Review: Galil ACE GAP39SB-Backpack Sized 7.62×39 Firepower

IWI’s Galil ACE series of firearms was highly anticipated by many throughout the firearms world.  A series of unfortunate events with the introduction of the platform to the US market most cruelly resulted in pistols being recalled due to noncompliance of regulations.  Though elusive for a long time, pistols and rifles are now in regular supply, and I was nicely surprised to find examples of both while stopping by one of my favorite brick and mortar gun stores.  The Galil ACE GAP39SB was designed to be a more controllable version of the GAP39II pistol, yet is just as compact due to the folding nature of its brace.  Chambered in the affordable and widely available 7.62×39 and using AK47 magazines, the GAP39SB is as close as the US civilian market can get to the compact Galil ACE 31 carbine without NFA paperwork.

Basic Stats:

Caliber 7.62x39mm

Action Semi-auto

Operating System Closed rotating bolt, long stroke gas piston

Magazine Type MAGPUL MOE AK/AKM PMAG

Magazine Capacity 30 rounds

Barrel Material Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined

Barrel Length 8.3″

Overall Length 26.75″

Weight 6.5 lbs w/out Magazine

Rifling Right Hand, 1:9.45 inch twist

Brace Color Black

Sights Adjustable with Tritium front post and 2-dot Tritium rear aperture.

Restricted States Not available for sale in CA or MA. Magazine capacity restrictions may apply in other states.

Optional Equipment N/A

MSRP – $1,849

First Impressions:

The GAP39SB comes in a pretty plain cardboard box with manuals, a Magpul magazine, and sight adjustment tool.  Racking the left side charging handle, the action charged very smoothly.  The sliding dust cover on the left side rocked down and up smoothly as well.  The left and right side safeties, connected by a linkage, clicked on and off smoothly and positively, and did not obstruct my firing grip in any way.  The left side safety is the easier of the two to operate.  The railed top cover and gas tube were locked solidly in place.  The two stage trigger breaks and resets crisply.  The first stage on my example is 1lb 6oz and the second stage 3lb 10oz.  It’s pretty nice for a military rifle.  The front rail covers had a bit of play, and annoyingly click back and forth when gripped.  Breakdown and cleaning were even easier than a standard AK, being that the gas block does not have to be released by a lever.  The operating spring does have a buffer affixed to the rear.   The folding brace tube is rock solid when locked out, and locks and unlocks without too much effort.  The overall length is 26.75″, for those of you who might want to attach certain accessories.

Range Results:

While firing the GAP39SB offhand was a ton of fun, testing the potential accuracy off the bench was a bit awkward.  The best position I could find was to use a rolled up shooting mat as a front support from the bench, supporting the rear of the stabilizing brace with a bag.  I attached a 1.5-5x Leupold scope to the top rail in order to ascertain 100y accuracy.  When initially attempting to fire 5 shot groups, I noticed the GAB39SB had a real tendency to bounce up and to the left, no matter how much I loaded the weight of the gun forward onto the mat.  This was more due to the shortened AK type operating system hitting the rear of the receiver cover and my having to use a chin weld than to movement at the muzzle.  I then attached my Gemtech Sandstorm Suppressor to the muzzle, which is threaded 5/8×24 for easy attachment of western muzzle accessories.  This counterbalanced the weight quite nicely over the bag, and made shooting for groups a lot easier.

Ready to test at 100 yards

I tested the GAP39 SB with loads from Cor-Bon, Tulammo, Fiocchi, Wolf, Winchester, and Herter’s.  The 8.3″, 1/9.45 twist barrel grouped most loads into the 2-2.5MOA range at 100y.  The best group was from Cor-Bon’s 125gr JHP load, 1.87MOA with a 1MOA horizontal spread.  TulAmmo’s 124gr HP, did slightly worse at 1.96MOA.  This is a cheap and plentiful load that I plan on using most of the time in the GAP39SB, The worst performer was Herter’s International Select 122gr HP, at 4.4 MOA.  It should be noted that point of impact shifted dramatically between loads.  TulAmmo printed higher than Cor-Bon by 3MOA for example.  The GAP39SB is definitely a platform that is sensitive to different ammo.  Though not as accurate as other stabilizing brace fitted pistols that I’ve fired in 5.56 and .300BL, the GAP39SB is plenty accurate for a pistol.  Moving on from paper, I fired shots at the 150, 200, 300, and 500yard steel plates.  First round hits were achieved on all plates once I figured out the correct stadia to hold on.

The best group of the day, 1.87MOA from Cor-Bon

After confirming long range accuracy, I configured the GAP39SB with no suppressor and a Vortex red dot optic.  In this configuration, the pistol will fit easily into a standard size backpack with room to spare, even with a 30 round magazine inserted.  Before mounting the dot, I zeroed the iron sights.  There are tritium inserts in both the front and rear iron sights for night/low light use.   The GAP39SB has the same 300 and 500 yard rear apertures as the Galil rifle.  A consequence of it being configured at those ranges is that one has to rotate the front sight for elevation quite a bit out of the front sight base in order to zero at 100 yards.  IWI does provide a nice tool to adjust the front and rear sights, however.  Acquiring and engaging targets using the irons was feasible out to 300 yards and became rather more difficult after that given the short distance between front and rear sights.  They were, however, a lot more useful than most sights on other short 7.62×39 platforms such as the AKSU series.   I have fired semi and full auto compact AK’s in 5.45 and 7.62×39, and I can say for sure that the GAP39SB is the most practical and easy to keep on target of all those variants.

Fits easily into…

A standard sized backpack

the provided sight adjustment tool

 

After mounting and zeroing the red dot, I fired a series of drills at paper targets at 25 and 50 yards, and steel targets out to 300 yards.  Hits were easy to get with the pistol held offhand with the sling fully extended out to 200, but 300 yards required a little more finesse.  Rapid fire offhand magazine dumps at 50 yards at a rate of 180rpm stayed within a 3.5 inch spread.  An aimed string of shots at the same distance, 10 rounds in 10 seconds, printed a .8MOA group.  I then ran the pistol through a jungle lane a few times and found that it was very easy to bring it up on target quickly and get accurate shots off.

Much more natural in this configuration

The pistol can fire with the brace folded, though it is a bit awkward to do so.  When the brace is extended, and either attached to one’s forearm or otherwise used as a support, the brace can twist on the tube a little too easily, sometimes twisting or rotating noticeably under recoil.  A better interface such as grip tape between brace and tube is needed before serious use.

Velocity Variations

For those of you who might wonder what velocity and kinetic energy one might be sacrificing due to the short barrel, I chrono’d the GAP39SB alongside a GAR1639 (16in barrel 7.62×39) rifle for comparison.  Results are as follows, energy in ft-lbs:

GAP39SB

  • Fiocchi 123gr FMJ: muzzle velocity 2120fps, Ke muzzle:1211
  • Tulammo 124gr HP: muzzle velocity 2134fps, Ke muzzle: 1224

GAR1639

  • Fiocchi 123gr FMJ: muzzle velocity 2415fs, Ke muzzle:1603
  • Tulammo 124gr HP: muzzle velocity 2439fps, Ke muzzle: 1666

On the Trail and in the Dark

Hung on a single point bungee sling from the rear loop, the pistol’s 8lb 13oz weight (with loaded 30-round magazine and red dot) never got tiresome as I took it on a few short hikes.  I did not find that the left side charging handle or any other part of the pistol dug into my sides, and the muzzle was easy to keep under control and pointed in a safe direction.

The muzzle has a timing nut to help orient any muzzle devices one might put on

The standard birdcage flash hider did not do such a good job of hiding muzzle flash.  Sometimes even in bright sunlight, my sight picture would be occluded by a fireball.  The deep shade of the jungle lane only exacerbated matters, and a session at dusk was like a fireworks show. Gunpowder residue also visibly covered my forearms at the end of each range day with the GAP39SB.  Being that the muzzle has a 5/8×24 thread pitch, however, it’s easy to find a good brake or flash hider to suit one’s needs.

 

Riding the Rails

Broken down to check if the sight rails will return to zero. And to cool down after 200 rounds.

The top rail of the GAP39SB is in two pieces.  The portion from the dust cover to the gas tube is held in place by the rear takedown button, the back of the receiver, and an extrusion that fits into the gas tube.  It is affixed to the dust cover via screws.  The gas tube has rails that fit into cuts on top of the trunnion, and the front of the tube fits over an extension from the front sight gas block.  This all seems like it would have potential for zero shift after each disassembly and cleaning.  I am glad to report that it was not so.  The iron, telescopic, and red dot sights all returned to zero after reassembly.  The railed lower handguard, however, had some issues. Normally covered by the somewhat portly sliding rail covers, the tri-rail and heat shield underneath it became loose after a 100 round bumpfired string of fire.  The front screw had come loose, and should definitely be loctited ASAP by any user of this firearm.  I really do not like the plastic rails, which were smoldering after those 100 rounds.  Thankfully, the good people over at RS-Regulate are brewing up a slick M-Lok hand guard for Galil ACE rifles and pistols.

The offending handguard and screw.

But is it Reliable?

To be considered more than a range toy, a firearm has to demonstrate a largely infallible degree of reliability.  A PDW, truck gun or bug-out-bag gun has to be ready to take abuse, dirt, a potentially high round count, and still be a reliable tool with which to defend one’s life or fill the pot.  Tested with Promag Magpul and Yugo magazines, including some dropped in fine dirt, mine tailings and water, the GAP39SB chugged along reliably through 1000 rounds without cleaning and without a single failure to feed, fire, or eject.  I could not get it to have a single instance of hammer follow, either when pulling the trigger as fast as I could or bump-firing while held at a variety of angles.  The finish on the metal parts does scratch somewhat easily, but that’s not something I worry too much about on a “working gun”.  Barring some of the worst scenarios in MAC’s or AKOU’s torture tests, this pistol will fire when you need it to.

1000+rounds suppressed and unsuppressed? No cleaning, no problem!

A Word on Magazines

Being a pistol, the GAP39SB is not subject to the same 922r concerns as the rifle.  The pistol’s stabilizing brace is also made in the USA by SB tactical.  One negative, however:  the Galil ACE series has a magwell that will not accommodate wide magazines.  Only thinner magazines will fit properly.  Good for those that have Magpul AK mags, not so good for those who have US Palm mags.

 Final Thoughts:

The GAP39SB is a very viable truck gun.  It is compact, reasonably accurate, and 100% reliable, has good factory night sights, and a solid system for mounting optics.  It does have some shortcomings, such as its muzzle brake, tube to brace fit, and plastic handguard, but they are fixed easily enough.  For those who have significant stocks of 7.62×39 ammunition and appropriate magazines, it represents a very economical and fast way to have a short barreled AK variant.  This is with upgrades such as a better sight radius, ability to mount optics, left hand charging, and a side folding brace all from the factory.  Though less accurate than some other rifle-caliber pistols I have, I will have no qualms using this pistol as a truck-gun or hiking companion in the future.

A “brace” of pistols…

Pros:

  • 100% reliable
  • Accuracy was good for a pistol with stabilizing brace, exceptional for a short AK variant.
  • Night sights come stock
  • Good trigger
  • Optic mount holds and returns to zero
  • Works well with cheap ammo
  • Extremely compact with solid folding mechanism
  • Works with most cheap surplus mags
  • Ambi safety, left side charging

Cons

  • Not as accurate as some .300Blackout or 5.56 Pistols with PSB
  • Proprietary tube and PSB that is a little too loose on the tube
  • Plastic fore-end and rail covers aren’t great
  • Can’t take mags that are too wide for magwell
  • Grip is not interchangeable

Thanks to Aaron Hughston Shooting School for range time and logistical support.



Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • Christopher Wallace

    hmm given the price seems like most would go for the m92 pap instead

    • Blumpkin

      You’re alive!

  • The Dude

    Ugh, 100% reliable with only a thousand rounds.

    • The Dude
      • Looolz

        1000 rounds was the test so it was fair to ARs as none but the most unicorn made of unobtainium ars will go much more than 1k without cleaning and copious lubrication. Not to count that 5.56 from a 10 inch barrel is weak to the point o being a roided .22mag. Check ballistics by the inch and compare a 10 inch bbl 5.56 gun to a 9mm carbine of similar barrel length. The 9mm suddenly don’t look that bad after all.

        • The Dude

          Are you high or stupid?

          • Looolz

            High or stupid regarding which part? Which rifle do you think will choke first being ran dry and fouled? Which rifle needs constant lubricant application to function at extended periods of fouling? Sure as hell isn’t the Ak. As far as the ignorance of sbr 5.56 that isn’t my opinion, that is fact demonstrable with numbers. Do the research yourself. Ballasticsbytheinch is a fantastic website that has plenty of data from which you can demonstrate sbr fired 5.56 barley has any kinetic energy advantage to carbine fired 9mm. And of course this from a round that is velocity dependent for fragmentation. And lets not even consider bringing in 7.62×39 from a sbr that still retains most all its velocity. This together makes 5.56 sbr/pistols inefficient fads that are less effective than comparable options.

          • The Dude

            So you’re high and stupid. Got it.

          • milesfortis

            Embracing the mighty power of ‘and’. Good.

          • Intoler8

            Agreed on both about Looolz, aka Looozer! Can’t fix stupid. Moving along, nothing to see hear anymore.

          • Loolz

            You are free to refute the weakness of 5.56 from 10 inch barrels if I am stupid. More like you don’t like any critIcal comments about 5.56 and ars.

          • EC

            To back up your statement with some numbers…

            Muzzle Energy of 55 gr. 5.56 out of 10″ barrel- 836 ft-lbs
            Muzzle Energy of 124 gr. 9×19 out of 16″ barrel- 523 ft-lbs

            And for comparison purposes…

            Muzzle Energy of 55 gr. 5.56 out of 16″ barrel- 1,058 ft-lbs

            So by dropping those 6″ of barrel, it results in a ~21% decrease in muzzle energy. This drops to a level that is only 59.8% better than 9×19 out of a 16″ barrel.

            165 gr. .40SW out of a 16″ barrel can get up to 669 ft-lbs of energy, which means 5.56 only offers a ~25% improvement over a pistol cartridge.

            I think it’s for this reason why the French adopted the 9″ 7.62×39 CZ 806s… 7.62×39 retains velocity and energy much better than 5.56 from shorter barrels.

          • Loolz

            And if you bring in 9mm that is loaded long with slow powders like Hs6, 3n38, bluedot, and trueblue, like I load as carbine rounds, it gets even uglier for 5.56. Consider Uspsa major 9mm loada loaded with the above powders can sling 124 gr 9mm 1350 to nearly 1500 fps from a 5 inch barreled pistol. Couple that slow burni g powder advantage to a carbine and you just shyof 2000 fps 124 gr 9mm loads. 124 gr at 1750 is 843 ft- lbs. Totally do able in a carbine with carbine specd loads.

    • The_Champ

      I think chugging through 1000 rounds without cleaning and having zero malfunctions is actually a reasonable test and useful data point. That is more rounds than many reviewers bother shooting.

      Not every test can be a hard core, spec ops certified, 20,000 round endurance test with lots of mud and ice thrown in.

      That we expect quality modern firearms to easily eat through a thousand rounds without a hiccup really goes to show how far the designs/quality/materials have come. Much of my firearms interest is with old surplus guns and getting many of them to go through 1000 rounds without issues would be quite a feat.

      • The Dude

        It should be worded as during testing the weapon was one hundred percent reliable.

        • The_Champ

          Fair enough.

          I suspect that given the lineage of this firearm, it ought to be plenty reliable for most peoples needs.

  • Raptor Fred

    Nice to know it functions correctly suppressed. Im really lusting after the 11.8in 308 version. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/06690bcedf7be3994dfe2572571909ae41f3a029a1e6ec32c9040d0d8f76c90e.jpg

  • Gary Kirk

    THIS!! This is a firearm review done correctly, thank you sir..

    • Rusty S.

      Thank you for reading it! I try to be as thorough as possible.

      • Gary Kirk

        I enjoyed reading it, even though I am not an AK type guy, it piqued my interest.. Well laid out, and very informative.. Thanks for the the thought put in, not to mention the time and personal efforts. I just really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t just a couple pics, and a “you should/shouldn’t buy this” typical..

  • The_Champ

    This article got me looking at muzzle velocity of 7.62×39 out of really short barrels. I’ve got to say I’m pretty impressed with the velocity it retains. Those extra inches on the SKS really seem wasted, and I guess the standard AK-47 16 inches seems just about right. Even half of that length, like this particular Galil, is no slouch.

    • Big Daddy

      True, you do not lose a lot of velocity with the really short barrels. I’m looking for good HD ammo, one that opens up with lower velocities, that’s the issue. Either OTM or SST, soft point type. It seems the European and Russian stuff is inconsistent and usually terrible terminal ballistics wise.

      • The_Champ

        Yes there does seem to be a lack of quality bullets to chose from in that caliber.

    • neckbone

      Only thing is that this ak pistol is almost 9 pounds loaded. But that is a lot of firepower in a relatively small package.

  • Big Daddy

    I have 2 KS 47 pistols by PSA and they run very well. One has a 7″ barrel and one a 10.5″ barrel. I shot the 10.5 today to 100 yards with a mix of cheap Russian ammo and was easily less than 3″ MOA. Which was better than my friend’s full size AK we shot in the past. No jams, no problems. I used a PA 3X prism scope. I was seated with a rest but uncomfortable as heck. I’m sure If I got serious and used better ammo I could get some nice groups but that’s not what this is for. The thing is the price difference and the ability to use AR15 parts mostly. I do wish it had a bolt hold open but it does have the same manual of arms and even the same parts all my other ARs have which makes for shooting consistency. The only thing that is proprietary is the receivers and BCG, everything else is AR15 and it does take AK mags, runs best with good old AK47 mags and Magpuls.

    • Phillip Cooper

      I keep going into their new showroom and lusting over those. I need to just get one.

  • USMC03Vet

    This isn’t a viable tuck gun. You could literally buy 3 AK pistols for that price. This is an outrageously overrated overpriced IWI boutique pistol for bad consumerism. Period.

    • USMC_grunt2009-2013

      The above statement is USMC_grunt approved.

      • USMC03Vet

        As a USMC grunt I’ll take it!

    • Mr Sermon 7.62

      All Israeli firearms are outrageously overrated and overpriced

      • Haulin’ Oats

        Quality vs Quantity. You can get a dozen poorly made AK’s for the price of one well constructed machine from the USA, Israel, or Eastern Europe.

    • Haulin’ Oats

      Quality vs quantity.

  • Phillip Cooper

    Being that the barrel EXPLODED, I think saying “that AR clearly would have gone another 150 rounds” is rather imaginative.

    • USMC_grunt2009-2013

      The barrel exploding had nothing to do with weapon design, it would’ve happened to any other rifle in the same situation. The fact that a direct impingement AR went through 850 rounds without lubrication on full auto proves my point.

      • Looolz

        Yes I didn’t say ars couldn’t. I said they will choke first sans cleaning and ran dry. I base this on running aks dry a lot, while a good many ars around need lube regularly. And lastly, in one firing session isn’t as impressive as the carbon isn’t as set up as it would be with the rifle firing that many rouds over multiple outings without cleaning. But my main point was the ballistic ineffectiveness of sbr fired 5.56. Uspsa major 9mm fired from 5 inch handguns isn’t to far behind energy wise. A 9mm carbine firin a slow powder like hs6, 3n38, or trueblue can safely shoot 124 gr loads 1600+ fps. Also consider Vit has a book non +p load of 147 gr9mm with 3n38 pushing 1200 fps. Slow powders like that would make a 9mm carbine sing.

        • USMC_grunt2009-2013

          That’s true, 5.56 sucks out of SBR length barrels. I have no argument with you there.

      • Phillip Cooper

        The fact that you’re assuming an outcome when the result didn’t actually occur, proves mine.

        It’s science. “You think it would happen if” does not equate to “we actually did this, and here’s the data”.

        Great for Internet trolls. Not useful for actual, intelligent folks, to discuss issues with.

        I agree that lubrication isn’t the Achilles Heel for a DI rifle that many would call it… IF you use the proper lube. I, personally, am partial to Break Free CLP just because that’s what I was raised on as a young 11B. I’m sure there are better things out there, I’m giving Froglube a try now in firearms and many other applications and like what I see. Mobil1 Synthetic Engine oil has worked well for me, as well.

  • Loolz

    Unresearched? Just because someone hasn’t written an article doesn’t change basic math and what those of us that handload and shoot uspsa major have know for years. 800+ ftlb 9mm is not a problem from a carbine and is compaRable energy wise to sbr fired 5.56 that is below it’s required velocity to fragment. You are free to do research and stop spouting the drivel of the mah ar and g19 tacticool bunch.

  • Loolz

    Btw he (iraqvet8888) did a Vepr meltdown that went for around 900 rds before HE stopped. Barrel did not explode on the Vepr either.

  • USMC_grunt2009-2013

    A 10 inch barreled 5.56 is lethal at 400-500 meters?!?!?!

    What are you on buddy, cause I want some.

  • Phillip Cooper

    I understand and agree with your point, up till the barrel went boom. See my last post to understand mine.