Uzi Submachine Gun

Nir Becher
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Nir Becher

Design: Uzi Gal, 1953

The people who drafted the press release for Israel Military Industries (IMI) in May 1953 sought to identify the creator of the Uzi submachine gun with the product that became synonymous with Israeli chutzpah. "Uzi," they wrote, "is blessed with a number of qualities that raises its value: withstands sand, dryness and moisture, easy to clean, dismantle and assemble, good equilibrium when firing." Just like Uzi, the statement noted, "a youngster in Israel with smiling brown eyes and broad shoulders, light of movement, a young man who invented the weapon that is now known by its inventor's name."

Probably no other killing machine has been presented to potential users in such cordial tones. Blurring the boundaries of human engineering between the product and its developer helped make the Uzi the best friend of bloodthirsty generals, contract killers and just plain crazies who like to spray high-school students with lead. A lethal weapon with the pet name of a comrade in arms. Nice.

It was not by chance that the Israel Defense Forces preferred the Uzi over a more conservative development by Captain Haim Kara, who tried to avenge the affront when the daily Maariv named the Uzi an Israeli icon last year. The fusion of elegance and functionality proved itself in dozens of armies around the world and brought IMI billions of dollars.

If one of the tests of a good design is its ability to generate a whole industry of copies of the original, the Uzi has passed the test proudly. It has been copied in countries from Croatia to China, has been marketed in toy form, has been miniaturized and is immortalized in a song by the legendary Gashash Hahiver troupe. Too bad it can't be sent to the Eurovision contest.

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