If you’ve watched any action movies or played any first-person shooters in the last thirty years, you’ve seen an Uzi. These submachine guns are a staple of Hollywood action flicks and high-budget video games alike, and they have earned a fascinating spot within the public consciousness as the gun that people think of when they picture Rambo or Duke Nukem orÂ Arnold Schwarzenegger or pretty much any tough guy packing heat.
Ahoy has a popular YouTube video series that highlights different guns. This week, it’s all about the Uzi.
The Uzi’s popularity in the entertainment industry stems from its place within military history. Uziel Gal, a member of the Israel Defense Forces, designed the Uzi in response to his country’s need for a standardized weapon following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Israel had been forced to use leftover weapons from World War II and was looking for a modern alternative.
Gal put together a design for a gun that could be manufactured from sheet metal, which would keep the cost low and make it extremely easy to mass-produce. Borrowing aspects of a Czech prototype, the final design was far more compact than its World War II-era counterparts, featuring an ergonomic layout and a compact build. Since the magazine is in the center of the gun, an Uzi handles well and reloads intuitively. It also packs a massive punch, capable of unleashing 600 rounds per minute.
Word of the Uzi quickly spread throughout the world, and its benefits versus the guns that came before it were widely appreciated. Thanks to its ease of manufacturing, over 10 million Uzis have been made in dozens of countries around the world. They have been used by police officers, soldiers, task forces and the Secret Service, as well as countless paramilitary organizations. Even though the Uzi has been surpassed by the MP5 as the de facto submachine gun, it has been immortalized in movies and video games for decades.
In the 1980s, when the high-octane action film started to become popular, movie makers were drawn to the Uzi. It was a hit for many of the same reasons that it succeeded in military circles: easy availability, low cost, instinctive handling, and distinctive appearance. As the most recognizable firearm of the era, the Uzi gave credibility to these films, and audiences clearly soaked it up. The Uzi also gained a notorious reputation as the weapon of choice for criminals, thanks to its manageable size and its ease of use during, say, a drive-by shooting.
As the action film craze began to die down or move in different directions, first-person shooters like the enormously popular Call of Duty series took its place. For this medium, the Uzi is a natural fit, since everyone knows what they look like and the damage they are capable of doing. Uzis have taken center stage in everything from Grand Theft Auto to Goldeneye, and they continue to appear in games set in the modern era.
Next up, Ahoy will be talking about the M1911. Can’t wait!