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Uzi Lore (History of the Uzi Submachine Gun)
Vector Arms ^ | 2000 | staff

Posted on 09/09/2002 4:12:15 PM PDT by 45Auto

The UZI came about during the 1950’s in Israel’s primitive economy and arms industry. Ironically, it emerged from this setting as one of the most robust submachine guns ever developed, due to a ruthless design contest and a bit of genius.


Israeli arms manufacturing began under disorganized and illegal conditions in secret underground workshops. These homemade guns varied in quality and ingenuity, and most of their designs were bizarre. For example, the Dubigun was an intimidating 12-gauge "carbine" having a six-round drum magazine, but it was often more dangerous to its operator than its target.

MID 1940’s

The Israelis were making an unlicensed copy of the 9mm MK II Sten. They had to build this gun from poor quality materials, and the barrel—taken and rebored from old hunting rifles—was the only component made of steel. The Sten clone left a lot to be desired in accuracy and reliability.

EARLY 1950’s

Israel and its hostile neighbors were involved in a series of artillery strikes and nighttime border raids. Although equipped with inferior artillery, the Israeli infantry was better trained at night fighting. In this close-in and dirty type of warfare, the submachine gun proved to be the ideal weapon with its portability and high rate of fire. Due to unreliable weapons, however, it soon became paramount that the nighttime Israeli paratroopers had something better to work with. In short, the Israeli army was tired of submachine guns that blew up and always jammed at the wrong time. After finding nothing on the market that met their requirements, they decided to build a submachine gun from scratch. The new weapon had be compact, reliable and robust enough to take a lot of punishment, and accurate enough to dish it out.


The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commissioned two local designers to independently develop weapons that would meet their needs, both named after their creators. The first was a fairly traditional-looking gun designed by Major Chaim Kara, head of the IDF’s Science Corps light weapons division. The second gun was developed by a local youngster who was moving rapidly up through the ranks and who seemed to possess a genius for weapons design—Uziel Gal. Both designs were further refined to meet the sophisticated demands of the IDF, especially the Kara. In 1951, the rival guns were submitted to the army for competitive testing.

Both guns utilized a wrap-around bolt and blowback action, which reduces the overall weapon size to achieve compactness. This type of bolt is common today, but was innovative in the 1950’s. The precision 9mm Kara had only eight main parts, making it easy to field strip. However, since it was built to very fine tolerances, it was expensive to manufacture and could not tolerate Middle Eastern sand and dust without jamming.

Even in its crude initial version, the 9mm UZI was a gun of the next generation. It was simple, robust and inexpensive to build, due to a large amount of stamped steel in its construction. It also employed wider tolerances than the Kara, making it more suitable for operation in desert sands. The UZI focused on functionality and elegance of design, rather than workmanship. It was a compact weapon, initially equipped with a 30-round magazine, and later with either a 25- or 32-round magazine.

The UZI has become famous for an important ergonomic feature, the location of the magazine housing inside the pistol grip. This was the result of Uziel Gal’s consideration of tired, fumbling soldiers trying to reload their magazines in the dark. He reasoned that the quickest and most trouble-free way to insert a magazine would be to simply bring the two hands together, which can be done without much dexterity or focus (the "fist finds fist" principle). The Kara’s later prototypes copied this feature, but it was insufficient to sway the contest.

The UZI had other advantages as well. Unlike most submachine guns, it was almost impossible to accidentally misfire if mishandled or dropped, due to a substantial safety release on the back of the pistol grip that must be squeezed as the trigger is pulled in order to fire. The gun also had a small number of parts, making it easy to strip and reassemble. The limited recoil and climb even enabled it to be fired one-handed.

After twelve Karas and five UZIs were placed on rigorous trial in 1951, the UZI emerged as the winner because of its ability to tolerate dust and grit without jamming, as well as its ease and low cost of manufacture.


From 1951 until 1955 some eighty preproduction UZIs were issued to selected units for field testing. After further refinement, the UZI we know today emerged in 1955 and was put into service. In the Suez War of 1956 the gun proved its reliability and began a long, successful career. Further enhancements were added during service, such as a new folding metal stock that replaced the older fixed wooden stock in 1967. The weapon was also licensed to be produced by FN, the renowned Belgian weapons company.

As time went on, the demand for an even more compact model increased, and in 1980 the Mini-UZI was adopted. With all the power of the original, the rugged Mini was simply a smaller package (also having a folding metal stock), mainly used by covert special forces. From there, the UZI continued its shrinking act and soon the UZI pistol (or Micro-UZI) emerged as a miniature lightweight version. Also, in 1980 the semi-auto UZI was introduced.

The UZI probably reached its height of acceptance in the U.S. during the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981. Secret Service agents used them in this incident to subdue the would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr.

The UZI and its variants have been in service in at least 26 countries, and have been produced by seven manufacturers around the world. Although replaced in military front-line service by more powerful assault rifles, the UZI remains in use by the police and soldiers in non-combat roles. The gun’s merits will ensure its use for a long time to come. The legendary Uziel Gal also remains on the scene (having also designed the Galil assault rifle) with his latest work reflected in the design of the Ruger MP9 subgun.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: uzi; uzielgal
Uziel Gal, inventor of the Uzi, died Staurday.
1 posted on 09/09/2002 4:12:15 PM PDT by 45Auto
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To: 45Auto

2 posted on 09/09/2002 4:13:53 PM PDT by 45Auto
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To: 45Auto

3 posted on 09/09/2002 4:21:38 PM PDT by 45Auto
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To: 45Auto
Israeli women soldiers learn to handle Uzi sub-machine-guns in Tel Aviv in this July 23, 1998 file photo. Uziel Gal, the inventor of the Uzi used in countless wars, commando missions and action films, has died of cancer at the age of 78. Gal's family said the Israeli gunsmith died Saturday in the U.S., where he had lived in relative obscurity after inventing the Uzi to help defend the fledgling Jewish state against its Arab neighbors. (Reuters)
4 posted on 09/09/2002 4:22:18 PM PDT by 45Auto
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To: 45Auto
Sad to hear of Uziel Gal's passing.

Secret Service agents used them in this incident to subdue the would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr.

They had them, but unless they whacked him with one, they didn't actually *use* them. A crying shame they didn't use them as Uziel Gal intended them to be used.

5 posted on 09/09/2002 4:26:54 PM PDT by El Gato
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To: 45Auto
Butt-ugly piece of machinery - but beautiful with that silencer attached!
6 posted on 09/09/2002 7:21:45 PM PDT by Captiva
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