Elite Firearms 7.62x39mm Galil


by Leroy Thompson

photography by Leroy Thompson

May 14th, 2008




I first encountered the Galil rifle while working on an overseas security job more than 30 years ago and have considered it one of the world's best assault rifles ever since. Some semi-auto Galils were imported prior to the assault weapons ban but certainly not enough to satisfy demand.     As a result, I have seen prices on semi-auto Galils reach as high as $3,000 over the last decade. Although given what a good rifle the Galil is and the law of supply and demand, there is some justification for that price, it meant only a fraction of those who would like to own a Galil could.   

I was fortunate to have purchased a semi auto Galil AR many years ago, so I already had one and have fired many thousands of rounds through it. Let me digress here for a moment. When manufactured by IMI and its successor, a wide array of Galil models were available. Let me just mention that the AR is the lighter, standard assault rifle variation and the one I like the best. It was offered in .223 and .308 calibers. There was also the ARM version which in select fire was designed as a squad automatic weapon and was heavier due to a forearm with a built-in bipod. The ARM was offered in .223 and .308 versions as well.  And, all four versions were imported into the USA as semi-autos in limited numbers. 

I like the Galil AR for a number of reasons.  First, when Galili and Lior, the Israeli designers of the rifle, created it they based it on the proven AK47 system, but they improved it.  For example, the stock is a very well-designed side folder which locks up tightly and is just about as comfortable for shooting as a fixed stock. None of those noisy, uncomfortable top-folding AK stocks for the Galil.  I should note, however, that at first it may seem difficult to release the stock to fold it, but once one learns the trick, which is pressing up with the thumb while pressing down on the stock with the palm, it is very easy.  Second, instead of the AK's rear sight the Galil uses a flip-up peep sight with two apertures - one for 300 meters and one for 500 meters.  I find this sight better than the AK rear sight, though still not a precision instrument. Galils also incorporated flip-up front and rear night sights which were quite the innovation  in their time.  The Israeli Army adopted the Galil in 1972, but I'm not sure if the earliest models had the night sights.  Just as a point of trivia, the earliest Galil prototypes were built using Valmet receivers.  Third, the Galil's bolt has a knob which protrudes above the receiver making it very easy to slap it back with the support hand. 

Finally, perhaps the improvement which I appreciate most, however, is the safety.  The standard AK lever safety requires one to either remove the hand from the trigger to release it or to use the support hand.  Some close combat instructors train users to carry the AK-type rifle without a round in the chamber and to rack the bolt to bring it into action.  If one practices reaching under the receiver and racking the bolt with the support hand as some Russian spetsnaz have been trained, this system may well be faster. With the Galil, however, it is unnecessary.  Although the Galil retains the lever safety, it also has a sliding safety well located for operation by the right thumb without breaking the shooting hold. This safety and the lever safety are slaved to each other so that operating either one also operates the other.

There are some other improvements, but these are the most noticeable.    On the downside for those of us who had Galil imports, the Galil magazines were not always easy to find, though some surplus ones did come in from time to time.

Since I think so highly of the Galil, I was very pleased to see that Galil parts kits were coming into the USA and being used with U.S. made receivers to manufacture civilian legal Galils at quite reasonable prices. Among the companies fabricating Galils I find those from Elite Firearms of Texas particularly appealing.  Dave Michener, who runs Elite Firearms, has gone past just using the Galil kits to assemble a .223 caliber U.S. compliant Galil.  Dave offers his Galils in other calibers, particularly 7.62x39mm.  This was the version that I especially wanted to test--I haven't been disappointed.  

If you think about it, it's logical that a 7.62x39mm Galil could be made since the Galil is basically an AK-type design and 7.62x39mm is the standard AK47 caliber.  I see two real advantages to a Galil in 7.62x39mm.  First, for those of us who shoot a lot, these days non-corrosive, steel case 7.62x39mm ammo is available for about 35-40% of what surplus, brass case .223 is available.  Even steel case .223 is almost 10 cents more per round than 7.62x39mm ammo.  By the way, I like non-corrosive 7.62x39mm ammo so that I don't have to remember whether I'm shooting the ammo in a gun with a chrome-lined bore, but the Elite Firearms 7.62x39mm Galil barrel is chrome-lined with a 1 in 7 twist so one can shoot corrosive ammo if he chooses.  That will make the gun even cheaper to shoot. 

I also like the idea of the 7.62x39mm Galil since I spent a lot of time in the past working on overseas security teams.  I sometimes found myself in areas where the only plentiful ammo was 7.62x39mm.  Even though I appreciated the AK47's ruggedness and reliability, I didn't like the sights, the folding stock, nor the safety.  But, if I could have a Galil that shoots 7.62x39mm that would be great.  I think this rifle would be an excellent choice for a security team working in the sandbox. 

The basic dimensions of the Elite Firearms 7.62x39mm Galil are actually a little more compact than the standard AR. Overall length with stock extended is about 36.5 inches and with stock folded about 27.5 inches.  That's with a 16 inch barrel; an 18 inch one is available as well.  This is a rifle which can be carried very conveniently in a vehicle - once again think security team, or privately purchased LEO weapon, or pickup truck rifle.     By the way, the Galil folding stock is designed so that one my operate the bolt, the thumb safety, and trigger with it folded.  I have fired a Galil on full auto with stock folded from within a vehicle on training exercises relatively effectively during counter-ambush training - at close ranges!

Another advantage of the Elite Firearms Galil is that it takes all standard AK47 magazines and drums.  As a result, one can lay in a good supply of magazines quite inexpensively.  When I tested the rifle, I used various types of AK magazines and a Chinese 75 round drum, and all worked just fine.

I was very impressed with the quality work from Elite Firearms based on my first examination of the rifle. Finish and fit are excellent.  I also noted two touches which told me that Dave Michener had taken pains to give his customers the best rifle possible.  First, I noticed the flip-up front and rear night sights.  The Tritium had died years ago and the inserts had been removed leaving unsightly empty holes.  Elite Firearms, however, took the trouble to fill in with white enamel dots which look good and, as I learned on a rainy, overcast day when I did some of the shooting tests, help in sight acquisition sometimes.  

The Galil disassembles basically the same as an AK, and when I removed the top cover of the Elite Firearms Galil to take a look, I noticed that it came with a recoil buffer already installed.  This is an important extra since the larger caliber .308 Galils have a reputation for a lot of trigger slap without a buffer.  I would assume this might be the case in 7.62x39mm as well. Thanks to the buffer, however, I found shooting the Elite Firearms Galil very pleasant.   

I always find zeroing a Galil a bit more time-consuming than with some other rifles because of the rear sights.   The two peep sights are designed for 300 meters and 500 meters which I feel makes zeroing more difficult than if the closer sight were for 200 meters - maybe that's just me.  Anyway, it took me about 20 rounds to get the sights on target.  Note, by the way, that you will need an AK47 sight adjustment tool to zero the Galil's sights.  As with the AK, both elevation and windage are adjusted via the front sight.  On an AK, the sight adjustment tool is necessary to do both windage and elevation.  On the Galil is is only necessary for elevation.  Windage is adjusted by a screw on each side of the front sight.  One is loosened and the other tightened to move the front sight. 

In two shooting sessions with the Elite Firearms Galil, I put around 250 rounds through it.  It functioned flawlessly and was a pleasure to shoot.       Using Wolf ammo, I managed some groups with which I am entirely pleased.  I had one 5-shot 200 yard group that was under 2.5 inches, though most were a bit over 3 inches.  I also had some 3-shot 100 yard groups that came in around 1.5 inches.     

I also had some of Cor-Bon's 123 grain DPS ammo along to try.  I fired 25 rounds of it and found it reliable and accurate.  I had one 3-shot group that was right at an inch with the others at 100 yards running between 1 and 2 inches.  Based on the photos I've seen of expansion, this load performs as well as other Cor-Bon DPX loads.  Some DPX loads shoot to a different point of impact, but I did not find this a huge issue with the 123 grain 7.62x39mm DPX which was a little lower and a little to the right at 200 yards but would certainly have been fine for a center of mass shot.  Obviously, if one were going to use the DPX load as his standard load, he would sight the rifle for it.

Overall, I love the Elite Firearms 7.62x39mm Galil.  I can already tell Iím going to be shooting this rifle a lot so am shopping around for the best buy on 10,000 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammo.  I figure, after 5,000 rounds, the savings in ammo over .223 and .308 right now will have covered the cost of the rifle.  By the way, 5.45x39mm ammo is even cheaper and Dave can produce Galils in that caliber as well. Visit the Elite Firearms website for more info on calibers available, price, etc.




Leroy Thompson

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The Elite Firearms Galil functions flawlessly with all types of AK magazines and drums.    In this case, a Chinese 75-round drum.



Thompson goes prone to shoot the Elite Firearms Galil at 300 yards.



A good example of the care Dave Michener takes with the Elite Firearms Galil is the incorporation of a recoil buffer.



The Elite Firearms Galil with stock folded.



An AK sight adjustment tool is necessary to properly set the Galil's sights for elevation.



For authenticity the US 4140 milled, heat-treated receiver incorporates original selector markings.



Note the 90 degree cocking handle which allows it to be operated readily by the support hand.



Using Wolf ammo, Thompson shot this group from a standing rest at 200 yards.



One has to learn the trick of pressing up with the thumb and down with the palm to release the folding stock. 



Note the hooded front sight, the sight adjustment screw, and the bayonet lug.



This 100 yard group was fired with Cor-Bon's 7.62x39mm DPX load from the Elite Firearms Galil.



Expansion of the Cor-Bon 7.62x39mm DPX load.