His friends called him Uzi, but Major Uziel Gal never wanted that name attached to the firearm he designed. But the Israelis simply ignored his request, and the Uzi submachine gun, one of the most iconic firearms in history, came into being.
The Uzi was born into war. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel came into being and was immediately attacked by the new country’s neighbors. Although the fledgling Israelis beat back the attacks, it was evident that the new nation state needed a new firearm to replace the hodgepodge of surplus WWII weaponry then available.
Gal’s inspiration for the Uzi was to be found in Eastern Europe. The Czech CZ25 submachine gun, designed in the late 1940s, utilized the telescoping bolt and a magazine that inserted into the pistol grip. Both those features would find their way into the Uzi.
Maybe the most famous appearance of the Uzi outside of Israel came in March of 1981 when a mentally unbalanced man named John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan with a .22 revolver. The President was seriously wounded from a ricochet. The iconic picture of that day shows Secret Service Special Agent Robert Wanko, Uzi in hand, watching over the crowd as the President and other wounded were evacuated. The Uzi remained the sub gun of choice for the Secret Service well into the 1990s.
Uzis were made in a number of different variations, including mini, micro and pistol version without a buttstock. The mini and the micro are still in production, and a variant of the micro, the Uzi Pro, remains popular with Special Forces units. In many ways, the Uzi defined the submachine gun. Rugged, reliable firepower for an increasingly complex worldwide battlefield.