Forget Submarines and F-35s: The Galil Rifle Might Be Israel’s Best Weapon Ever
It served for three decades with the IDF.
Key Point: Although the Galil may be out of service today, the rifle helped create what is today a small arms industry all out of proportion to tiny Israel’s size.
The 1967 Six Day War provided many military lessons for the young state of Israel. One of many lessons was that the Israeli Army’s FN FAL battle rifles were too heavy and unwieldy. Israel needed a new assault rifle, and as a result, developed the Galil. Largely based on the Soviet AK-47, the Galil served as the service rifle of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for nearly three decades.
In the wake of the 1967 war, Israel decided it needed a new assault rifle. The standard issue rifle of the Israeli Army, the Belgian FN FAL, was a large, heavy battle rifle chambered in 7.62. The FAL was equipped with a fixed stock and twenty-round magazines, making it a large, powerful weapon not well suited for urban combat. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had evolved past the battle rifle concept to field smaller, lighter rifles firing intermediate-powered cartridges, and Israel had captured thousands of AK-47s from Arab forces during the war. Lacking a major arms industry but wanting its own homemade assault rifle, Israel took a compromise route: it copied the AK-47.
Development of the Galil started after the Six Day War. The Galil uses the same piston-based method of operation as the AK-47, a rotating-bolt operating system that diverts propellant gasses to drive a combined piston/bolt carrier that cycles the weapon. The Galil looks like the AK-47, but individual parts are not compatible. The Galil is more directly related to Finland’s Valmet M62 assault rifle, Helsinki’s take on the AK, and early versions of the Galil even used Finnish receivers.
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