By Pascal Thibert
The Israeli Micro Assault Rifle (MAR) arrived on the assault rifle market at the end of the 90s. Halfway between a submachine gun and a rifle, its compactness and powerful ammunition make it a very effective weapon of defense and a very special combat gun for tank crews, pilots or special forces.
The MAR or Micro Galil is the ultimate evolution of the Galil range. Compact with its 460mm (18 inches) long folded stock, powerful with its 5.56mm NATO ammunition, it belongs to the category of short assault weapons in the same way as the Swiss SIG 553 rifle (5.56mm or 7.62×39), the Russian AKSU in 5.45×39, the Zastava M92 in 7.62×39 or the American M4 in “Commando” version equipped with a 270mm barrel (10.5 inches). Not to mention the newest B&T APC556 PDW or the H & K G36K or G36C. These weapons are designed for easy and discreet carry, but their ammunition is intended for war or defense operations. They are still very dangerous at 200 and 300 meters, with excellent precision for the best of them, like the Swiss SIG or the MAR from Israel Military Industries (IMI) Ltd., now known as Israel Weapon Industries (IWI).
Fascinating for the military as well as for sport shooters or collectors, the Galils are mainly used by specialized groups such as the C.O.S. soldiers in France, the RAID, the GIGN or the marine commandos. They effectively equip pilots of airplanes and helicopters, tank and other machine operators, mountaineers, special services and special service officers.
Throughout its history, Israel has been able to develop the weapons necessary for its survival; first by copying and improving the armament available from its allies, then by designing and manufacturing in its own factories original weapons that meet its specific needs. Strength, reliability and resistance to external elements such as sand and seawater are part of the weapons specifications machined in Israel.
Starting from the base design of the AK-47 and its Finnish descendant the RK62, Israeli engineer Yisrael Galili worked on the westernization of the Russian rifle, so reliable and so effective in the hands of Israel’s enemies.
As Jani Kotnik explained in his article on the Magal Micro Galil in .30 Carbine, an extrapolation of the MAR 5.56mm as a police version, Galili visualized a hybrid Kalashnikov rifle equipped with a barrel, a bolt head and a Stoner 63 magazine in 5.56mm. He also worked on the basis of the Valmet RK62, the Finnish rifle in 7.62×39, built with a receiver milled from a steel block for his design on the Galil. In 1959, the AKM had changed to a sheet metal (Steel) receiver formed and reinforced by steel blocks at the front for mounting the barrel, at the back for attaching the stock. IMI kept this machining technique for all of its Galils.
Thus were born the Galil rifles, modeled on the Kalashnikov, but chambered for western ammunition, as standardization requires. The Galil family of assault rifles began serving in the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) in 1973 in an attempt to replace the FN FAL which had proved unreliable in the desert sands during the Six-Day War. (Editor’s note: This was due to lack of maintenance by the conscript Israeli soldiers, and Israeli leadership noted that the same lack of maintenance on AK variants by the conscript soldiers they faced did not affect reliability very much.) The Galat, a sniper version of the Galil came out in 1983, and it is still produced.
The 7.62×39 ammunition will continue to be used by some Israeli forces for its destructive power with its .30 caliber bullets, despite energy similar to that of the 5.56mm caliber, about 3500 Joules. The useful range of the MAR is about 300 meters; it is still very accurate to 200 meters despite the size of the barrel which measures only 195mm (216mm on the ACE). The best scores are from 60 to 80mm to 200 meters, which is very honorable, in open sight or with optics—the same performance as the 552 and 553 GIS.
The Same Qualities as the AK-47
At 100 meters, using fixed sights we fired a grouping of 24x15mm and at 200 meters with a 3x32mm optic, a score of 72mm. The firing is nice, easily controllable, very enjoyable; in fact, very similar to the impressions felt with the AK-47. The rifle is precise, and always very reliable; it feeds all ammunition, steel cases as well as brass cases. It’s not like the Famas F1 that prefers only steel or the M4 which prefers brass. It has all the qualities of the Kalashnikov without using the same caliber, at least in this version.
In short bursts, it is easy to fire bursts of three shots, which are well-controlled. The barrel rises a little but not enough to really deflect the trajectory. In full auto, the rate is fairly high, the noise is also, with a rate of almost 900 rounds / minute, depending on the ammunition used. The trigger is supple and clean, with a weight of about 2.2kg. The model tested has a number beginning with 99xxxxxx, followed by six digits. Its year of manufacturing was apparently 1999.
The MAR or Micro Galil is a very compact assault rifle. It measures 460mm with the stock folded and 710mm open stock. It is light for an assault rifle since it weighs only 2.980kg. The largest Galil, the ARM with bipod and 460mm barrel, weighs 4.350kg. The model without bipod, the AR, weighs 3.950kg. And the old, short model (still in the catalog) 332mm SAR gun still weighs 3.750kg. To get the weight under three kilos is a decisive advantage. It is easy to handle, put in or remove a magazine and to open and close the stock; there is no heaviness as with a longer weapon. It is as manageable as a submachine gun. It can be worn in a thigh holster or on a chest sling/rig.
Two Different but Solidary Selectors
IMI has installed specific sighting devices: an ambidextrous selector, a light buttstock, a handguard and a grip made of composite material and an optional Galil standard optical mounting quick release (left side of the receiver). The Galil has no adjustable rear sight but a tilting sight in “L” configuration that we switch for shooting at 300 meters or 500 meters. It has adjustable drift. The front sight is adjustable in height.
The barrel of the MAR is chrome hardened. The operation system is from the Kalashnikov with a rotating bolt, blocked by locking the two lugs of the bolt head into the receiver, machined from a block of steel. Unlocking is activated by a gas piston mechanism operated by a short piston secured to the carrier. The very wide extractor is placed in the front of the bolt face, as on the Kalashnikov.
The selector is ambidextrous with a lever on the right at the AK standard, three positions (S-Safe, A- Automatic, R-Repetition- semi-automatic) and a thumb selector on the left side above the grip. The position S blocks the carrier and the trigger, cartridge chambered or not, hammer cocked or not. It does not have an open bolt hold-open. The handguard is designed with care because it is short, needing a good grip for the shooter’s protection so close to the muzzle of the barrel. On the latest models, it can accept accessories such as a high-power light or a laser designator.
Galil magazines also fit in the Micro Galil. They are well designed. They look a lot like Kalashnikov magazines but are for 5.56 NATO cartridges so the curve is different. Capacity varies from 5 to 50 rounds, though the most common version is 35 rounds. A special IMI adapter allows the use of M16 magazines, with the aim of making weapons used by the same army as compatible as possible between them. 30-round composite magazines are now available from Tapco USA.
High Modularity, Quick and Easy Disassembly
The charging handle is designed to be operated by either right-handed or left-handed shooters with a button that rises above the bolt cover for easy grip. The right-handed shooter can arm his bolt with his left hand without releasing the grip.
The MAR disassembly is very simple, just like with other Galils. After removing the magazine, checking that the chamber is empty, the top cover is removed from the receiver pushing a button at the rear of the weapon. Then remove the action spring and its guide rod. The bolt carrier assembly is retracted, then lifted upwards from the receiver. The rotating bolt itself disassembles from the carrier by pulling it forward in a rotating motion (after the gas piston cylinder slides backwards).
The installation of an optic is possible once the IMI military mount is placed on the left side of the receiver. With this standard mount, Israeli standard optics are mounted to the left, which is very difficult for left-handed shooters. The Picatinny rails installed on recent versions are preferable—one on the top cover, the other on the gas tube. These rails can be used, among other things, to place an Israeli-made red dot sight without battery, called a Mepor 21. Our version is not equipped with rails, but the European distributor could install these on request by welding in place.
All Galils can be delivered with Black-T finish. It is a unique, special coating that protects guns against rust and external aggressions such as seawater, humidity and heat. This coating is made from several polymers but is applied in thin layers on the weapon, which does not alter its operation. Friction between moving parts is reduced which makes lubrication redundant. It protects shock and temperatures up to 163 °C, which does not spoil anything. This Black-T finish gives weapons a solid and aesthetic finish. It can be had in black or green NATO. Mini-Uzis treated like this are used by some French combat swimmers.
2008: Presentation of the New Galil or ACE
Everything has been designed so that the Micro Galil is practical and effective from the moment of purchase: the weapon itself by its design plus its small size, its contained weight, its light-weight stock with simplified opening and its high capacity magazines. The manufacturing qualities, the marksmanship results, the flawless operation (no problems in our test), the ease of disassembly, the reliability, and the weather resistance make IMI products professional weapons. Valuable feedback from end users has led to the development of this comprehensive, reliable and proven weapon system renowned around the world.
The Galil is in service in many countries, such as Portugal, Italy, Estonia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Peru, Paraguay, Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico City, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, India, Nepal, Indonesia, Mongolia, Burma, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago. They are also manufactured under license by the following brands: Famae in Chile, Indumil in Colombia, RPC Fort in Ukraine, Z111 Factory in Vietnam and Vektor in South Africa with the R4, R5 and R6.
The Galil and Micro Galil are now offered (since 2008) by Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) under the name Galil ACE, in 5.56 NATO, 7.62×39 and 7.62 NATO, to meet multiple armies’ needs. The weight of the ACE has been reduced compared to the first Galil, but for the MAR, the weight remains the same with 3.0kg. They are based on the Galil design, but they are more modern and have accessories designed to make shooting more instinctive and more precise. They retain their reliability in combat conditions, with their strength and ease of maintenance. They now have a bolt stop at the end of the magazine.
ACEs have a six-position M4 buttstock, so they can receive all accessories made for this stock type. They accept a rail on the rear cover, as well as a rail on the front gas piston tube, which was lacking in the Micro Galil. The Belgian distributor for Europe, Samson Europe, had prepared gas tubes with a welded Picatinny rail for the assembly of Aimpoint or other scopes.
Surprisingly, the MAR has not been very successful among Israeli Special Forces. The compactness of the Galil has resulted in it being used as a personal defense weapon (PDW) by armored units or by artillery, because its small size facilitates its handling. Israel receives a lot of American equipment and has adapted well by manufacturing multiple accessories and spare parts for the M16 and M4.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N4 (April 2018)|