The popularity of "street legal" semi-automatic carbine versions of popular submachine guns is ever-growing. Spotlighted by news coverage of wars and rumors of wars, it's only natural that there is a large market for the sub-gun look-alikes of Old World extraction such as Israel's UZI, Great Britain's Sterling and West Germany's HK-94.
These three carbines are similar enough, yet, at the same time, different enough to be an interesting comparison. The similarities are in the areas of: caliber, barrel length and twist, folding or telescoping stocks, closed bolt firing, in the same ball park price wise, etc.
Differences include: each has
a distinctively different folding stock, bolt, trigger mechanism, magazine and
magazine placement on the weapon.
The UZI hardly needs any introduction because of the media exposure it has enjoyed. So much so, in fact, that the name UZI has almost become a "household word" in the shooting world, along with Colt, Winchester, Browning, etc. Therefore, to be totally objective in our comparison, let's not let this bias our thinking.
While Israel and her famous designer, Israel Galili, (UZI Talk Note: Uzi Gal was the designer of the UZI, not Israel Galili) get the praise, the original design efforts should be credited to the Czechoslovakian arms designers who first developed the telescoping bolt principal in their Zk476 and Models 23 and 25.
Like those of its predecessors, the UZI's bolt telescopes over the barrel chamber, giving a forward weight shift that aids controllability and also allows for a compact receiver design.
Workmanship and quality control are evident inside and out. Loading the magazine can be aided greatly by using the loader which is available as an accessory.
The folding stock requires a little practice to implement in a hurry. Remember the Secret Service agent during the Presidential assassination attempt? The attaché case carry requires the stock being folded, where in a normal "ready" carry the stock would already be extended. Unless storage is a problem, the wooden fixed stock is a worthwhile accessory.
The UZI's folding stock and removable barrel allow a most compact package, easily fitting into a briefcase or one of the many "S.W.A.T." type cases available.
Another important feature of
the UZI is the ease of field stripping, which requires no tools. The UZI comes
complete with owner’s manual, 25 round magazine, sling and a short display
barrel for SMG look-alike display. Available accessories include a 32 round
magazine, magazine loader, front sight tool and wooden buttstock.
The Sterling Mk VI carbine, while relatively new to the American market, can trace its "roots" back to 1939 in the form of the Lanchester, manufactured by the Sterling Engineering Co. of England. The Lanchester was produced in two versions: one select fire, the other full auto only. It may come as a surprise, but the Sterling's lineage actually precedes the famous Sten family of SMG's.
Instead of following the third generation design pathway of telescoping the bolt over the barrel, Sterling’s engineers, under the direction of G. W. Patchett, moved the grip and trigger mechanism forward to achieve an optimum weight balance. With various minor design differences, the Sterling has been known as the L2A1, L2A2, L2A3 and L2A4 submachine gun. After adoption by British forces, the latter became known as the Sterling Mk IV. The Mk V is the silenced version.
The Mk VI carbine, with the exception of its 16-1/8" barrel, is pure Sterling through and through, including the bayonet mounting lug. It comes with owner's manual, 34 round magazine, sling and display barrel to allow an SMG type display. Also available is a 10 round magazine.
The Heckler & Koch Models HK-91/93 are, perhaps, the best known fighting rifles available in semi-automatic. As their heritage lies with the West German G3 select fire military rifle, the HK-94 represents a civilian ownable, semi-auto version of their MP5 SMG, thus rounding out their line of civilian sporting machinery.
The HK-94 differs from the Sterling and UZI with its retarded blowback action. A close examination of the bolt reveals the familiar locking lugs, very much like the 91/93. In fact, the 94 almost looks and feels like a scaled down 91/93. If you already own one of these rifles, you would feel right al home with the 94 - the charging handle is similar, the telescoping stock is very much the same, the trigger mechanism almost identical.
The rear sight offers no elevation adjustment, only changes in the diameter of the hole. The stock extends easily and quickly by merely pressing the conveniently located latch and pulling out until it locks. As with the 91/93, some shooters will find the stock a bit on the short side, although with some, this aids quick shouldering for aimed shots. Unlike the UZI and Sterling, the HK-94's barrel isn't readily removable. Another difference is that it can he purchased with a fixed stock.
The HK-94 (A3) comes with a 16 round magazine and test target. It is packaged without the sling which must be purchased separately. The owner's manual was not available at the time of this writing. However, a coupon is included for the customer to order one when they become available. Accessories include a 32 round magazine and sling.
To flatly state which of the three carbines is best would merely reflect our own personal preferences which are not infallible. To our staff, each weapon appeared to have pluses and minuses which prospective buyers would have to weigh for themselves:
In the area of aimed fire, the Sterling with its 6-groove barrel, 16" sight radius and FN profile stock seems to have an edge. For quick, aimed fire the HK-94 seems to shoulder a little quicker. For underarm assault type firing, the UZI has always been a front runner. Because of the delayed blowback action, the HK-94 should have an edge with muzzle velocity, although we didn’t chronograph any of the three. While the horizontal positioning takes a little getting used to for a “down under” magazine user, the Sterling 34 round magazine has to be one of the best. Its patented roller follower made it easy to load and flawless when shooting.
The UZI, because of its being on the market longer, has more "after market" accessories available than the rest, although this gap may close up later.
The final showdown results of this comparison rest with you, the reader. We challenge you to go down to your favorite "toy" store and closely examine the three carbines on the points mentioned and in other areas of your personal choosing. After doing so, cast your "vote" by entering our giveaway on page 59 of this issue. Please note that the carbine you think is best doesn’t have to be the one you choose to win if your name is drawn.
Originally published in the April, 1984 issue of Firepower Magazine.
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