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Meet the Uzi: I Fired Israel’s Powerful Submachine Gun

Uzi. Image: Creative Commons.
Uzi. Image: Creative Commons.

Thanks to the entertainment industry, the Uzi is arguably tied with the “Tommy Gun” as the SMG with the highest degree of name recognition amongst the general public: boasting countless movie appearances such as The Terminator; the weapon was also extolled in song by old-school gangsta rappers like the late great Eazy E.

Uzi Does It

The Uzi was invented by then-Captain (later Major) Uziel “Uzi” Gal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), who was born on 15 December 1923 and passed away on 7 September 2002. According to Maj. Gal’s obituary in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, he “was born to a German WWI pilot with a love for arms;”

Oh, the irony; Hermann Goering, himself a German WWI pilot long before becoming Commander of the Luftwaffe during the Nazi era, must’ve rolled over in his miserable grave at the thought of one his former Kameraden siring an eventual hero of the Jewish State!

The Uzi was initially introduced into the IDF via their Special Forces units in 1954 and became general-issue two years later. As noted by 19FortyFive colleague Peter Suciu, “the Uzi was a blowback-operated weapon that fired from an open bolt… The original weapon was just 7.72 pounds and had a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute. Constructed from stamped sheet metal, it was also less expensive to produce than contemporary weapons that were machined. With its relatively few moving parts, the Uzi also proved to be easy to strip and maintain.”

The barrel of the standard-sized Uzi is 10.2 inches; overall length varies from the stockless version – 17.5 inches – to the folding stock edition – 18.5 inches. There are also compact versions such as the Mini Uzi and Micro Uzi.

More recently, Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) came out with a futuristic-looking series dubbed the Uzi Pro.

Long story short, the Uzi has proven itself in battle repeatedly, starting with the Suez Crisis of 1956, as well as the Six-Day War of 1967, the aforementioned Yom Kippur War, and so forth. Export sales of the Israeli SMG were quite successful, as it was adopted by the military and police forces of several other nations; arguably the most prestigious non-Israeli entity to adopt the gun was the U.S. Secret Service.

Thinking back to John Hinckley Jr’s failed assassination attempt on then-POTUS Ronald Reagan back on 30 March 1981, there is a famous photo of USSS Special Agent Robert Wanko wielding an Uzi that he had drawn from a briefcase to cover the President’s evacuation and to deter a potential group attack.

I Fired the Uzi: My Personal Shooting Impressions with this Submachine Gun 

My own hands-on shooting experience with the Uzi SMG is fairly limited. Back in January 1994, during Christmas break from my freshman year at USC, I took a trip to Vegas with my then-best friend. During this trip, I happened to win a Barney the Dinosaur coloring book via a contest at the Fantasy Faire of the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Well, like most of my peers at the time, I found Barney to be very annoying.

So, since I’d already been planning a trip to The Survival Store gun range – located a short distance from The Strip – for some full-auto fun anyway, I figured what better way to deal with that annoyance than by using the back cover of that Barney coloring book as my range target! (What can I say, I had – and still have – a warped & twisted sense of humor.)

So, it was off to the Survival Store, whereupon I merrily plunked down my 25 bucks for the Uzi rental, two standard-sized 30-round magazines, and 50 rounds of 9mm ball ammo. From there, it was a simple matter of taping the Barney picture to the center of the silhouette target and locking & loading from there.

I started off with two or three rounds in semiautomatic mode just for familiarization, and then proceeded to rock ‘n’ roll in fully automatic burst mode.

I gotta say, in spite of the inherently rackety open-bolt operation (a sharp contrast to the smoothness of the closed-bolt HK MP5 SMG), the gun was remarkably easy to control and keep most of the shots on target. End result of the range session, to parodize the original theme song, was “No more pur-ple di-no-saur!”

Some IDF Veterans’ Perspectives

I decided to get the perspectives of a couple of buddies of mine who are IDF veterans and therefore have more in-depth experience with the Uzi than I do. For starters, here’s what my friend Itshak “Ike”” Sarfati, who served as an infantryman in the 1967 and ’73 wars and also with Hativat Ha Bikaa (“Valley Brigade”) for antiterrorist ops in the Jordan Valley, had to say:

“The Uzi is one of the most reliable SMGs in the world but also a weapon you have to be very careful with, and it takes training to be efficient with it. It is effective up to 100 yards or even more and is one of the most effective weapons to have in close quarters or any urban setting.”

Image: Creative Commons.

My friend Matt Mischel, who served with IDF’s Handasa Kravit (Combat Engineering Corps) adds this: “Uzis are still in service primarily as a PDW [Personal Defense Weapon] for settlers as they are heavy and not much use for combat units. While it is a design over 73 years old, it still has some function in today’s world.”

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).