In 1948 Israel gained its independence and then fought the Arab-Israeli War to a victory. Almost immediately, the nation moved to establish a viable arms industry and, from this initiative, then-Captain Uziel Gal designed a new compact submachine gun that would become his iconic "UZI". Rugged and simple, the UZI bested the competition under consideration by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to become the standard-issue submachine gun of the infant army service. Adopted in 1951, the series grew to encompass a handful of major variations of the base design and has been copied (either legally or illegally) in nations around the globe. From standard infantry to specialist troops, the UZI became a monumental success story for the burgeoning country and can still be found on battlefields of the world today.
Like most submachine guns, the UZI was designed around the ubiquitous 9x19mm Parabellum German pistol cartridge. This was fired through an open-bolt blowback action with rates reaching 600 rounds-per-minute. The action was contained in a simple rectangular receiver with large sights fitted forward and aft along the top of the assembly. The barrel protruded only a short distance ahead of the receiver. The pistol grip was set along the middle of the receiver with the trigger group directly ahead - this offered good balance of the weapon and became a common quality of several other UZI-like designs of the period. The grip also doubled as the magazine well which was an excellent use of internal space. The UZI contained the usual fire selector and safety mechanisms, all accessible on the frame of the gun.
The UZI was able to keep its short, compact form by recessing the bolt to accept the breech face, relocating the main mass of the weapon ahead of the breech.
Beyond the 9mm cartridge, the weapon was eventually chambered for other cartridge types including .22, .41 (AE) and .45 ACP. The standard 9mm magazine was offered in 20-, 25-, 32-, 40- and 50-round counts but the arrival of these other cartridges introduced other magazines of differing counts.
The early-form UZI came complete with a wooden stock and these would only later be fitted with the better-recognized heavy-duty folding wire stocks of metal. In service, the type was issued to first- and second-line troops where, in the latter, its compact size was a tremendous quality to have. Vehicle crews could now carry a voluminous fire weapon and fire it from the confines of their vehicle. In 1954, issuance began to Israeli special forces elements who also quickly learned to appreciate the type's compactness. While generally regarded as a highly reliable weapon, the UZI did suffer from exposure to sand and like environments. Another limiting factor was its 200 meter effective range which restricted its use to more intimate encounters with the enemy.
The standard-length UZI sported a 10" barrel assembly with a 7.7lb overall weight. This was followed by the Mini UZI which carried a 7.76" barrel while weighing 6lb and saw introduction in 1980. In 1986 followed the Micro UZI, a more compact form with a 4.6" barrel assembly. Beyond this reduction was a reduction in overall weight to just 3.3lb. The Micro UZI was then improved in the UZI Pro of 2010 but this series only saw trialing by IDF forces. Civilian market forms also emerged in time including a carbine and pistol variant. Various law enforcement and security groups moved to adopt the UZI in equally-varying forms as well particularly during a twenty-year period spanning from 1960 until 1980.
The UZI was a far-reaching weapon in global terms so it was no surprise that several foreign concerns took to local manufacture of the type. This includes AG Strojnica of Croatia, NORINCO of China (unlicensed) and Zastava Arms of Serbia (Yugoslavia). Global operators ranged from Angola, Azerbaijan and Belgium to Turkey, the United States and Zimbabwe (see operators list for full showcase).
The UZI has been officially succeeded in the Israeli Army inventory by the "Micro Tavor" (detailed elsewhere on this site) compact assault weapon.