Member of the Year 2011
- May 26, 2010
Originally conceived and designed in the early days as the Model 21 and later re-designated as the UC-9 (Under Cover – 9mm), Utah Conner had an idea for a concealable firearm that people who needed the firepower afforded by a submachine gun could carry in plain sight. Completely unknown to him there was a similar, parallel project being developed by Francis Warin and Eugene Stoner at Ares Incorporated called the Ares FMG (Folding Machine Gun). It was also being designed as an undercover submachine gun and was dubbed a "businessman's personal defense weapon." While there were many similarities in the design there were also several differences. It was close enough in timeline and design to still cause confusion about who designed what, to this day. Francis Warin and Utah Conner finally met in the mid 1980s and were both amazed at the similarities in their respective systems and the original, foreign guns that inspired both men including the French 9mm Hotchkiss folding SMG, the French CR39 carbine and the MAT49. While the external shape was similar, the firing mechanism was different and the Conner gun had more accessories that made it look more like a radio available at the time including an external, telescoping antenna and carry handle.
During the design phase of the early 1980s Conner partnered up with Tim Bixler of South Central Research Company (SCRC) and the production version of the Model 21 was put into motion. Very few Model 21s were completed prior to the 1986 congressional manufacturing ban and the project was put on hold for several years.Byron Starnes (left) and John Mathis testing the pre-production UC-9.
Enter M6 Management Corporation
At a machine gun shoot in New Mexico, Michael Shyne of M6 Management Corporation observed an individual demonstrating a Swiss Model 57 assault rifle he had converted from the original 7.5 Swiss round to fire the much more common 7.62Ã—51 NATO round. During this demonstration the shooter boasted of the low recoil of the Swiss design and in order to make his point he emptied an entire 20-round magazine with the stock of the rifle rested against his groin. Having made an immediate and lasting impression already, this shooter walked the line with a rectangular brown box carried by a strap over his shoulder. Shyne watched in amazement as the man with the brown box turned to the firing line, grabbed the straps and in a quick motion the box transformed into a submachine gun sending rounds down range. It was at that moment that Shyne introduced himself to Utah Conner. Conner let him examine and fire this unique piece and introduced it as the UC-9. Conner told Shyne he had manufactured and registered about 100 receivers prior to the 1986 machine gun ban but these fully transferable machine guns had yet to be completed. Shyne immediately gained interest in the project and tried unsuccessfully, numerous times, to purchase at least one UC-9, but could never get Conner to even mention a price.
Every few years Shyne would track Conner down and talk about the UC-9 but could never get any interest in selling any, only confirming that he still had them all and had no interest in selling them. After trying everything he could, Shyne offered Conner a deal he thought could not be refused. Shyne offered to take possession of all the unfinished receivers, complete them all, and keep only half. Conner's response was simply, "Michael, you don't know how much work is involved." No sale again.This photograph illustrates the proper and improper way to hold the UC-9 for firing. While it may be assumed or even tempting to utilize the charging handle as a vertical fore grip, it blocks the laser from use and positions the hand MUCH too close to the muzzle.
Sadly, after several years of talking with Conner about the UC-9 project, Shyne discovered that Utah Conner had passed away. The project, it seemed, would pass away with him.
A few more years went by and Shyne heard that before Conner died he gave the receivers to a close friend. When this friend was tracked down and contacted he revealed he had 76 receivers remaining and while he had an original goal of completing the project, none were finished and only a few parts were made from CAD drawings he started based on Conner's original pencil and paper notes. He was not opposed to talking about selling the project.
Shyne called on the experience of long time friend John Mathis, a retired engineer from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and fellow Emma-Gee. They took a trip to look at the project and were delighted to see the brown, complete UC-9 serial number 2 with all the parts. It looked very much like that original gun Shyne fired during that day in New Mexico the day he met Utah Conner, and in fact, may have been. All 76 receivers and parts were purchased and the completed UC-9 serial number 2 was contracted on loan until the receivers were completed. They estimated that they would need approximately 6 months to complete the project.
A team was immediately assembled including John Mathis, Scott Andrey Machine Works for barrels, Dan King for testing and application work and Byron Starnes for design and fitting of the numerous small parts unique to the design. The parts that were non-proprietary were located and purchased and modifications began.
As the project moved ahead it was recognized that some outward aesthetics needed to be employed in order to stay with the original idea of being hidden in plain sight. The earlier "boom box" style radios have been long out of style and anything resembling them at this point would attract more attention than they would blend in. The telescoping antenna would be removed and the large "carry handle" would also have to go. The swivels and studs were removed and the box was given a much more streamlined look. With the loss of the carry handle a new sighting system would need to be designed. Taking advantage of technology that did not exist when Conner developed the first gun, a miniature laser was mounted inside the gun when folded but immediately accessible when deployed. The grip / magazine-well was redesigned so it would automatically close inside the folded configuration and made it easier to close the gun after use. A safety was added to the design and the original "open sear" design was improved as well.UC-9 opening sequence. (1) To open the UC-9, holding it with the dist cover up, place your right hand on the lower portion of the buttstock and left hand on the upper receiver. (2) As you hold tight and extend your arms it will unfold, releasing the dust cover. (3) As it is unfolded and begins to take shape, when the receiver is in line with the stock it will lock in the open position. (4) At this point the magazine well / pistol grip will start to drop into position. (5) Supporting the weight of the UC-9 with the left hand, as you move the stock to the right shoulder, the right hand should wrap around the pistol grip and rotate it rearward until it locks into place.
The last outward change that was necessary to redesign was the large exterior latch that secured the rear portion of the buttstock that locks everything together securely when opened for use. An internal latch was designed and had no outward indicators visible.
At times an early design can beat any amount of reengineering and the end cap / dust cover that holds the folded unit together is a perfect example. When the gun is opened for deployment the end cap drops to the ground and it was thought a tether or lanyard of some type would be better than having a part drop to the ground. Before spending too much time on this "improvement" it was discovered that the cap falling to the ground was serving a purpose that could not be retained by stopping it from doing so. As originally designed, when the gun is opened quickly for deployment and the end cap pops off and falls to the ground is serves as a distraction, both visual and in an audible fashion. This momentary distraction can buy the user precious time when it is the most important.
When the 6-month timeline rolled around and things were moving well, but far from completion, Michael Shyne could remember the important statement Utah Conner made during a conversation very early on: "Michael, you don't know how much work is involved."UC-9 closing sequence. With the UC-9 in a position where it is supported by your left hand and the stock is in the area of your right shoulder (1) you can reach your thumb up past the end of the pistol grip and depress the "press point" with little practice. It is important to hold the UC-9 upright to close it, not upside-down looking into the hollow stock cavity. The next step (2) is to hold the stock with your right hand, and holding it in a position so the now empty dust cover slot is open is up, slowly fold the 2 sides together. The pistol grip will freely swing down (3) if this is being done correctly and you will feel little or no resistance. When completely closed (4) the dust cover can be installed (5) by placing the angled lip on the bottom of the dust cover into the slot on the buttstock and pushing down firmly to lock it in place.
Today the UC-9 is finished and in stock. There are several still available and they present an interesting "new" NFA firearm with a long and interesting history. The UC-9 feeds from unmodified UZI magazines, both 25-round and 32-round versions. Since the original "boom box" features have been removed it is wide open to blend in to many modern settings. With a faux, stick-on USB port they resemble an external computer backup drive and hide in plain sight on a desk. With a book spine glued to the top it could be stored in a bookcase and never earn a second glance. A few stickers from a hardware story and it may look like a travel tool kit. It is as open to adaptation as the imagination of the owner.
All UC-9 SMGs are shipped with a LULA magazine loader and a 39-page owner's manual in a custom fit aluminum case manufactured by Americase.
Source : The UC-9: SMG Hidden in Plain Sight | The Bang SwitchThe UC-9 is shipped in a custom fitted aluminum case, slotted for the UC-9, two spare magazines, spare dust covers, a LULA Loader and all tools and accessories for the laser sight adjustment.