By Todd Burgreen –
Marc Krebs is known as an innovator pushing the boundaries of AK-platform performance. The recent attention Krebs focused on the Israel Weapon Industries Galil ACE should come as no surprise. It seems only natural considering the design similarities between AK and Galil for the AK master to work his magic on the Galil ACE. Anyone familiar with Krebs Custom work over the years will remember flirtations with another AK variant—the SIG 556. Most of the initial Krebs Custom AK rifles were based on either Russian Molot VEPR or Izhmash Saiga AK rifles. Starting in 2014 multiple White House executive orders curtailed the import of Russian AKs forcing Krebs to be flexible and creative in continuing to produce AKs. Krebs adjusted to the new regulatory environment by using new Polish WBP parts combined with U.S. based Childers or Morrissey receivers for his PD18 and CORE AK offerings.
The original Israeli Galil was choked out of the U.S. market in the early 1990s due to federal import laws. The current Galil ACE can be traced back to the Galil, which, in turn, was inspired by the Finnish Valmet Rk62. The Valmet Rk62 itself is an improved AK derivative. The Finns are a country of serious riflemen with a large aggressive neighbor it has eyed warily for centuries in the form of Russia.
The Russian AK’s rugged reliability and its ability to adapt to harsh operational environments earned begrudging respect from the Finns. The Valmet Rk62 sought to maintain AK reliability while improving accuracy. This was accomplished with the use of a quality barrel, an extended iron sight radius, higher quality manufacturing techniques, tweaks to the gas tube and a long stroke gas piston operation. Israel’s Galil followed the Valmet Rk62’s path after the IDF found the FAL wanting in terms of size, recoil, and more importantly, reliability. The Galil in 5.56 NATO was officially adopted by the IDF in 1972. However, the Galil immediately faced competition within the IDF by the large numbers of M16/M4s acquired from the United States. It made more fiscal sense to make the most use of the relatively inexpensive U.S. rifle versus relying exclusively on the Galil.
In 2015, IWI U.S., Inc. decided to revive the Galil in the enhanced Galil ACE form. This is achieved by assembling the rifles from a combination of Israeli and U.S. manufactured components at their Harrisburg, PA facility. The Galil ACE is not merely a copy of the 1960s design. IWI took full advantage of the passage of time to improve and update the original Yisrael Galil and Yaacov Lior design. A pistol brace version was definitely not contemplated by the two original designers.
The IWI U.S. Galil ACE seeks improvement over the original Galil in a number of ways. Galil reliability and performance has never been doubted, however its near ten-pound weight drew criticism from troops, especially when compared to the six-pound M4. The Galil ACE makes use of a polymer lower for the magazine well, trigger guard, and pistol grip. The upper receiver containing the action and hinged folding stock trunnion is milled from ordnance steel. The railed forend on the Galil ACE Gen 1 was also derived from high strength polymer. Besides shaving weight, the Galil ACE has its reciprocating charging handle moved to the left side of the steel receiver for easier weak hand manipulation. A spring-loaded gate on the left side minimizes the chance of debris entering through the charging handle pathway. The original Galil had a distinctive vertically upturned handle on the right side.
IWI U.S. improved on the previous Galil design by securing the railed top cover using an oversized release button at the end of the recoil spring protruding out of the top cover. This ensures the rear aperture iron sight stays zeroed as well as other optics that may be mounted. The top cover exhibits no wiggle. In fact, removing and reinstalling takes some effort, but is worth it considering the advantage gained. Following this theme, the Galil’s gas tube is dovetailed into the receiver’s front block. This limits any movement of the gas block that can influence barrel vibration and, thus, degrade rifle accuracy. A recoil buffer is also present on the recoil spring. This serves multiple roles: to cushion the impact of recoiling parts, easing wear on the rear trunnion, and taming of vibrations to increase accuracy potential. All these details related to the top cover and the gas tube differ from the original AK design.
The Galil ACE was further improved upon with the Galil ACE Gen II in 2021. The GEN II features a full-length two-piece Picatinny top rail, a free float metal alloy M-LOK forend, an improved trigger, a more ergonomic safety, and a side folding adjustable buttstock/brace that is M4-tube compatible. The Gen II rifles ship with a Magpul CTR stock and accessory riser. Braced pistols ship with an SB Tactical SBA-3. Galil ACE rifles and braced pistols are chambered in 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, and 5.45x39mm — the object of our attention herein.
The dots connecting Krebs Custom with the Galil ACE come together in the form of a 5.45x39mm chambered Gen I braced pistol taking center place for this article. IWI U.S. initially made a limited run of 5.45mm chambered rifles and pistols a couple of years ago. These sold out so quickly it was decided to add the 5.45mm chambering to the Galil ACE product line up. This continued with the Gen II models.
Krebs Custom turned its discriminating eye to a 5.45mm Galil ACE Gen 1 braced pistol with Krebs aluminum M-LOK forend with heat shield, Gear Head Works Tailhook arm brace, Krebs Custom Interchangeable Muzzle System (IMS), and a trigger job that is hard to describe in terms of improved pull and reset. Krebs tuned the Galil ACE trigger into a minimal creep 3- to 4-pound work of art. Why the high praise? Galil ACE triggers are not known for their creature comforts, but somehow Krebs Custom pulled it off. The Krebs ACE is an awesome example of what the Galil ACE “Israeli Krinkov” could be.
5.45mm military surplus 7N6 ammunition was also banned in early 2014 by executive fiat. Up to this point, the availability of cheap, plentiful 5.45mm surplus ammunition had 5.45mm chambered AKs increasing in popularity. While we will avoid arguing over the validity of declaring the 7N6 5.45 surplus “armor piercing”, the ban did take the steam out of AK rifles chambered in 5.45mm. The 7N6 “poison pill” bullet first gained notoriety in the Soviet-Afghan War. A design feature of the 5.45x39mm cartridge is an air space inside the jacket at the bullet’s tip. The air space serves to shift the bullet’s center of mass toward the rear. This increases likelihood of tumbling when striking soft targets — flesh. In addition, the lead core behind this air space shifts forward upon impact producing a peculiar curvature of the bullet’s path in the last half of its travel through tissue. One downside typical to most surplus ammunition is that it uses corrosive primers.
While “Spam cans” of 7N6 5.45mm can still be found, 5.45mm ammunition is available from non-Russian manufactures along with Hornady here in the U.S. — just not at a few cents a round.
Multiple 5.45x39mm loads were tested with the Krebs Custom Galil ACE such as Wolf, Tula, Silver Bear in 60-grain and 70-grain varieties. Century International Red Army Standard 5.45x39mm was also used. Red Army Standard 5.45x39mm 69-grain ammunition is offered in handy range packs (180 rounds) as well as 30-round boxes. Red Army Standard is manufactured by the same factories that produced billions of rounds of ammunition for the Soviet Red Army and Warsaw Pact nations. The range pack boxes indicated Ukrainian manufacturing.
Two other 5.45mm ammunition loads of interest were also used. Hornady 60-grain V-Max and Dynamit Nobel 59-grain HP loading. The Hornady 5.45x39mm load is a godsend for AK owners looking for a quality U.S. made ammunition choice for their rifles. By good fortune the Dynamit Nobel 59-grain 5.45x39mm was discovered several years ago with a couple cases acquired. The Hornady V-Max loads delivered accuracy in the 1.5- to 2-inch range at 50 yards with the Dynamit Nobel producing similar results. The other ammunition brands produced 2- to 3-inch groups at 50 yards. Accuracy testing was done with a red dot.
Chronographing the 8.3-inch barreled Galil ACE 5.45mm, the Wolf 70-grain load produced approximately 2,140 feet per second and the Wolf 60-grain a more respectable 2,510 fps. The 53-grain surplus ammunition clocked in at 2580 fps. The chrono readings were repeated to verify the muzzle blast wasn’t influencing the results. These velocities make the 5.45mm Krebs Galil ACE a viable option out to a couple hundred yards, ballistically.
At close range, the iron sights were good; at 50 yards and beyond, I had to really slow down and yet I still struggled to place consistent hits in the A zone of an IPSC style target. The solution was an easy one, considering the railed top cover present with the Galil ACE—a red dot.
A ZeroTech THRIVE red dot was mounted on the Galil ACE. ZeroTech is relatively new to the U.S. market. The Australian company has a U.S. operation based outside of Murfreesboro, TN. 50 years of experience in the rugged Australian outback is ZeroTech’s guiding force. The compact THRIVE sight offers a 3-MOA dot with eleven brightness settings within a 5-ounce package. Battery life is 5000 hours. The 3-MOA dot simplifies placing rounds on target no matter the aiming method used. Independence from set eye relief requirements is one of the red dot’s major advantages. This is born out when working in tight confines or finding oneself in awkward firing positions to maximize cover. Keep both eyes open; if you see the red dot on target, pull the trigger.
The THRIVE was mounted as low as possible on the Galil ACE; avoid AR height mounting risers on this platform. It did not disappoint me in my range tests proving more than capable of withstanding the Galil ACE’s recoil and heat generated from firing multiple magazines. The THRIVE’s dot aided in acquiring a fast aiming point at CQB ranges. The 3-MOA dot proved more than capable of hammering man-sized steel out to 200 yards reliably. A 50-yard zero with the ZeroTech fits needs best when mounted on the Krebs.
The Krebs bundle of joy weighs approximately seven pounds and measures 21-inches long with the Gear Head Works brace folded, and 28.25 inches with the brace deployed. The brace is held securely to the receiver when folded and is rock-steady when unfolded. My first visit to the range supported all my expectations regarding handling and reliability with the Krebs. Several hundred rounds were fired over the course of multiple range visits. Blessed to have an ample supply of 5.45x39mm ammunition. At times, I got carried away and had the braced pistol HOT! Reliability was never an issue with the Galil ACE vigorously ejecting steel cases. The Krebs aluminum handguard with heat shield did its job well.
The Krebs aluminum handguard’s M-LOK capability allowed for the mounting of Crimson Trace’s recently introduced Rapid Illumination Grip (RIG). The RIG is ideal for braced pistols requiring a light source. The angled grip is not considered a vertical foregrip, which is a big no-no on braced pistols due to federal regulations. The RIG combines the ergonomic advantage of an angled foregrip with a 500-peak-lumen weaponlight into one sleek, effective device.
The Krebs proved very capable at handling the CQB style course with multiple targets strewn 15 to 25 yards away with the stop targets placed further downrange. Transitioning between the multiple targets was effortless thanks to ZeroTech THRIVE red dot and the 5.45x39mm round supplying little recoil. The muzzle signature was less than what was expected, as well. The Krebs IMS muzzle system tamed both muzzle flash and acted as a compensator, thanks to its dual design of 4-prong flash suppressor with birdcage piece acting as a compensator. Krebs’ goal with the IMS was a device that can be switched between flash suppressor, muzzle brake, and suppressor mount by the user.
The Krebs Custom treatment exhibited all of the positive Galil ACE characteristics combined with the lethal Russian .22 caliber service round—the 5.45x39mm. Arms aficionados will find and appreciate Krebs Custom’s attention to detail. The Krebs Custom Galil ACE proved desirable due to its reliability, accuracy, and controllability during rapid strings of fire.