By the 1980s the word Uzi became synonymous with bullet spewing death. The gangster connotation attached the Uzi submachine gun, was also the chosen weapon of the Israeli Defense Force, as well as dozens of countries, elite miliary and police agencies. The compact weapon went through three generations, each smaller than the last, before recently ending its run. The Uzi entered the small arms consciousness in 1951.
However, three years earlier, from the ashes of Europe, a submachine gun went into service that would directly inspire the creation of the iconic Uzi. That gun was the SA- 24.
In the final years of World War II, British weapons designers made head way with a compact submachine gun in the MCEM-2. However, it would be 1947 and into 1948 when Czechoslovakian engineers refined the weapon to become the SA-24.
The SA-24 has the classic submachine gun silhouette to many small arms novices- a magazine inside the grip, the simple outline and skeleton folding stock. But the SA-24 was the first select fire, pistol caliber, weapon that effectively utilized the telescoping bolt. And it would be the compact envelope, faciliated by the telescoping bolt, that would help make the later Uzi possible.
Czech engineers utilized the telescoping bolt in the test SA-447, the fourth version of the gun put through its paces in 1947. With the final refinements, the experimental SA-447 would become the SA-24, chambered in 7.62mm pistol and 9mm Luger, with later generations moving away from the original wooden fixed stock in favor of the metal folding stock.
Back to the telescoping bolt of the SA-24. It is essentially a bolt that partially shrouds the end of the barrel inside the weapon receiver. The bolt, instead of sitting on the breach, extends over it. This space saving design allows the rear half of the bolt to sit over the magazine well. And in the small pistol caliber, the magazine can be fed through the grip like a auto-loading handgun, creating an overall compact weapon with larger mass in the bolt and robust recoil control.
The SA-24, like the later Uzi, would fire from an open bolt, with the bolt locked to the rear and released with a trigger pull. It would cycle upon firing the round, recoiling back and remaining to the rear until the trigger is pulled again. While reducing the accuracy of the weapon, the open bolt is famous for reliability in weapons in adverse conditions.
While lacking the popular notoriety of the Uzi, the SA-24 was a popular submachine gun for just over two decades. In fact, it's widely believed that small numbers of SA-24's channeled to fighters during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 gave Uzi's designer, Uziel Gal a jump start in his weapon.
Come 1968, the SA-24 was deemed obsolete in Czechoslovakia , entering a secondary phase of its life around the world. And the Uzi by 1968 was just hitting its stride as one of the most popular small arms in history.