Alberto Bravo’s Uzi: The Black Widow’s Prey

The Uzi is the most produced submachine gun ever conceived. In 1975 it was used to try to settle a particularly torrid marital dispute.

It was the spring of 1975, and the most dangerous woman on the planet had just deplaned from her Lear jet at the Bogota airport. The quick hop from Miami had taken some two and one-half hours. All the way down Griselda Blanco Restrepo steamed. She was having husband troubles, and her marital squabbles were about to go public.

Griselda Blanco was a heartless killer and a ruthless businesswoman. She literally burned through three husbands before she was murdered at age 69.

Blanco was unimaginably successful. As the undisputed leader of one of the largest cocaine smuggling enterprises on the planet, Griselda was turning $80 million per month. Several years before Blanco and her second husband Alberto Bravo had smuggled themselves into Queens, New York, with $26,000 in cash they had scammed back home in Medellin, Colombia. Their cocaine smuggling empire subsequently became the stuff of legend.

Origin Story

The twisted Griselda Blanco was an unfortunate product of her sordid environment.

Griselda Blanco arose from a world where violence was a staple to be hoarded, metered, wielded, and traded. At age 11 she and several friends abducted the ten-year-old son of a wealthy Colombian family and demanded a ransom. When the family failed to pay the girl shot her young captive in the forehead with a pistol. This first commercial hit unleashed an eventual torrent of bloodshed.

Griselda’s first three sons were arrested in America for drug trafficking, deported to Colombia, and murdered by rival drug lords.

As a teenager she married a small-scale hood named Carlos Trujillo and mothered three children. Trujillo specialized in falsified immigration documents and similar modest hustles. Griselda and Carlos eventually suffered a disagreement of some sort, and she had him killed.

There was money aplenty to be made in the drug trade in the 1970s and 80’s America.

Alberto Bravo, Griselda’s second husband, was just another hustler. However, where Carlos smuggled people, Alberto’s forte was drugs. Using the aforementioned $26,000 as seed, the couple rapidly expanded into some serious money.

In her prime Griselda Blanco was quite a player.

At first, Griselda sewed custom female undergarments to help her mules sneak Colombian coke through American airports. At the apogee of her career, Blanco employed around 1,500 professional smugglers, a modest air force worth of pilots, and a handful of government officials. By 1975 she had murdered her way to the pinnacle of her profession and become fabulously wealthy in the process. Along the way she caught her husband Alberto skimming cash and decided to balance the business. The stage was set for a simply epic marital tiff.

The Killing

At all of five feet tall the diminutive Griselda Blanco was not to be trifled with.

Griselda traveled to a local nightclub in a multi-vehicle convoy. She was dressed in her typical finery including a pair of custom ostrich skin boots. Tucked into one of her boots was her favorite compact automatic pistol. Griselda stood a mere five feet tall and weighed 165 pounds. While not necessarily physically imposing, her wrath once tooled up was indeed the stuff of legend. Her embezzling husband Alberto was soon to feel some of that.

Griselda went by “The Godmother,” and she took movies like Scarface and The Godfather way too seriously.

This small dangerous woman traveled with a veritable army of heavily armed bodyguards. Her husband moved with a similar professional security detail. When Griselda arrived at the nightclub she left her vehicle and strolled over to her husband’s limo. Alberto was himself in a sour mood and verbally lashed out at his diminutive spouse. Griselda was commonly known as “the Godmother,” and Alberto felt that such an innately excessive moniker might go to her head.

In the wrong hands the Uzi submachine gun can be a fairly indiscriminate weapon.

The resulting argument escalated through the car window until Griselda drew her pistol. In response, Alberto produced an Uzi submachine gun. Griselda pumped several rounds into her husband at contact range. Before he was incapacitated Alberto loosed a long burst from his Uzi, spraying the countryside with 9mm rounds.

Griselda survived a 9mm Parabellum to the belly to go on to even greater glory as a drug lord.

Griselda took a 9mm bullet to the abdomen. At least one of her rounds center punched Alberto in the face. By the time the smoke cleared half a dozen bodyguards were dead along with Griselda’s sticky-fingered husband. Griselda recovered to ultimately murder yet another spouse some years later. Whether the security troops fell to Griselda’s pistol, Alberto’s SMG, sundry bodyguard’s weapons, or some lethal combination has been lost to history.

The Gun

The Uzi is an iconic firearm.

The Uzi submachine gun was arguably the most rugged pistol caliber submachine gun ever produced. While the faster firing HK MP5 got most of the press, I myself consistently shoot better with the Israeli gun. The Uzi arose during the dark early days of the reconstituted Jewish state.

The Nazis drove Uzi Gal’s family out of his native Germany.

Uziel Gal was born Gothard Glas in 1923 in Weimar, Germany. His parents divorced when he was young, and he fled Germany for England as the Nazis slithered to power. In 1933 he accompanied his father to Palestine, settling in Kibbutz Yagur.

As a young man Uziel Gal was an Israeli patriot imprisoned for his paramilitary activities.

The communal life of the kibbutz foments a fierce sense of community. Gal joined the Palmach early on and learned military weapons. In 1943 he was arrested by the occupying British forces for possession of a firearm and sentenced to six years in prison. Two years later he was pardoned and returned home to Yagur.

Uzi Gal was a natural gun nerd. Here he is seen carrying his own Uzi and an original German MP38 submachine gun. The MP38 is differentiated from the much more common MP40 at a glance by the lightening hole in the magazine well.

Uzi Gal fought for his country during the 1948 War for Independence and eventually developed his eponymous submachine gun based upon personal experience in combat. At the time the struggling state of Israel was using WW2-surplus weapons, many of Nazi origins, and was desperate to establish a domestic source of armaments. Sundry arms embargoes made supplying the fledgling Israeli military a labyrinthine chore.

Gal was described by those who knew him as a genuine and gifted soul.

Gal spent two years developing the Uzi, and it first saw service with IDF Special Forces in 1954. By all accounts, a humble personable man, Uzi Gal protested when the IDF named the gun after him. The Uzi ultimately became the most produced submachine gun in history, with more than ten million seeing service. The Uzi has been produced under license in several countries.

The Uzi set the standard in its day for compact portability.

The basic Uzi sports an overhung bolt design inspired by the Czech ZK 476. This telescoping system is almost bullpup in its execution. Orienting the breech far to the rear allows the gun to feed through the pistol grip and remain markedly shorter and more portable than more conventional designs. The Uzi fires from the open bolt via advanced primer ignition.

The Uzi is designed from the outset to be easy to build in relatively austere industrial circumstances.

Not only is Uzi efficient, reliable, and effective in action, the gun is also designed to be easy to manufacture in large quantities via semi-skilled workers. The receiver and fire control unit are comprised of steel pressings that can be rapidly and cheaply produced in bulk. However, unlike the MAC-series guns, the Uzi is also accurate and controllable.

The full size Uzi can be had with either fixed wood or folding steel stocks.

The basic Uzi design ultimately spawned the Mini Uzi and Micro Uzi as well as semiauto versions of each for the American civilian market. The full size Uzi features a solid wood or folding steel stock and cycles at a sedate 600 rounds per minute. The smaller versions run much faster and are more difficult to manage.

The Uzi’s ratcheting top cover keeps the gun from going off if the bolt is not completely retracted. As a result, the only way to clear a cocked empty gun is to point it in a safe direction and squeeze the trigger.

The grip safety along with a ratchet in the top cover helps keep the gun safe in a rugged military environment.

Trigger Time

The selector switch slides from rear to front through safe, semi, and full. The unfenced magazine release is easily accessible, yet I’ve never had an unintentional activation.

The Uzi is undeniably heavy, but the gun’s mass along with its modest rate of fire make the gun exceptionally controllable. Magazines come in a variety of capacities, but 25 and 32-round boxes are the most common. The magazine catch is easily accessible on the left. The fact that the gun feeds through the grip makes it easy to reload even in the dark.

The Uzi’s reputation for reliability ensured its wide distribution.

The sights are heavily fenced and rugged. However, once the gun starts running you will be sighting grossly through the sight ears. Three and four-round bursts are easy with a disciplined trigger finger. After untold thousands of rounds through sundry Uzis I have never had a stoppage.

Denouement

Much of the drug-related bloodshed in South Florida in the 1980s had some nexus to Griselda Blanco.

Griselda Blanco was ultimately responsible for between 40 and 200 murders. The argument that could be made that she more than any other single person precipitated the bloodbath that was the South Florida drug wars in the 1980’s. Many to most of the drug-related murders that rolled through the morgue back then had Griselda’s bloody fingerprints on them to one degree or another.

Griselda’s debased lifestyle ultimately took its tool on her both physically and morally.

Blanco was by all accounts a bloodthirsty reprobate for whom killings on whim and violent bisexual perversion were a regular part of her opulent decadence. She ultimately spent more than a decade in prison and continued to helm her cocaine empire from behind bars. In 2002 she suffered a heart attack while incarcerated.

Griselda Blanco pioneered the tactic of the motorcycle hit. She eventually succumbed to the same technique herself. Being a murderous drug kingpin makes one an unenviable list of enemies.

In 2004 Griselda was released from prison and deported to Medellin where she lived a fairly low profile life. Prior to her death in 2012 she had only been positively identified once at the Bogota airport in 2005. In September of 2012, Griselda went out to a local butcher’s shop with her granddaughter to purchase $150 worth of meat. An unidentified man on a motorcycle emerged from the crowd and shot her twice in the back of the head, sparing the child. This method of assassination had, ironically enough, been one of Blanco’s signature operations. At the time of her death, Griselda Blanco was worth roughly $2 billion.

The rise and fall of Griselda Blanco Restrepo is a cautionary tale of sin, greed, and redemption.

Her son Michael Corleone Blanco (yep, from The Godfather) reported that prior to her assassination Griselda had become a born again Christian and renounced her violent past. If true Blanco’s tale becomes an epic example of God’s breathtaking capacity for forgiveness and redemption. In the bloody life of Griselda Blanco, we see that no human sin no matter how egregious exceeds a loving God’s capacity for salvation.

The Uzi is a superb close combat weapon. I registered this target firing short bursts offhand from fifteen meters.

Uzi Submachine Gun

Calibers 9mm Parabellum, .22LR, .41AE, .45ACP, 9x21mm IMI
Weight 7.72 lbs
Barrel Length 10.2 in
Overall Length 18.5 in collapsed/25 in extended
Cyclic Rate of Fire 600 rpm
Feed 20, 25, 32, 40, and 50-round box magazines
Sights Flip-adjustable peep rear, post front

About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Will July 11, 2019, 4:00 pm

    I envy your opportunity to meet those guys. Like our WW2 veterans most of the classic names have passed on. Thanks for sharing.

  • IDAN GREENBERG July 10, 2019, 11:39 pm

    Enjoyed the article on this woman gangster and some history on Uziel Gal. I met him at one of the 1980’s Shot shows, while sitting with author and publisher Blake Stevens at his book display. Also met Eugene Stoner at the same show. Gal was a quiet but pleasant gentleman and seemed to be enjoying himself in that place and time. At an earlier Shot Show in Atlanta in 1980 I met Ysrael Galili, who headed the design team at IMI that produced the Galil rifle. But he worked on many other projects, one of which was the top cover/rachet/bolt cocking assembly of the UZI SMG. I later met Galili at his R&D shop at IMI’s plant at Ramat Hasheron and spoke with him for a couple of hours in his office. He proudly showed me a board on the wall of the shop, on which was mounted the evolution of the UZI top cover, starting with Gal’s original model, which like the MP38, if dropped and landing on the buttplate, on a hard surface, bring back the bolt enough to pick up a round, but not catch on the sear, causing an accidental discharge. On the board were various evolutionary models of improved top covers, which Galili, his team and I assume Gal, eventually developed the top cover with the spring powered ratchet safety, which prevents this sort of accident in production UZIs. Like Gal, Galili was a great “gun guy”, in our parlance. Galili’s office was a mess, with papers, various firearms laying around and even artillery rounds rolling around on the floor. The shop had various Craftsman tool boxes, with Playboy photos in the lids, as well as Bridgeport vertical mills, lathes and other developmental machinery in place, that would seem familiar to most American gunsmiths. Besides the various Israeli developed weapons, in both prototype and production models, on display in the shop, were such things as a pre-WWII Polish BAR mounted on the wall. Galili died a few weeks after we met at his shop and I have always treasured my meeting with him, as well as some other great firearm designers, including Dr. Kalashnikov. I think that like me, all of them would have enjoyed this article.

  • Al Robinson July 10, 2019, 3:39 pm

    You named the dog, ‘Dog’, dog? Dog, say it ain’t so!

  • Homer July 9, 2019, 1:44 pm

    I’m all about using good words – I think this is generally a well written article and I enjoyed it. That said, you used the word “sundry” three different times. Maybe grab a thesaurus?

  • Ti July 9, 2019, 9:53 am

    The world economy floating on that stuff, crazy times. US 100 dollar bills – 1 million dollars cash fits in a suitcase.

    Great article.

    Trigger time on the Uzi and MP5 also(shots not fired in anger). I would agree, Uzi control ‘seems’ better as the open bolt cruises/balancing the recoil to stay on target in a burst. Too much fun!!

  • patrick o beatty July 8, 2019, 12:19 pm

    A very good article for sure. Do more please.

  • Big John July 8, 2019, 11:27 am

    Another very enjoyable well written article, thank you Dr. Dabbs

  • Vladimir Sanda July 8, 2019, 9:29 am

    Uzi was a modified copy of Czech Sa 23 and Sa 25 introduced in 1948.

  • Mike July 8, 2019, 8:26 am

    This is one of the best articles I have read on this site in a long time. Great historical background on this iconic firearm as well as the story of a real “Godmother” that would make an interesting movie if ever produced by Hollywood that would rival the “Godfather” movies. Great Job Dr. Dabbs. I even posted this to my facebook page.

  • Ugly Driver July 8, 2019, 5:44 am

    Great article Sugar Bear!
    Can you let us have a look at the one you wrote for the Army concerning air crew weapons after what happened in Mogadishu?

    • Will July 8, 2019, 9:57 am

      Wow. Now that’s a blast from the past. I’m afraid that one is long gone. I’ve burned through several computers since then so that piece is in some landfill someplace. To the good old days, my brother.

      • Zupglick July 8, 2019, 5:46 pm

        That’s why I never throw away a hard drive unless I image it to DVD.

  • Justin July 8, 2019, 4:03 am

    Will’s bio is *almost* as entertaining as his great article. Thank you Dr. Dabbs!

    Justin

  • Samuel July 8, 2019, 3:09 am

    As terrible as this woman was it is so awesome to see the endless grace and mercy of God relayed through this article. I will always support this site as long as the only true God is allowed to be preached here!

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend