- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military is phasing out the legendary Uzi submachine gun, calling it antiquated and replacing it with more sophisticated, electronics-outfitted weaponry.

But the Uzi, a national icon and the country’s most famous contribution to the arms industry, still will be produced and exported, to the presumable delight of drug dealers, gang members and Hollywood action stars alike.

Israel’s military took the simply constructed, half-century-old weapon out of front-line units two decades ago, but continued to issue it to some elite units and soldiers carrying heavy gear who needed a light weapon for self-defense.

The army now says it will dump it altogether.

As of this week, “we’re no longer training soldiers on the Uzi,” said army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal. “Basically, it’s antiquated,” he said of the 9 mm weapon.

State-owned Israel Military Industries Ltd. has made more than 1.5 million Uzis and will continue manufacturing the weapon, which has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from sales worldwide, including in the United States, Latin America and Africa.

Illegal arms sales have put the weapon into the hands of Colombian drug lords.

In Israel, the weapon’s smaller models are still popular with security guards who favor portability over accuracy. Many private security companies use the original, larger model because it’s cheap.

It also remains a mainstay for some of the world’s police forces and security services guarding VIPs, said Yiftah Shapir of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The Uzi, while still used by the U.S. Secret Service, also is beloved of gangs in the United States because of its reputation as “a macho weapon,” said gun specialist Tim Brown of Globalsecurity.org. But he added that the Uzi “is not a very good gun — it’s very inefficient, inaccurate. … It’s mostly used in bad Hollywood action movies.”

In the 1984 movie “The Terminator,” for example, a gun-shop owner commends Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg for ordering the “Uzi nine millimeter” before his murder rampage.

Whatever its qualities as a weapon, the Uzi arouses nostalgia and pride in Israel, where it was developed around the same time as the country’s war-rattled birth in 1948.

Elite Israeli fighting units found it useful because of its resistance to mud and water, giving the weapon a further mystique — and marketing cachet.

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