Pistols based on rifles or submachine guns are nothing new to the shooting world. They occupy a niche market, generally where collectors cross over with those who want something more compact than a rifle but without the paperwork of an SBR. Because these pistols make sacrifices to meet legal requirements, many see them as “neither fish nor fowl”, but equally they have their defenders as well, who argue that they’re more effective than traditional handguns, but smaller than rifles.
However, after having spent some time at the range with it, I don’t think anyone will be rushing to defend the IWI UZI Pro UPP9S pistol.
The UPP9S is a handgun based on the second-generation Uzi machine pistol, which use a polymer lower receiver to save weight, and are marketed by IWI under the name “UZI Pro”. The UPP9S is a blowback-operated semiautomatic handgun chambered for 9x19mm Luger/Parabellum, featuring a manual safety, automatic grip safety, and switchable, right-or-left-side magazine release. The barrel is a 4.5″ long cold hammer forged removable unit, and the weapon field-strips into six major subassemblies. Sights are very large three-dot sights, flanked by large protective wings. The pistol is provided with a dust-cover-mounted 1913 rail for mounting optics, and a molded-in polymer rail in front of the trigger guard for mounting lights, lasers, and other accessories. Unloaded, the pistol weighs 3.66 lbs, loaded the handgun is approximately 4.2 lbs, depending on the exact ammunition used. MSRP of the UPP9S pistol is a substantial $1,109 USD, according to IWI’s website. The pistol comes in a disposable cardboard box, with a 20-round and a 25-round magazine, chamber flag, cleaning kit, manual, and lock.
While I don’t consider myself a handgun expert, I have a good body of experience with handguns of different types. I’ve shot everything from .22 caliber single action revolvers, to fully automatic Mauser “Broomhandle” machine pistols. Some handguns I’ve liked better than others, and there were certainly some that I felt would have a broader appeal than others. Likewise, I’ve also shot a variety of submachine guns, including the bigger, older, more famous brother of the gun on which the UPP9S pistol is based. I make mention of my past experience because, going into this review, I felt that I might be able to find some niche or purpose for the UPP9S pistol.
This firearm is massive – much larger than a full-size handgun, and almost two-and-a-half times the weight of an unloaded Glock 17. Pulling the trigger feels like attempting a feat of strength – in fact my standard Lyman electronic trigger pull gauge was maxed out a little more than halfway through the trigger’s long, squishy pull. It’s to the reader’s benefit to know that I am not picky about my triggers – the stock trigger on my Arsenal SLR-104 breaks at about 8lbs, and I am not just OK with it, but very fond of it. Try as I might, though, I can’t find anything positive to say about the Uzi’s trigger. It’s long, it feels like about 20 pounds, it’s mushy, creepy, and resets back to its full pull and weight. Given the triggers extreme weight, one has to wonder why IWI added a manual safety at all.
The grip safety, unlike that of other pistols, has substantial “spring” to it, meaning additional hand strength is needed to actuate it, on top of the horrendous trigger. The grip safety rides in a groove, as well, the walls of which IWI chose to extend over the web of the grip. Inexplicably, these walls are also not deburred, meaning that the weight of the pistol bears down on these rough, semi-sharp ridges. Curiously, I also found that the magazines had a tendency to catch on some part of the inside of the magwell during insertion, which added substantial chance to fumble a magazine change.
Still, I took the UPP9S to the range to evaluate it. In shooting the pistol, I found that the bad features magnified each other: The groove for the grip safety meant the only comfortable way to shoot the pistol was by resting almost all four pounds on the top inside edge of the middle finger, which strained it substantially.
From that position, with the fingers already under stress from the weight of the handgun, pulling the trigger was downright laborious. Shooting the Uzi well meant balancing the gun on your middle finger while compressing the fairly stiff grip safety, keeping the web of your finger situated low enough to avoid contact with the groove for the grip safety, and then pulling the absurdly heavy and long trigger… The substantial weight and pull of which in turn made keeping a proper grip difficult.
Speaking of the sights: A large, rifle-like front post is nested between a broad rear notch making for a reasonable, if imprecise sight picture. However, I found that the protective “wings” to either side of the front post were too close in shape and size to the post itself, and it was easy to accidentally align either “wing” with the notch, instead of the front post, causing a miss. This happened several times.
Individually, none of these problems would have made shooting the Uzi Pro UPP9S pistol too unpleasant, though any one alone would have been an obstacle to my liking the firearm. Together, however, they made shooting the pistol into a chore. After a two hour range session with the gun, I was tired and frustrated. The pistol clearly had a reasonable degree of mechanical accuracy, but the ergonomic characteristics – or lack thereof – were such that consistently exploiting this accuracy was extremely difficult.