The Mini Uzi Pistol: The most recognizable airgun in the world
The Uzi is one of those rare firearms that has an unforgettable look, and since it has been around for over half a century most everyone has seen an Uzi in the hands of Navy SEALS, Federal Agents, good guys and bad guys in dozens of movies and television dramas; but there are two truly memorable images, one fictional, and one all too real, that ingrained the Uzi into the American consciousness. The first was the original Delta Force movie with Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris in 1986 (unless you’re old enough to remember The Wild Geese starring Richard Burton and Roger Moore back in 1978), and the second was the afternoon of March 30, 1981 when John Hinkley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan as he left the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, following a speech to AFL-CIO leaders. In the ensuing mayhem after the first shots were fired by Hinkley, Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko was captured on press cameras wielding an Uzi SMG he had in a specially modified briefcase as agents scrambled to protect the President. That image of Agent Wanko and the 9mm subgun has forever linked the Secret Service with the Uzi. The Uzi had a long history with the Secret Service, and was used up until the 1990s.
The Uzi Name
For those who already know how the Uzi got its name, just skip to the next paragraph, but for the rest of us, here’s a little factoid; Uzi is not an Israeli acronym for sub machinegun (SMG), it is actually the name of the gun’s inventor, Uziel Gal, at the time a Captain with the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Gal based his gun’s design on the Czechoslovakian Model ZK 476 and Czech Model M23/25 sub machineguns, but designed his version so it could be more efficiently manufactured for quick deployment to the Israeli military in the 1950s. The final version was patented under in 1952, with production rights assigned to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. In 1954 the Uzi was adopted by the Israeli military. The rest is history. In 1975, Lt. Col. Uziel Gal retired from the Israeli military and spent the rest of his life in the United States working as a firearms designer.
The original Uzi SMG and its variants, Uzi Carbine, Mini Uzi, Micro Uzi and semi-auto Uzi Pistol, have remained a staple of military and law enforcement agencies the world over for more than 50 years in calibers ranging from the original 9mm to .41 AE, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .22 LR (Uzi .22 caliber rimfire conversion kits were first offered in 1987 and Umarex began offering .22 LR pistol and carbine models beginning in 2012). The Uzi remained the Israeli military’s primary SMG for almost 50 years, finally being phased out by the IDF in 2003.
The Details in making an Uzi Airgun
They say the devil is in the details and although Uzi construction is simple, Gal put a lot of forethought into the gun’s engineering. Intended to lower manufacturing costs and make them easier to manufacture, the Uzi receiver is stamped out of flat steel and then formed around dies. The series of long ridges also stamped into the sides of the receiver is not for looks, though they do look good, but actually to strengthen the receiver flats against impact and damage. Unlike conventional rifles or sub machineguns the Uzi’s magazine inserts into the pistol grip just like a semiautomatic handgun, creating a better center of balance for one-handed operation. This also makes an Uzi easier to reload. Gal had often seen soldiers in the field fumbling in low light or dark of night to insert a magazine into the receiver of a rifle, and he believed that placing it inside the pistol grip, which was already in one’s hand, would make it much easier. He was right.
Another distinctive feature is the Uzi’s benchmark folding metal stock (introduced in the 1960s), regarded by many military arms historians as one of the best designs ever. Combined with the gun’s central pistol grip and magazine well, the Uzi can be made as compact as possible for carry and ease of use when fired off hand or from the waist, yet, by simply pulling (or swinging, depending upon the model design) the shoulder stock into position, the gun can be rapidly converted into a shoulder-fired weapon. All of these fundamental features are reproduced in the Mini Uzi .177 caliber airgun.
The 9mm Uzi uses a blowback mechanism with a bolt that wraps around (shrouds) the back of the barrel, and the Umarex Uzi .22 uses a closed bolt blowback operated semi-auto action. The blowback action for the .177 caliber Mini Uzi airgun operates almost the same but on CO2. The Mini has an identical manual grip safety, charging handle, trigger design, and pistol grip safety as the 9mm. The latter much like a Colt Model 1911 grip safety; in order for the firearm to discharge it must be fully depressed. This specific feature was added by Uzi Gal to the original 9mm models as a preventative measure against accidental discharge if a weapon was inadvertently dropped.
Delivering the Mini
The Umarex Mini Uzi airgun is as close in measurements and fundamental operation as possible to an original c.1980’s version. The correct-style charging handle is mounted on top of the receiver and the ejection port on the right side of the receiver opens as if an empty shell case were being extracted, thus the Mini Uzi .177 has the authentic look and feel of the 9mm when fired, less the recoil and report of a 9mm round. It has an identical-style receiver bearing the Mini Uzi and IWI stampings, a rear sight with two flip-up apertures and authentic looking plastic grips and forend. Perfectly duplicating the semi-auto models, a functioning Safe and Fire selector switch is at the top of the grips and the magazine release at the bottom center of the grip is also a carbon copy of the cartridge-firing version. The big difference is that a CO2 cartridge is loaded into the pistol grip, (by removing the right panel to reveal the CO2 channel). After inserting a capsule the puncture screw in the base is turned clockwise until seated. Replace the grip and you are ready to lock and load.
For external accuracy, the magazine has a full width base where is extends from the grip, but inside it has a narrow stick magazine that holds 28 steel BBs. Among other special features on the Umarex Mini Uzi is a threaded “faux” suppressor for an even more authentic look. While lighter than an original (since the receiver shell is polymer and not metal), the Mini still weighs in at 40 ounces empty. The gun has a 5.6 inch barrel and an overall length (with faux suppressor and open shoulder stock) of 29.5 inches (14.1 inches w/o suppressor and stock folded). The pistol looks and feels right, and more importantly, it shoots great from the moment you pull the cocking handle to the rear until the 28-round magazine is emptied out. Extra magazines only cost around $14 and having a few on hand makes reloading on the range even more realistic. Trigger pull averages 6 pounds 10 ounces and there is 0.938 inches of take up, no stacking and a light reset on release. The reciprocating action gives the airgun just a little recoil bump for a more interactive feel, since there is zero recoil.
Sighting through the rear aperture and tall front post sight outs the gun right on POA at 21 feet, and at that range (the average distance for consistent accuracy with blowback action BB pistols) the Mini Uzi put 20 .177 cal. Hornady Black Diamond anodized steel BBs into an area measuring 0.75 inches with 15 shots overlapping into one ragged hole. It is an easy airgun to shoot, quick to handle, and fast to reload, just the way the original was designed in the 1950s.
For the cost of the Mini Uzi airgun (around $100), a dozen CO2 cartridges and 1500 BBs, you have less invested than for eight boxes of 115 gr. 9mm FMJ ammo, and we all know how long that lasts at the shooting range!
The Uzi licensed Umarex Mini Uzi airgun is one of those signature CO2 models, based on an original design, which history has anointed as legendary. Is this a legendary airgun? If not, then the Mini Uzi is at the least as much fun as you can have with a .177 caliber pistol!
by Dennis Adler