I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of the brand new Gilboa M43 AR style battle rifle chambered in 7.62×39 after seeing it previewed at the 2016 NRA show.
The Gilboa is purpose built in Israel as an individual combat carbine, taking advantage of the AR style rifles but using the popular and effective medium range carbine. As explained to me, one of the primary reasons of the caliber choice is for operators occupying war zones where the 7.62×39 is the primary cartridge. Two schools of thoughts: empty cases left on the battle field do not point to occupying forces the same way empty 5.56×45 cases would; also, in many areas of the world that cartridge is popular enough that resupply is not as difficult to achieve.
Initial Range Trip
Notice the heavily angled magazine well, which aided a lot in locking in the AK style magazine. Normally it takes quite a bit of rocking the magazine to locking it in, but with this set up it was much easier to load the magazine. The Gilboa does not ship with sights, and at this price point I would like to see some iron sights on this rifle. I do understand many folks are very particular about what sights, red dots, or optics they run so leaving them off may lessen the MSRP.
Six position collapsible stock. making the length of pull adjustable for different sized people or different load out gear.
The AR style manual magazine lock is absent. The trigger broke at a clean six pounds with just a bit of predictable take up and little overtravel. Really a great trigger, especially for a combat style rifle. AR style safety, worked exactly as it should.
KeyMod is present on both sides of the handguard as well as the bottom. Note the gas block is in front of the handguard not inside. If you run an aggressive forward grip with your support hand, you need to be aware of the gas block. During live fire, it does tend to get pretty hot. Keeping the gas block out of the handguards and only including a Picatinny rail on the top keeps the handguard small in diameter. Smaller diameter handguards allow for a solid purchase with your support hand. I would elect to run a vertical foregrip or at least an angled one. The Picatinny rail that runs along the top of the receiver and handguard is machined so they interlock at the seam.
The forward assist is present, though I never needed to use it. The ambidextrous magazine release is located inside the trigger guard which is a little different that I am used to. After a few magazine changes, this set up allowed to get the magazine unlocked with your strong hand. I believe this, along with the magazine well are the best innovations of this carbine.
The gas block is secured by hex head threaded fasteners, but it is not pinned. However there are provisions for it to be. My thoughts are, this is set up in case you wanted to swap out this gas block with something different. Though there is a short section of rail on the block, it is a little higher than the main rail so I elected not to use it. I believe with the amount of rail and KeyMod on the handguards, this section of rail on the gas black could be left off but it did not hinder function either.
These three shot groups were shot at 100 yards with iron sights from a rest. I shot several three and five shots groups with the same set up and there were pretty consistent. I expect with higher quality ammunition and/or optics the Gilboa would group much better.
Taking the Gilboa out to the twenty five yard line I begin to run various brands through the carbine to check for function. After about 150 rounds, I was satisfied the rifle was reliable so it was time to see how it would do at 100 yards. Following that was some close quarters rapid fire to be sure the rifle stays reliable.
Second Range Trip
It is a smart move to own a rifle in 7.62×39. Not only is it a solid mid range performer, it is one of the most popular cartridges on the planet. Though the costs have gone up on that round, it can still be had for cheap as compared to most all other rifle cartridges. There are a few options for rifles in that caliber but the vast majority are AK or SKS pattern rifles. Though there is nothing wrong with either of those platforms, many prefer the AR style rifles. Now your options begin to narrow, enter the Gilboa M43. The M43 is an Israeli military designed American built combat rifle, so out of the gate it has a nice pedigree. My first test was to compare it directly to the CMMG Mutant, by including the expertise of a retired Sergeant Major from the USMC, a man who knows a bit about combat rifles. The M43 definitely felt lighter and shouldered easier with the smaller handguard. The biggest advantage of the M43 Gilboa was the drastic angle cut of the magazine well, making it much easier to seat the AK magazines. If you make a mistake with the CMMG and get the rear magazine lug locked and not the front, the gun is tied up. With the drastic cut on the M43 it was more intuitive and smoother to lock the magazine in. The M43 handguards do not wrap over the gas block, which helps keep the handguard smaller and easier to get a solid grip on. So, if you run an aggressive forward grip on your support hand you have to be mindful to keep your fingers off the gas block during extended shooting as it does warm up. The gas block is fixed with threaded fasteners but has provisions to drill and pin it if you so desire. Through the 350+ rounds downrange the Gilboa did not give any trouble and accuracy was acceptable at 100 yards using iron sights and cheap steel cased ammunition. All in all, I am satisfied with how this rifle ran and with a few minor things I did not care for none were deal breakers. These things being my opinion and others they may not be an issue. All of the parts are military standard compliant and undergo strict quality control inspections.
Upper and lower material: aircraft grade aluminum (7075)
Barrel: chrome lined 1 in 10 twist
Magazine: standard AK
Trigger Pull: 6 pounds.
Length: 37 1/8″ extended 33 3/4″ collapsed
Weight: 6 pounds 9 ounces empty, no magazine