From its role in infamous assassination attempts to featuring in Hollywood movies, the Uzi 9mm submachine gun is one of the most iconic guns in modern history.
An Israeli-made weapon exported to over 90 countries with many different variants and knockoffs, it’s also been used in countless conflicts from the late 50s to the present day.
Incredibly, over 10 million Uzis have been manufactured and sold worldwide, both legally and illegally, which is far more than any other submachine gun ever made.
The Uzi is prolific, iconic, and deadly. Today, we’ll take a look at why this weapon was so popular in real life and on film and highlight some incredible facts surrounding it.
The Birth of The Uzi 9mm
Uzi Gal developed the Uzi shortly after world war 2. A German-born Jew who fled Nazi persecution, Gal was originally named Gotthard Glas but switched to his new Hebrew name after moving to Israel.
At the time, newly-formed Israel needed to develop a cheap, light, accurate and, most importantly, a domestically-built submachine gun with their nation facing hostilities at every border.
Shortly after the Uzi was invented and fielded by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), it had its first chance to prove itself in combat when the Suez Crisis erupted in 1956.
Israeli special forces significantly used the 9mm round Uzi through the 60s and 70s. Including the soon-to-be prime minister of the country, Benjamin Netanyahu, during his service in Sayeret Matkal, an elite special forces unit of the IDF.
Outside of Israel, the Belgian gun manufacturer FN started making Uzis for the European markets as early as 1958.
Soon after, this famous submachine gun weapon was adopted by many different nations worldwide. But it was Hollywood that made the gun particularly iconic.
The Uzi In Hollywood
Many people associate the Uzi submachine gun with Hollywood, with every action flick in the 80s and early 90s featuring the iconic must-have uzi in various shootouts.
After all, the Uzi has been in the hands of countless movie stars some more than once.
Just to name a few, you have Ed Harris, Christopher Walken, Chuck Norris and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who used the SMG on several occasions and coined the famous line “Uzi 9mm” in the movie Terminator.
The Unique Design of the IWI Uzi Submachine Gun
One of the reasons for the uzi’s success was that it used stamped metal in its construction, so it was cheap to build.
It was also one of the first submachineguns to use telescoping bolts allowing the barrel to be moved far back into the receiver and the magazine to be housed in the pistol grip allowing for a heavier slower firing bolt in a shorter better-balanced weapon.
The Uzi fired from an open bolt improving cooling during periods of sustained fire but open bolt designs were more susceptible to sand and dirt.
The rate of fire was 600 rounds a minute. Mini and micro uzis developed in the 80s had a much higher rate of fire, having a shorter bolt. But more on that shortly.
The position of the magazine in the grip allowed for hand-to-hand reloading of the weapon, which can make reloading very quick and easy without having to look at the firearm; at least in theory.
This is particularly valuable if using and reloading the weapon in the dark or in active combat
The Uzi In Action
The size of the Uzi meant that the weapon was concealable and ideal for urban environments or clearing buildings and homes.
The Uzi would be used by Israeli support troops, tankers, officers etc. but again, most notably it was used by Israeli commandos.
During the raid on Enttebe, also known as Operation Thunderbolt, the Uzi played a major role as it was the primary sidearm of choice for the 100 Israeli commandos dispatched.
The notorious operation was carried out by an Israeli commando to rescue hostages from a hijacked Air France flight on July 3rd, 1976.
Billy: Excuse me, is that an Uzi?– Air Ameica, 1990.
Gene: You know, that would make a great TV commercial? ‘Excuse me, is that an Uzi?’ ‘Why, yes it is. Hey, self-defense is no laughing matter! That why when I want number one I pack an Uzi… accept no substitutes.’
The flight was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and flown to Uganda. The hijacking was politically supported on the ground by dictator Idi Amin.
102 of 106 hostages were rescued, and the Israeli counter-terrorism operation was a success and was immortalized in the 1977 movie “Raid on Entebbe” by Irvin Kershner.
Another operation where the Uzi featured heavily was the 1973 Israeli raid on Beirut that was part of Operation Wrath of God, which was largely in retaliation for the Munich Olympic massacre of 1972.
The Uzi was ideal for the Israeli commandos storming the beaches of Beirut in Zodiac speedboats and infiltrating dense apartment blocks to kill or capture high-ranking PLO members.
Was The Uzi 9mm The First of Its Kind?
Ok, time to deal with the elephant in the room. The uzi sometimes gets credited for being the first gun of its kind, smaller yet as effective as previous WW2 submachine guns.
however, Czech SA-23 submachine guns of a similar design were being produced before the Uzi. The SA-25 is shown here being used by a Cuban revolutionary in the 2008 movie Che.
However, compared to the SA-23, the Uzi had the advantage of not being a soviet block firearm giving it a wider market to be sold in the united states.
The U.S. secret service used the Uzi from the 1960s to the early 1990s, which led to it being featured in some notorious incidents that inadvertently boosted the weapon’s popularity.
Iconic Real-Life Incidents That Made The Uzi Popular
The Uzi submachine gun really became a famous weapon in the U.S. when an American secret service agent pulled one from his jacket during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
This took place during a speaking engagement packed with the press, and the photos that followed were beyond iconic.
A similar situation occurred two years later, known as the Augusta National golf course incident, again bringing attention to the uzi in the press.
So there are several famous photos of the soon-to-become iconic Uzi 9mm in action.
These incidents likely inspired the use of the weapon in films such as Assassination with Charles Bronson playing a secret service agent armed with an uzi or even clear and present danger starring Harrison Ford.
The Mini Uzi and The Micro Uzi Models
the mini and micro uzis were introduced in the 1980s due to increased popularity and demand for the concealable weapon.
The mini weighed 2.7 kilograms or six pounds, and the micro 1.6 kilograms or 3.3 pounds.
Despite their size, all Uzi submachine gun variants are designed to be comfortably fired with two hands.
Though uzis are frequently fired with one hand on film, firing this weapon one-handed greatly reduces accuracy.
Though the micro and mini Uzis were significantly lighter, the uzi did what it was designed to do. It did well in its role to clear houses and bunkers at close range and be a defensive backup gun for troops in secondary roles such as artillery gunners or drivers.
When used by special forces or commandos, they were expected to be highly trained on it and keep the Uzi perfectly serviced. These weapons were selected with care and mission specific.
The compact size of the Uzi submachine gun also lends Hollywood to consistently showing this weapon being dual-wielded. There is almost no circumstance outside the matrix where this would be accurate or controllable.
The IWI Uzi submachine gun is an effective weapon used close to the body with both hands fired from the hip or using the sights.
If firing from the hip, the stock can be clamped to one side using an elbow. Using the sights in short controlled bursts is always preferable.
What’s It Like To Shoot An Uzi?
The effective firing range was about 200 meters for an uzi. The uzi could come in a wooden stock, but the most iconic version of the uzi was the one with the folding metal stock.
Folding stocks, in general, having moving parts are less stable than wood stocks but certainly help with concealability
props to filmmakers who show actors using their stocks on film. In the 80s, the uzi carbine was the popular civilian version of this iconic weapon. It was semi-automatic though it could be converted, and had a longer barrel length.
You can see Emilio Estevan buying the carbine variant (and later illegally modifying it) in the bank robbery movie Wisdom from 1986.
The Terminator: The Uzi nine millimeter. Pawn Shop Clerk : You know your weapons, buddy!– The Terminator, 1984.
The gun weighs four kilograms or nine pounds, and, in my experience, it is not light compared to other submachine guns.
Rubber Bands on a Pistol Grip: How Effective Is The Uzi as a Weapon?
The films of the 80s and 90s have really made this a popular weapon, but what did the nations outside of Israel think of the uzi?
Generally reported as being accurate for its time in short controlled bursts, it can be easily converted to fire other ammunition aside from the nine millimetre as 45 ACP was reliable.
However, it could jam with too much exposure to sand in desert combat, something that Israel experienced during the Six-Day War and the Sinai Campaign.
Safety had been a common issue for some military forces using the IWI Uzi. The safety on an Uzi is a selector switch on the grip, and the selector switches were known for easily moving inadvertently.
Remember the iconic Michael Douglas film Falling Down? In the scene where William ‘D-Fens’ Foster acquires an IWI Uzi from the wounded street gang, we can see the weapon’s grip safety compressed by rubberbands allowing it to be fired even if awkwardly gripped, such as in the fully automatic drive-by they just carried out.
Ultimately the IWI Uzi was famous for being one of the first small submachine guns to load magazines into the grip compactness.
The gun’s quality and ease of production were hard to match in the 1950s and 60s with stock and fully loaded with nine-millimetre ammunition.
In Conclusion, What Does The Future Hold For The Uzi?
Today modern armies have phased out the IWI Uzi, including Israel, but with the sheer number manufactured, it continues to pop up in conflicts around the world.
The IWI Uzi was made to defend Israel but ended up being exported to over 90 military forces worldwide and falling into the hands of terror groups, street gangs, and other nefarious groups.
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It may be a little outdated now, but the IWI Uzi will forever be an iconic weapon with an aesthetic retro vibe that few firearms can match.
There is, of course, a modern variant called the Uzi Pro pistol. It features a tactical-style appearance with rails fitted and the option to add a stabilising brace.
Compared to the original model, the charging handle on the Uzi Pro pistol is on the side rather than the top. It also has an easy three-stage safety select and a 260 mm barrel length