The UZI was developed (and hence its name) by Uziel Gal (1924-2002) a captain in the Israeli army who won an internal competition for the design of a new sub machine gun. The first prototypes appeared in 1950 and soon after the first production batches were issued to selected units for field testing. An improved design appeared just before the Sinai Campaign of 1956 and it was in this desert war that the UZI emerged as a winner in the highly demanding surroundings.
The UZI turned out to be not only highly reliable, but also surprisingly accurate for such type of weapon, and soon caught the eye of the international firearms community. During the 1960s a new folding metal stock replaced the original wooden stock and the UZI was also licensed to be produced by FN, the Belgian firearms company.
The UZI's original manufacturer - Israel Military Industries (IMI) - has not rested on its laurels and developed a number of variants:- The Mini Uzi is shorter and lighter than the standard model; The Micro Uzi is shorter still, almost the size of a large handgun; Another version is the Uzi Pistol - a semi-automatic version of the Micro. In addition there have been several more customized versions in much smaller production scales.
The UZI gained its fame not only in combat, but also as a favorite of elite forces and security services. During the attempted assassination on U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1981, the press cameras caught one of his bodyguards pulling an UZI from his jacket. In subsequent years the UZI also became a regular feature in dozens of actions movies where it was seen in the hands of Hollywood's biggest stars.
Today, after more than half a century in service by the world's leading defense forces, the UZI family has a place of honor in firearms history. The new company Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) which was launched from a privatized spin-off of IMI's original small arms division continues the production and development of the UZI.