the soldiers of the IDF picked up on this. 
  • Change of Battlefield-Yoel brought this to my attention. When IMI developed the Galil, the desert was the main focus of combat, and AKs are the "tigers of the desert" according to IDF soldiers. This made sense to IMI to base their own assault rifle on the Avtomat Kalashnikov. Then the geo-political nature of the Middle East altered after the Camp David Accords, and battlefield changed from the desert to the more urban West Bank and Gaza. The dense urban setting is more favorable to a more compact weapon, like the Colt M4A1 and the new Trevor.
  • Upgradability-When the Galil was first developed after the Six Day War in 1967, the aim was to build an Israeli AK chambering the 5.56mm, and not mounting all manner of lasers, sights, scopes. But that soon became an issue. The M16 is able to be upgraded and modified for various missions, conditions, and users, the Galil was not. Many of the M16 attachments that were pre-weaver rail were still easily attached to the M16, while the Galil was difficult to modify with extra attachments...plus, the weight issue. The IDF could modify the number of older M16s to current standards without much of an issue, which the Galil had to be redesigned.  
  • Female Soldiers-I originally believed that one of the reasons for the M16 carbine over the Galil was due to the IDF having high number of female soldiers. The M16/M4A1 carbines are easier weapons for women troopers, while that is true, it is not issue. By the time female Israeli soldiers were allowed to enter combat roles, the M4A1 and other M16 carbines were basically standard issue.  
Why is the Galil Assault Rifle an Forgotten Weapon?
 In reality, the Galil is not a completely forgotten weapon in some areas of the world, Israel for example. Plus, the Galil is still used by other nations as their primary assault rifle. The Galil is more forgotten in the Western world, especially America. In some ways, the IMI Galil assault rifle system is similar to the American M-14 battle-rifle: rushed into production, considered heavy by the infantry, fought in an a single conflict, and was quickly replaced by the AR15. That is one way that Galil got forgotten, that it never really entered full service with the IDF, and the other nations that bought the exported assault rifle were smaller nations. By the 1980's and 1990's, the Colt M16 carbines were the popular weapon of choice for the IDF, and in the 1990's, the IMI TAR-21 bullpup assault rifle was under development to replace the M16s and the remaining Galils. Given this short life, lack of involvement with frontline IDF troopers, and close appearance to the AK, the Galil failed to gain the following of the AK nor M16. To most people, the main weapon of the Israeli military was the Uzi submachine gun, and that iconic SMG outlasted the Galil by many years. While some military organizations around the world still use the Galil and the Vektor R4/R5, they received little press. It was not until popular media used the Galil, like Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and the movie Heat did the Galil get any respect and attention. It also does not help that the Galil civilian copies were either expensive or had failures during shooting.

The Variants of the Galil

The Standard Galil AR
This was the primary standard issue assault rifle adopted into service with the IDF in May of 1973 and other military organizations that adopted the Galil later on. It chambered an standard NATO 5.56x45mm round in an 25 or 35 round magazine, and was 38.8 inches in length with the stock extended and 29.2 inches with the stock side folded and the barrel came in at 18.1 inches…standard dimensions for an full size assault rifle. The weight is a heavy 8.7lbs, close to the weight of the M14 battle rifle. Like many people, was originally confused, and believed that all Galils were outfitted with bipods, the wire cutters, and the carry handle. In reality, the AR was outfitted with a simple plastic foregrip. This was the version that the South African Defense Force Vektor R4/R5 weapons are based on.    

The Carbine Galil SAR (the Glilon)
IMI and Israel Galil attempted to have the Galil to be a family of small arms weaponry, and the SAR is the short-barreled carbine variant, with the AR’s barrel chopped down to 13.1 inches, and is 36 inches even in overall length. These measures also shaved off some weight, from 8.7lbs to 8.5lbs. This was one of the most common Galils in serve with the IDF and was the basis of the Vetkor R5. There is also an 7.62x51mm variant of the SAR. The SAR is popularly known as the Glilon.  

The Commando Carbine Galil MAR

With a barrel length at only 7 inches, the Micro Galil or MAR competed with standard submachine guns of the day, but chambered the NATO 5.56mm. This made the Galil MAR a popular weapon, and has been seen in IDF SOF units, police units, and specialized IDF units. In the export market, the Galil MAR also appears popular, with some being seen in the hands of private military contractors, foreign military organizations, and even specialized police units. The Micro Galil comes in at 27.15inches (690mm) in length, which is smaller than the AKS-74U, which is 28.93inches (735mm) in length, making the Micro Galil one of the most compact assault rifles in the world.  

The LMG Galil ARM
One of the odd things about the Galil is that the light machine gun variant, the ARM, is more well known in popular media than the AR or SAR. The ARM features an 35 round magazine of 5.56mm, a bipod that can be used to cut wire, and a carry handle. All of this added up to 9.6lbs and 38.9inches overall length with an 18.1inch barrel.
There were plans to develop an LMG/SAW variant in 7.62mm NATO, but those plans were abandoned. I've read various and conflicting accounts of the ARM in IDF service. Some say that the ARM was never fully used for the light machine gun role, and some IDF soldiers used as an assault rifle due to the built-in features.These accounts go on to say that the ARM was more widely accepted as the standard assault rifle in the IDF than the AR or SAR. Still other accounts say that the ARM was never successful as an LMG/SAW, and the IDF relayed on the FN MAG and the Russian PKM until the development of the IMI Negev. When I researched the pictorial evidence of the AR/ARM in IDF service, the evidence is mixed. Certainly, most show the ARs in service while there is the same number of ARM in service. In the international market, the AR/SAR seem more used than the ARM.

The 7.62x39mm Galil AR(?)
When I first learned of the Galil existence around the late 1980’s, some of the firearm books said that the Galil was designed to chamber the NATO 5.56mm and 7.62mm, along with the Warsaw Pact 7.62x39mm. While it is true that there were Galil in 5.56mm and 7.62x51mm, the 7.62x39mm is a mystery gun. Rumors state that the IMI factory produced some Galils in the standard AK round, which makes sense considering that most of the IDF SOF units used the AKs for certain missions and the state of Israel is surrounded by their enemies that use the AK. According to some internet sources, the 7.62x39 AK chambering Galil was actually a Lyttleton Engineering Works Vektor R5 carbine rechambered for the South African Defense Force’s Special Forces special needs. This was called the “RX” and seems to be an experiment that was quickly shelved.

The Galil ACE
By the time of the Colt M4 carbine being imported to the IDF, and this assault carbine being widely accepted by the Israeli soldier, IWI decided it was time to modify the aging Galil platform, the result was the Galil ACE. The ACE is like many modern assault rifles: saving weight via polymer, picatinney rail system, various configurations, and available in a several major calibers. The ACE as been adopted by several governments, including Haiti, Mexico, and is due to replace the AK as the standard weapon of Vietnam. Some have called the Galil ACE, the son of the Galil.

The 7.62x51 Galil AR
Which most of the Galils in the world chamber the US/NATO 5.56x45mm round, there is the battle rifle variant, which chambers 7.62x51mm NATO round, which is the same as the FN FAL and the H&K G3. This was a heavy weapon, coming in at over 9lbs, and used a straight magazine. This variant is used around the world, in both the AR and SAR variants, and its popularity could be due to the popularity of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge.

The Civilian Galils

Century Arms of Georgia, Vermont developed a replica Galil assault rifle for the US firearms market with a mix of American and Israeli parts and pieces. The result was the "Golani Sporter" rifle with an US legal 16 inch barrel with an overall length of 38.25 inches and weighed in a 8.10lbs. However, the Century Arms was not the only civilian legal Galil. In the 1990's, Magnum Research had their own civilian Galil rifle...the only issue with this Galil civilian model was the price tag was double of then prices of AR15s and AKs. Today, the Magnum Research Galils are north of $3,000. The Century Arms Golani Sporter has met with some criticism for cheap quality and performance issues. Some buyers of the Century Arms Golani Sporter swap out some pieces for IMI manufactured parts. I normally will see the Century Arms Galil at local Dallas and Fort Worth gun shows, and they are good bargain when compared to the flood of AR15 clones. While many of my friends have AR15s, none owner an Golani Sporter. There was also another importer of the Galil in the pre-ban days, Action Arms. Much like the Magnum Research Galils, the Action Arms are rare and very expensive. 
The Sniper Rifle Galil "Galatz"
The Galil is like many modern military firearm systems, many variants for many jobs on the battlefield. In 1983, "sniper rifle" variant of the Galil was developed,  the "Galatz" and it chambered the 7.62x51mm round, popular with many DMRs and sniper rifles. Changes were made to the base Galil assault rifle to transform the rifle into an DMR or even "tactical support rifle" than an actually out-and-out sniper rifle. The Galatz has an full stock, bipod, scope, box 20 round magazine of .308, heavier barrel with the ability to use an sound suppressor. Various sources state that the DMR variant of the Galil met with success, and is still the DMR of the IDF and various Israeli law enforcement units. Recently, IWI developed a modernized Galatz and the new SR-99 sniper rifle.  

The .30 caliber Galil Magal
At one time, the World War II era .30 M1 carbine was one of the most populous weapons in the world. One nation that received the old World War II and Korean stockpile of M1s was the new nation of Israel. Even after the FN FAL became the standard rifle of the IDF in the 1960's, there was still many good M1 carbines in armories around the Jewish state. Police departments adopted the M1 carbine as their backup weapon and carried it for years. Recently, IWI developed the .30 caliber firing variant of the Galil MAR: the Magal. This police carbine fires the .30 caliber cartridge, and can accept M1 magazines. This carbine has been spotted in the hands of Israeli police and law enforcement units. It is unknown if the Magal as been shipped overseas. It is rumored that the IWI X95 Tavor 9mm will replace the Magal in the coming years.According to updated information from Yoel, the Magal was used in the Arab Riots of 2000, and the .30 caliber round was found to be ineffective, and the pressure from the round was too weak to cycle the bolt when riot control attachments fitted on the barrel. He also informed FWS that about 3,000 Magal have been sold to global law enforcement agencies, at a discount.

The Marksman Assault Rifle Mark I
In 1996, the 5.56x45mm chambering Marksman Assault Rifle Mark I was constructed to be similar to the M16 DMRs, like the old KAC SPR. This features of the familiar hallmarks of current DMRs: scope, accuarized barrel, sound suppressor, and special stock. Nations that use the Galil, like Estonia, use the MARMI as their DMR. This weapon has been seen in action in Afghanistan. There is little information on this variant of the Galil, and how common it is.

The South African Vektor R4/R5/R6
In 1975, the South African government and Israel entered into a secret defense agreement due to both being under arms embargoes. The two nations shared defense technology, research, and hardware. Born out of this agreement was the Vektor R-series of assault rifles that started off as an Galil. According to online sources, the difference between the R4 and the Galil AR are very minor and they are kissing cousins. The R4 and the Galil AR were both fielded to replace the aging FN FAL, AKA as the South African R1. The However, unlike the Galil, the R-series was the standard assault rifle of the SADF that did not have to compete with the M16. The R-series maybe replaced by the futuristic looking bullpup Vektor CR-21 that uses some of the Galil parts and pieces.

Users of the Galil

Globally, the Galil and her many variants are used by no less than 35 nations. Some of the nations use the Galil as their standard assault rifle, like Columbia and South Africa. While others, like Mexico, Italy, and India, use the Galil in specific units. Some of these international users of the Galil have domestic production rights, like Columbia and South Africa. Some military organizations use only one single type of Galil variant, while others use a mixed bag of the Galils. Other nations have switched over to the modified and modernized IWI Galil ACE. Why is the Galil popular international? Part of it speaks to the killer rep of the Israelis and their quality. The Galil is a solid weapon that was well-designed and is as every bit as combat reliably as the AK47. Some say that the Galil is a good deal over other military firearms, especially considering their durability. Other nations picked up the Galil for a combination of reasons. The Galil chambers the popular 5.56mm NATO cartridge, but is as reliably as the AK, making it the best of both worlds. There are rumors of US Special Forces using the Galils in some operations, however, these are just rumors.

Future of the Galil?
Unfortunately, the future of the Galil and its many variants is dim. Nations that at one time did use the Galil are replacing them with more modern, carbine-like weapons that are more compact, lighter in weight and feature attachment rails. However, the Galil is not likely to disappear from the world, given the amount of stockpiles of weapon and clones on the market and the blazing civilian assault rifle market in America. Galil will survival on the rim on the global small arms market and rec shooters. I think it fair to say that the Galil will be seen in region low-intensity conflicts, where the need for cheaper (i.e. older) military grade small arms is great, and arms dealers can make a profit. I also think that Galil will exist in Israeli society for sometime. Currently, there are various of the Galil in service with most Israeli police departments and boarder security. These LE agencies will use the Galil until the new IMI Trevor bullpup assault rifle fully replaces them. Since the Galil was official IDF issue for over thirty years, many Israeli civilians trained with it, and these are in the hands of Israeli citizens as their "home defense" weapon. It is also likely that the sniper rifle variant, the 7.62mm NATO Galatz could be around in IDF armories for some time.   

The Galils in Popular Culture

While the Galil is well known in its home nation of Israel, it was not as familiar to Western audiences as the Uzi or then the Desert Eagle. Most Galils seen in Western media are either purposely chose due to their badass look and rarity or their placement is just by steer luck. In the video game appearances, Galils are used to offer something different to the player that are not just the standard firearms choices. When it comes to the newer generations learning about the Galil, it is often via the current crop of military shooters.
Most that I asked online, were unfamiliar with the Galil prior to COD: Black Ops or Counter-Strike, and they use google to learn the identity of the assault rifle. The most common aspects of the Galil featured in mass media is that they are the light machine gun variant, the ARM. Why? While there is no hard information, it is my opinion that because the ARM is the most unique looking of the Galil variants with the heavy barrel, wood foregrip, and the bipod. that the ARM is just more "tacticool", causing more creators to place the ARM instead of the AR or SAR into mass media. Also, given the similarity between the Galil, the Valmet M76, and the AK, the ARM could be used to separate it from those other similar assault rifles.


The IMI Galil ARM from Rainbow Six Raven Shield, 3, and Black Arrow
In the third generation of Rainbow Six games by Red Storm Entertainment, the Galil is seen in all three games, but in a odd form. Unlike the commonly used Galils by counter terrorism forces, the Galils of RAINBOW SIX are the light machine gun variant, the ARM. In the R6:3 games, the Galils are seen with Beta-C mags, given them 100+ rounds of 5.56mm, and are seen with the carrying handle.  Most of the Galils in service with CTUs are the carbine SAR and the Micro MAR. By the time of Rainbow Six Vegas and Vegas 2, the IMI Galil was replaced by the IMI Trevor. This was the first video game that I ever got to use the Galil in, and R6:3 ranks as one of my favorite original Xbox games. The Galil is referred to as an "ARM" in the game, and is a hard weapon to control on full-auto, and the aiming-down-slights is only a zoom, not using the iron slights.

The "IDF Defender" from the Counter-Strike Games
In these iconic Valve online shooter games, the Galil is featured, and most are based on the light machine gun variant, the ARM, but it is used in the manner of the assault rifle, while holding 35 rounds of 5.56mm. The Galil or the "IDF Defender", is for purchased by the terrorist factions and was always my favorite weapon in Counter-Strike games. This is an mainstay of the games, and is often seen, despite not being as accurate as other choses.

The IMI Galil ARM from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops: II
I am not a huge fan of the original Black Ops game, and only bought it to play online with my friends, the added bonus is that Galil makes an appearance. While the Galil looks great here in Black Ops, it is not accurate to the time period of the game. Once again, the Galil featured here and in Black Ops: II are the ARM variant with the carrying handle, and all manner of attachments can be bought. This weapon was one of my favorites online, and this game was nearly single-handy responsible for informing a whole generation about the Galil.

The IMI Galil 7.62x51mm ARM from Way of the Gun
Benicio del Toro plays Mr. Longbaugh in this 2000 movie about a surrogate mother being ransomed for $15 million, carries an Galil. The ARM in the NATO 7.62mm, specifically. The weapon is seen being used as an sniper rifle, and an assault rifle. It carries the straight magazine and the carrying handle. This marks an rare appearance of the Galil in an American film, could be connected to the apperance of the ARM in 1995's Heat. The film made little in way of money, and disappeared quickly from theaters.

The Vektor R-series from District 9
As mentioned above, the Vektor R-series of assault rifles is the standard assault rifle for the SADF, and in this 2009 South African film, it makes sense that the private military company MNU wield the Vektor R-series of assault rifles. In the film, the carbine R5 and the commando carbine R6 all make appearances. These were rare appearance of the Vektor R-series assault rifles in an American released films. 

The IMI Galil MARs and SARs from Falling Skies
In the first season of the TNT alien invasion series Falling Skies, character Hal Mason carries an commando carbine Galil MAR. By the resulting seasons of the show, Hal was no longer carrying an MAR, but the 2nd Mass soldiers are often seen with MARs and SARs. Of course, it is highly unlikely that any resistance groups in America would use Galils, especially, the rare MARs. I am not sure that there are more than a dozen "real" MARs in private hands in America that are not the "pistol" MAR of recent design.

Cheritto's Galil ARM 5.56mm from HEAT
One of the most famous appearances of the Galil in American cinema is from Michael Mann's 1995 Heat. Tom Sizemore's character Michael Cheritto uses the Galil ARM in the final shoot-out on the streets of LA. This is an odd choice, the ARM is LMG, and is not used in a manner befitting of the weapons function. This was one of the first Galils I'd ever seen on-screen, and the first time I heard the real-steel report of the Galil. In the audio commentary, the director says that the Galil is 7.62mm, not 5.56mm.

Galil From the anime Upotte!!
I grew up on Japanese anime and manga, I learned the Japanese language, read their history, and took their martial arts, and loved their food. But, I do not get this anime...at all. What the hell, Japan? Upotte!! is the product of a drunken hookup between gun-loving-anime and the anime/manga genre of high school culture. In this oddball universe, the main characters are schoolgirls at an academy and they are named after guns, because they are anthropomorphic personifications of the weapons they are named after. Yes, and there is an Galil, who oddly has trouble opening a bottle and has canine features. Haha. The weapons themselves are lovingly designed and a number of features and personalities of the real-world firearms are shown in the anime and manga. The Galil in the series is an standard AR version.

The Galil MAR from Resident Evil: Apocalypse
I am not much for the Resident Evil films, I believe that they are too foolish and ill-concerned in concept and story. In the 2004 sequel to the original film, Umbrella security officer Carlos Oliveria, played by Israeli actor Oded Fehr, goes into Raccoon City. In his hands is an seven inch barrel Micro Galil MAR with an custom with foregrip and other attachments. Why is the MAR here? I believe that since the actor is Israeli, and that since he served in the IDF from 1989-1992, that Oded Fehr selected the micro Galil, which he most likely was trained with.


The old History Channel's Tales of the Gun

Next Time On FWS...
Mars has been an enigma to mankind since we first learned that there was a red world in our solar system. This mystery has fueled many wild tales that became some of the founding works of modern science fiction. With the proximity of Mars to Terra, and it being relatively close to an Earth-like environment, it has been the setting for many sci-fi stories of human colonization, including being a second home to humanity. Mars has also being the setting for something else: war. As seen in such works as Babylon 5, my own military science fiction stories, and the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Mars is the site of future wars, and something that sci-fi tells us that mankind will fight over. In another installment of What We Will Fight Over, FWS will examine the reality of wars over the red planet. 

Rare Pictures of the Galil (courtesy of Yoel)

Some old 1980's magazine scans (love International Combat Arms back in the day!)


  1. Interesting, good to read some information about less "popular" weapons.

    Btw: can't wait for the Mars post, I recommend also that you check the excellent series of Heritage Trilogy by Ian Douglas. Especially the first part "Semper Mars". But I suppose you already did.

  2. As a Upotte! fan I can only say... It takes a special kind of fan. All the Ak based Girls including Galil AR have Kemonomimi features. Galil was originally introduced as a partner in crime to another Western AK the SAKO RK 95 TP, Which is based on the Rk 62. The Character sides against her fellow AKs in the battles of the western assault rifles against Red Steel high. Which parallels reality a bit.

  3. Great post!
    Happy to help U!!

    A few notes:
    1. The name of the Israeli bullpup rifle is "Tavor" not "Trevor".
    2. The name of the Century Arms gun was "Golani", after the Golani brigade, not "Golandi ".
    3. The gun named "Galil" after the Galil region (Galilee in English). The inventor Yisrael Galil named after is rifle (Blashnikov is former surname).
    That one trivia question for you! What an Israeli gun inventor and one of Upotte!! Characters got in common?
    4. The Magal 0.30 caliber isn't in service no more for more than 10 years.
    The weapon been used by the police in the Arab civil riots of 2000 and found to be faulty, the 0.30 round is too weak to cycle the blot carrier especially with the riot control attachments on the barrel. The some 3000 units been sold to varies police forces around the world with a major discount.
    5. Another movie to your example list could be Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli animation war movie about the 1982 Lebanon invasion. Familiar more in Europe than US, but worth to be mentioned, after all – FWS become international blog…


  4. Thanks to everyone for the comments and the information! Finally glad to have this blogpost out! I have more respect for UPOTTE!! than before. Watched a few episodes online, and thought it was more creative than I originally believed.
    Yoel, I will correct the mistakes!

  5. Damn! I was going to add "Waltz with Bashir", and forgot! I will add it, and correct the spelling error. Cannot believe that I made the mistake with the name of the IWI TAR-21! Very stupid of me!

  6. I think I spotted another typo. When talking about the accuracy of the Galil you concluded with "Assault rifles are DMR or sniper rifles". Did you mean "are not" or "aren't"? Over all a nice article.
    : ) The Galil ACE model that was developed seems to fix most if not all the problems associated with the original Galil type rifles. However the Tavor is a bullpup and seems to be what the IDF wants into the future.

  7. Ah! Yes...I will fix it! Thanks for the heads up. I need an editor. The Tavor is the future of the IDF small arms and will be a hot export soon.

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  9. The R 5 South African version of Israeli Galil propped up next to the wheel of my CASSPIR was serial number 0003.
    By 1983 white members of our unit had mostly been issued with R 1's while black members with the old second hand left over Portuguese H&K G 3's. Although we also used whatever we could get our hands on. A friend of mine even had acquired an AR 15. There were plenty of AK-47's floating around but our team decided against them as it was not a good idea to run around the bush especially for our black members carrying an enemy weapon.
    By 1983 funds and equipment were becoming a little bit more available and at the very beginning of 83' a KOEVOET special team ZX was established and the team received brand new equipment as well as new assault rifles.
    The twenty black members of the team received 20 new folding stock R 1's. The six white members six brand new R 5's serial numbers 0001 to 0006. The R 5's were plain black and not the brown and black of the subsequent models and were said to have still been made in the Israeli factory. They had a design flaw; when a round was chambered the firing pin would rest slightly on the primer of a chambered round and mark it. Although we never experienced an 'A/D' it was worrying. They later overcame the flaw by inserting a rubber ring washer behind the firing which kept the pin away from the primer.
    One of our jobs was to test the new R 5 assault rifles and put them to a practical test in combat. Lt Frans Conradie achieved to my knowledge the first SWAPO enemy kill with an R 5 serial number 0001 at the beginning of 1983. He shot an insurgent with about five R 5 rounds in the center of the back. Until then our black members had little faith in the R 5's little bullet but when they turned the insurgent around and saw the gaping exit wounds that the little rounds had made they were in awe.
    After we had tested nearly every possible assault rifle that could be possibly made available for our members we found that the R 5 was most suited for our intents and purposes. We found that at the close quarters that we fought, the firepower from a R 5 assault rifle with a 50 round magazine on full auto controllable and sustainable was unequaled by any other assault rifle in the world at the time. The R 5 could also handle the adverse conditions that we used it under and they were about to be manufactured locally.
    Soon from the second half of 1983 the R 5 started to become the KOEVOET standard issue assault rifle.

  10. Israeli hotels are the only ones in the world which must have a lifeguard during all opening hours of the swimming pool. דילים לחול ברגע האחרון

  11. More poor English from a non-English-speaking writer. I can't even be bothered reading it.

  12. Actually, English is my own Language, maybe stupid is yours?

  13. Where do i find the year in which the galil was made. Marks on rifle?

  14. I also have one. Do not know in which year it was built. Number is 205????, over 2050000. Any one who can assist please