The UZI SMG Conversions
… For years the mere utterance of the word has sent the heart pounding and the
pulse racing in the minds of soldiers, Hollywood producers, and home grown
Walter Mitty types alike. This near mythical creation out of the brilliant mind
of Uziel Gal has risen from the depths of despair of a nearly stillborn young
nation, to its current status as THE defining image of at least three
generations. There is almost no place on earth that the name, or image, of the
UZI submachine gun cannot be found such that this universal familiarity has led
to its being one of the most popular firearms on the collectors market today.
Unfortunately for the NFA weapons collector in these United States, the UZI SMG is not as readily available as its worldwide status would suggest. Due to our controlling firearms laws and the market demands of past years, the collectible versions of the UZI have come to be defined by three distinct variations.
Any fully transferable factory produced, foreign made gun (SMG) would have to be imported prior to 1968 and the enactment of the Gun Control Act. In this category there exists two variations of the type: the Israeli/IMI produced originals, and the license built clones produced in Belgium by FN-Herstal. But before you start looking for one of those be aware that very few of either origin were ever imported prior to 1968 and they command a premium price!
The only other option for a factory produced SMG is either the large number of dealer sample/law enforcement guns that were imported between 1968-1986 (which are restricted to acquisition by civilians who are Special Occupational Tax payers only), or the US manufactured SMGs produced in the middle 1980s by Group Industries Inc. of Louisville, KY. The Group guns are factory produced SMGs, accurate and exact in every detail, as they were manufactured on jigs and tooling obtained from FN, often using original FN produced parts obtained in the deal. They are also all fully transferable. Group guns are available for approximately less than half the cost of a Pre-68, fully transferable, foreign produced, original gun and they are just as good as the originals. The differences are in finish only, and as a bonus the group guns were offered from the factory in .45ACP and .22LR calibers, in addition to the standard 9mm caliber. It has been reported that very few of the non-9mm calibers were delivered from the factory as such. Group also sold caliber conversion kits as an accessory item. There have been a few problems with later Group Industries UZIs, mostly related to the bolts. Installing a factory UZI bolt seems to alleviate the problems.
The last, and most common, version of the NFA collectable UZI SMG are those guns that originated as Title I semi-auto carbines, and were later converted to select fire and registered with the NFA (National Firearms Act Branch of BATF) as transferable SMGs. These guns come in two distinct flavors. First is the “registered receiver conversion”, whose registration status allows the receiver to be modified to the factory original SMG configuration. The second is the “registered bolt conversion”, which employs as the registered item a special bolt that has been manufactured to fit and function in the receiver of a standard, unmodified, semi-auto carbine but in the select fire, open bolt, mode of operation. This type of conversion cannot legally employ some of the standard SMG features that would require receiver modifications, as described below.
These two types of conversion guns are our topic of investigation, as there are many variations. As with all conversions, there exist guns that were converted correctly and safely, and there are those that bear watching out for. A thorough understanding of the accepted practices used in a proper conversion of each type will allow the prospective buyer or current owner to gain maximum enjoyment from this gun, while avoiding a potentially bad experience.
The Semi-Auto Carbine
must be first understood that Action Arms Inc., over the course of the years
they were importing the semi-auto guns, imported two different version of the
UZI semi-auto carbine. These versions were officially known as the Model A and
the Model B, and they were essentially identical mechanically, except for
certain small differences, some of which were also being incorporated into the
factory SMGs at this time too. The most noticeable difference was the
arrangement of their sighting systems. On the Model A the sights are identical
to the original SMG design, in which all adjustability for windage and elevation
is accomplished by movement of the front sight elements. The rear sight is a
fixed peep, adjustable only for two range settings of 50m and 100m. Part of the
problem was not taking into account the change from a 10 inch barrel on the SMG,
to the 16 inch barrel on the semi-auto. The Model B incorporated a new sighting
system which allowed elevation adjustments on the front sight post, and windage
from the rear peep sight, in addition to the range selections. The operational
difference is that the Model B does not require any special tool to make
adjustments, whereas the Model A requires a dedicated sight tool. Also, on the
Model B, the front sling swivel rotates a full 360 degrees, while on the Model A
it cannot rotate through a full arc. One early versions of the Model A the bolt
face was also slightly different. Early imports has a full cartridge seating
bottom rim, whereas the later Model A (and all Model B guns) incorporate a
relieved lower cartridge seat face to hinder easy conversion to full-auto fire.
This became an important distinction when legally converting these guns, as
discussed below. There is a perception that the Model A was a better candidate
for conversions, as it was closer to the original SMG, and could be converted
more easily, in some cases. On a few of the very early examples of the Model A,
the blocking rail was not adequately welded, which may be the root of that bit
of MG lore.
As an aside it must be pointed out, that while all Israeli manufactured semi-auto carbines were imported by Action Arms Inc., there was also a clone of the semi-auto carbine being made by Group Industries here in the USA. Group Industries started making SMGs and when they tooled up for the semi-auto guns, of which there are a small number about, but nowhere near as many as of the Action Arms imports. And though it has never been reported that the Group semis were available in time to be receiver registered, as transferable SMG conversions prior to the 1986 making ban, many have apparently been used when installing NFA registered, conversion bolts. The design and quality of Group Industries guns rivals that of the Israeli originals, and there should be no hesitation in their employment as host guns for bolt conversions. For our purposes here we are only concerned with original Israeli-made guns, and possibly these Group Industries clones, when used as the basis for a conversion with a registered bolt. It should be noted that there were imported at different times, and by different importers, unlicensed, cheap copies of the semi-auto carbine made by Norinco in China. These poor quality guns made it in under that name of “Officers 9”, long before the semi-auto import ban, and long before the “current” rash of Norinco UZI carbine clones, imported as sporter rifles commonly seen with thumbhole, sporter style fixed stocks. Despite when (and under which name) these Chinese copies are encountered, it must be very clearly stated that they are extremely poor copies, which regard to metallurgy, fit, and finish. They are so poor as to preclude discussion here. Due to the poor timing involved, very few of the Chinese guns would seem to have been in-country and able to be registered prior to the 1986 making ban, but some may have been used for an SMG conversion with one of the many legally registered conversion bolts. Under no circumstances could this be recommended, as these guns are so poorly made as to be potentially impossible to make them function reliably with a conversion bolt installed.
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Last Modified: June 12, 2004