Fire Power for the Uzi
By Frank Iannamico

The Beta Mag Company is well known around the firearms community for producing reliable 100-round capacity dual-drum magazines. The company is continually expanding its product line to offer drums for popular firearms. One of their more recent offerings is a C-drum magazine for the full-auto and semiautomatic Uzi. The designation C represents Century or 100, in reference to the cartridge capacity of the magazine.

While the prices and desirability of many Class 3 firearms have been relatively stable in the past few years, transferable examples of the Uzi submachine gun have steadily increased in popularity, and value, in recent times. There are several logical explanations for this phenomenon to include: availability of inexpensive magazines and spare parts, and a .22 caliber rimfire conversion kit offered by Sub Gun Ordnance (see Small Arms Review, Volume 13, issue 2). The Uzi is an accurate and reliable design built to last.

A Brief History of the Uzi Submachine Gun

The Uzi submachine gun was designed by Israeli Major Uziel Gal in the late 1940s. The first prototype was finished in 1950. The first Uzis were equipped with a short, easily detachable wooden buttstock. Later models would be equipped with a folding metal stock. First introduced to Israeli Special Forces in 1954, the weapon was placed into general issue with the Israeli Army in 1956.

The Uzi has been exported to over 90 countries; it was once the submachine gun of choice of the U.S. Secret Service and used by agents to protect the President. The Uzi design has been manufactured by Israeli Military Industries, FN Herstal of Belgium, Lyttleton Engineering Pretoria, South Africa, RH-ALAN in Croatia as the ERO-9 and in China by Norinco. Since its introduction more Uzi submachine guns have been sold to military and police markets than any other submachine gun made. The Uzi was available in several models: full size, mini, and micro. Currently, IWI, Israeli Weapons Industries, offers the updated closed bolt operated Uzi Pro model. Despite their size difference, all of the Uzi models use the same magazine.

Uzi Conversions

The Uzi has become one of the most desirable submachine guns for a Class 3 buyer. Virtually all the transferable Israeli-made 9mm Uzi submachine guns available in the U.S., with a very few exceptions, were originally semiautomatic carbines, which were converted into an open-bolt submachine gun configuration and registered by a number of Class 2 manufacturers prior to 19 May 1986. Civilian Uzis were available chambered for 9mm Luger, .45 ACP and .41AE (Action Express).

Group Industries Uzis

Group Industries was a company that manufactured a number of different machine gun receivers. The company also did a number of machine gun conversions, and gained fame doing a large number of full-auto conversions of the Israeli semiautomatic Uzi carbines. Group Industries also manufactured and sold a number of Uzi submachine gun parts for conversions, before original parts became common. Group Industries became best known for manufacturing the Uzi in the U.S. for the civilian market until going out of business during the 1990s.

Vector Uzis

Group Industries filed for bankruptcy and an auction to sell off the company assets was held in August of 1995. Among the items offered were a number of Uzi receivers. The registered Group Industries Uzi receivers from the auction eventually resurfaced in the spring of 1999, assembled into complete working guns. The Uzis were assembled and marketed by Vector Arms of North Salt Lake, Utah. The company offered both the standard full-size and mini Uzi models.

Registered Uzi bolts

There were a number of Uzi bolts registered as transferable machine guns. These were usually standard machine gun bolts machined to clear the barrel ring/feed ramp and slotted to clear the blocking bar present inside the receiver of semiautomatic Uzi carbines. The purpose of the blocking bar was to prevent the installation of an unaltered machine gun bolt. A registered bolt can be used to legally convert a semiautomatic Uzi to a submachine gun.

The Uzi Beta C Magazine

Like all Beta C magazines, the housing of the Uzi unit is made of thermoplastic, except for the magazine tower, which is stamped steel. Other internal components are made of non-corrosive steel alloy. There are 40 spacer rounds and 1 last round link assembly used to push the rounds up through the vertical tower. The back cover is available in clear or black. The clear cover is quite useful for observing that all the rounds are in a proper position during and after loading.

When loading, the cartridges are inserted on top of the spacer rounds, then using the loading tool the rounds are pushed through the feed magazine and down into the drums. The cartridge column splits at the juncture of the feed clip and the housing to distribute the ammunition evenly into the drums in two concentric rows.

Although emptying a Beta C Drum with a full auto Uzi is a lot of fun, loading one is not quite as enjoyable. Considering the time required to load 100 rounds into the drum versus the time needed to empty it in full-auto fire, it can only be considered a chore, best done by children or performed while watching a reality TV show.

When loading the 9mm Beta C mag with the tool supplied with the drum, there is a propensity for the cartridges to reverse direction after being dropped into the loading tool. Unfortunately, this reversal is usually not obvious until it jams the internal mechanism, preventing the loading of additional cartridges. Clearing the jam usually requires completely unloading the drum. However, after a few loadings one can usually develop a “knack” for loading the drum without the aforementioned problem occurring. During the test and evaluation of the drum, several other loading tools were tried. The C3 loader that uses the plastic or metal Suomi loading clips worked fairly well, but required a lot of downward pressure on the plunger. Next an Uzi factory loading tool was tried, it worked but wasn’t much of an improvement over the other loaders. The very best tool for filling the Beta Drum was the LULA loader designed for standard Uzi magazines. A fully loaded C drum with 100 rounds of 115 grain FMJ cartridges weighs 5 pounds 14 ounces.

The basic Beta C Mag magazine concept was invented by Leroy “Jim” Sullivan of Huntington Beach, California. A noted firearms designer who had been one of the original designers of the M16, Mr. Sullivan’s inspiration for the “dual drum” magazine originated from the German Doppel Tromme, a 75-round saddle drum magazine originally designed for the MG15 aircraft machine guns during the 1930s. Mr. Sullivan’s original drum idea was for an assault rifle he was designing. Using two small drums would keep the profile of the weapon low. After the project was prematurely terminated, Mr. Sullivan decided to redesign his drum magazine for one of the most prolific military rifles in the world, the U.S. M16. The original concept was to be an expendable package for military applications, which would be discarded after use.

The production Beta C- Drum Magazine, patented in 1987, is a compact twin-drum magazine design that accepts up to 100 rounds of ammunition. It consists of two main components: the twin-drum storage housing and an interchangeable single “tower” in the shape of a weapon specific magazine assembly. The drums are spring driven and feed alternately from either side to produce a constant 100-round supply of ammunition. With the drums feeding from alternating sides the magazine does not become unbalanced as it unloads during firing. There is no feature to hold the bolt open after the last round is fired on the Beta mag. Before loading and after firing, the magazine that fits in the host weapon is filled with spacer “rounds” that are an integral part of the feed magazine. The upper half of the top spacer round is tapered so the bolt will clear it and not attempt to strip it from the magazine after the last live round is fired. The number of spacer “rounds” depends on the length of the magazine adapted for the individual weapon. The dimensions of the 9mm drum are 11.17 x 4.72 x 1.57-inches, empty weight is 2.2 pounds. The Beta Company currently offers their 9mm Beta-C magazines for a number of applications including 9mm: HK MP5, Colt 9mm M16, Uzi and the Glock pistol.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (May 2013)
and was posted online on March 15, 2013


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