Category Archives: IMI Galil

Shimming The Loose Handguard on my IMI Galil / JRA Gallant

Second on the list of things I needed to fix right after the buttstock was the loose handguard.  It’s a personal preference thing but I don’t like handgurds that wiggle and this thing could move front to back as well as side to side.  The reason this happens is usually because the handguard retaining slot on the barrel was cut too far forward such that the cam lever on the retainer couldn’t push the handguard far enough backward.

I expected thiss. Classic Firearms, and presumably James River Arms (JRA) were up front in the product listing that the handguard would probably be loose and it was.  Thankfully, from years of working on AK rifles, I knew I had a number of options:

  • I could weld the handguard retainer channel closed on the barrel and cut a new one.  Pro – the right way to do it. Con – would take more time than I wanted to invest.
  • Some guys will add layers of epoxy liquid or putty inside the retainer but I am not a huge fan of that one due to the epoxy getting warm and likely breaking down under the relatively sharp edge of the sheet metal nose of the Galil handguard.
  • I could extend the front edge of the handguard retainer by building it up with small welds.  Pro – easier than redoing the barrel channel. Con – would take more time than I wanted plus it’s really hot out and welding did not sound pleasant.
  • I could fabricate some shims and insert them into the handguard retainer. Pro – an age old method with soliders putting everything from  wood and gum wrappers to folded steel and aluminum cans in there Cons – can fall out when you remove the handguard.

I opted for the fourth one and decided to make shims.  You’ll notice a common theme – I do not have a ton of time and am dancing around the battle worn theme with the rifle leaning more towards the newer end of the spectrum vs. extremely worn.

To shim a handguard, I prefer a metal vs. wood, paper or plastic as they tend to all break down with time.  An age old trick on the AK community is to take an aluminum soda or beer can and then cut either into strips or in an approximate shape that fits inside the retainer.

The shape of the Galil handguard added a bit of a challenge in that it is a “U” shaped piece of sheet metal that slides into the retainer.  The front edge is relatively thin vs. the old days of a big thick piece of wood or plastic going into the retainer. This approach can be seen elsewhere also such as in modern Bulgarian and Russian handguards.

So, given the shapes of the handguard and the retainer,I decided to cut two strips that would closely fit between the barrel and the inside lip of the retainer and also be sufficiently think to secure the handguard.  Given the “U” shape I was betting that I would get enough support from the left and right sides and that I would not need to worry about supporting the bottom.

I measured the gap from the barrel to the inside wall/edge of the retainer on the left and right sides and it was about 6mm (0.236″).  That meant I needed something that either started at a 1/4″ and grind it down or find something closer to 6mm.

My first try was to look for 6mm wide shim sets and none was to be had. A shim set or shim assortment is a collection of steel of varying thicknesses so you can combine whatever thicknesses you neeed to get your final thickness plus you cut them to what is needed.

I ordered in a steel shim assortment set as I haven’t needed any for quite a long time.  I also scrounged around for what sheet metal I had in stock.  I had some rediculously thick 16 (0.0598″) and 18 (0.0478″)  gauge pieces plus a good sized piece of 22 gauge (0.0299″) sheet metal.  I decided to start with the 22 gauge set and fine tune with the shim assortment but a bigger question was forming – what did I have to cut this stuff cleanly that wouldn’t make a big mess.

Good old fashioned sheet metal shears / tin snips were an option but I’ve never been that consitent with the things.  I had an air nibbler that I could set up with a straight edge to cut strips … and then it dawned on that I had a Harbor Freight 14 gauge swivel head double cut sheer (item #92115) that might do the trick and – here’s the plus – it cuts a metal strip out of the source stock to avoid deformation. 

I dug the thing out and lubed the cutter. It had probably been at least a year since I had used it. Guess what?  That “waste” strip turned out to be about 6mm and gave me what I needed.

Here’s the business end of the double cut shear. Note the strip it cuts out. I just ran it into the stock with a straight edge just to keep the donor sheet clean and had all I needed and then some in a few seconds of actual cutting.

Plain 22 gauge sheet metal is 0.029″ thick and I knew I had a fair sized gap to address so I tried folding it in half and then trimmed to to fit in each side of the handguard. The best way I found for test fitting was to clamp the whole rifle with the muzzle down in my big woodworking vise. From there I could rest the shims in the handguard retainer, insert the handguard and pull up on everything trying to get the locking lever to flip.

Much to my surprise, that double thickness of the sheet metal worked perfectly. I had expected to get close and then keep adding pieces of shim stock until I had a solid lock up.

The next thing I had to consider was how to hold the shims in place when I normally assembled the rifle. I decided to keep things simple – I super glued them in. My reasoning was that I rarely take off handguards and if the two shims fell out in the future I could glue them back.

These are the two shims. Notice I made them as long as I could for each siide but I did not make one for the bottom and that has not proven to be a problem thus far.

Now one thing was still bugging me – there was too much movement left to right in the retainer as well. What I did to fix that was to glue a shim on on the outside edge of one part of the metal handguard’s front steel U-shaped nose.

Here is the single 22 ga shim I needed to stop lateral movement.
It turned out that the shim was visible in the gap between the retainer and the handguard,  I wound up painting it with some of the Rustoleum Satin Black pain also.
With the shim painted black, you don’t even know it is there.

The Results

The handguard is now rock solid. I decided not to change the wood at all. I really like the coloring and for me it’s really part of the iconic look of this rifle.

With the handguard done, next up was to switch the fire control group to an ALG enhanced set so I can have the appropriate 922r parts count and be able to use some of the cool IMI surplus mags that are out there.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Replacing the JRA Gallant’s Buttstock and Refinishing It

The first thing I decided to do was to replace the buttstock and it was purely for cosmetics – the original locked up solid and did the job. I happen to have two SAR kits that I hope to build some day so I could look at them and pick parts. It just so happened that one of the SAR kits had a stock that was in much, much better shape.

The buttstock assembly I planned to use came from a SAR kit I had. The barrel stub has the night sight and I was thinking of moving the flip sight to the Gallant but changed my mind. I figured I could at a later date should I want to but I also realistically knew I would never need them. My goal was to get the Gallant into the shape I wanted it – not to build a perfect replica.

A Galil buttstock is press fit into the rear of the rear of the receiver and held in place by a roll pin that goes through each side of the receiver.

To remove the stock, first punch out the pin using a roll pin punch. These punches have a small round hemisphere in the middle that sits inside the roll pin and the shoulder of the punch rests on the walls on the pin that enables for the punch to properly drive out the pin with even support all the way aroud.

The SAR receiver stub is supported by a bench block and I am using a roll pin punch with a hammer to drive the roll pin straight out. I used a 3/8″ brass rod and hammer to drive the stock out of the stub and also out of the Gallant’s receiver.

To drive the stock back out of the receiver, I would recommend a 3/8″ brass rod cut to whatever length you want/need. Before the brass rid, I tried a hardwood dowel but the end simply broke apart against the metal insert. The stronger brass rod and a hammer made quick work of pushing the stock back out without harming the surrounding steel.

Here is the stock that came with the Gallant. I used the 3/8″ brass rod and ball pein hammer to drive/knock the butt stock out of the receiver .

I used a rubber dead blow hammer and whacked the new stock back into position. I had locked the stock in the open position and was striking the buttplate that I planned on refinishing anways.

One challenge was that tnew stock’s holes did not line up with the receiver’s holes so. I egged the hole slightly and filled the gap with epoxy, If I ever want to improve the looks, I’ll either weld the holes shut and re-drill them or go to the next size larger roll pin. I guess I just figured they would line up given it was Israeli but it’s not a big deal.

In terms of preparing the replacement stock, I used 0000 steel wool to smooth the horizontal polymer rod. and then applied Rustoleum Satin Black on the metal. What was on both stocks seemed to be something enamalish so I opted to brush on a finish using a foam brush. I did two coats at let it dry for a day before I handled it. Note, bore solvents and what not will probably attack the Rustoleoum so I’ll just try to minimize contact for now.

It came out better than I expected but it was shinier than I wanted. I let the paint harden for a couple more days and then I used 0000 steel wool to knock down the shine. What happens is that the very fine steel wool immparts very small scratches to the surface thus removing the shine. If I had it do do over, I would still use Rusoleum but I would have used flat black. If I really wanted to go nuts, I could have taken everything apart, blasted and parked the steel surface, apply Molyresin or Cerakote, bake it and then reassemble.

The first coat of Rustoleum Satin Black is on the two aluminum portions of the buttstock – the lower angled tube and the rear. The top is some form of black polymer that I ran over with 0000 steel wool. Note how shiny the paint is. After it had a few days to harden I then knocked down the shine by lightly going over it also with 0000 steel wool.

Again, my goal was to roughly stick with a batte worn look vs brand new from the factory. If I ever change my mind, I can always go that route also. A friend once told me that once you get into building guns, it’s kind of like Barbie Dress Up for men. You can change all kinds of stuff whenever you want and your two big constraints will always be time and money.

It came out pretty good. I left the steel folder surfaces alone.

So, the final product look came out pretty good – I wanted “worn and mismatched” and that’s what I stil had. Just a tad bit more to my taste. Next up was to fix the handguards so they weren’t so loose.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


My First IMI Galil Kind Of – First Impressions of My New James River Arms Gallant

I have wanted to build an IMI Galil from a kit for years and just never got around to it.  One thing that kept me from jumping in was that I had never really dug into the design deeply by taking one apart and looking at everything.

In 2006, like a lot of guys, I read the late Steve Matthews great article in Firearm News about building your own AK rifle or pistol.  For whatever reason, the AK building bug bit me hard and I wound up with a number of barreled Romy-G kits along with flats, rivets and tools from AK-Builder.

I read everything I could and guys kept telling me you “just gotta dig in, do it and learn”. Well sir, I did. I trashed my first flat or two – I think I messed up the bend on one and the other I ruined the top rails as I didn’t cut them right. Yes, back in those days we had to put Dykem Blue on the top rails and scribe a line to cut to using a layout jig AK-Builder eventually came out with.  I messed up a lot and I learned a lot. 

A fair amount of the mistakes were caused because I had never really studied AKs prior to trying to build my first one. Over the years I have learned a ton more but one lesson sure has stuck with me – it’s way easier to build something if you have first had experience with the design including disassembly.

Fast Forward To December 2020

Everyone was in a panic buying everything firearm oriented in sight and I was trying to figure out whether to make the slightly sideways leap from AK designs that I knew to a Galil that was based on the Finnish RK.62 and had a screw in barrel (not pressed and had to be headspaced, the extractor cut and barrel populated later), some wierd looking thumb selector (no idea what that linkage was going to look like) plus I was sure I would run into other little unque surprises.

So I took a rather odd gamble.  Other than custom shops, like the amazing Jeff Miller at Hillbilly Arms, there are two shops cranking out IMI Galil clones using original Galil ARM and AR kits married to new US barrels and receivers.  ATI and their Galeio and James River Armory (JRA) and their Gallant, which uses Galil ARM kits.  Note, they are using new receivers and appear to have corrected issues they had with their earlier 2019-ish models.

The JRA seemed to get good reviews and was affordable around $1,000.  Now, a receiver will run you $400-500 once you include S&H plus your FFL’s transfer fee.  A barrel will run you $99-199 depending on what you get and then you will spend another $300-400 for a kit.  All of a sudden, looking at that JRA rifle as a parts kit became really attractive plus they use an 18″ 1:9 twist that can stabilize up to 62 grain M855 “green tip” bullets – actually it can go up to 72 in theory but I wanted to be able to shoot M855.  The original Galil’s had 1:12 twists that could stabilize the older M193 55 grain rounds but not M855 – when you see targets where guys fired M855 rounds through a 1:12 Galil barrel, the bullets often “keyhole” or hit sideways.  So, the 1:9 twist rate really appealed to me.

Apparently JRA has an exclusive distribution agreement with Classic Firearms. It’s interesting really – Classic has a number of Gallant models and their description is actually quite thorough in hindsight – Classic was sold out but I turned on notify for the Gallant models I was interested in and maybe 2-3 weeks later I got a notice that one was back in stock so I jumped and ordered one – this is the link for the one I bought.

I wish I could say it went smooth but FedEx’s Ground Service (the old RPS group they bought years ago) threw a big monkey wrench in things. Classic shipped promptly but FedEx Ground’s South Bend office has been having huge problems due to lack of staff.  It took maybe 2-3 weeks from when they got it until they actually delivered it to my FFL.

Scott Igert, the owner of Michigan Gun Exchange is a good friend of mine and I use him for all of my FFL needs plus he has the best gun store in Southwest Michigan in my honest opinion. At any rate, Scott sent me a photo of an AK and told me my Galil was in. Leave it to Scott to pull a prank and I knew full well he knew what a Galil looked like so he didn’t get me as good this time … unlike other times 🙂 That’s what friends are for.

At any rate, I went and snagged the Gallant, took it home and promptly took it apart.  I didn’t really care about the warranty because short of some huge problem with the receiver or a bent barrel, it wasn’t going back.

The Gallant ships in a hard case to protect the rifle. I snapped this photo literally when I got home and opened the case to take a serious look at the rifle.

So let me itemize my observations

They tell you right up front it is supposed to look battle worn. The skeptic in me thinks it was a way to cut costs but another side of me likes the look – the receiver and barrel are black, parts with the original finish have the grey/green parkerized finish on them and the wood has a look that only a ton of grease oil and God knows what can achieve.  I actually found myself liking it.

I’ve not done the battle worn look before and like it. I originally thought I would refinish the rifle but am now leaning towards leaving it the way it is  including the wood handguard.  For me, that blocking handguard is one of the iconic “signs” that tells you that you’re looking at a Galil ARM.

For 922r compliance, they have a US 1:9 barrel, a US receiver, a US Galil-Ultra looking grip made my Phoenix Technologies here in the US and a US Tapco magazine.  Now that last one gets a bit of a groan – the Tapco magazines are plastic, they work, but there are a ton of nice steel surplus 35 round mags out there that would make the rifle no longer 922r compliant if inserted.  As best as I can tell, they used an original Galil fire control group with it’s forged trigger hooks and two part spring setup – one spring for the trigger and one for the hammer – if it is aftermarket, it is not marked.

Note, I emailed JRA and asked them about the compliance parts. So far, they have not responded. Classic says on their web page that surplus mags fit (and they do by the way) but there is no mention of compliance.

Now, there are a two primary mindsets out there when it comes to 922r compliance: Some worry about it because they want to be legal. Some don’t care for whatever reason and that is their decsion. As for myself, I ensure that anything I build or modify is 922r compliant.  So, I wanted to use steel surplus Israeli mags so I decided to swap out the original IMI hammer, trigger and disconnect with a new ALG enhanced fire control group (FCG).  Yes, an AK FCG will work in an IMI Galil. If Classic tells me they actually sourced a US made IMI-style FCG, I will update this. I’m writing this post after already making the change to the ALG.

Heresa quick snapshot of the FCG that came with the JRA. Note that there hammer and trigger springs are independent. Also note that the person assembling the rifle took the time to polish the hammer face so the bolt carrier would cycle smoother. On the negative side, those are metal chips in the receiver from machining — I cleaned everything out. I’ll post more details as I do posts for each change I made.

The buttstock made me groan. It had a giant splash of yellow paint on the very butt of the stock for some reason.  The color was hideous, the horizontal tube had a few small nicks, and the finish was a bit more beat up than I preferred so decided I would swap it out for one in better shape from a SAR kit I had.

I am sure there is some meaning behind these colors but … yuck.

The rifle did come with an ARM bipod but it had a bunch of rust in the mechanism. It worked but definitely need cleaning and refinishing.

The Classic Firearms listing is straight up and honest – they bought a bunch of the detachable ARM bipods in the surplus market that were in good shape but not great. Mine had most of the finish gone from the legs and some rusting in the mechanism but it was fully operational. It would be an easy refinishing job some day when I have time. The ARM already weighs quite a bit empty so having a bipod installed was not on my high priority list *but* I did want a bipod to be complete.

The handguard was way, way to loose. This was pointed out in the ad so I expected some – but not what I felt. I don’t like it when they shake and rattle so that needed to be tightened up. The wood was in good shape though and I really liked the coloring.

Note how the rear forged retainer is canted with the top forward. There are two coil tensioning springs – one on each side – of the bottom. Because the handguard was so loose, they were causing the retainer to cant. Definitely fixable.

The barrel looked good – it was not bent and the components were installed right — other than the notch for the handguard not being close enough as mentioned previously. The bore was also nice and shiney with nice sharp rifling.

The barrel looked good inside and out. I was happy that they picked a 1:9 twist rate as I tend to shoot M855 62 grain ammo the most.

The top cover is still driving me nuts when it comes to installation. It is a delicate balancing act to get the recoil spring assembly to stay in the receiver groove and go into the dust cover vs. going out of the groove and falling into the receiver. I  have some Galil receiver stubs and I want to see if the receiver that JRA used is too short or if the IMI suffered from the same headache. I haven’t decided yet if I just want to live with it or cut the tab down about 1/8th-3/16th of an inch shorter, cut new grooves in it and the refinish the whole rod assembly.

Getting the recoil rod to stay in the right place and pop out of the dust cover during assembly is more of adventure than I care for. Honestly, that tab/button does not need to stick out that far sheesh.

Happily the rifle was properly headspaced and it fed rounds nicely. For a kit built rifle, it cycled and the FCG operated smoothly – surprisingly smoothly.  Okay, it looked like I had a solid foundation to build on. So far, so good.

At this point, I knew I was going to keep it so it was time to start making changes. I put the rifle back together and started thinking about what I was going to do.  I’ll detail what I did in subsequent posts.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.