The 9mm UZI Submachine Gun was the “IT” gun of the 1980s and into the 1990s. Its popularity and iconic status exploded immediately following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan on March 21, 1981.
It was then a photograph showed a U.S. Secret Service Agent with his UZI subgun drawn and held at, shall we call it, a “Hollywood High Ready” position. The muzzle was up by his head. It was a very dynamic photo shot at a moment of national crisis. Until that time most of us didn’t realize that the Secret Service had this weapon in inventory. It became the dream weapon of nearly every cop I knew, rivaling the cool factor of Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum.
I had my first encounter with one, the real full-auto deal at just about the same time. I was an auxiliary deputy, just starting out with a central Ohio sheriff’s office. I had just come in to work one of my first paid special duty details (for a whopping $11 per hour at the time) at an area drag strip during national competitions.
It had been a bad year weather wise at the track, races had been delayed and a tornado had passed near the campground area during the previous evening. Needless to say, the natives were restless. I arrived at the office to pick up my radio when the departments firearms instructor, a sergeant, asked me to help him load the department’s UZI.
“UZI? We have an UZI?!” Of course I jumped at the chance! But why were we loading the UZI? It was then I noticed another sergeant checking out the department 37mm gas launcher and gear. I hadn’t seen that little number before either. The firearms instructor told me that there were a bunch of outlaw bikers out at the track and there was a potential for trouble. And while outlaw bikers might not listen to a cop armed with a .38, they did understand UZI. Cool. I went out to the track, and had just arrived at my duty post when we got a call that all deputies were needed in the campground.
When I got there I saw the aforementioned sergeant stick a mag in the UZI, cock it, and hold it at the same position I saw the Secret Service Agent hold his in. He then walked up to the bikers who seemed to be in a rather foul mood. Seems that some drunken idiot drove his car past their bikes and tents and splattered them with mud.
When this aroused their ire, the surrounding crowd, which looked to be mostly average race fans, started chanting for the bikers to kill the car driver. We had to end up arresting the car driver because he didn’t want to leave. This was after the sergeant had secured his release from the angry bikers with the UZI. In the end as we left, we discovered that the crowd was mad because they lost out on their entertainment.
This caused them to throw dirt clods and bottles at us as we left with our “prize”! A most interesting experience, and I’m glad the UZI and the gas gun were there. I never saw the weapon after that. I should have gotten it for our drug raids when I was on the same agency’s drug unit a year after that. Even though I never saw it again, I was hooked on the UZI design.
A little historical background on the UZI carbine is in order:
The UZI is a related family of open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine guns. Smaller variants are considered to be machine pistols. The UZI was one of the first weapons to use a telescoping bolt design which allows for the magazine to be housed in the pistol grip for a shorter weapon, a design not seen since the Japanese Type II machine pistol.
The first UZI submachine gun was designed by Major Uziel Gal in the late 1940s. The prototype was finished in 1950; first introduced to IDF special forces in 1954, the weapon was placed into general issue two years later.
The UZI has found use as a personal defense weapon by rear-echelon troops, officers, artillery troops and tankers, as well as a frontline weapon by elite light infantry assault forces.The UZI has been exported to over 90 countries. Over its service lifetime, it has been manufactured by Israel Military Industries, FN Herstal, and other manufacturers. From the 1960s through the 1980s, UZI submachine guns were sold to more military and police markets than any other submachine gun ever made.
If you want all the intrinsic details on this weapon and its history you can find plenty at Wikipedia. In fact the picture at the Regan assassination attem I referred to can be found on the Wikipedia web page. The UZI design is good enough that it was kept in front line service by the Israeli Defense Service until 2003.
About the Author: Scott Wagner is a 32-year law enforcement veteran. Currently a police sergeant in Baltimore, Ohio, he spent 20 years with the Union County Ohio Sheriff's Office as a Reserve Deputy where he worked patrol, training and SWAT, and was the assistant SWAT team leader and a team sniper. Wagner has been a state-certified police firearms, fitness and defensive tactics instructor for 26 years, and has been a criminal justice professor and police academy commander for 20 years at a community college in the Midwest.He is the author of the Gun Digest books, "Tactical Shotguns,", "Own the Night—A Guide to Tactical Lights and Laser Sights," and Survival Guns.
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