Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Israeli Uzi

The IMI Uzi

The Israeli Uzi is without a doubt, one of the most iconic and widely recognized submachineguns of all time. In fact it was the most commercially successful weapon in its class throughout the post World War II era. Only the HK MP5 could possibly rival the Uzi, but far more Uzis were sold and used in more nations all around the world. From the deserts of the Middle East, to the streets of inner cities; the Uzi has proven itself time and time again to be a truly formidable weapon.

This thread has been on my to-do list for 2 months, but life kept getting in the way. Oh well, better late than never.

History & Development:

(Earlier Uzi SMG with QD buttstock)
The Uzi's roots can be traced back to 1930s Palestine: a time before the modern nation state of Israel even existed. At that time, patriotic Jews were building all kinds and types of virtually hand made firearms in underground workshops and factories. These weapons were used illegally for defense and to claim territory from the land's Arab residents. During the era of World War II, the Palestinian Jews started building unlicensed copies of the British Sten MK III submachinegun. Though the Sten was a basic and decently reliable weapon, since the Jewish copies were made from components of wildly varying quality, they were often prone to jamming and other malfunctions. Besides, the design itself, especially its magazines, was not terribly well suited for desert warfare. Nevertheless, hundreds, if not thousands, were built and used to good effect. After years of struggle and with immense determination, the Jewish people finally created a home for themselves when in 1948, the nation of Israel was born (well reborn actually).

The new nation quickly set about equipping an army for its own defense. An army with which it would not last long without, surrounded by hostile neighbors, and with minimal outside foreign support. One thing the young military soon discovered was that it did not have a good standard issue submachinegun, which could be counted upon to work reliably in a desert environment. Israel had several types of SMG in inventory, including American M1928 Thompsons, M3 Grease Guns, British Stens of both MK II and III variants, and even some captured Nazi German MP40s. None were terrible weapons, but none were specifically designed to work in Israel's climate. Also, all were second hand and in various stages of disrepair.

The newly formed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) immediately decided that it must have a standard issue SMG. It was viewed as a necessary tool for special forces, tank crews, and paratroopers. The SMG had to be durable enough to survive years of abuse, reasonably accurate, safe for its users (a lesson learned from the Sten), and above all: able to work in a dusty, sandy climate. At first, the IDF shopped around on the international market, trying to find something that would meet its needs, however it was quickly realized that none of the SMGs then in production in Europe or America could live up to its expectations. Thus the solution became obvious, the Israelis would just have to design their own SMG.

Around 1951, two officers in the IDF put forth two candidates for possible adoption as the new SMG: Major Chaim Kara and Captin Uziel Gal. It should be pointed out that both men did what they did for their nation and out of patriotic duty. Neither was primarily interested in wealth or fame, only the continued existence of Israel. Both SMGs were chambered for the ubiquitous 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) cartridge and both tolerated dust and sand better than nearly every other SMG design in the world.

The Kara was a rather conservative design, made using a machined receiver tube and fitted parts. It did feature a telescoping bolt, however its magazine was housed in an external well like on nearly every other SMG of the day. The uzi by comparison had a square receiver made of stamped metal. It too utilized a telescoping bolt, and housed its magazine inside its pistol grip. Gal used this rather innovative feature as he felt that tired or disoriented soldiers would find reloading easier because of the oft repeated claim of "hand finds hand" (or "fist finds fist" if you prefer). The Uzi had much larger tolerances than did the Kara, and required very little hand fitting to go together. Both firearms were put through an exhaustive series of trials, which lead to several small but important improvements with each design.

Then in 1952, the Uzi officially won out over the Kara and became not only Israel's first domestically produced SMG, but the first domestic firearm of any kind to go into mass production. The Kara was not at all a bad weapon, and could have been made into a serviceable military firearm. The Uzi won primarily because it was easier and cheaper to manufacture. Also, during the trials it proved to be more resistant to dust and sand, though neither weapon showed itself to be completely immune to the elements.

Like any design, the Uzi took inspiration from several of its predecessors. Its front trunnion and barrel attachment is very similar to that of the British Sten MK II (and for that matter, the Swedish Gustav M/45). The Sten also inspired its safety systems. The Uzi featured 3 independent devices. First it had a manually operated safety catch, which doubled as a fire mode selector. Second, it had a Browning style grip safety, which had to be squeezed to allow the trigger to be pulled. Finally, it had a ratcheting top-cover, which did not allow the cocking handle to return forward until the bolt was fully pulled to the rear and locked in place. The reason I say all of these safeties were inspired by the Sten is obvious; the Israelis saw how unsafe a damaged or worn Sten could become, so they did everything in their power to insure that their own SMG would be as safe as possible, even if in less than perfect condition.

Many say that Uzi Gal took his telescoping bolt from the Czech SA Vz.23/25/24/26 SMG line. This is technically possible, however the Czech SMG was not released until 1948; only a couple years before Gal's own design first appeared. More likely it was a case of two designers having the same idea independently. Uzi Gal himself says this is the case, and those who know him insist he is an honest man. At any rate, the UZi's magazines were strongly influenced by the WWII era Beretta Modello 38 SMG. Both SMGs used double column, double feed mags. This design has obvious advantages, including increased reliability and easier loading/unloading. The original quick detach stock of the Uzi, though unlike that of the M1928 Thompson in appearance, is clearly inspired by it.
Other features of the SMG included a 10" long barrel, with the majority of its length housed inside the receiver. Changing out barrels was easily accomplished and required no tools. The front sight was adjustable for windage using a special tool, and the rear had two apertures to set the range for either 100 or 200 meters. On the early wood stock models, both the front and rear sling swivels could rotate either 90 or 360 degrees, depending on the specific variant. There was even a Mauser style bayonet lug located under the barrel, so as a last resort, the Uzi could be used as a hand-to-hand weapon...very last resort.

In 1955, the design was basically finalized and was ready for mass production. These early Uzis are very much like the ones we know today, with really only minor cosmetic differences such as a smaller cocking knob and straight comb wood stock. In 1967, the familiar underfolding metal buttstock was introduced for the SMG. This new style of stock mostly replaced the older wooden quick detach model. It was easy to unfold and plenty strong for a 9mm automatic. It allowed the weapon to be made compact for storage, but could be readied for use in seconds.

Beginning in the late 1970s, IMI started offering the Uzi with a painted over phosphate finish, rather then just phosphate as on earlier models. This was a durable two layered finish, which did a good job of protecting the metal from rust and pitting. It was also easier to touch-up to cover over scuffs and scratches. Towards the end of production, IMI began offering another quick detach solid stock made of black polymer, with a cupped metal buttplate. This stock was never intended to replace the metal folder, it was just a factory option.

Production of the original full-sized Uzi SMG slowed down in the 1980s, but IMI did not officially discontinue the model until the early 21st century. By the end, over 10,000,000 SMGs had been built (this number most likely does include Mini and Micro variants as well, but the vast majority were full-sized models).

The Uzi In Service:

(Standard Uzi SMG with folding stock)
Soon after passing its trials, the Uzi was pressed into IDF service as the need for a compact and reliable SMG was being ever more strongly felt. In 1954, approximately 100 were given to various Special Forces units for evaluation and commbat use. Just two years later, the SMG was in general issue and saw widespread deployment.

It served many roles in the IDF. For example, it was used as what we would today call a Personal Defennse Weapon (PDW) by second line troops and officers. It was popular with both tank crews and paratroopers, for its size and fire power. Israel's Elite Light Infantry even used it as a frontt line weapon, when mobility and speed were required.

The Uzi's combat debu came in 1956, in the Suez Crisis. It was used again inn 1967, during what became known as the Six-Day War. It was even still in front line service during the 1973, Yom Kippur War. It complimented and served along side both the FN FAL 'Romat' and Colt M16A1. Later IMI's own Galil AR/ARM would join its smaller cousin in the field. The Uzi was more tolerant to sand and dust than either the FAL or M16A1, but it fell short of the Galil's impressive desert endurance record.

The standard Uzi remained under heavy use with the IDF, up until when in 1980, it slowly began to be replaced by newer .223 caliber short barreled assault rifles, such as the Colt CAR15 and IMI Galil SAR. However, the Uzi was not officially retired in the IDF until 2003. This means it was in active military service for nearly 50 years.

The Uzi was a market success all around the globe during the Cold War too. Over 90 militaries bought quantities, with 26 of them adopting it as their standard issue SMG. In addition, hundreds of law enforcement agencies acquired Uzis; handing them out to thousands of officers. In total, 7 factories would ultimately build the design, including IMI in Israel, FNH in Belgium, Littleton in South Africa, and Norinco (brand name) in China. The Uzi was indeed the all-time best selling SMG.
Somewhat ironically, one of the earliest large orders that IMI received for the weapon came from West Germany. In 1959, the Bundeswehr adopted the Uzi as the MP2, which it kept in service until reunification. Even after the MP5 was on the market, West Germany continued to use the MP2 and never adopted the HK. The GardaĆ­ ERU and RSU in Ireland selected the Uzi as their primary SMG. Another famous user was the United States Secret Service, which used the Uzi for over two decades. One of the last major orders, which was for both standard and Mini Uzis, came from Sri Lanka in the early 1990s. These weapons were used by that nation's army, navy, and law enforcement agencies.
The Uzi proved itself in combat all around the world, for over half a century. Many benefits and a few drawbacks were realized. It was relatively lightweight, especially for its day. With either of its stock types, it could be made quite compact for transportation or storage. It was easy to use, with well designed sights and controls. The detachable barrel added to its flexibility. It had a reasonable rate of fire and could effectively be used out to about 50 meters. Thus it was often the right tool for street-to-street fighting or for clearing out bunkers. It also made for a good PDW, as was intended by its designers. The bean-counters also liked it, as it wasn't all that expensive or time-consuming to produce, thanks to its stamped steel parts and loose tolerances.

On the other hand, it was discovered that it was not an adequate replacement for a true battle/assault rifle. It just didn't have the range and 9mm was only moderately powerful, especially out past 20 or 30 meters. As has been said before, it could also jam if enough sand and dust found its way into the receiver. So while it was a good desert fighter, it wasn't perfect. Then again, what firearm is? Besides the AK47 of course.

The Uzi Gets A Mini-Me:

(Compact Mini Uzi SMG)
By the 1970s, several newer, lighter, and more compact submachineguns were coming onto the market. SMGs such as the HK MP5K, Ingram MAC10, and Sterling MK VII Para. Even some rifle caliber weapons had appeared such as Colt's XM177 'CAR15' and the HK53. These weapons had shorter barrels and receivers and several minor but important weight saving features. In comparison, IMI's aging Uzi was beginning to look heavy, clunky, and outdated. It was still popular with military users, but more and more law enforcement agencies were switching to the newer SMG types.
Keeping up with the times, starting around 1979, IMI began development of what would soon become the Mini Uzi. Prototypes would appear the following year, with the official release in 1981. The Mini Uzi operated like its fullsized parent design and used the same lower trigger housing. It disassembled the same and took the same magazines; however its dimensions were altered in several key areas.

It was fitted with a 7.8" long barrel, which featured two 'V' ports cut into the muzzle end. These ports were set off center to the right and helped control muzzle climb during automatic fire. The main body of the receiver was shrunk from 13.5", down to 10.5", with equal sections removed from both ends to maintain balance over the grip area. Consequently, the handguard was reduced in size, however the bayonet lug was retained. The standard Uzi bayonet could not be used though as the Mini barrel did not extend out far enough to support its ring. Instead, the lug was intended to be used for attaching accessories, like a vertical foregrip, rail section, or light/laser. To further reduce the weapon's weight, its front trunion was "skeletonized." Ovular chunks were cut out of both its top and bottom. This did not remove a large amount of weight, but every little bit counts and adds up. The Mini's top-cover was reduced in size to work with the shorter receiver, as was the bolt. The smaller and lighter bolt meant the Mini had a higher rate of fire in full-auto. Where as the full-sized fired at approximately 600 RPM, the Mini's average rate went up to 950 RPM.
A new sling swivel attachment system was devised for the new SMG, with two small studs capable of rotating 360 degrees, rather than the full-size's more traditional military style swivels. Early prototype Minis used the standard Uzi sights, however most of the production models were fitted with new improved sights. These sights were different in that the front could be adjusted for elevation and the rear for windage, both with the same key type tool.
The most notable new feature of the Mini Uzi was its stock. It was a side folding design with a henge welded to the back of the receiver. The stock had one long arm, which lead to a buttplate very similar to that found on the full-sized model's stock. The stock folded to the right and was very quick to unfold and fold. It gave about an inch longer length of pull than the full-size's underfolder too.
Later, IMI would introduce a select fire version of the Mini, which fired from a closed bolt. This variant was primarily intended for law enforcement use and to compete against HK's MP5 line. The closed bolt was meant to give the Mini Uzi improved accuracy. It also featured a forth safety mechanism; an out-of-battery safety which insured the weapon could not fire until the bolt was fully forward.
The Mini Uzi was a commercial success, with the IDF being the first to adopt it in the early 1980s. Italy, Romania, and Estonia would also select it for military service. It has been built without license in Croatia, under the brand name Mini-Ero for some reason.

The Uzi Goes Micro Machine:

(PDW sized Micro Uzi)
The Micro Uzi has an interesting story as to how it began. Originally, IMI introduced the semi-auto Uzi Pistol for civilian customers wanting a small handgun, with the ergonomics and characteristics of an Uzi. It had a 4.5" long barrel, no handguard, very compact receiver, and no shoulder stock. More about the pistol later though. Some military and law enforcement users took a look at the Uzi Pistol and decided that they could use a select fire version. Naturally such a weapon would be for special operations and for body guard type situations. Never one to turn down a possible market, IMI went to work turning the Uzi Pistol into a serious military weapon.

In 1986, the Micro Uzi was unveiled. It was essentially an Uzi Pistol, with the addition of a side folding shoulder stock. The stock was a variant of the same one used on the Mini Uzi. Also, the Micro had its barrel extended slightly to 4.8" long and the same V ports were cut into its muzzle end, as could be found on the Mini SMG. A bayonet lug was welded to the Micro so that devices could be attached, but it still did not feature any kind of handguard. The new Uzi was analogous to very compact Submachine Pistols such as the HK MP5 PDW and MAC-11/9. It was very small, quite light, and rather unwieldy in fully automatic fire. It had an average rate of fire of 1,200 RPM; twice that of the original Uzi. It featured typical Uzi durability and reliability; but since it was made entirely of metal, it was heavy for its size and rather blocky. Not unsurprisingly, it found decent but limited market success.

the Israeli Semi-Autos:

(An earlier Model A carbine, with aftermarket barrel shroud
For the first two decades, there was no version of the Uzi, restricted to semi-automatic, which was legal for civilian sales. However, there was definitely a demand. Americans in particular wanted to get their hands on a version of the new Israeli SMG. So in 1976, Uziel Gal was convinced to design a semi-auto Uzi, which would meet the requirements of American law and ATF regulations. In 1980, Action Arms began importing Uzi Model A carbines into the USA. The Model A was based on the original and had several alterations aimed at making it difficult to convert over into an automatic firearm. A restrictor bar was placed inside the receiver on the right side, and the floor of the receiver was made so it couldn't work with a SMG trigger unit. Also, the Model A had a 16.1" long barrel, to make it legally not an SBR. Its trunion and barrel ring were made smaller internally, so a barrel from an SMG could not easily be installed. Finally, these carbines had a smattering of legal warning text engraved on the cocking handle part of their dustcovers.

In other ways though, the Model A was identical to its military counterpart. It had the same metal underfolding buttstock, grip housing, and polymer forearm. It used the same original type of sights and still retained the quick removable barrel feature. It fed from the same 25 and 32 round magazines, and even had a bayonet lug. Model As were imported until 1983.

In that year, the Model B replaced the A. The B was identical to the A, except it used the later style of adjustable sights and featured the out-of-battery safety on the bolt. This safety was originally designed for the closed bolt automatic Mini Uzi. Rumors continue that the Model B was made more difficult to convert to full-auto but they seem to be baseless. Model Bs were imported until the 1989 federal ban on foreign military style rifles went into effect.

(An original Mini Carbine, with display barrel installed)

(Same carbine with long factory barrel)
The semi-auto Mini Uzi carbine was imported into the USA for a brief period of time between 1987 and 1989. It was based on the Mini SMG and featured the same sidefolding stock and later style sights. Interestingly, the Mini's receiver did not have the blocking bar found in the fullsized semi-autos. Also strangely, the Mini Carbine had a 19.5" barrel, rather than 16.1", which would have been legal. This is because IMI misinterpreted the ATF's SBR guidelines. They measured the overall length with stock folded; not open. This is yet more ironic as if one measures a Model B with stock folded, it is also under 26" long from muzzle to buttplate. Regardless, few Mini Carbines came in, possibly as few as 500-1,000. Thus the Mini is the rarest of the preban IMI guns, with the exception of a couple Models of Galil in .308.

In 1984, IMI introduced the Uzi Pistol, which was a very compacted version with a 4.5" barrel, very short receiver, no handguard, and no bayonet lug. It did feed from standard magazines, though it came with a unique compact 20 rounder from the factory. These pistols were not as popular as the carbines and sales were somewhat slow. Importation continued until 1993, as the Uzi Pistol was not banned in 1989.

(Military pouches for the 25 round magazine)

(Military pouches for the longer 32 round magazine)

(An original military bayonet & IMI display barrel)
IMI also offered versions of the fullsized carbine and pistol, chambered for .45 ACP. A .45 Mini carbine was planned but seems to have not made it over in time, before the ban. Also, conversion kits for 9mm, .45 ACP, .22 LR, and even .41 AE were sold separately or with bundled deals. Several other accessories were in the catalog, such as a foregrip flashlight (torch in IMI's words), dustcover scope mount, mag coupler, slings, additional mags, and 'display' (aka dummy) barrel. It is interesting to note that the full-sized and Mini carbines shipped with the exact same dummy barrel, even though its really too long to represent an accurate Mini Uzi SMG.

Semi Clones & Kits:
After Israeli made Uzi carbines were banned, Norinco in China started exporting a compliant version of the Uzi in 1990 under the name Norinco Model 320. The 320 had a wooden thumbhole stock, no bayonet lug, and a barrel nut which was welded in place. It did however feed from standard IMI type magazines. These Uzi copies were themselves banned from further importation in 1994 though.

(A No-Ban style Vector UZ GI with original QD stock and display barrel)

(Same carbine with stock removed and longer barrel installed)
Since bringing in foreign built Uzis was clearly problematic by the 1990s, the next logical step was for an American company to manufacture them domestically. In 1999, Vector Arms of Salt Lake City, UT began offering the 'UZ GI' series. This version was built from various overseas parts from IMI, FNH, and Littleton, using an American made receiver from Group Industries. Where as the original IMI semi carbines had a painted over phosphate finish, most UZ GIs came from the factory with just a phosphated finish. Since this was during the national AWB, UZ GIs lacked bayonet lugs, had fixed or welded open folding stocks, and were shipped with 'Pre-Ban' magazines. Naturally of course, once the AWB sunset in late 2004, UZ GIs began to appear configured more like the original preban IMI models from the 1980s. The UZ GI does not have the safety/warning text on its dustcover, so that's something. It does however have the restrictor bar in the receiver and smaller trunnion diameter. Vector has used various barrels in their guns, including original IMI (usually in the pistol version, as a modified SMG part) and Green Mountain. More recently, they have switched to a firm based locally to them in Utah. Most were made with Model A early type sights, but have the out-of-battery safety from the Model B.

Vector has offered the UZ GI in several configurations, including full-sized carbine, full-sized pistol, Mini carbine, Mini pistol, and even in .45 ACP. Back in 2004, they got their hands on a few hundred original IMI receiver shells, most of which were Mini sized. These were built up into very nice weapons, complete with an Israeli marked receiver. More recently, a two-tone UZ GI has been offered on their website, built using a stainless steel Group Industries receiver. Vector will apply a paint finish over the standard phosphate one, for an additional fee.

In 2011, Century Arms released the UC9 carbine. Similar to the UZ GI, the UC9 is built from surplus West German MP2 kits using an American made Global receiver. Two versions are offered; one with a fixed wooden stock and the other with a folding metal stock. The wood version at least also lacks a bayonet lug, so it can be sold in some ban states. Both have the standard Century parkerized type finish to all of the metal parts, and a 16.1" barrel from Green Mountain.

Finally, Nodak Spud of DCI, has been offering stripped Uzi style receivers for a few years now so the intrepid home builder can try his hand at turning a demilled Uzi kit, into a legal semi-auto carbine.

Tech Specs:
(Standard Uzi, Mini Uzi, Micro Uzi)
Weight: 3.7kg, 2.7kg, 1.5kg,
Length (stock closed / open): 470mm / 650mm, 360mm / 600mm, 250mm / 460mm,
Barrel length: 252mm, 197mm, 117mm,
Rate of fire: 600RPM, 950RPM, 1250RPM,
Magazine capacity (9mm): 20rds (Compact), 25rds (standard), 32rds (extended), 40rds (Custom/Special),
Magazine capacity (.45): 10rds (Standard), 16rds (Extended),
Effective range: 200m, 100m, 30m,

Stock Variations:
(Type designations are informal and used primarily by collectors and historians; not by IMI itself.)
Type 1 - Original quick detach wood stock, with straight comb, cleaning kit storage compartment, and flat buttplate.
Type 2 - Same as Type 1, but made 2" longer for specific contracts/needs.
Type 3 - Quick detach wood, straight comb, no cleaning kit compartment, wrap-around buttplate, 1" longer than Type 1 to allow for more general use/fit.
Type 4 - Same as Type 3, but with curved comb (hump in back).
Type 4 Civilian - Same as Type 4, but fixed rather than quick detach, for use on civilian carbines.
Type 5 - The original metal underfolder and the most common of all the stock variants.
Type 6 - metal wire sidefolder used on Mini Uzi, 1" longer than Type 5.
Type 7 - Same as Type 4, but made of modern polymer rather than wood.
Type 7 Civilian - Same as Type 7 but fixed for civilian carbines.
Type 8 - Metal wire sidefolder used on Micro Uzi SMG, based on Type 6, but shorter and with different buttplate.

Conflicts Issued In:
Suez Crisis
Six-Day War
Vietnam War
Yom Kippur War
Colombian internal conflict
Sri Lankan Civil War
Portuguese Colonial War
Falklands War
South African Border War
Rhodesian Bush War
Somali Civil War
Mexican Drug War
(...And many many more.)

Used By:
• Algeria
• Angola
• Argentina
• Australia
• Bangladesh: Used by the Rapid Action Battalion.
• Belgium: Made under license by FN Herstal.
• Bolivia
• Brazil:.
• Central African Republic
• Chad
• Chile
• Colombia
• Croatia: Produces unlicensed copies of the Uzi and Micro-Uzi called the ERO and Mini ERO respectively.
• Democratic Republic of Congo
• Dominican Republic
• Ecuador
• El Salvador
• Eritrea
• Estonia: Uses the Mini-Uzi variant
• Ethiopia
• France
• Gabon
• Germany: Made under license as MP2. Replaced by the HK MP7.
• Guatemala
• Haiti: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants used by Haitian National Police.
• Honduras: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants.
• India:
• Indonesia
• Iran
• Ireland: Used by the Regional Support Unit.
• Israel: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants
• Italy: The Mini-Uzi
• Kenya
• Liberia
• Lithuania: Lithuanian Armed Forces
• Luxembourg
• Malta
• Mexico
• Netherlands
• Nicaragua
• Niger
• Nigeria
• Panama
• Paraguay
• Peru: Uzi, Mini-Uzi, and Micro-Uzi variants.
• Poland: Uzi and Mini-Uzi are used by Government Protection Bureau and GROM
• Philippines
• Portugal: Portuguese Army.
• Rhodesia: Manufactured under license
• Romania: Mini-Uzi variant is used by the Military Police
• Russia
• Rwanda
• Somalia
• South Africa
• Sri Lanka
• Sudan
• Suriname
• Swaziland
• Syria
• Taiwan
• Thailand
• Togo
• Tonga
• Tunisia
• Uganda
• United States
• Uruguay
• Venezuela
• Vietnam
• Zimbabwe
(...And 20 some odd others.)

So there you have it, a relatively brief rundown of the Uzi and its variants. Personally its one of my favorite SMG designs. I find it fun to fire, easy to keep running, and frankly just a classic design. I've owned an Uzi of one type or another for over a decade. Just sharing....