The Jews call it the Shoah. The rest of the world knows it as the Holocaust. From January 30, 1933, until May 8, 1945, the Nazis systematically and institutionally murdered some six million European Jews. In the wake of the most prolific genocide in all of human history, the nation of Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948. The surrounding Arab nations declared war the following day, determined to push the fledgling nation into the sea.
Those first few years represented a literal fight for survival. Cut off from outside support, the nation of Israel relied upon surplus arms smuggled in from European battlefields to sustain it in its fight against its belligerent Arab neighbors. In many cases, German weapons that had recently been used in an attempt to obliterate the Jewish people were taken up and turned against Israel’s enemies. Amidst this sordid milieu, it became obvious that Israel required a domestic source of arms if it hoped to prevail.
Uziel Gal was a German-born Israeli who served half of a six-year sentence after having been arrested for carrying a gun illegally in the British Mandate of Palestine. He was released in 1946, two years before Israel declared her independence. A gifted designer, Gal began work on a new submachine gun and completed his first prototype in 1950. Christened the Uzi after its designer, this rugged combat weapon first saw use by Israeli Special Forces in 1954. Two years later it became the standard issue submachine gun for the Israeli Defense Forces.
More than 10 million copies of the Uzi have seen service in 90 countries, making the Uzi the most produced submachine gun in history. The basic Uzi design can be had in three different chassis and several variations. The Uzi remains in production today.
The Uzi was designed from the outset to be easily manufactured. The receiver of the weapon was formed from a heavy steel U-shaped stamping onto which accouterments like sights and trunnions were welded. The receiver sported pressed steel grooves on its interior that tended to channel battlefield grunge away from the reciprocating parts. While certain components like the bolt, barrel, and trunnion required machining, most of the Uzi could be produced quickly on industrial presses using semi-skilled labor. The Uzi also included injection-molded polymer forearm and grip panels.
The Uzi drew its inspiration from a prototype Czech submachine gun called the ZK 476. This weapon pioneered the concept of the overhung telescoping bolt wherein the magazine feeds through the pistol grip. Acolytes of this design observe that this allows for quick magazine changes in the dark as it is a simple thing for one hand to find another.
Despite its austerity, the Uzi included a number of superb tactical amenities. Chief among them was a large and positive grip safety. This device ensured that the gun did not fire if dropped or handled roughly. There was also a ratcheting top cover that prevented the bolt from cycling unless fully retracted.
The Uzi included a rugged bayonet lug should truly close quarters combat with a bayonet be required. The folding buttstock was a complicated rotating affair that was both rigid and effective in action. The Uzi was offered with a detachable wooden stock as an option as well.
To run the gun you grip the weapon such that the grip safety is deactivated and retract the bolt via the top-mounted non-reciprocating bolt actuator. The gun fires from the open bolt so the bolt remains locked to the rear. Feed a loaded magazine into the grip until it locks. The magazine release is a left-sided paddle that is quite efficient for right-handed firers. Left-handed operators are simply screwed, but they should be used to that by now. The safety selector is a sliding switch on the left easily accessed by the right thumb when firing the gun right-handed. Pulling the trigger releases the bolt and fires the weapon.
The MAC10—The Uzi’s Upstart American Cousin
Gordon Ingram was an American World War 2 veteran who strived to apply modern mass production techniques to the manufacture of military weapons. His Ingram Model 6 was a .45ACP submachine gun produced for Law Enforcement use in the years immediately following World War 2. While the Model 6 incorporated such advanced features as a two-position fire selector built into the trigger, the gun resembled a Thompson esoterically and could not compete in a market awash to its gunwales in war surplus submachine guns
In 1964 Ingram designed his Model 10. The M-10 was ultimately chambered for either 9mm or .45ACP and was as compact as a submachine gun could be made given the technology of the day. The M-10 employed the same overhung telescoping bolt and grip-fed magazine design as the Uzi only on a smaller scale. The M-10 took the Uzi’s manufacturability mandate to the next level, incorporating sights, sling attachment points, and a magazine housing that were all formed from stamped steel welded where necessary.
One unfortunate side effect of such a compact design was a very short bolt travel. In an open-bolt submachine gun, this meant rapid cycling on full auto and a blistering rate of fire. Particularly in its .45ACP guise, this made the gun difficult to control in inexperienced hands.
In conjunction with a former OSS operative named Mitchell WerBell III, Ingram formed the Military Armament Corporation to produce and market his zippy little guns. Unique for its time, the M-10 was also designed from the outset to employ a muzzle-mounted sound suppressor. While sound suppressors are fairly commonplace today, they were radical stuff indeed in the 1970’s when the M-10 was being most aggressively marketed. As a result, their effectiveness was greatly overstated.
The M-10 saw initial production in 1970, and unconventional warfare operatives used a very small number in Vietnam. Two years later Ingram introduced the M-11, a scaled-down version of the M-10 chambered for .380ACP and sporting an even faster rate of fire. Despite aggressively marketing the Ingram guns as a replacement for the 1911 pistol in general military service, the MAC weapons failed to secure any significant military contracts. US Navy SEALs and Special Forces, as well as the British Special Air Service, used the M-10 operationally in limited numbers. They were briefly considered as primary armament by the SAS on the Iranian Embassy raid at Princes Gate in London in 1980 only to lose out to the HK MP5. While MAC-10 has become a common moniker for the gun, the Military Armament Corporation never used this term in its marketing efforts.
One of the reasons the M-10 failed to secure extensive contracts overseas was an absurd administrative prohibition on exporting sound suppressors to foreign nations. As the sound suppressor was an integral part of the appeal of the little gun, the inability to sell the guns as a suppressed package greatly limited its marketability. While thousands of the compact little weapons were sold to American civilian enthusiasts, the M-10 ultimately died a natural death.
The M-10 is as simple as a submachine gun might be. The safety is a sliding switch located in front of the trigger within the trigger guard. Its operation mimics that of the M1 Garand. The charging handle is accessed from the top of the weapon and reciprocates with the bolt. Turning the bolt handle 90 degrees locks the bolt in place for safety. The fire selector is a rotating lever mounted on the left front aspect of the gun. Pointing forwards is semiauto. Pointing backwards is rock and roll.
To fire the gun one retracts the bolt and inserts a loaded magazine into the pistol grip. The magazine release is a thumb-actuated switch on the base of the grip that is ambidextrous and easily accessed regardless of your handedness. The sights are pressed steel and rigid, but the gun bounces around so vigorously as to render them essentially worthless.
The folding wire stock on the M-10 has been much maligned and rightly so. Extending the appendage involves pinching the butt end and rotating it in place before extending the struts. In action, it is flimsy and delicate. It does, however, offer a substantial improvement over an otherwise unadorned handgun.
The M-10 is surprisingly heavy, weighing as much as an M16A1 rifle. The Uzi is just barely small enough to hide underneath a bulky jacket. By contrast, the M-10 will tuck into a daypack, gym bag, or briefcase without difficulty.
Given their external similarity, it was inevitable that there might arise some confusion between the weapons, particularly among the uninitiated. M-10’s, sometimes adorned with a little Hollywood window dressing, stood in for the larger Uzis in several major movies in the years before the Uzi became commonly available in the US. Stripes and The Dogs of War both featured M-10’s dressed up to resemble Uzis. However, in practical usage, these guns sport entirely different personalities.
The Uzi runs at around 600 rounds per minute. This modest rate of fire combined with the gun’s innate mass and its ample gripping space make it a thoroughly effective close quarters fighting tool. By contrast, the M-10 cycles at upwards of 1,250 rounds per minute and demands close attention to technique for safe operation. Had the M-10 been selected as the replacement for the 1911 pistol in American military service the mind boggles at the number of fingers that would have been inadvertently shot away on military firing ranges around the world. While the architecture of the guns was important, the biggest differentiator was the disparate rates of fire.
The Uzi saved a nation and equipped militaries, police forces, and thugs of various stripes around the planet. It remains in production today and is an international icon. The M-10 had its moment in the sun but sputtered and died in relatively short order. Despite a niche following among American civilian shooters, it is doubtful whether the M-10 is in active service anywhere in the world today. While marketing, legislation, and export laws came into play, the primary reason one gun thrived while the other failed is that the smaller of the two just shoots too fast.
Caliber 9mm Parabellum 9mm Parabellum
Weight 7.72 lb 6.26 lb
Length (Extended) 25 inches 21.6 inches
Length (Collapsed) 18.5 inches 11.6 inches
Barrel Length 10.2 inches 4.49 inches
Rate of Fire 600 rounds per minute 1,250 rounds per minute
Action Open Bolt Open Bolt
Magazine Capacity 20/25/32/40/50 32