Pat’s Product Review: Century Golani 5.56mm Rifle

I have a good friend, Gene Sockut, who lives in Israel. Gene was the chief firearms instructor for the Israeli army for something like 26 years, so when he speaks about firearms, I listen. Gene is also the author of several books and videos on close combat with firearms, as well as being a much sought after speaker on self-defense. He is also a sniper instructor for the Israel Border Patrol – Gene knows about guns and gunfighting, so I respect his thoughts on firearms. Sockut thinks very highly of the Galil.

The Israeli Galil rifle was used for several years in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in both the 5.56mm and 7.62×51 NATO version. The 5.56mm version was more popular and made in much larger numbers. I set my sights on getting a Galil for many years, however, the few [pre-ban] examples that are in the US are high-priced and hard to come by. I was excited to hear that Century Arms was producing a semiauto version of the famed Galil. They called it the Golani, named after the famed Israeli Golani Brigade. [JWR Adds: The Golanis are built on American-made receivers, using military surplus (used) Galil parts sets, and the requisite number of of “U.S.-made parts” to comply with the silly Section 922(r).]

Of course, my first thoughts were just how close was the Golani going to be to the real thing? I had a chance to handle a genuine Galil many years ago, so I had something to go by for a comparison. Everything I read and saw about the Century Arms Golani seemed too good to be true. I saw a Golani in one of the gun shops I haunt, and was immediately taken with how well-made it was – the deal was sealed.

The Golani is based on the AK-47 design, with a few changes, nothing much worth noting, if you know the AK, then you’ll know the Golani. One thing I like on the Golani is the tipped-up charging handle, which makes it easy to chamber a round with either hand. I also like the side-folding stock. When the stock is opened, it locks-up solid – not something I can say about most AK folding stocks, be they side-folding or under-folding designs.

The Golani comes with a brand-new barrel and USA made receiver, the barrel is 19″ long – why Century chose that barrel length is beyond me. I would have preferred the barrel to be 16″ in length – making it more compact. There is also a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel which mimics those found on AR-15s. The front handguard is made out of polymer and it just feels great to me. The gun was nicely Parkerized, giving it a very military look – I liked it. The Golani also comes with a 35-rd mag – giving the shooter five more rounds than most AR mags – nothing wrong with more rounds on-hand.

Coming in at 9-lbs, the Golani isn’t a light-weight. Then again, most folks who are really into AR-15 type rifles add a lot of gizmos on their guns making them a lot heavier than nine pounds. The good news is, when you fire the Golani, that extra weight helps reduce what little recoil there is from the 5.56mm round. The Golani will also shoot the .223 Remington round.

As is the case with many Century Arms firearms, the gun was dirty and had metal filings on the innards. So, a good cleaning and lube was in order before attempting to fire the Golani. You should also clean and lube any firearm before firing it – just makes good sense, and you can see if there is something in the bore. Don’t laugh, I know a gun dealer who found some wasp nest inside the barrel of a couple new rifles he had sitting on his display rack. Had someone tried to fire those guns, something really bad could have happened to the shooter and the gun.

The Golani’s mag release is ambidextrous, and is thumb operated, just like on the AK-47 – you can insert and remove a mag with either hand, and the mags lock-up tight. Just like an AK or M14, the Golani mags have to be inserted with the front end going in first, and then rocked into place, locking the mag into the mag well.

I’d like to report that my Golani sample worked perfectly out-of-the-box, but it didn’t! I had numerous instances where the bolt rode over the round and didn’t chamber the round. I also had a lot of rounds that would take a dive up, and not chamber, beating the daylight out of those rounds. Usually, when you have feeding problems, it can be traced to a bad magazine – and in this case, it was a bad magazine. The mag that came with my Golani was very rough. I’ve read a number of reports from folks who purchased a Golani having the same problem. Why on earth does Century Arms ship rifles with “iffy” magazines is beyond me – but they did, and still do! Shame on you, Century Arms.

A quick call to my favorite mailorder company, CDNN Sports, and I found some as-new Galil 35-rd mags for $29.99 each, and some in “excellent” condition for $19.99 each, so I ordered half a dozen of the new mags. When the new Galil mags arrived, there were no more feeding problems with my Golani sample. You should also look at a magazine anytime you have feeding problems with any firearms, more often than not, there is a problem with the magazine. I found, upon close examination, that the magazine provided with my Golani rifle had problems – the reinforced top portion of the magazine had split. I had a friend re-weld it, and the mag worked fine after that. I understand that TAPCO is also making a polymer mag for the Golani/Galil rifles, but I haven’t yet used any of them.

Be advised, the Golani 35-rd mags won’t fit in a standard military ALICE M16 magazine pouch. However, you can find ALICE-style AK-47 30-rd magazine pouches from Charley’s Surplus for $12.95 each, that work perfectly for the Golani 35-rd mags (as well for for 30-rd AK-47 mags). The Golani magazines will also fit in some of the tactical vests mag pockets, but not in others.

The safety on the Golani operates just like that on an AK-47, it’s on the right side of the receiver “up” is safe, and “down” is fire. It’s hard to operate with the right hand. There is also an added safety release on the left side (on the top of the pistol grip) but it isn’t very well designed and is also hard to operate.

The sights on the Golani are better than those found on the AK, and you have a long sight radius, giving you a better sight picture, than found on the eastern European and Chinese AK-47s and most of their variants. I also like the longer and more hand-filling pistol grip on the Golani, as compared to the AK-47. There overall feel of the Golani is just one of a very-well made, and solid military-style combat rifle, period!

I tested a selection of .223 ammo through my Golani sample, including various Russian-made ammo, and of course, some outstanding .223 Rem. from Black Hills Ammunition and Winchester’s white box USA brand and had no feeding or functioning problems at all – after I used the better mags from CDNN Sports. Extraction and ejection were to the right and about 20 feet from the rifle. I was getting 3″ groups with most ammo tested, with a couple around just under 3″ with the various Black Hills .223 ammo – the Golani liked the 55-gr bullets best with it’s 1:9 barrel twist. I burned through more than 500-rds of the Winchester white box USA brand 55-gr FMJ ammo with no problems at all…it’s great ammo and I highly recommend it, especially when breaking-in a new firearm. I tried several different jacketed hollow point rounds from Black Hills, and the gun just ate ’em all up without any problems.

If you’re in the market for a great .223/5.56 rifle for survival, or just fun shooting, then take a close look at the Century Arms Golani. I know you won’t be disappointed, once you replace the junk magazine supplied with the rifle, with a like-new mag from CDNN Sports. The good news is that, the Golani is still in-stock and readily available. The bad news is, supplies are limited won’t last forever. Presently, J&G Sales sells the Golani for only $499.99 – and that’s a great deal on a great rifle with a proven design. I’ve dealt with J&G Sales for many years, and they provide excellent customer service and good prices. So, take a close look at the Century Arms Golani for your next purchase. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: In my opinion, Galils, R4s, and Valmets represent the very best in the AK weapons family. We have a Galil Golani here at the ranch. My only complaint is that like a lot of other AKs, it has a wicked trigger backlash “slap” that makes it painful to shoot extensively. But I’ve read that this can be cured fairly easily.