The UZI was born of the illegal arms industry of Palestine in the 1930ís. A British protectorate at the time, arms manufacturing was illegal and confined to secret underground workshops. Early weapons were unique and not always safe. By the mid 1940ís, the Israelis were building unlicensed copies of the Sten MK II. Shortage of materials meant that only the barrel (built from old hunting rifles) was actually made of steel. By 1950, the Israeli military could no longer put up with their unreliable guns and put forward a requirement for a new gun. At the time, the Israelis were heavily involved in night time border raids, often times spearheaded by their paratroopers. To meet this need, they wanted an easy to carry submachine gun with a high rate of fire.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) found that there were two weapons in development that had the potential to meet their needs. The first was a somewhat traditional design by Major Chaim Kara, head of the light weapons section of the IDFís Science Corps. The second one was the design of a young military man who seemed to have a genius for weapons design Ė Uziel Gal. Both weapons continued to be refined until they were handed over to the army in 1951 for competitive trials. Twelve Karas and five UZIs were put to the test.
Both designs used a wrap around bolt design and were blow back operated. The Kara was a well made gun but its close tolerances made it difficult to manufacture and prone to jamming in the dusty Middle East. In contrast, the UZI was simple to mass produce and was well suited to dusty, gritty environments. The UZI had excellent human engineering. One of the best features of the UZI was that the magazine housing was built into the pistol grip. No matter how dark it was or how tired and frightened a soldier might be, the ďfist finds fistĒ principle would allow the soldier to successfully change a magazine. Later Kara prototypes would adopt this feature. Having only a few parts, the UZI was easy to strip and reassemble, and its grip safety made it a very safe weapon. With good accuracy and limited recoil and muzzle rise, itís easy to see why the UZI won the competition.
From 1951 through 1955, eighty preproduction models were issues to select military units. Feedback during that time lead to a few enhancements and in 1955, the UZI as we know it today was put into service. The first true test of the weapon came a year later during the Suez War and it was the start of a long and successful career. One of the few modifications to the gun came in 1967 with a metal folding stock replacing the original fixed wooden stock.
The success of the UZI led to government contracts all over the world. In the late 1960's, a large contract with West Germany brought many UZI's into that country, (where it was known as the MP2) many of which are still in use today. A contract was established in the 1960's with Fabrique Nationale, and FN produced UZI's in their Herstal, Belgium facility to IMI specs. In the 1970's, a contract with Lyttleton Engineering permitted UZI's to be manufactured in South Africa.
In 1980, demand for a more compact weapon lead to the Mini UZI. Used primarily by special forces, the Mini UZI saw a number of variations in its folding stock and forward pistol grip before arriving at the version we know today. Calls for an even smaller weapon lead to the Micro UZI in 1984.
The UZI and its variants have seen service in over ninety countries. Itís recognized around the world as one of the most successful submachine guns ever built. By the end of 2001, IMI had sold over $2 billion dollars in UZI's. Uzi Galís last UZI design formed the basis of Rugerís MP9 submachine gun.
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