Galil? Galeo!

For those who are curious, the Galil was introduced in 1972 by the Israelis after having bad experiences in the deserts with their FN FALs while at the same time seeing how well captured AK-style guns handled in the sand and moondust of the Siani and Golan Heights. Borrowing from both Kalashnikov and Stoner’s design philosophies and mixing a dash of FN to the stew, Israeli developers Yisrael Galili and Yakov Lior blended the best of both worlds to deliver the finished product. The Israelis milled out a forged steel receiver, rather than the simple stamped sheet metal receivers of the Kalash family.

Available in both 7.62 and 5.56 NATO variants, it was gas-operated with a piston, used a rotating bolt, and proved rugged and reliable, remaining in front line service until the year 2000 when it was replaced by U.S.-supplied M16s which, with their aluminum receivers, were lighter and more versatile, especially in later models.

Still, the Galil proved popular enough to be license-produced in Italy by Bernardelli, South Africa by Vektor as the R4, and in Sweden as the FFV 890. Galil variants have been used by no less than 50 countries as diverse as Columbia, Portugal, and Nepal. Meanwhile, the only Israeli-produced Galil these days is the Galil Ace platform in three different calibers including 7.62x39mm.

The gun is so commonly encountered overseas that it is part of the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course at U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, seen here in a fam fire course in November 2021 (Photo: U.S. SOCOM)

With IWI/IMI Galil sporters non-existent as imports after about 1993, this led to in-house “kit builds” made in the U.S. with new receivers and barrels coupled with surplus kits from overseas. The Century Arms Golani Sporter hit the market over a decade ago and then disappeared a few years ago. To fill this void are the often tough-to-find James River Armory Gallant and ATI’s Galeo that appeared in 2019.

I’ve been kicking around one of these Galeos for the past couple of months and, I gotta say, it is a faithful clone that may actually be better than the original.

The ATI Galeo uses a new American-made 4140 steel receiver and a 4150 steel 18-inch 1:7 twist barrel with a 5.56 NATO chamber. Other than that and the U.S.-made magazine, everything else is carefully harvested and refurbished IMI-made surplus parts. (Photo: Chris Eger)

See more in my column over at

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