On the top of the rear section of the action is located a short Picatinny rail to mount standard iron sights (standard issue) or optical sights of any kind. The rear iron sights, when in use, are the diopter type (reproducing this way the type used on M16s, a firearm still widely present in the IDF weaponry) adjustable in elevation by a graduated drum from 300 meters range up to 1,000 meters, with intervals of 100 meters and windage.
The last component of the action is the rear block, built out of a machined steel block welded to the stamped sheet body. This serves several functions, such as to give further structural rigidity to the action itself, to hold the recoil spring group and buffer and to provide the mount point for the rear stock.
The feeding mechanism is located in the action central section and is made by three sub assembly groups: belt tray, receiver cover and feeding lever.
The feed tray, on the left side, is shaped like a funnel to allow easy ammunition belt feeding and avoid eventual jamming. The weapon can only use M13 disintegrating links. The receiver cover, hinged at the front, is short to allow the shooter to open it without being exposed to enemy fire or when inside narrow places such as vehicles. It contains two pairs of pawls: the first two are positioning pawls with the function of keeping the cartridge aligned with the barrel axis, ready to be chambered and, simultaneously, to push it slightly down to favor feeding by the bolt. The second pair are retention pawls and have the task to make the belt move to the right and preventing the belt from moving backward.
The feed lever, located on the left side of the gun and at the center of the feed tray, transmits the movement to the ammunition belt: it is operated by a kind of rocking movement through a protrusion machined on the bolt carrier mechanism.
The NG7 has four different safety mechanisms to avoid accidental or premature discharge when the gun is not in a full safety.
The first safety system is on the fire selector. When the safety is on, the trigger mechanism is neutralized and the bolt can’t be cocked because has been blocked, or in locking position or in full rear position. The second safety is the ratchet on the charging handle. That blocks the bolt if the charging handle has not been fully pulled rearward and again pushed completely forward. If the shooter does not perform these two movements in the correct way, allowing the bolt carrier to engage the sear, there is the danger that upon releasing the charging handle the bolt could start to move forward and, if an ammunition belt has been loaded, to accidentally chamber a round and shoot.
The third system is an automatic safety against out of battery fire if the bolt is not perfectly locked. Until the bolt head has not fully engaged the locking lugs in the barrel extension, the firing pin can’t hit the primer because if the bolt has not fully rotated it protrudes out of the bolt carrier and the firing pin can’t, in turn, protrude out of the bolt face from its hole.
Finally, the fourth system is the one that does not allow barrel removal. If the receiver cover is not open the barrel catch button can’t be depressed.
The trigger group is contained in the pistol grip assembly of the weapon. Built in polymer on a steel frame, it is assembled to the body by a front pivot joint and a rear removable pin. This assembly includes the trigger, the stamped trigger guard, the safety/fire selector, the disconnector and all the related internal levers.
The fire selector is located on the left side of the pistol grip and can be operated by the shooter’s thumb. It has three positions: safety, marked with an “S” or with the Hebrew letters “Nun Tzadik,” semiauto fire and letter “R” (Repetition, from British English) or with the Hebrew letter “Beth,” and full auto fire, marked with the letter “A” or with the Hebrew letter “Aleph.” The semiauto feature was present in the Negev in 5.56 and is a unique feature for a weapon of this kind, ensuring important operative flexibility and safety.
The bolt group includes the bolt, the bolt carrier and the firing pin. The bolt carrier is similar to the version in 5.56. Built from a steel bar through CNC machining, has the approximate shape of a parallelepiped with two protruding arms, the operating rods that reunite at the front end with a crossbar. In the middle of the crossbar there is the gas piston, crossed by annular grooves.
The bolt carrier operating rods are machined on the upper profiles to operate the pivoting case ejector, the feed lever and the disconnector, in order to activate all the mechanisms that contribute to make the gun work. The two operating rods accommodate the recoil springs and the recoil springs rods. The bolt carrier in the upper part has a machined groove shaped like an “S,” where the cam pin of the bolt head runs. This last component has a machined stem on the rear that is inserted in the bolt carrier and acts as a pin in the front part of the bolt head and there are 4 sturdy locking lugs angled at 90 degrees. Only the extractor is present, pushed by a strong coil spring, but not the ejector as that is a different subassembly and actuated by a protrusion machined in the bolt carrier.
There are two recoil springs with related spring rods, locked at the rear through the return spring base. Mounted on this last one there is a cylindrical polymer buffer, bigger than the one used in the Negev in 5.56 caliber.
The skeleton type of stock present on the Negev in 5.56 NATO and in the first production samples of the NG7 has been abandoned: to save weight and instead IWI has chosen a telescopic polymer stock mounted to the rear stock base – it’s the GLR-16 CP model produced by FAB Defense, another Israeli company. The stock has two integral side sling mounts for Quick Detach sling rings and a further slot as sling mount. The buttstock has a rubber cover and is deeply grooved to offer a better shoulder grip and recoil absorption.
The buttstock is hinged at the bottom and can accommodate in a storage compartment two spare CR123 batteries or AA type and is also equipped with an adjustable cheekrest. The hinged buttstock is offered as an option.
Field stripping the NG7 is quite simple. Once being sure that the weapon is unloaded, put the safety on. Then open the receiver cover, press the barrel catch button and remove the barrel holding it by the carrying handle. Then press the stock catch at the rear stock base and slide the stock assembly upward, gaining access to the interior of the NG7 body. With both thumbs press the recoil spring base and move it upwards until it unlocks from the rear block. Extract the recoil group by pulling rearward the cocking knob until the bolt group can be extracted. Any further disassembly must be performed by qualified personnel.
The range test was held at the IWI facility in Ramat Ha’Sharon. We didn’t want to test the accuracy of the NG7 but, rather, its controllability related to the use of the full power 7.62 NATO ammunition in a platform that weighs almost half of a GPMG in the same caliber. The setup was the standard with the 20-inch barrel with no iron sights but a red dot Meprolight Mepro 21 sight. The weapon was equipped with the assault sling and a front handle angled at 45 degrees.
To prepare the weapon to shoot you must first put the safety off, cock the bolt until it locks in the rearward position and then push the cocking knob all the way forward. Put the safety on. Then open the receiver cover and place the ammunition belt with the first round against a metal protrusion present in the feed block. Close the receiver cover. The weapon is now with the bolt cocked and locked and the safety on.
Though being an LMG and not a GPMG, the comparison with weight and dimensions between the two comes natural to mind. The Israeli LMG is well balanced and there is a little effort to handle it, thanks also to the front angled optional handle. The safety/selector is easily reachable and operable with the thumb of the right hand; effortlessly switching with precision the gun from safety condition to semiautomatic and full auto.
The assault sling wasn’t used but firing was done from the position commonly associated with a firearm of the category: standing and from the hip. We started with the semiauto mode, to carefully evaluate the timing from the trigger pull and when the gun starts to shoot. The NG7 behaves surprisingly well: of course the response of a weapon that starts its shooting cycle with the open bolt can’t be the same as a weapon that fires from a closed bolt.
The weapon does not jump or shake and the semiautomatic mode allows the operator to handle the gun with more confidence (the Israeli army is based for the major part on reserve and conscript combat personnel) in a CQB environment. We then switched to full auto, focusing our attention in obtaining short bursts. With the NG7, it is not difficult, with little training, to obtain two round bursts almost immediately. Of course the optimum is to shoot bursts between 3 and 5 rounds. The rate of fire is claimed by the manufacturer as having identical values as the 5.56 NATO version, between 850 rounds and 1,050 rounds per minute with the valve on position one and 950/1,150 with the valve in position 2.
We tested, as comparison, the Negev SF in 5.56 caliber that, of course, is more stable (it weighs only 500 grams less than the standard NG7) and manageable. The test made us appreciate even more the excellent control features of the bigger Negev sister.
Tightening the arm grip on the stock against the hip, the NG7 is easily handled in the follow up, allowing to engage and hit targets in different positions and distances at short to medium range with the first burst. It is worth reminding that the hip position, even being important in MOUT combat situations, is used only in CQB and in the very rare “assault mode” cases.
After the not so brilliant debut of the Dror in 7.7x56R (.303 British) and 7.92×57, IWI has sensibly improved and learned a lot concerning LMGs and in 1997, with the Negev 5.56×45, has reached an important credibility in the very restricted world of machine gun producers. The Negev 5.56 from the adoption by the IDF has widely demonstrated its qualities and it is very appreciated by the soldiers.
The design of the platform showed over time its validity, and that’s why the NG7 inherits most of the mechanical and technical characteristics of the 5.56×45 version. The structure if the action, for example, has a square and small section, with welding replacing the rivets. The square section is due to the use of the side feed lever mechanism, instead of using a mechanism located on the top of the bolt carrier, a thing that would force the designer to increase the overall height of the action.
This shape of the transverse section intuitively offers a bigger structural rigidity, increased by the absence in the 7.62×51 version of the bottom opening for the magazine feed, bringing the NG7 to better face the stress due to the full power ammunition used in this gun. From this point of view the trade off is positive. However, the option to have a NG7 version with magazine feed would bring to life to a really “universal” weapon in the 7.62×51 LMG small market niche: a lighter and very handy LMG/SAW.
Another interesting benefit of the Negev is that they offer side ejection of spent cases and not at the bottom as it happens most of the time. This allows a correct centering of the ammunition drums directly under the weapon body, avoiding the typical unbalancing of the drums attached on the side, a forced solution when the ejection is downward. This is a major advantage when shooting from the hip.
The NG7 uses a “simple” polymeric buffer instead of a mechanical/hydraulic one. This choice provides simplicity and lower costs but the rate of fire, in turn, is quite high. Indubitably the NG7, with a weight of only 7,600 grams without ammunition and with the bipod mounted, is the lightest LMG in 7.62×51 on the market, and thus is ready to conquer new sales. The need for this kind of weapon are not recent requirements, even if, currently, the biggest pool of users for these LMGs are the Special Forces operators or elite unit in general when the terrain is particularly difficult. It is worth mentioning the compact dimensions: the SF version of the NG7 with a 16.5 inch barrel and with folded stock spans just 730 millimeters and the NG7 advantages are well in evidence.