The Israel Military Industries Uzi is a select-fire submachine gun chambered in 9mm, .45 ACP and .22 LR. The Uzi was designed by Uziel Gal, a German born Israeli gun designer. However, since its introduction it has been manufactured by FNH, Norinco, and Vector Arms. The Uzi is a popular choice among Hollywood movie producers, militaries, gangster, terrorists – just about everybody.
|Caliber:||.22 LR<br />.45 ACP<br />9mm|
|Capacity:||25 (9mm)<br />Vary depending on cartridge|
|Features:||Open-bolt design; grip-safety; and blowback operated|
|Length:||18.5 to 25"|
Though my first memories of the UZI come from watching television in the eighties, my favorite cinematic homage is a brief sequence from the Cohen Brothers 1998 classic, The Big Lebowski. Walter and the Dude are about to dupe the nihilists by dropping off a leather briefcase full of Walter’s underwear. Walter’s plan for finding information about The Big Lebowski’s missing wife is elegant in its simplicity.
Walter Sobchak – Your wheel! At fifteen m-p-h I roll out! I double back, grab one of 'em and beat it out of him! The UZI!
The Dude – UZI?
Walter Sobchak – You didn't think I was rolling out of here naked!
Walter bails out of the moving car, dropping the UZI, which, when it hits the pavement, spins – belching lead into the rear of The Dude’s Gran Torino.
Of course Walter Sobchak has an UZI. It is an iconic scene – evidence of what I see to be the Cohen Brother’s fixation with guns – and we never even get to see the UZI. It stays wrapped up in the butcher paper Walter used to disguise it.
But we all know what the UZI looks like. It is a cliché symbol of coked up mobsters in the sunshine state. Someone on the small screen is always swinging an UZI back and forth, spraying lead, before being popped by a calm cop with a semi-automatic pistol and too much hair gel.
Yet guns don’t gain this sort of notoriety, clichéd or otherwise, without reason. There has to be more to the gun’s legacy.
There’s a lot more.
What it is.
The UZI was developed in the era after WWII that brought so many iconic firearms.
The UZI is an open-bolt submachine gun. In this respect, it is kin to the Thompson – though shorter and lighter. The charging handle is on the top of the receiver and it locks the bolt open. Pulling the trigger closes the bolt, stripping a round as it goes. When the bolt hits home, the round fires and the bolt bounces back to the open position. This design helps keep the guts of the UZI from overheating during sustained firing and cools the gun down faster after.
What it isn’t
The downside of the UZI is related to the open bolt. While few Miami gangsters find their guns clogged with sand, it is possible – maybe they’re spending too much time at the beach. It is a real concern in Israel where the UZI was developed and where the gun saw regular active service into this century. The gun isn’t suited for the sandy conditions of the Middle East.
And there was another problem. While the UZI excels in close quarters, many troops who carry the gun complain about the relatively short range. Some claim the UZI is accurate out to about 50 yards. That isn’t far enough if the enemy has an AK. As a result, many troops still needed rifles. The UZI isn’t a substitute for a rifle.
But let’s consider the benefits.
The UZI, even the full sized SMG, is really compact. Yet it has the same basic functionality and barrel length as a Thompson. The UZI’s length allows for surprising concealment. My favorite method is the shoulder rig that acts as both holster and sling. But there are other methods – an iconic photograph of the assassination attempt on President Regan shows a Secret Service Agent brandishing an UZI. At his feet is an open Samsonite briefcase, an effective off body holster.
Size is one benefit. But there are others. The stamped metal receivers make UZIs easy to produce. The rapid rate of fire and high capacity magazines are standard for a submachine gun. But my favorite attribute of the UZI is the ease with which it is aimed.
How does it shoot?
I’m not sure I’ll do this description justice, so bear with me. The front grip on the gun is so close the actual grip that it forces both hands close together. This odd stance is more comfortable when the gun is held at waist level. Holding the UZI braced at the waist allows the gun to point both accurately and naturally. And this stance makes the recoil and muzzle flip completely controllable. It is the suicidal gangster stance I was writing about earlier, only without the side-to-side antics. And it works.
Firing from this position on full auto, I could keep the rounds in the black of a silhouette target. My spread was bigger than a dinner plate, but this was my first time shooting an UZI.
And if you need a greater level of accuracy, you can line up the target between the giant hump shaped wings that protect the front and rear sights. Even at a glance, these fins will show you a clear picture of what is going to be demolished by the bullets.
Shooting like this was less comfortable for me, but I could keep three to five round bursts in a circle about eight inches across.
And if you have more time, there are rather conventional sights to line up. At twenty-five yards, the UZI does as well as most production pistols. And that is something. It means that this gun is versatile.
The UZI is capable of a high level of precision. While this gun may have been designed to eliminate the need for a pistol and a rifle, it isn’t quite as concealable as a pistol or as effective (at longer ranges) as a rifle. Yet it is perfect for certain military and law enforcement niches. Like many submachine guns, the concern is collateral damage. I think the three distinct ways I found to shoot the gun eliminate the need for the old spray-and-pray, though this may always be the public image that the UZI will have to overcome.
Though this isn’t a weapon many of us will ever add to our collections, it is a gun that deserves respect. Though its practical role may be limited, it plays that role incredibly well. And it will always look like a badass gun in the hand of a badass movie star.