Law Enforcement and the UZI






In terms of the western world, it has been arguably the most popu­lar and widely used submachine gun of the post World War Two era.

The security requirements of the new nation of Israel fostered the creation of this unique, compact, and robust firearm. The necessity for such a weapon came as a result of hard lessons learned by the pioneers who created this state. Their painful and tragic experiences during the war was the aftermath of a failed discipline forsaking armed selfdefense for an entire culture and people. Those who survived the harsh consequences of these utopian ideals lost all illusions about the prospect of reasoning in a civilized way with evil that wished them ill; either as individuals, as a country, or as a people.

The gun that came from and is most frequently associated with these hardened sur­vivors is the UZI submachine gun. The UZI was invented by Major Uziel Gal of the Israeli Army a few short years after the nation-state of Israel was created and baptized in birth with the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

Initially, the Israelis used any obsolete, but available World War Two surplus small arms in their quest to build a country. However, it quickly became apparent the military forces of Israel needed their own indigenous submachine gun, and in 1951 the UZI appeared.

It is a design that has proven so successful that not only can it be found in almost every area of Israeli life, both public and private, it has also been adopted by the military forces of several NATO countries (Germany calls it the MP-2), the United States Secret Service, as well as any number of police organizations throughout the free world. Even FN Herstal produced a licensed copy of the full size UZI from 1958 to 1971.

Yet, with the increased popularity of competing designs, the UZI is, without question, one of the most suc­cessful submachine gun designs of the post-WWII period.

The UZI's most sterling characteristic, and the one that endears itself to any fighting man who has ever used it, is its well founded reputation for reliability.


It works. Always. Even in the harshest environments, and the desert regions of the Middle East fall easily into that category.

This reputation for reliability is not something that came by chance, but through a superior design. Uziel Gal, now living in the United States, examined many of the submachine gun designs present during the years immediately following the Second World War, but he was attracted to the post-war designs of the Czechoslovakian M23 and M25 sub­machine guns.

Many authorities credit these two guns with being the first to exhibit the recessed bolt that "wraps-around" the barrel and overhangs the rear portion of it. But, the truth of the matter is a Polish engineer named Podsenkowsky, had a few years prior to the Czech guns designed a submachine gun with many of the features of the CZ-23 & CZ-25 for the British government. This submachine gun was called the MCEM 2 and was never officially adopted because of its high rate of fire, but it was probably the first to use an over-hanging bolt and a magazine located in the pistol grip.

In any case, the UZI was not the first to use the combination of characteristics that identify a Third Generation Submachine Gun, but it is undoubtedly the most easily recognized member, and that includes the American designed Ingram MAC-10.

The first feature of a Third Generation Submachine gun is the previously mentioned bolt that allows the use of a longer barrel.

The second major feature is the magazine inside the pistol grip. The advantage here is the famous "hand finds hand" reload when the shooter is operating in low light scenarios, due to the increase ease with which the operator can find the magazine well for a quick reload. It also creates a firearm with a more neutral balance as the center of gravity is very near the pistol grip.

Many today claim any short barreled, compact carbine is a "submachine gun". What they ignore is the caliber of the weapon in question and whether or not the firearm is capable of selective or full-auto fire.

The UZI is chambered for the 9x19mm cartridge as are most all the submachine guns in the Western world. It does not fire any of the assault rifle cartridges that are capable of more power and penetration, like the 5.56x45mm round, the 7.62x39mm round, or the i.62x51mm cartridges.

This is one of the major distinctions all submachine guns share. They are carbine-like weapons ­even if they use small folding stocks - firing pistol caliber ammunition, usually one of the four following calibers: 9x19mm, .45 ACP, 7.62x25mm, or .380 ACP.

(NOTE: The semi-auto UZI carbine, that was imported prior to President Bush's assault rifle ban, is not a machine gun. It is incapable of full-auto fire without extensive modifications and it is also not an assault rifle as it does not fire an assault rifle cartridge. It fires only pistol cartridges of either 9mm Parabellum, .45 ACP or.41 AE caliber. Additionally, it is a difficult firearm to conceal with its legally mandated 16" barrel.) Submachine guns are definitely a thing of the past in terms of general military applications because they use pistol caliber ammunition and not the more powerful and longer ranged rifle ammunition. But, for this very same reason they are especially attractive to police agencies world wide. There are a number of factors that influence this situation.

The first is there is less possibility of excessive penetration when pistol caliber weapons are employed, and the penetration in this case is not that experienced with through and through wounds in felonious subjects. but the excessive penetration found when a 7.62 NATO slug tears through an exterior apartment wall, two interior walls, and the thin sac membrane surrounding the heart of an infant asleep in its crib.

Secondly, if a police force is already employing 9mm Parabellum handguns, then ammunition supply and logistics is easier and less complicat­ed; a common round being available for both qualifications and practice.

The third reason pistol caliber sub­machine guns are extremely useful in police applications is the increased flexibility offered by submachine guns. Submachine guns with their lower velocity projectiles (often at or near the speed of sound) are easier to silence with muzzle suppressors for special operations.



Pistol caliber submachine guns are also easier to master than assault rifles in terms of target proficiency as the muzzle blast is much lower and climb from full-auto bursts more reduced. Additionally, the 9mm ammunition available for training purposes is, as a rule, lower in cost than traditional 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm, or 7.62x51mm ammunition.

Another reason submachine guns lend themselves to law enforcement applications is the fact, that many models can be had in reduced size versions for easier concealment. This is possible because of their means of operation.

Most all pistol caliber full-auto weapons are blow-back operated, and lack the more extensive gas operated locked breech designs found in assault rifles.

The Mini-UZI seen here is a prime example of this technology. It is a smaller version of the full-size military UZI.

Everyone remembers the picture of the Secret Service Agent standing over the prostrate body of Jim Brady and a uniformed Capital Hill police officer as other Secret Service agents and police officers subdue John Hinckley after his assassination attempt upon President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton back on March 30. 1981.

But, what few remember about that scene was the empty foam lined briefcase lying in the street, or the fact that the UZI in question had its barrel shortened by an inch, so that it would fit inside that covert carry case.

Even with its compact size the standard model UZI is not an easy weapon to carry or conceal in high profile situations and that is why you can find abbreviated versions of many submachine guns, including the UZI.

In the mid 1980s I.M.l. introduced two additional reduced size versions of the UZI submachine gun. The first was the Micro-UZI. The Micro-UZI was simply a full-auto version of the UZI pistol, but with the addition of a functional folding shoulder stock and the additional selective fire capability.

The second was the model seen here and it has proven popular with certain police agencies. It is the Mini-UZI.

Physically, the Mini-UZI differs from the full-size military UZI mainly in size, but there are additional differ­ences that become apparent the instance full-auto fire is achieved.

The Mini-UZI is built in the same manner as the full size model. The receiver is a heavy gauge steel stamping that has been formed into a rectangular box with indentations in the sides of the receiver. These indentations are intended as dirt traps and aid greatly toward making the UZI one of the more reliable submachine guns in existence today.

The full size military UZI fires from an open bolt position. The bolt is basically a large, somewhat heavy chunk of square metal that is spring driven and fills the rear portion of the receiv­er, while the firing pin (a bump, actually) has been machined into the breech face portion of the bolt.

It is called an open bolt design, because the chamber area is open when the weapon is cocked and ready to fire. The bolt is held to the rear with only the sear and the intended safety devices preventing it from moving forward and firing the weapon.

All the UZI submachine guns feature three separate safety features. The first is the manual safety that also dou­bles as the selector switch. It is found on the left side of the firearm just above the pistol grip. In fact, both the Mini-UZI and the full size UZI share the same pistol grip/selector assembly.

The three position selector has the "Safe" position at the rear, the "Semi-Auto" setting in the middle and the forward most setting is the "Full-Auto" regardless of the language used to indicate the appropriate setting.

The second safety is the grip safety that works exactly like the one found on the Government Model 1911 pistol. It must be depressed fully to activate the gun for firing. IMI and Action Arms are both emphatic in their protestations to those who would override this safety device by wrapping the pistol grip with tape.

Some so called experts have advised this, but the fact remains these guns are not semi-auto pistols holding a few rounds. They are full-auto machine guns and the grip safety was designed for maximum safety. Never should this safety device be altered in any way, shape, or form.

The final safety device is the ratchet safety on the cocking piece in the top cover. This safety was not found on the very first UZI submachine guns and legend has it Uzi Gal designed it after the death of a friend who was shot by his issued UZI when the bolt retracted part way, chambered a round, and then accidentally shot him in the head as the bolt closed home. The ratchet safety on the top cover is designed to prevent the bolt from traveling forward until it is fully cocked.

All three of these safeties combine together to make the UZI, the Mini-UZI, and the Micro-UZI among the safest SMGs available today.

When the trigger is pulled on an UZI, the sear which holds the bolt against a compressed main spring is released and the bolt travels forward under pressure from the main spring. As the bolt, in its forward motion, travels over the loaded magazine, the top most round is stripped from the magazine and fed into the firing chamber.

No sooner is the round chambered than the primer makes contact with the breech face firing pin and the gun fires as a consequence. The force of firing drives the bolt back, to either stay cocked, or repeat the sequence of events for full-auto fire.

Obviously this is a motion and momentum filled experience as this heavy mass of metal cycles to and fro inside the receiver, and it is understandable why open-bolt sub-guns are, as a rule, more difficult to control in full-auto fire.

A key factor in the full-auto controllability question is the rate of fire and the full-size UZI runs somewhere in the region of 600 to 650 rounds per minute. Some well-used UZIs with tired recoil springs will run slower, but experience has shown the UZI at this rate of firing is controllable in full­auto fire, even with the open bolt operation. Part of the credit must be given to the over hung bolt design.

But, competitive submachine guns that feature closed bolt designs are becoming extremely popular because they operate in a manner almost identical to conventional semi-auto carbines, and they feature improved first shot accuracy because their operators don't have to fight the momentum from a large mass of metal moving forward within the receiver. The problem is, however, none of them are as compact or as concealable as the Mini-UZI.

The Mini-UZI is smaller than the full-size model and that reduction in size had to come from somewhere and it came from one specific area - a shortened receiver and a shortened bolt. Shortening the receiver also reduced the bolt travel and shortening the bolt made it lighter. This combination of factors yielded a submachine gun with cyclic rate that is somewhat faster than the original.

Of course, that is a little like saying an A-10 Tank Buster can fly and shoot faster than an Iraqi truck driver can, especially if the Iraqi is caught in a traffic jam of loot filled vehicles north of Kuwait City.

Pure and simple, the Mini-UZI is a bullet hose. Especially those versions that fire from the closed bolt position. In a move to strike at the competition IMI offers the Mini-UZI with two different modes of fire. Police agencies can get it in either an open bolt version or the faster closed bolt version. The factory literature lists the open bolt version as having a 950 rpm rate of fire, while the advertised rate for the closed bolt Mini-UZI is 1250 rpm.

An associate, who is a licensed dealer of machine guns to police agencies, has two dealer sample Mini-UZIs. both are Closed Bolt versions. He has timed the rate of fire of each with the new computer chip inside in his PACT Timer that measures rate of fire. He uses what he calls really hot, 115 gr ammo, that is well within the +P+ range, and the first gun runs approximately 1300 to 1400 rpm, while the second runs just under 1700 rpm.

Clearly, those figures are far from the advertised rate. Yet, he defends the guns by stating the Mini-UZI is controllable, especially the closed bolt version on the first shot, but he also plainly points out the 20 round magazine supplied for increased concealment is good only for two bursts at these speeds!

"It's like a MAC-10, but with a decent stock," is the way he summarized his opinion of the Mini-UZI.

Which points out the second major difference between the Mini-UZI and the full size military model. The Mini-UZI features a swing-out folding stock that latches into position with a tongue and groove mechanism at the rear of the receiver and it is very quick to deploy. It is lighter and quicker than the original, sturdy under-folder found on the full-size guns.

Another difference between the guns is the barrel. Of course, the Mini-UZI features a shorter barrel at 7.75 inches, as opposed to the 10.25 inch barrel on the full size model, but the Mini also has two elongated slots cut just behind the muzzle at a 45 degree angle off the perpendicular to the right to act as a rudimentary compensator. Regardless of how efficient or inefficient these cuts may appear, they are needed.

Among the Mini-UZI accessories available to police officers is a hip hol­ster made by Gene DeSantis that works exceedingly well, concealing it almost as if it were a large pistol.

There were also a limited number of professional looking briefcases built by Action Arms to hold not only the gun, but a supply of loaded magazines. Some companies have offered a shoulder harness for the UZIs, but those who have worn them over long hours complain of fatigue.

The availability of semi-auto, Israeli manufactured UZIs was curtailed by President Bush's import ban of 1989. Springfield Armory no longer offers for sale either the civilian version or the restricted full-auto UZI.

Action Arms is now the U.S. sales rep for the full line of UZI machine guns for law enforcement and they have no plans to sell the semi-auto version. This leaves the used gun market as the only source for the civilian interested in obtaining a legal, Israeli-manufactured, semi-auto UZI.

The full-size UZI has earned an enviable position in the world of firearms for its outstanding record of performance. The Mini-UZI continues to maintain that level of performance because of features the operators have come to appreciate like its more concealable size and its reliability.

But all one has to do to understand this success is to look at the experiences and motivation of those who first needed the UZI. It is easy to see how and why they demanded a gun that worked better than any other.


Originally published in the April, 1992 issue of Guns Magazine.

Return to the UZI Talk Index

Copyright © 2002-2017,
International copyright laws
DO apply to Internet Web Sites!
All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified: May 28, 2017