[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he classic Uzi 9mm submachine gun was developed by Uziel Gal in the 1950s for the Israeli military, and in its day was considered an excellent combat weapon. And although guns with similar features had become pretty standard by the end of World War II, the Uzi changed the paradigm for submachine guns with its compactness, ergonomics and easy handling.
These reasons are also why the gun continues to be replicated by a variety of manufacturers. One of these, Century Arms, Inc., has found success with their semiauto version, the Centurion UC-9.
The original Uzi was made mostly of welded metal stampings and had a rock-solid metal collapsible or ﬁxed wooden buttstock. It featured a simple blowback design, utilizing the weight of the heavy bolt alone to keep the action locked, and the recoil energy of the ﬁred casing to cycle it. The ﬁring pin was machined into the bolt face, and the weapon ﬁred from an open bolt. Though very heavy – over 9 pounds loaded – its good balance permitted one-handed ﬁring.
This compact balance was achieved by setting the 10inch barrel deep in the stamped sheet metal receiver so its breech was above the trigger. The bolt encased the barrel breach to about the midway point and the magazine was inserted up through the grip frame. All of the mechanical operation of ﬁring took place directly above the gripping hand rather than in front of it, as on a typical, much longer submachine gun (such as the MP40). The Uzi grip was positioned on the receiver slightly rear of center to counter the effects of recoil.
The Uzi saw use in the hands of good guys and bad through the 1980s, and was a staple in movies and on TV. Anyone who remembers seeing the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on the news knows it was used by our Secret Service too. Seemingly out of nowhere, an agent pulled one out and stood watch as other agents wrestled the attacker to the ground. It remains perhaps the second most recognizable submachine gun in the world after the Thompson.
ISRAELI MILITARY INDUSTRIES (IMI), the original maker, ﬁrst offered semiautomatic versions of the Uzi, and these guns are rightly considered the best. Other clones, both domestic and Chinese, soon followed. And, as parts kits from demilitarized IMI- and FN-made subguns ﬂooded into the American market, several other ﬁrms started making receivers for gun-building hobbyists to assemble their own semiauto guns.
Century Arms, already famous among collectors for their semiauto copies of post-World War II select-ﬁre military weapons, set about producing their own ﬁnished semiauto carbine. Their Centurion UC-9 utilizes many original-part designs coupled with an American-made semiauto-only bolt and receiver.
The UC-9 is mechanically identical to previous Uzi clones. It has a 16-inch barrel instead of the 10-inch one found on the submachine gun. One caution: 10-inch barrels for it are available on the parts market, but before installing one, you will
need to register the gun as a Short Barreled Riﬂe (SBR) with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and pay the appropriate taxes.
It ﬁres from a closed bolt using a striker and modiﬁed trigger components. The extra spring in the striker makes the bolt more difficult to pull pack than the fullauto version. The top cover is original, but the ratcheting mechanism is deactivated. That feature kept the bolt from ﬂying forward and accidentally discharging a round if the cocking handle slipped from the shooter’s grasp, and is useless on a closed-bolt semiauto.
The receiver has a rounded bar welded along the inside of the right side of the frame behind the ejection port. The semiauto bolt has a corresponding groove cut down its right side to clear this bar. Because of the bar, a full-auto bolt will not ﬁt in the receiver. The bottom left side of the bolt is milled away to accommodate the striker mechanism beneath it. The arm of the striker has a cut to engage the sear in the trigger mechanism. A portion of the bottom on the right side of the bolt is also relieved so it will clear the other side of the sear.
The safety in the grip assembly is marked only “F” for ﬁre and “S” for safe. The thumb selector is blocked internally and cannot be pushed forward into what would normally be the full-auto position, though a stamped line indicating the “ghost” location is still there.
There are a few other differences between the semiauto Uzi and its full-auto ancestor. The semi’s push pin that holds the grip assembly onto the frame is larger (9mm versus 8mm), its sear is lighter and smaller, and machinegun barrels won’t ﬁt because of changes in the mounting points. All these changes allow the ﬁrearm to be sold as a normal semiauto long gun.
OVER THE YEARS, Century Arms has received criticism regarding the quality control of the classic modern military ﬁrearms they re-engineered into legal-to-own semiautos. In their defense, much of this criticism has stemmed from a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. As any gun manufacturer will tell you, it’s hard enough making something work perfectly when you design and build it from scratch, and Century’s semiauto military clones are short-run projects compared to your typical sporting arm. It’s the difference between a few thousand units and tens of thousands.
I’ve never had a problem so serious that I had to return a ﬁrearm. I’ve heard of some over the years, but to my knowledge Century took care of each customer. And, in my opinion, on those occasions when Century didn’t get it right, they got it mostly right and it was a matter of some ﬁne adjustment to get it perfect. The way I see it, at the low price point they sell these collector ﬁrearms at, mostly right is still a bargain.
THE ACCURACY OF THE UC-9 I tested surprised me in light of the short sight radius and less than comfortable metal stock. The rear aperture is set for 100 and 200 yards, but elevation and windage are easily adjusted at the front sight and I zeroed for a more realistic 50 yards for my testing. I set my chronograph up 15 feet from the muzzle. The UC-9’s weight made felt recoil light.
The most accurate load during testing was Federal American Eagle 124-grain FMJ, which averaged 2.38 inches at 1,232 feet per second, with the best group being 2.25 inches. All of the other loads I tested were 115-grain FMJ, and I achieved the following results:
CCI Blazer Brass averaged 2.59 inches at 1,396 fps, with the best group being 2.31 inches. Black Hills averaged 3.66 inches at 1,382 fps, with the best group being 2.19 inches. Winchester USA Forged steel case averaged 3.63 inches, with the best group being 3.75 inches, and Remington averaged 4.59 inches with the best group being 3.75 inches.
The heavy, 12-pound single-stage trigger pull was sort of like pushing a refrigerator, but once I got it going, it moved along pretty easily.
Out of hundreds of rounds shot in testing, I had a handful of failures (ejection and sometimes chambering) that seemed related to the squared-off tip of the ﬁring pin penetrating the cartridge primer. More common was a chambering failure of the ﬁrst round from a fully loaded magazine. It would commonly get hung up at a 45-degree-angle point on the feed ramp and rim in the feed lips. However, the more I shot, the less this issue occurred, and I attribute it to the old military-surplus magazine, which I neither cleaned nor oiled.
General workmanship of the UC-9 was very good despite what some web critics claim. I compared the welding on the front of the frame to a part from a genuine FN demilled subgun, and the UC-9 was just as well executed, if not better.
There’s no practical advantage to a very heavy 9mm semiauto carbine like this, but if you have pangs of nostalgia for this historically important design, the UC-9 is a worthy clone at an affordable price.
The MSRP is $749, but actual selling prices are closer to $650, and magazines are as cheap as $10 each.
For more on the UC-9 and other Century Arms ﬁrearms, visit centuryarms.com or call (800) 527-1252 to locate a dealer near you.