Mounting Optics to the Galil

galil sniper

One of the key deficiencies of the Galil series of rifles is optics mounting capability (or lack thereof).  In all fairness, the Galil’s service rifle competitors at the time of its design weren’t barn-burners in this area, either. You could make a reasonable argument that the M14 wasn’t a bad platform for optics, but pretty much everything else under the sun (FAL, AK, G3, M16A1, etc.) had serious issues. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s and the introduction of the flat-top M4 carbine that shooters got more comfortable options on black rifles.

However, due to the Galil’s popularity as a sexy retro rifle, modern shooters often want a way to get some optics on it. What are the options? Read on.

There are four different ways of mounting optics on the Galil:

  1. Side dovetail scope mount: the IMI Galil (and the Century Golani) comes standard with a dovetail for a scope mount. Some parts kit build Galil receivers have them; others do not.
  2. Gas tube rail: there are some gas tubes out there that have a piece of rail welded to them. There’s also a couple designs manufactured by Blackthorne and Wolverine (in South Africa). From what I can tell, gas tube rails (welded) saw some use in Israel and South Africa, so they’re an authentic option. (I’ve even heard rumor of an IMI-manufactured gas tube rail, but I am skeptical that it exists.)
  3. Top cover rail: a few builders have welded rails to the Galil top/dust cover. I’ve seen a STANAG mount or two as well.
  4. Handguard rail: some after-market handguards have a top rail built into them

Top cover rails have a fatal flaw: the Galil top cover is not designed for the weight of a scope, and there is a large fixed rear sight blocking the center line. This means you need to mount your optic very high, and you may experience some zeroing issues due to the extreme weight being put on the top cover. If you are mounting something light, such an Aimpoint Micro, I think this option might be workable. It has the same problem as the standard rear sight, which is that it may or may not return to zero after you field strip the gun.

galil-scope-mount

Dovetail scope mounts are better in that they are light-weight, require no modification to your rifle, and can mount the scope low and off-bore-axis (ie, to the side). This is similar to the situation that you run into with most Russian AK scopes, such as the POSP. It’s not perfect (I assume you will have some drift at long distances due to being off the bore axis), but the Israelis made it work on the Galil sniper variant. If I were dead-set on mounting a scope to my Galil, this is the route I’d be going down. There are also certain mounts, like the PRI, that mount your scope very high and center-line.

Word of warning about the dovetail mounts: do not get overly aggressive screwing them in. There are horror stories of people who screwed the mount straight into their receiver! I assume this is more of an issue for improperly heat-treated receivers, like some of the early Ohio Rapidfire receivers, but I’d be careful even with CNCWarrior receivers.

Now, the really bad news about these scope mounts is that IMI (Action Arms) scope mounts are rare and expensive. You can find current-production after-market mounts from Blackthorne, ProMag, and PRI. The PRI mount has a good rep and goes over the centerline, but is rather high and not QD. The Blackthorne mount has surprisingly good reviews and is lower, but is also not QD. The ProMag mount is arguably the best design for a reflex sight (low and QD), but I’ve seen zero reviews of it – maybe that’s something I should take a look at!

fdprg

Handguard rails are a bit of a mixed bag. They’re the one option that is unlikely to have RTZ issues, since you’re not usually pulling your handguards when field stripping. Unfortunately, they’ve got material-specific problems. When polymer handguards without heat shields (ala the Fab Defense PRG) get hot, the polymer rail might warp slightly and cause accuracy issues. Aluminum handguards don’t have that problem, but they’re generally pretty heavy. Neither of these options is appealing to me, personally speaking.

fdvfrga
In case you needed a 15lb Galil…

Now, in general, handguard rails are only going to be useful for reflex sights, as they don’t go far enough back to put a scope in eye relief. There’s one exception to that: the FAB Defense VFR-GA. This handguard pushes a rail far enough back on to your rifle that you can plausibly mount a scope over the center line and mount a clip-on NV device in front of it. It is quite heavy, but if you need a scope and a lot of accessories, it might be a reasonable option.

wolverinegastuberail

If you’re only going to be using a reflex sight, gas tube rails are an option. I am skeptical of gas tube rails, in the sense that I am not sure they return to zero (RTZ) properly after field stripping. Mine feels pretty solid when in, so I assume that, much like the rear sight, it’ll probably hold zero until you field strip the gun. Mine also had some compatibility issues with a few kinds of mounts, including ADM mounts. There is also the heat issue – gas tubes get hot, and not all optics and their batteries like being cooked like that. (You may recall the issue that Ultimak AK mounts had with Eotechs.) Wolverine Quality Tactical Gear makes a railed gas tube, pictured above, and it will supposedly co-witness your irons with an Aimpoint Micro.

IMG_0689
Blackthorne SAR-length railed gas tube on my own SAR

On the positive side, the gas tube rails are the lowest you can go on a Galil center-line mount, and you can get co-witness using a Micro-style optic. This is a not-inconsequential benefit, and may be worth the possible (but not confirmed) RTZ hassles described above. Personally, I use my railed gas tube as a way to mount an offset flashlight without detracting from the authentic look of my Galil SAR.

One issue that is common to many of these approaches is that your cheek weld is going to be awful with the factory stock (as the optic will be either high or offset), especially if you are not mounting the optic as low as possible otherwise. You can either get a cheek riser (about $70), or you can buy a modern stock for a lot more. The problem with the cheek riser is that they’re usually not quick detach – so if you decide you need your irons again, your line of sight is probably too high to use them.

In  summary:

  • Galils and scopes don’t mix well. You can do it, but it will not be as good as the experience on a modern rifle like the AR-15 or Sig 556.
  • You can mount a reflex sight more easily, but cheek weld and stock sights may create unexpected issues – and solving those issues may create further issues.
  • If you absolutely must mount a reflex sight, use a handguard mount with a “double” (top and bottom) heat shield to avoid zero retention issues. In a pinch, you can use thermal reflective tape and/or aluminum from a soda can to create an ad-hoc heat shield. Also make sure to get an optic which is very low – such as an Aimpoint Micro or Primary Arms MD-ADS. And if you can get one that’s QD, that’s probably even better.
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