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ATI’s Galeo Rifle

The Classic Galil is Reborn in America

As a teenager growing up in New York City back in the ’80s, I had a lot of friends of who had dual-citizenship with Israel who’d go home to Israel for their mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Being a gun nut in training who couldn’t own a gun at the time, I wanted to hear all of their stories about shooting and firearms. They made the Galil sound like the ultimate military rifle, combining the best aspects of the M16 and the AK-47. According to them, it was more accurate, rugged, and reliable than either. It was one of those rifles I yearned to have, yet political circumstances dashed that dream several times in the past.

What’s So Great About the Galil?
Yisrael Galili and Yaacov Lior designed the Galil in the late ’60s. Before, the IDF was using FN FALs, but found them too weighty and not sufficiently reliable in the dirty, desert conditions. They were impressed with the AKs they captured and sought a way to improve them for their own purposes.

They looked to what may have been the best AK in the world at the time: the Finnish Valmet Rk 62. Galil and Lior improved the chamber and bolt-locking mechanism by going to a rotating, bi-lug bolt. This provided ease of maintenance and potentially increased reliability in the desert.

If you’ve ever field stripped an AK, you’ll be right at home with a Galil. Note that should you add one to your collection, be sure to stock up on mags, as TAPCO has bitten the dust.

Next, the pair turned to the sights, scrapping the AKM’s tangent sight mounted forward of the action and opting for a receiver-mounted peep sight for a faster, more accurate, and repeatable sight picture. They also may have added the first tritium night sights to a service rifle in the form of a flip-up set.

AKs had traditionally suffered from shorter buttstocks, at least compared to Western examples at the time. The Galil’s side-folding stock, reminiscent of the Paratrooper FAL stock, rectified this with a longer length of pull and improved cheek weld. They used a longer and fatter pistol grip for similar reasons.

A 90-degree charging handle that extended over the top of the dust cover made it easier to reload the rifle by using the left hand and racking it to the rear — don’t try to grab it, though, or you’ll skin your knuckles; just catch it with your palm and smack it back.

One component they sought to improve, but with perplexing results, was the safety selector. They left the legacy AK safety selector on the right side of the receiver, but added a left-side thumb lever. The main issue here is that with select-fire guns, you pull it rearward for the firing position and forward to make it safe. This is the opposite of ergonomic. Some semiautomatic fire control parts have the Americanized “forward to fire” controls, but they’re far rarer.

A semiautomatic version was imported by the likes of IMI (Israeli Military Industries) and their importer, Action Arms, until 1989 when then President George H. W. Bush banned them by name from importation.

Springfield Armory briefly imported a neutered version sans flash suppressor and equipped with a thumbhole stock from 1989 until 1992. Then, the dark ages of firearm ownership were upon us for 10 years due to the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban.

While Galils were found all over Central America, a big problem with obsolete surplus rifles, and even rifles built from surplus parts kits, is that eventually the supply of components will dry up, and demand will remain, or even increase. Add inflation to the mix, and even a lackluster rifle can double in value.

The Galeo
Help has come in the form of American Tactical releasing their version of the Galil, known as the Galeo. American Tactical is currently building these rifles on U.S.-made receivers milled from 4140 CDA steel, with U.S.-made barrels. The remainder of the rifle is composed of genuine IMI parts.

One of the key features of the Galeo is that ATI sent a representative overseas to assist and oversee the de-milling process, ensuring all the parts for a particular rifle came from the same donor, as opposed to just pulling parts en masse and sorting through them later. This should provide for a more consistent build.

Rifles sold in the United States that aren’t “sporting” have to adhere to 18 USC 922R, which doesn’t allow for more than 10 foreign parts to be part of the gun. Not every screw on the gun counts though; see for a full 922R breakdown. As it ships, the ATI Galeo requires the use of completely American-made magazines in order to stay legal. This is disappointing, as not many are available, and ATI doesn’t ship the Galeo with an AR-15 magazine adapter.

The Galeo features an 18-inch barrel with a 1:7 twist rate, a huge improvement over the previous versions offered with slower twist rates like 1:12. Furniture choices for the forend include original wood or polymer, depending on the variant, and the original IMI side-folding stock for compact transport and ease of storage. Not to nitpick on such a well-built rifle, but it’d have been better for the U.S. barrel to be threaded in ½x28 instead of the legacy M13x1 for ease in using a suppressor or an improved muzzle device of some sort.

Fortunately, the forend is ARM style and will accommodate the folded legs of a Galil bipod. That’s the only accessory besides a sling or bayonet that’d look at home on this rifle.

Sights on a Galeo follow the Galil pattern mentioned earlier. For followers of Kalashnikov variants, the rear sight has been moved to the rear of the receiver cover and the front sight back to the gas port. This increases the sight radius (distance between front and rear sights) by about 3 to 4 inches. The front sight is completely adjustable for elevation and windage. This is important because the rear sight is mounted on the receiver cover and lifting it or removing it during maintenance will change your zero, so adjustments to the rear make less sense than adjustments based on the front sight. There may still be a shift in zero, but it won’t be as dramatic.

Speaking of the top cover, securing it back in place can be a bit fiddly. As this is an AK-variant, you might think that you can simply push down on it and it’ll snap closed. However, the return spring’s guide-rod protrudes through the rear of the top cover a bit farther than what you’d find on a typical AK, so you’ll have to take more care with it. The good news is that it’s there to stay once you get it back on.

Original Israeli-made Galil top, with forward-to-fire, left side safety. ATI version below, which takes some getting used to.

While the original night sights were present, their tritium lamps in the rearsight had long since expired. You can have new inserts installed if you’d like. The frontsight lamp was actually missing on the test rifle, but we didn’t sweat it since the tritium would’ve been dead anyway. Should you refurbish your night sights, you’ll need to position your rear sight aperture in a 45-degree position to keep it out of your line of sight.

We compared the Galeo to an original IMI Galil imported in the 1980s. On that rifle the safety worked in the traditional sense by pushing forward to fire. Everything else matched in detail, except that the Galeo had a coil-spring-type AK trigger, and the imported pre-’89 Galil did not.

The metal finish on the Galeo looks amazing. Not in a Cerakote or high polish blue type of amazing, but a black phosphate/parkerized look of a true fighting rifle kind of amazing. It’s the look of a warrior bred for battle. You could tell by the finish on the charging handle, the stock, and even the plastic pistol grip and forend that this baby had been around the block a time or two.

At the Range
One of the ergonomic changes to the Galil over a standard AK is the ability to easily reach over the top to manipulate the charging handle. All you need to do is reach across the top of the rifle with your left hand and push it rearward with the inside of your forefinger by the first knuckle.

The trigger weight was between 4.5 and 5.5 pounds. Using Federal American Eagle 62-grain XM855 at 100 yards, the best five-shot group came in at 1.75 inches and the worst at 3.22 inches. This was out of 200 rounds and by the time I was done, I was really wishing that ATI had sent me more than one 30-round magazine to use. That’s a lot of reloading.

Moving on to Black Hills 77-grain ammo, five-shot groups at 100 yards averaged right at the 1.5-inch mark, with the best group at 0.95 and worst a hair under 2. The 1:7-inch rifling likely helped with the slightly longer and heavier bullet.

An original IDF pattern bipod would’ve been a great addition, as the weight of the Galeo while shooting offhand can get a bit tiring after a while. As expected, there were no ammunition or magazine-related stoppages. The rifle ran just fine.

As a side note, surplus Israeli metal magazines worked in the rifle, but if you want to go that route you’ll have to change out three other parts for U.S.-made versions, such as the hammer, trigger, and sear or perhaps the muzzle device, pistol grip, and forend, in order to remain legal.

Loose Rounds
ATI’s Galeo is a well-built U.S.-made clone of the Galil ARM. While the safety selector could’ve been improved by imitating IMI and Action Arms in the ’80s, that would’ve added more cost to the rifle and made it less desirable for the purist looking for as close to an IDF rifle as possible. Additionally, three more U.S.-compliant parts would allow shooters to use surplus foreign manufactured Galil magazines.

A strong gripe is that the barrel should’ve been threaded in the universal and more easily adaptable ½x28 for ease of muzzle device swapping and adding silencers. Since they changed the barrel from 1:12 to 1:7, why not another practical modification?

When all is said and done, as a range toy and not a practical gun, military rifles should look like they were originally intended — and the Galeo looks that part indeed. Even if it’s 25-percent heavier than the M16A2, this rifle is way more fun to shoot.

If you’re a collector of Cold War-era rifles, Israeli-designed weapons, military surplus pieces, or AK variants, or just want a quality-made rifle that’ll stand out at a crowded range session, this is the rifle for you. Add a surplus Israeli bipod and an appropriate sling and you’re good to go.

It may not replace your “go-to” rifle anytime soon, unless you want to really stand out in the crowd, but it makes for a fine addition to the collection piece and a great conversation piece.

American Tactical Galeo

Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 38.5 inches
Weight: 9 pounds (unloaded)
Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
MSRP: $1,300

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