The Uzi, without doubt the most widely distributed submachine gun in the
Western world, has finally arrived in quantity in the United States. Available
in unique semiauto and full auto (for police departments and Class-3 dealers
only), it is being imported by Action Arms, Ltd. (Dept. SOF, 4567 Bermuda St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19124).
An officer in the Israeli army, Uziel Gal, developed the Uzi in the early 1950s.
It is produced in Israel by Israeli Military Industries and under license at the
FN plant in Herstal, Belgium. As the bolt design clearly demonstrates, the
Uzi's origins are the Czech models 23 and ZK476 family of submachine guns.
The Uzi's most distinctive characteristic is its wrap-around bolt design.
The primary advantage of this feature is compactness, while still utilizing
a relatively long 10.2-inch barrel in the full-auto weapon and a 16.1-inch
barrel in the semiauto carbine. At the moment of ignition, the recessed bolt
surrounds more than three inches of the barrel. Thus by placing more weight
over the chamber - where the explosion occurs - upward climb during recoil
is reduced. The bolt is also partially responsible for the Uzi's natural pointing
traits. Finally, it is an added safety factor in the event of a blown case -
important in view of the dubious quality of some surplus 9mm ammo now
The Uzi's magazine well is located in the grip assembly - a desirable feature
as it leaves the point of balance directly above the grip, provides a firm
support for the magazine and aids in rapid magazine changes, using the
well-known principle of "hand finds hand."
The Uzi magazine, a direct adaptation from Beretta submachine guns, is of
the two-position-feed type. Minimum bolt energy is required to strip rounds
from this type of magazine; single-position-feed magazines, such as those
encountered in the MP 40, Sten, M3A1 (grease gun) and MAC 10, are harder
to load without a tool and malfunction more frequently. All Uzi magazines
have viewing holes in the sides so the contents can be seen at a glance.
The Uzi comes equipped with a 25-round magazine. The Israeli army
once tried a 40-round magazine - however, as in the case of its 40-round
Beretta cousin, constant feeding problems accompanied the large-capacity
magazine and it was withdrawn from service and manufacture. Action
Arms says a 32-round magazine will eventually be provided. A special clip
is available to join two magazines together in an "L" configuration. This is
useful because, when both magazines are loaded, the one not in use lies
under the barrel and helps reduce muzzle climb. Then, when the first
magazine has been expended, the second lies back under the butt.
The Uzi has two safety systems, independent of each other. The first
is controlled by the fire selector, located on the left side of the receiver
above the grip assembly. When it is placed in the rearward position,
marked "S," the piece is locked. The second is a grip safety at the rear
of the grip assembly.
In my opinion, grip safeties on submachine guns are less useful, and
potentially more disconcerting, in combat than magazine-disconnector
safeties on semiauto pistols. Back in the late '50s, when issued Danish
Madsen M50 submachine guns, I remember clearly that my first alteration
was taping the grip safety to the rear of the magazine well. Under
stress, it is easy for one's sweating hand to slide off the rear of the grip
assembly and, momentarily at least, leave the firer with a locked piece.
In any event, this problem is simple enough to remedy with a short strip
of electrical tape.
The full-auto version has a third safety in the form of a ratchet on the
bolt-retracting slide, which locks the bolt if the retracting knob is accidentally
released from an incomplete cocking motion.
The Uzis currently being imported by Action Arms have a baked-enamel
finish. Although painted firearms have never appealed to Americans -
presumably because chipped finishes that occur through use are unsightly
to collectors - the British and Belgians concluded long ago that such finishes
are far more durable and corrosion-resistant, especially in tropical climates,
than either bluing or Parkerizing. Earlier specimens, brought in for police
departments and the U.S. Secret Service (which chopped several inches off
the barrels in an effort to facilitate concealment in attache cases), were
Parkerized. The Action Arms weapons appear to be Parkerized under the
Although using Stampings and high-impact plastics extensively - as do
most modern military small arms - the Uzi exhibits quality in design and
manufacture. As an example, long, narrow ridges stamped into the sides of
the receiver act effectively as dirt traps, ensuring reliable operation under
the most extreme conditions of debris and sand.
Accessories abound, and some are quite useful, such as the previously
mentioned "L" clip. Well-designed two- and three-magazine pouches are
available, featuring sturdy Velcro flaps. The magazine loader appears to
have been designed for use with a stripper clip of Israeli issue, as it is not
compatible with the strippers found on commonly available Czech surplus
ammo. Not as easy to use as the Sten, MP 40 or MAC magazine loaders, it
is, nevertheless, better than nothing.
The bayonet cannot be used on the semiauto carbine, as its 16.1-inch
barrel would extend almost the full length of the blade. But then,
bayonets on submachine guns are not very useful.
The front-sight adjusting tool, although complex in design, is effective.
The strangest accessory is a so-called spotting light: a spotlight,
complete with battery pack, attaches to and hangs under the barrel.
What function this would serve in combat, besides inviting enemy fire, is
A wooden stock can be supplied for either version and, though certainly
sacrificing compactness, there can be little argument that it is generally
easier to score effective hits with wooden-stocked submachine guns.
Other than the obvious - such as barrel length and the full-auto mode -
in what ways do the two Uzis differ? In an effort to comply with provisions
of the 1968 Gun Control Act, Israel Military Industries has sufficiently
altered the design of the semiauto carbine to discourage attempts to
convert it to full auto or interchange parts with the submachine gun.
While both are of blowback operation, the semiauto carbine fires from the
closed bolt using a floating firing pin, in contrast to the submachine gun which
utilizes a fixed firing pin firing from the closed bolt.
The barrels (of differing outside diameters and configuration), bolts and
trigger-housing assemblies of the two Uzis cannot be interchanged. Of
course, any semiauto firearm, including pistols, can be altered to fire full
auto. However, attempts to do so with this weapon are not only illegal,
but potentially dangerous.
Blowback submachine guns with fixed firing pins operate on the principle
of advanced primer ignition. This simply means that the primer is
actually detonated before the cartridge is fully seated in the chamber and
while it is still moving forward. The cartridge's force of equal and opposite
reaction (one of Newton's laws) is thus dissipated in not only overcoming
the inertia of the stopped bolt and driving it rearward, but in stopping its
forward movement as well. This concept permits designers to use a much
Weapons using advanced primer ignition commonly contain slightly tapered
chambers. Attempts to use a barrel of this type with the floating firing pin
of the semiauto Uzi could be disastrous.
How do the two Uzis stack up against each other in an actual firing test?
Armed with both models and a large supply of the no-longer-quite-so-cheap
surplus Yugoslav, Finnish and Czech ammo, a group of auto-weapons
enthusiasts subjected them both to several days of intensive testing. The
results are interesting and informative.
First, a reduction (measuring only 19 inches in height and 9 inches in width)
of the NRA B-27 silhouette target, designed to be fired from 50 feet, was
placed at a distance of 25 yards from the firing line. Using the 25-round
magazine, two experienced individuals - one with the semiauto carbine and
one with the submachine gun - were directed to place aimed fire from the
standing position into the targets as quickly as possible.
As expected, the semiauto carbine consistently scored more hits, but in
slightly longer time frames. The operator of the semiauto averaged 19
hits out of the 25-round magazine in 20 seconds. Using two- and three-round
bursts, the submachine gun yielded an average of 15 hits out of 25 rounds in
only 16 seconds. Both excellent results.
Curious as to the actual cyclic rates attainable, the two weapons were fired
as rapidly as possible and carefully timed. It takes just 6.7 seconds (about
225 rounds per minute) to empty the 25-round magazine of the semiauto Uzi
and only 3.1 seconds (500 rpm) of the full-auto submachine gun. Theoretical
cyclic rate of the full-auto Uzi is 600 rpm.
Given the limitations imposed by overall weight considerations, the pistol
calibers most commonly used and the necessity for reasonable controllability
in the full-auto mode, cyclic rates between 450 rpm to 650 rpm are
considered ideal by modern submachine-gun designers.
More than eight persons - again using both weapons - fired repeatedly,
and consistently scored hits on man-size targets out to 90 yards, firing from
both the shoulder and hip assault positions. Without exception, all commented
on the natural sense of balance and pointing characteristics of both Uzis,
which border on the phenomenal. Several thousand rounds were fired with
That the Uzi is a garbage eater was attested to by the external condition
of the Czech ammo, which bordered on disgusting.
Certainly the Uzi is among the very best - a "state of the art" submachine
gun without peer. But, is it not doomed to almost disappear within the coming
decade? With the ever-growing dominance of the assault-rifle concept,
submachine guns appear destined to limited standard status with every
major military power in the world. Short-barreled assault rifles, such as
the XM177E2, AR18S, HK33KA1, SIG SG543, AUG and the Galil SAR, offer
compactness almost equal to, and cartridges far more potent and accurate
out to far greater ranges than any submachine gun.
The Soviet Union, in WWII the greatest proponent of massed submachine-gun
firepower in the history of warfare, long ago dropped them from front-line
service in favor of the Kalashnikov series of assault rifles. The U.S. military
has shown no interest in the development of a new submachine gun. Israel
itself plans to replace the Uzi with the Galil SAR as soon as possible.
In the hands of terrorists, overseas as a police weapon where no stigma
against its use as such exists, and in highly specialized military ops, we
shall continue to see the submachine gun for quite some time. But, despite
these exceptions, the use of the submachine gun as a major infantry
weapon, which began in the waning days of WWI and crested in WWII, is
proving to be one of the shortest-lived in military history.
first published in the September 1981 edition of
Soldier of Fortune Magazine