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
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
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
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
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
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 Gardaí 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
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
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
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.
(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,
(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
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:
Yom Kippur War
Colombian internal conflict
Sri Lankan Civil War
Portuguese Colonial War
South African Border War
Rhodesian Bush War
Somali Civil War
Mexican Drug War
(...And many many more.)
• Bangladesh: Used by the Rapid Action Battalion.
• Belgium: Made under license by FN Herstal.
• Central African Republic
• Croatia: Produces unlicensed copies of the Uzi and Micro-Uzi called the ERO and Mini ERO respectively.
• Democratic Republic of Congo
• Dominican Republic
• El Salvador
• Estonia: Uses the Mini-Uzi variant
• Germany: Made under license as MP2. Replaced by the HK MP7.
• Haiti: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants used by Haitian National Police.
• Honduras: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants.
• Ireland: Used by the Regional Support Unit.
• Israel: Uzi and Mini-Uzi variants
• Italy: The Mini-Uzi
• Lithuania: Lithuanian Armed Forces
• Peru: Uzi, Mini-Uzi, and Micro-Uzi variants.
• Poland: Uzi and Mini-Uzi are used by Government Protection Bureau and GROM
• Portugal: Portuguese Army.
• Rhodesia: Manufactured under license
• Romania: Mini-Uzi variant is used by the Military Police
• South Africa
• Sri Lanka
• United States
(...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....