One of the significant lessons the Israelis took from their victory in the 1967 “Six Day War” was that they needed a new type of small arms family for their ground forces. The FN FALs they had been using proved too susceptible to the harsh, dusty Middle Eastern environment and the intense tempo of operations the IDF conducted. On the other hand, they had noticed that the Kalashnikovs of their adversaries seemed ideally suited to the situation.
As the Soviet Union and her satellites were hardly going to change their geo-political strategies or their military-economic policies, equipping the IDF with Kalashnikovs was out of the question. So instead, the Israelis turned to neutral Finland for help – and got it in the shape of blank lower receivers and manufacturing specs and equipment for the Finnish-made variant of the Kalashnikov known as the RK62 produced by Valmet.
From this the Israelis produced a rifle in 5.56 x 45mm calibre (to take advantage of readily available US ammunition, and to have compatibility with the surplus M16s they were also stating to receive from the US). The Galil is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary design – but the whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts, and the final weapon was actually something of a revolution.
Starting with the modified lower receiver, the chief designer, Yisrael Galili – hence “Galil”, added a Valmet-style upper receiver with better sights and a longer sight radius than a standard AK (the sights consist of a rear peep sight and a hooded front post sight, with pop-up Tritrium night sights), he then changed the charging handle to a vertical post style that can be operated with either hand, he also added a secondary selector lever on the left-hand side of the pistol grip that can be operated with the thumb of the right hand, at the back end he used the folding tubular stock from the FN FAL Para version, and at the front used an enlarged U-shaped fore-grip with internal heat shield (later versions used fibreglass instead of wood). The ARM version of the Galil also features an integral folding bipod with a built-in wire cutter and bottle opener, plus a collapsible carrying handle from the FN FAL light support weapon.
Development of the Galil had begun shortly after the 1967 war and its final delivery to the IDF was interrupted and delayed by the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Because of the geo-political fallout from the ’73 war – i.e., the US agreeing to re-arm Israel and also to guarantee her future survival and re-supply – the Israelis also began to receive large numbers of low-cost surplus M16s from the US. As it was cheaper to take the surplus US M16s than it was to manufacture enough Galils to equip the IDF, the Galil ended up not seeing the wide-spread use that it should have in the IDF.
Nonetheless, several versions of the Galil still soldier on today in the IDF and it has also found a home in the armies of quite a few foreign nations as well, such as: Columbia, Estonia, India, Portugal and South Africa (the licensed R4 series), and several others.
A skirmishable airsoft Galil – at last!
It was at the Weekend of Heroes event over in California last year that I first discovered TSI Armories and their plans to manufacture the most authentic and realistic airsoft replica Galil in the world.
They only had a pre-production SAR model prototype without a functioning internal mechanism at the show, but it was enough to get me very excited. Skip ahead a year and suddenly the Galil seems to have become the next big thing (or at least, a rather significant thing) in the airsoft world. There was a time when the only option for the die-hard Galil aficionado would be to try and track down one of the high-pressure air powered classic airsoft models of the pre-”automatic electric gun” era. Then along came the expensive body kits from the likes of Inokatsu – which, whilst high quality, aren’t entirely authentic and also require the guts from a donor gun. Other kits (such as the Action Micro Galil) appeared as well, and even some limited numbers of full Galil ARMs from the likes of Avalon and ICS.
But until last year, nobody produced a complete, authentic Galil AEG (let alone the SAR variant that I wanted). TSI Armories are a bunch of ex-IDF guys based in southern California who passionately felt that the market deserved better. So they set out to do something about it. Within a few months after the Weekend of Heroes event the first fully-assembled Galil ARM, SAR and MAR models began to rollout of TSI’s manufacturing plant…and rather nice they are too.
The first things you notice when you pick up a TSI Galil are the quality of the materials and construction, and the weight. No surprise really as these two things are closely related on this replica – and they both come from the fact that it makes quite extensive use of “real-steel” Galil parts. The parts inherited from its real-world brother include; reinforced nylon folding stock, receiver cover and rear-sight assembly, front hand-guard (complete with original internal heat shield/reflector!) and the front sight/gas block assembly. In addition, the trigger guard and magazine release catch and the fire selector lever (right-hand side) also appear to be real-deal parts too! Finally, the barrel assembly is a solid metal rod drilled out to accept the airsoft inner barrel – with a specially-manufactured flash hider stuck on the end as well.
That leaves just the fake gas tube, the lower receiver, the left-hand fire selector switch and the pistol grip which are airsoft-only parts. However, that doesn’t mean that their quality is any less impressive, especially the lower receiver – specifically designed for the airsoft internal mechanism – which is machined from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminium and finished to an exceedingly high level. In fact if anything, it is too good – as the real-deal parts don’t match its finish. But this is a small fault in such a package of overall goodness. It goes without saying of course that the airsoft lower receiver cannot be fitted to a real-steel Galil, and vice-versa, and also that it is impossible to convert any airsoft gun to fire real ammunition.
So basically what you have in your hands looks like a Galil, feels like a Galil, weighs like a Galil, handles like a Galil, and even smells like a Galil. The only significant difference is that this one shoots BBs instead of bullets! The fact that you can also customise the one you order with different power, barrel and battery options means that you really get the airsoft Galil of your dreams.
How does it perform?
All TSI Armories Galils use Version 3 airsoft mech-boxes, so that means you’re going to get something that works well and uses standard parts that you can get from any airsoft retailer. That’s an important consideration – there are few things more frustrating in airsoft than having a proprietary mech-box on your hands if something breaks!
I ordered my Galil with a tight-bore inner barrel and an M110 spring (which means the mechanism will propel a .20 gram plastic BB at 110 metres per second, or approximately 350 feet per second). The tight-bore barrel gives better accuracy and more consistent velocities. There are various other options available as well.
Having used mine at several skirmishes over the past few months I have been very happy with its performance. The mechanism functions smoothly and consistently (it even sounds like “quality”), accuracy and range are excellent (especially once I got the hop-up unit adjusted just right and then locked into position), and I haven’t experienced any problems with misfeeds either – using King Arms AK74 mid-cap magazines.
Accuracy-wise, the performance is pretty good too. Using the air rifle standard of 10 metres range, indoors, prone-unsupported firing position I obtained the following results – with open iron sights, unaltered from factory settings:
§ Semi-auto, aimed, 5 round group: 4.5 x 4.5cm spread
§ Full-auto, aimed, 5-round burst: 5.5 x 5.3cm spread
Like all AEGs, you have to have the selector lever/switch placed in exactly the right position in order for the mechanism to function – and I’ve found the best way to do this with the Galil is to rely on placing the large right-hand selector lever into the appropriate notch. The left-hand selector switch does work – but it doesn’t provide such a solid and reliable placement of the selector as using the right-hand lever does. I’ve also found that it is best to go back to the SAFE position first if switching between the SEMI and AUTO positions. Other than those little idiosyncrasies, it has performed flawlessly.
The battery capacity is limited to nothing bigger than an 1100 MaH stick battery – and it is a bit of a tight squeeze to get the battery in, but once you’ve practiced it a couple of times it becomes straightforward and easy. I ordered mine with the smaller profile Deans connectors, and I’m glad I did as I think it would be quite a tight fit to use the more common style of connectors inside the tightly packed receiver.
As with most AK replicas, the stick battery slots partially into the gas tube assembly and lays across the top of the internals, in the place where the gas piston operating rod and upper part of the bolt would be on a real one. Its also best to have a spare battery with you when you go skirmishing, as I’ve found that I typically have to change to a fresh one just over half-way through the day.
One last note about the TSI Armouries Galil: In addition to the usual recommended AEG maintenance procedures, you’ll need to treat this one much more like a real firearm in terms of its external care and maintenance. What I mean by that is that because of all the steel parts, rust could become an issue – so make sure you keep these parts clean and well-cared-for with a light coat of machine oil. Hey, its all part of the fun experience of owning such a highly realistic airsoft gun!
So, are there any downsides you ask? Well, yes. All this goodness doesn’t come cheap – but if you do the math, it actually comes out less expensive than an AEG based on a Inokatsu kit when all is said and done – plus this baby is a 100% authentic replica made by ex-IFDers. The other downsides are that TSI don’t yet make any proper Galil-style airsoft magazines for it, so you have to rely on AK74 mags or the less accurate Inokatsu Galil mags (if you can find them!). Another niggle is that the left-hand fire selector doesn’t actually work as well as one would hope and that limits the benefit of having the ambidextrous safety in my opinion.
The issues with the magazines and selector switch/lever aren’t insurmountable by any means though. In fact, TSI have already provided work-arounds in the shape of two rather clever accessories. The first is a modified right-hand selector lever which features an extension – of the type commonly seen now on SOPMOD AKs – and the second is a magwell adapter that allows the use of NATO STANAG M16/M4 type magazines. I haven’t yet had a chance to test either of these, but the magwell adapter in particular looks rather good – like the lower receiver, it is machined from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminium and looks solid enough to even be used in a real-steel Galil or Valmet. In fact, I understand that such magwell adapters are in use in the real world. *Update: see here for magwell and magazines review.*
You can also read an interview with Guy Ayal of TSI Armories here: