With the increasingly uncertain supply of ammunition, not to mention ever rising price, especially for rifle calibers, it is prudent to diversify any collection of long arms. Most personal defense or military style collections include chambering such as 7.62x51mm (.308Win), 5.56mm (.223Rem), 7.62×39, and 5.45×39. An alternate caliber worthy of consideration is the ubiquitous 9mm pistol cartridge chambered in a semiautomatic carbine. Century International Arms’ recent introduction of their Uzi carbine, the UC-9, serves as further impetus to obtain a 9mm carbine. The advantage of choosing the Century UC-9 Centurion is twofold in that it allows one to explore the pistol chambered carbine concept along with the chance to experience a historical weapon design.
Uziel Gal designed the Uzi with a telescopic bolt. The bolt travels over and around the barrel during operation. This allows for a more compact weapon with the barrel moved back into the receiver and magazine well placed in the handgrip. The concept is first noticed on early Czech designs such as the ZK 476 and vz23. The Uzi is simple and economical to manufacture taking full advantage of stampings and plastics to create receiver, cover, trigger housing, and folding metal stock with only the bolt and barrel requiring machining. Uziel Gal began designing the Uzi in 1948 with a prototype finished in 1950. Israeli special force units began use of the Uzi in 1954 with general issue to other IDF units in 1956 including officers, rear echelon troops, artillery, tank, and elite light infantry assault units.
The square shaped bolt reciprocates in the sheet metal trough formed in the receiver. The top cover seals off the bolt pathway to minimize exposure to the elements. Tolerances are relatively loose for better reliability with grooves incorporated on both sides of the receiver to increase reliability in dirty environments. Any accumulated debris is given a path out of the way of the bolt. The bolt is operated via centrally located handle on top of the receiver; thus it is ambidextrous. One of the Uzi’s greatest qualities is its simple operation and maintenance. User friendliness was a high priority for a citizen army like the IDF. Field stripping procedures typifies this simplicity with no tools required. After double checking the weapon is empty, unscrew the barrel nut and remove the barrel, followed by removing the top cover allowing for the bolt and striker assembly to lift out of the receiver. The Uzi is now field stripped for easy cleaning.
For many, the first urge for a 9mm carbine is a short barreled rifle (SBR). The reasoning being if one must use a 16 inch barrel you might as well get a full-sized AR or AK. However, many will not want to undergo the paperwork and cost for a SBR or may live in jurisdictions that disallow such classified weapons. Another advantage enjoyed by the Century UC-9 Uzi is a price point well below the current AR 9mm platforms on the market. MSRP for the Century UC-9 will be in mid $700 range.
Century produces the Uzi carbine in house and is modified to fire from a closed bolt versus the open bolt design of the original select fire model. Century Arms is an innovator of adapting military select fire weapons to BATF standards enabling firearms that would normally be out the reach of civilians to be experienced. The Uzi is considered a premier example of a 3rd generation SMG utilizing blowback method of operation where cartridge pressure is used to overcome the bolt’s mass pushing it to the rear and action springs returning it into battery stripping a fresh round from the magazine to operate the weapon. The Century Uzi carbine variant uses a floating firing pin as opposed to a fixed firing pin found in the select fire version. Other changes consist of the receiver not allowing for the drop-in installation of a SMG fixed firing pin bolt as the firing pin of the semiautomatic only Century UC-9 is incorporated into the bolt group. The semiautomatic bolt group also features a different extractor design versus the SMG version. The fire control assembly is modified as well since three-positions are not necessary as with a select fire version. The sear on the UC-9 is smaller since it is not under the same stress as the SMG version. Top covers are different between the semiautomatic Uzi and SMG version. The SMG version is ratcheted in case the charging handle is inadvertently released before the bolt is fully locked open. Lastly, barrel installation methods are different as the original Uzi barrels will not work with semiautomatic weapons due to differences in welding patterns associated with the front trunnion.
The lack of automatic fire capability on any weapon originally designed for selective fire operation means less for most than the handling benefits lost when forced to employ 16 inch barrels to comply with Federal laws defining what a rifle is. Fortunately, the 16 inch barreled UC-9 Uzi still retains the handling characteristics of its military predecessor. The telescopic bolt design aids in minimizing the effect of equipping the Uzi with a 16 inch barrel compared to the standard 10 inch. The Century UC-9 is similar in overall length to a SBR 9mm AR with a 7 inch barrel due to the telescopic bolt permitting the barrel to be moved back into the receiver.
Many will question the utility of employing a pistol cartridge in a shoulder fired weapon. Others would argue that most engagements happen well within a 100yd range, especially in a civilian setting, and that handling and reliability play more of a factor in quick, reactive engagements than specific caliber used. However, less experienced shooters will find the lower recoil pulse and muzzle blast of a pistol caliber fired from the shoulder easier to manage, which often times will translate into better accuracy potential. Will a rifle hit with more authority than a 9mm? Yes. However, the advantage of carrying a handgun and carbine using the same, easy to acquire, and relatively inexpensive ammunition should not be underestimated.
The Uzi can be considered a niche weapon here in the U.S. with a devoted group of followers. This limited market has led to few aftermarket accessories being available. The Uzi design does not permit easy installation red dot style optics as it was designed in an era before red dot style optics were commonly used. While optic mounts are available, most users stay away from their use for a variety of reasons usually related to mounting methods. If a red dot or similar optic is considered a necessity then another weapon system will need to be consulted.
However, from the Uzi’s birthplace, comes an interesting forearm modification discovered via the Mako Group’s website. The U3R Tri-Rail manufactured by FAB Defense is designed to replace the Uzi’s forend with a Picatinny-style rail system. The U3R Tri-Rail is machined from solid billet aircraft aluminum and hard anodized for a durable surface. This is a unique solution to bring your Uzi up to speed tactically and take advantage of Picatinny rail accessories. The Mako Group’s Tri-Rail enhances the Uzi’s capability facilitating mounting of lights, lasers, and a vertical foregrip. Dimensionally, the Century UC-9 had no problems accommodating the Tri-Rail. A Crimson Trace MVF 515 Green Laser/Light combination vertical foregrip was mounted on the UC-9 Uzi. Some may doubt veracity of vertical foregrips in general and even more so on the Uzi Carbine. However, the Uzi is not light at 9 pounds with this accentuated by the 16 inch barrel; the increased leverage and control offered by the Crimson Trace MVF 515 is worth it; not to mention the integral high intensity tactical light and green laser that accompanies the vertical foregrip. Due to the distinct Uzi profile with magazine fitting in the grip housing, the Crimson Trace MVF 515 does not significantly impact its outline. Lower profile vertical grips are available, but few offer the multiple uses of the MVF 515.
The Uzi 9mm Sporter weighs approximately 9 pounds and features a 16 inch barrel giving the Uzi a length of 24 inches with stock folded and 31.5 inches with stock deployed. The barrel uses 1:10 twist rate that allows the user to utilize the full range of 9mm loads, including 147rg bullets. The double hinged rear stock folds neatly and securely under the weapon’s frame. While many consider the stock as overly complicated, it is simple to operate efficiently after a few tries. The sights on the Uzi were somewhat crude combining a rear aperture and front sight post each protected by metal ears. Nevertheless, the sights permitted head shots out to 35 yards with center body mass aiming used as distances stretched back to 100 yards or beyond. The Crimson Trace MVF 515’s green laser was clearly visible at 25 yards even during bright daylight conditions. The Uzi’s rear sight is a flip leaf aperture with 100 meter or 200 meter settings. The sights on the Century UC-9 are of Model A Uzi type with the both windage and elevation adjustment made with the front sight. Hits on large steel targets such as manhole covers were very possible with the Uzi out to 200 yards. Paper targets, plate racks and steel popper targets located at various locations and groupings were engaged with some drills conducted behind simulated cover and with mandatory magazine changes.
The Century UC-9’s non-discriminatory handling of several types of 9mm ammunition was a pleasant surprise. Winchester 9mm NATO loads were purchased based on experience with other 9mm SMG designs requiring the higher pressure NATO loads to operate reliably. The Uzi functioned flawlessly with not only the Winchester 9mm 124gr NATO FMJ loads, but also with Winchester 9mm 115gr FMJ, Wolf 115gr FMJ 9mm, CCI Speer Lawman 124gr TMJ, Black Hills 124gr and Winchester 147gr JHP 9mm. The ability to feed the JHPs was a totally unexpected bonus and a credit to the Uzi weapon design. The Century UC-9 had over 800 rounds fired through it for this T&E during several range visits to Echo Valley Training Center located near Winchester, VA. A handful of malfunctions were experienced during initial session. This problem was eliminated once two suspect magazines were indentified and culled. One positive of the faulty magazines was that malfunction drills were tested. The closed bolt UC-9 Uzi does not have a bolt hold open device, thus the most practical method discovered was to strip out the magazine and run the bolt a couple of times to clear the offending malfunction and then re-insert a fresh magazine. T&E was aided by acquiring several extra 32-round magazines via a kit that is offered by Century that comes with magazine pouch, sling, and cleaning kit. Five 32-round magazines come with the Century UC-9 Uzi. Extra Uzi magazines are currently plentiful and relatively inexpensive to purchase.
Magazine changes proved an awkward affair at first. This is more an indictment of previous experience manipulating AR or AK based weapon systems than a criticism of the Uzi. The magazine removal, replacement, and bolt manipulation must be done in a stout/firm manner. The Uzi’s blowback operating method translates into a stiff action spring. It is best not to rush manipulating the Uzi during reloads to ensure that your hand does not slip off the cocking handle or not bring the action back far enough to strip a fresh round from the magazine. The magazine well in the pistol grip allows for reloads without having to look. The magazine release is paddle-like and located at the bottom of the grip allowing for the offhand to depress and rip the empty magazine out in one movement making room for insertion of a fresh one. The safety selector switch is incorporated into the pistol grip and can be operated with the dominant hand’s thumb with minimal effort. The grip safety is an important feature further maximizing one hand use. The selector switch can be left on fire, yet removing the hand from the grip provides for a safe weapon if having to sling the weapon and perform other tasks. Range experience indicated that the “hand-to-hand” method works efficiently in getting a fresh magazine inserted into the weapon’s pistol grip, especially under pressure of time constraints and wanting to keep eyes downrange during the reload. The combination of the heavy bolt and magazine placement in the center of the weapon grip serves to balance the Uzi and minimize any recoil or muzzle climb. The 9 pound weight of the Uzi contributes here as well. Accurate strings of fire consisting of multiple rounds sent downrange had no problems keeping rounds smacking steel due to minimal muzzle climb and muzzle blast.
Some will be lured to the Century International Arms Uzi Carbine for its potential as a weapon, while others will find it the closest opportunity they will have to own a working replica of a historical firearm. Many will argue that there is no defensive value in any semiautomatic pistol caliber chambered carbine; just use a full size assault rifle. Would a Century UC-9 be a first choice of firearm for personal defense for most? No, but it in the same breath it would be far from the bottom of the list as well. The Uzi design would not have been used by agencies such as the Secret Service or over 90 countries if it did not perform better than most other available weapons. It is not being represented that this same performance is being offered in the UC-9 configuration, but nice to know what kind of heritage it is spawned from.
The pistol caliber carbine represented by the Century Uzi makes far more sense than relying strictly on a handgun for defense, especially in rural areas. Accurate hits are possible out to 100 yards after only minimal practice. Another benefit is round capacity as compared to handguns. Double column Uzi magazines can be found with 20, 25, and 32-round capacities. The 32-round Uzi magazine is the most commonly found. Many will find the UC-9 Uzi Carbine easier to shoot accurately than a shotgun or a rifle due to it compact nature and less recoil.
The Century UC-9 Uzi is an interesting new introduction of a weapon with lots of history attached to it. Century is planning on producing over 2,000 UC-9s. Is the UC-9 Uzi a weapon worthy of competing with other pistol caliber carbines such as the HK, Sten/Sterling, Kel-tecs, MAC, Beretta, and ARs or is it the closest thing many will get to a firing replica with design history dating back to 1950? The Century UC-9 did not handle or perform like a design that is over 50 years old. It is still a viable weapon. It will hold its own no matter what the individual decides to use it for.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N3 (December 2010)|