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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Inventor of Uzi gun dies
An Uzi gun used in a south London attack
Soldiers found the gun easy to reload
The inventor of the Uzi submachine gun, Uziel Gal of Israel, has died at the age of 79.

The compact, quick-response weapon has become popular with security services and gangsters alike since its development in the early 1950s.

Uziel Gal (L) in his younger days
Gal was reportedly designing a revolutionary new pistol even in his 70s
During that period, the newly-formed Israeli army needed light submachine guns which could be taken on mobile patrols, but the available weapons proved unstable and tired soldiers found them difficult to reload in the dark.

Uziel Gal was born in Germany in 1923. He fled the Nazi regime in the 1930s, settling in British Mandatory Palestine.

He was later jailed by the British. Upon his release he began working clandestinely, making weapons for the Jewish underground.

Revolutionary design
Magazine in grip makes it easy to reload
Small number of parts makes it easy to strip and reassemble
Limited recoil means it can be fired one-handed
Almost impossible to fire by mistake or if dropped

The Israeli Defence Force decided to commission new designs, one from its Science Corps and the other from the young officer Gal who had shown a talent for weapons invention.

Gal decided it would be easiest for soldiers to reload their guns simply by bringing their hands together.

The gun that bears his name houses the magazine inside the grip and proved easy to reload, even in the dark.

Its other advantages included its simple design and small number of parts which made it easy to strip and reassemble.

The Israeli army started testing the weapon in 1951 and the Uzi soon became the gun of choice, proving reliable even in dusty conditions.

Top seller

The gun, which fires 9mm rounds, also gained acceptance around the world and became one of Israel's most popular exports.

 Uziel Gal
Gal will be buried in Israel

More than two million have been sold to security forces around the world since its creation, but many have also been used by criminals.

The lightweight gun has also been updated to include even more compact models, one of which is just 460 millimetres (18 inches) long.

The "Uzi" name is now often used to refer to any 9mm semi-automatic weapon and has achieved a certain status.

Gal took retirement from his employers, the state-run Israeli Military Industries, in the 1970s and went to live in Philadelphia where he produced other versions of the gun for the American market.

His family say that Gal's body will be flown back to Israel for burial on Saturday at a kibbutz where he spent much of his life.

See also:

19 Jul 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 00 | Americas
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