Gun Review: Czech Small Arms Sa vz. 61 Pistol

The Skorpion vz. 61 was originally designed back in 1959. Czechoslovakia put it into service in 1961. Thanks to its iconic top wire folding stock, which resembles a scorpion’s tail, the gun’s often called the Skorpion. It was originally issued to Czech special forces troops, reconnaissance units and security forces. Due to its compact design, it was also widely used by support troops.

Czech Small Arms (CSA) is responsible for new production Skorpions on the US market, produced in the Czech Republic, imported and sold here by CzechPoint. The test pistol I received is chambered in .32 ACP (AKA 7.65mm Browning Short), its original round. They’re also available in 9×18 Makarov or .380 ACP.  (I’d love to see one offered in 9×19.)

I can see the comments section filling up with “It needs to take GLOCK mags!” No, it doesn’t. Sure, that might be logical but logic is rarely cool and this is a very cool gun.

The CSA vz. 61 semi-automatic pistol comes in a sturdy plastic case and includes two 20-round magazines, one 10-rounder and a cleaning rod.

There’s no way around it; the Skorpion just looks sexy. CSA was smart to continue offering a model that’s true to the original. The only update on my test version is the welcome addition of a 1/2×28 threaded barrel.

If you want a very slightly modernized version, CzechPoint also sells vz. 61s with a small rail under the barrel. I prefer the more traditional version sans rail, even if I lose some usability as a result. There’s just something really appealing about that classic design.

Disassembly is quick and easy. First, eject the magazine and make sure the chamber is empty. Then press in the front captive takedown pin, slide the upper receiver forward and swing the receivers apart. It’s easy as pie.

Finally, slide the bolt all the way to the rear, wiggle the charging knobs out and slide out the bolt. This simple bolt design wraps around the barrel to maintain mass and reduce length.

This pistol is solidly made with a level of fit and finish well above its $675 MSRP. The machining is extremely clean with no tool marks and the stamped upper receiver snugly fits together into the lower receiver. The finish is even and tough. Altogether, it looks great and feels solid.

The standard factory grips are black plastic. However, you can upgrade to new production military wood pistol grip as I’ve done. Well made as the wood grips are, they could use a bit more texturing. If these options don’t suit your fancy, the surplus market is flush with Skorpion holsters, stocks, grips and parts.

The safety is conveniently located above the grip and, unlike some newer guns, the safety lever won’t hit your hand while firing. It is plainly labeled with a 1 and 0 for one bullet and zero bullets. Moving the safety knob to fire can be done without shifting one’s grip, however moving the safety knob back to the safe position will require moving your grip hand.

The sights are utilitarian and simple. The front sight post is both windage and elevation adjustable and protected by leafs, which also secure the stock when folded. To adjust the elevation, screw the post in or out. The adjustable front sight post is offset which allows for windage adjustments. Just turn the front sight left or right and you fine tune the windage.

The rear sight can flip between 75 and 150 meters. Perhaps a bit optimistic for the ol’ .32?

The bolt holds open on the last round every time. A manual bolt hold open button is located at the top front corner of the trigger guard. Insert a fresh mag, slap the bottom of the mag and the bolt goes into battery and you are ready to start shooting again.

The mag release button is located just above the magazine on the left side, which makes grabbing and stripping mags easy.

The charging handle, or knobs, are small and provide little grip. They are great for concealment purposes but not very good for actually charging the weapon. In a high stress situation they could easily be missed.

wolf-9sd

Shooting this gun suppressed is a lot of fun. Most .32 ACP is subsonic so this gun is naturally very quiet. With US-standard 1/2×28 threads, most 9mm cans will work with it. It looks especially cool with a compact can like the Dead Air Wolf-9SD in its stubby config.

With anything other than a compact suppressor, the diminutive Skorpion looks a bit odd.

CzechPoint recommends against using American-manufactured (SAAMI spec) ammunition. Doing so can result in cycling issues, as US .32 ACP is generally much weaker than the Euro-spec “subgun” 7.65mm Browning stuff.

High quality, C.I.P. spec Sellier and Bellot is the number one recommendation for reliable Skorpion function. I ran hundreds of rounds of S&B through the vz. without a hitch, and also shot some 71 grain Magtech with zero issues. Prvi Partizan (PPU) is expected to run fine in these guns as well.

Other than a general hatred of feeding hollow points (which was expected to be the case…no surprises there), the only reliability issues I experienced were my fault. When loading some of the rounds into the magazine I accidentally overlapped cartridge rims, which caused feeding issues. When loaded properly the pistol functioned perfectly.

It shoots even better than it feels, with low recoil that is easy to manage. The recoil impulse is very smooth; it feels like shooting a .22. The trigger pull is short, light, and smooth with a well defined break. Follow-up shots are quick and accurate due to the short trigger reset and that oh-so-light recoil.

When you have a gun with a magazine forward of an excellent trigger, you end up with a gun that its very easy to bump fire. Simply grab the magazine with your support hand and pull forward until your trigger finger hits the trigger, keep your trigger finger stationary and you will dump a 20 round magazine in a fewseconds. I am not typically a fan of bump firing but it’s a real hoot with the Skorpion.

Spent cases are ejected out the top of the receiver. To say “ejected” is really an understatement; “launched” is more accurate, as the brass is sent a good 15 feet above the shooter. I sometimes had brass land on my head after it reentered the earth’s atmosphere. While shooting at indoor ranges, brass will be bouncing off the ceiling and landing all over the place.

Sellier and Bellot was accurate enough for this gun’s intended purpose. The target above was shot from 15 yards using the magazine for support.

Magtech 71 grain performed very well. Again this target was at 15 yards and shot using the magazine as a rest.

The Skorpion is an accurate, smooth shooter with a great trigger. But that’s not why it’s enjoyable.

In a world filled with polymer pistol caliber carbines, modular this and red dot that, there’s something refreshing about shooting an old fashioned metal gun with iron sights. It’s like driving a 90’s stick shift Mazda Miata. Its ergonomics aren’t perfect; it isn’t practical or powerful. But there’s something right about it. It’s . . . fun!

That said, the Skorpion isn’t a gun I’d take to the range often — mostly as Euro-spec .32 ACP is pricey. Sure, it would make a decent home defense weapon, especially as a suppressed SBR. But to me it’s a gun to shoot on special occasions. ‘Cause the Skorpion is just plain cool.

SPECIFICATIONS: Czech Small Arms Sa vz. 61

Caliber: 7.65mm Browning Short (.32 ACP)
Capacity: 20 or 10
Barrel Length: 4.53 in
Overall Length: 10.75
Width: 1.77 in
Height: with 20 rd mag: 6.5 in
Weight: 2.43 lbs empty, 3 lbs with loaded 20-round mag
MSRP: $675

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and appearance * * * *
It’s a classic good looking design.

Ergonomics * * * *
The grip is comfortable, the magazine acts as a good foregrip. Controls are intuitive and easy to operate. The safety could be a little easier to manipulate.

Customization * *
Until recently the CSA vz. 61 would have earned just a single star here. The addition of a threaded barrel and the option of a small under-barrel rail earns it a second one.

Accuracy * * *
It’s not going to win any awards but it’s not meant to. It is accurate enough not to leave you disappointed.

Reliability * * * *
Zero issues with Euro ammo. When I loaded the magazine properly (which is easy to do) it functioned perfectly. Still, I can’t give it five stars because it does have a picky diet.

Overall * * * *
It’s tons o’ fun, perfect for anyone looking for a reliable, crazy-fun range toy or SBR project.

comments

    1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

      Yes sir. Best game ever!

    2. avatar Mike Dexter's A GOD says:

      There is no greater shame than losing a Goldeneye death match by getting shot with the Klobb.

  1. avatar BLoving says:

    .32 acp.
    It… just… wont… die.

    I know I’ve seen uglier guns than that, but so help me I can’t recall any at the moment.
    🤠

  2. avatar Hank says:

    “It needs to glock mags! It needs to take AR mags! It needs to have rails like an AR! It should have a trigger like a glock! It needs to have a charging handle like an AR! It should have a grip like a glock!” – These types of people, I’ve met a ton of them, just need to stick to glocks and ARs.

    1. avatar Prudiikal says:

      I used to work at a gun store. those kinds of people irritated me so much that i will probably never buy a glock.

      i’ll stick with my fnx which holds 3+1 more rounds then your pathetic g21.

      1. avatar Ghostdirewolf says:

        Glock 21 mags hold 13. Fnx holds 15. You can get +2 base plates for the glock making them equal in capacity. I also have the Kriss vector mag extensions that can allow up to 25(+1) rounds.

        I loved the fnx tactical…. Up until I bought it and shot it. It had cycling issues, and even worse, the placement of the safety/decocker is in the worst possible location. It’s obnoxious when I shoot and is all over my thumbs. I’m glad you like yours more than I liked mine, but I sold mine and got a police trade in gen 4 glock for a quarter of the price and besides having to drift the back sight bc it was printing slightly to the right, have not had a single issue. No cycling problems and no poorly placed and bulky safety/decocker.

  3. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    Who’s going to be the first to start hitting it with a hammer so we can cry and boycott the country ! Or stuff the action full of Twinkies so we can see how reliable it is under real world conditions. That’s a great little weapon from a time when MEN fought with steel and wood !

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Classic gun and looks, but too much money for me at the moment for a range toy.
      I agree about men fighting with wood and steel. And Bayonets, love me a good bayonet charge. Especially if they are wearing skirts, opps I mean kilts. Scotland, Where men are men and sheep are scared.

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Very cool.

  5. avatar Noishkel says:

    I would love to make a bump stock for one of these. Of course assuming the FUDDs out there don’t let the ATF ban them. :/

  6. avatar ahwatkins says:

    This would be a great opportunity, in my humble opinion, for the Czechs to upgrade the venerable .32 ACP round to match what the wheel-gun makers have done in going from regular .32 to .32 H&R Magnum to .327 Federal Magnum: create a newer, longer round with greater power.
    The reason I say this in reference to the Skorpion is the location of the detachable magazine in a position forward of the trigger: that would allow for the use of a longer cartridge without messing with the size of the hand grip — and doing that would make the flippable rear sight (out to 150 meters) more appropriate to the use of a .32-diameter bullet.

    1. avatar Snatchums says:

      Kinda like a .32 Super?

      1. avatar ahwatkins says:

        Re: “Kinda like a .32 Super?”

        Not really what I was thinking of, because the .38 Super has the same dimensions as the .38 ACP and is semi-rimmed, causing problems with double-stacked magazines (according to Wikipedia). What I had in mind was simply a longer but rimless cartridge requiring a broader magazine, so the hotter rounds wouldn’t fit into a pistol meant to withstand the lower pressures of the .32 ACP round.
        Basically, longer than .32 ACP but the same diameter, in the same way the .32 H&R Magnum is longer but the same diameter as the .32 S&W.

    2. avatar BLoving says:

      Or take the .380 chambered one and rebarrel it for .32NAA?
      🤠

      1. avatar ahwatkins says:

        That sounds fun! You’d get the better performance of the .32 NAA design (over the .32 ACP) while also using the same magazines as the .380-chambered Skorpion. That might give you fewer rounds than the .32 ACP version; but if it’s for range-plinking instead of personal defense, it shouldn’t be a terrible problem.

  7. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    It’s guns like this that really highlight how retarded the NFA is. These “pistols” and rifle caliber pistols REALLY need a stock, but you can’t do that because years ago some elected idiot said that since gangsters used em normal folks have no use for them.

  8. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    Sexy? It takes oddball cartridges and nonstandard magazines. Cute, I suppose, but that doesn’t even get it into the friend zone.

    1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

      Dude it’s the Klobb! That gets it a handjob at the bar while the bartender makes a frozen daquiri.

      1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

        At least a handjob.

    2. avatar Mike says:

      Yes its sexy. Like Olga Korbit was sexy in her youth, not now though she in in her 60s

    3. avatar Scoutino says:

      7.65 Browning was The Most Popular Cartridge in Europe (or at least its eastern part) when this little submachine gun was new. And for long time after that. It was considered best for police work and self defense. (I myself used to carry CZ 83 in 7.65 for years.)
      Now if someone came up with similar gun in .45 ACP in 50s Czechoslovakia, that would be oddball caliber.

      Even though it brings back memories, I will not buy one of these. In original configuration without five digits price, definitely. Without the folding stock and especially without full auto capabilities it just doesn’t make much sense other than as range toy. Nothing wrong with range toys, but I don’t need another one at this moment.

  9. avatar PeterK says:

    Yup. So so cool.

  10. avatar GS650G says:

    I’d be interested in either the 9×18 or .380 versions
    The 9×18 is a good round. If I see one of these for 500 or so in one of these calibers I’m getting it.

    1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

      Street price is about $550. I would have mentioned that however I couldn’t find any in stock to back that up. Keep an eye on gun broker. They pop up regularly.

  11. avatar RCC says:

    Fired original one over 20 years back during a demonstration of different firearms. Fun but not something I would use for serious shooting.

  12. avatar Charlie the Bear says:

    Dang it! You have re-ignited my lust for the CZ Scorpion EVO S3 carbine. I should stop reading these articles.

  13. avatar Badwolf says:

    Wish it had the original rate reducer in the grip. I know you dont need it for semi only. I just think its cool to have.

  14. avatar benny says:

    “It’s like driving a 90’s stick shift Mazda Miata. Its ergonomics aren’t perfect; it isn’t practical or powerful. But there’s something right about it. It’s . . . fun!”

    Unless you are Michael Phelps a Miata has perfect ergonomics.

    A Skorpion is more quirky, like a Mini Cooper, because it loads in the front, kind of like the Mini powers the wrong I mean the front axle.

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