Is the Uzi the Best Submachine Gun Ever?

That's a loaded question (I know, ouch).

An Uzi was used by the Secret Service to protect Ronald Reagan following the assassination attempt on his life.

Is the Uzi the best SMG ever? That’s a loaded question (I know, ouch).

Those of us in the firearms community know the Uzi is outdated and no longer in service to most of the agencies that adopted them originally. Often times, it is replaced by the H&K MP5 which is its obvious successor. If you’re lucky enough to have handled, or better yet fired, both the Uzi and MP5 you know the MP5 is easier to handle, has less recoil, features three-round burst and is arguably more attractive and professional looking. The FN P90 is an absolute space gun compared to the Uzi and is the current choice adopted by the secret service. That one has a firing rate of 900 RPM and a velocity of 2800 FPS.

So it’s kind of obvious to me that our old friend the Uzi is NOT the best SMG ever. Not now for sure. But at one time it certainly was. In fact it was the obvious only choice for a battle-tested, unbelievably reliable, compact, reasonably affordable SMG. My thought is that before the Uzi most SMGs–meaning a light,compact, select-fire weapon using pistol cartridges intended for close range fighting–were hastily designed pre-war or actually during war time. An example is the M3 grease gun. Or the PPSH 41 or the MP40. While the MP40 was not cheap or shoddily produced it was over-designed like so many German weapons of the time. And it was also rather large and heavy, weighing in at roughly 10 pounds loaded and more than 2 feet long with the stock folded. By 1946 all three examples were unservicable, out of production war relics. I am not including the Thompson in this comparison because at 32 inches long and about 12 pounds loaded, that’s heavier than a Garand! It’s hardly a compact weapon.

In 1952 Lt. Uziel Gal patented his design for a new kind of machine gun chambered in 9x19mm. It loaded a 25- or 32-round magazine through the grip like a pistol, which makes for great balance and handling. It fires from an open bolt 600 rounds per minute, which is fast enough for suppressing fire but still controllable. It was designed with rugged protected sights, a lever safety, a palm safety like a 1911, and a bolt safety which I interpret as the intended use of being carried condition one cocked and locked in public places, and finally, a very usable folding stock. It was affordable to make and purchase due to being stamped not forged–that doesn’t mean it was weak, just efficient.

My point is the Uzi made the SMG a viable weapon for security forces such as the Secret Service, police, and private security as well as military applications, thus creating and expanding the way we think about and use the SMG today. So while not the best EVER, the Uzi was the trailblazer and is still the icon for the SMG.

An Uzi was used by the Secret Service to protect Ronald Reagan following the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. In this photo from Wikipedia courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library, Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko holds one.