The CZ Scorpion for this review was provided by Kentucky Gun Company.
My favorite SMG (submachine gun) of all time is the Škorpion vz. 61. It’s not the prettiest, or the most powerful, but it’s an absolute joy to shoot and (much like the AR-15) is a bare-essentials kind of gun. Nothing was added that didn’t need to be there. When I heard that CZ was coming out with a new version of the Scorpion updated for 2015 I was extremely interested, and the instant one of our regular suppliers mentioned they had one in stock I was all over that like a fat kid on a Twinkie. Pistol-caliber carbines are so hot right now, and if the Scorpion EVO 3 S1 lives up to the hype it could be a top contender for those looking for something to SBR (short-barreled rifle) . . .
The new Scorpion EVO 3 is very nearly a completely different beast from that original 1960s invention. The two firearms share a common operating system (direct gas blowback) and a common manufacturer…and that’s where the common features end. This new gun has been modernized in every way imaginable.
The predominant manufacturing material here is plastic, not metal. OK, the technical term is “fiber-reinforced polymer,” but “plastic fantastic” just sounds better. The outer shell, trigger/magazine assembly, and grip are all made from high-grade polymer instead of the stamped sheet metal and bakelite of yesteryear.
The barrel and trigger pack are still metal (cold-hammer forged in the case of the barrel, which is actually impressive), as is the massive bolt that keeps this thing running, but every part that could be molded or cast in plastic has been. Normally I bemoan the presence of plastic in a firearm, but in this case it looks like they’ve done a remarkably good job with the design ensuring that the frame is strong enough for regular use, but light enough to be carried around.
Another major change is the addition of Picatinny rails over every inch of available space. There’s a full-length top rail for mounting optics or sling accessories, and while the handguard is a separate molding from the receiver, the top rail flows seamlessly from one to the next. At the front and back of that rail are some custom low-profile rail-mounted sights (including a rear sight with four different aperture sizes) which are actually pretty nice and easy to use.
The adjustments on the rear are simple and firm, and the front sight works like any other AR-15 or AK-47 in the world. The gun also ships with a hand stop at the end of the bottom rail to keep shooters from putting their hand too close to the business end of the firearm, which is definitely an appreciated addition.
Speaking of appreciated additions, there’s an MP5-style charging handle setup on the gun. As on the MP5, the charging handle is not permanently attached to the bolt, allowing the gun to cycle without the charging handle moving at all. There’s also a similar cutout at the rear of the charging handle’s travel allowing the shooter to park the charging handle for unloading the gun or malfunction drills. Slapping it downwards releases the bolt in a satisfying 80s-action-movie kind of way.
Since the “charging handle” on the old Scorpion was little more than a pair of ridged nubs on either side of the gun, the updated version definitely improves the operation. I’d complain that the charging handle is only on one side, but at the push of a pin you can easily swap it from one side to the other.
Out front, the barrel comes threaded from the factory. In states that still fully observe civil liberties and individual freedoms you’ll be able to remove the muzzle device on the front of the gun and substitute whatever aftermarket muzzle device you choose, from an obnoxious muzzle brake to a polite and effective suppressor. Well, you could, if anything in the United States was threaded 18x1mm RH. The more common thread pitch for 9mm stuff is 1/2×28 inches (as on an AR-15) or even 5/8×24 (like the AR-10) but alas the Scropion’s is neither.
That means you’ll need a custom adapter to mount your can of choice. Liberty Suppressors has apparently already worked one up for this gun. The barrel length on the gun is a touch over 7 inches, meaning that the 9mm bullet will be traveling a little quicker than from your GLOCK 19 and the gas pressure at the muzzle should be slightly reduced due to the longer dwell time. Whether this will actually make the gun quieter is yet to be seen, especially with that chunky metal operating system.
Moving a little further back on the gun we arrive that the fire controls. There’s definitely some more MP5 influence here, specifically in the shape of the safety selector switch. The magazine release is a very European design, too, as it’s integrated into the trigger guard. The inclusion of some ergonomic shaping around the release as well as some ridges make it relatively easy to use and easy to hit. Coming from the more traditional button-based release on other guns there is a learning curve to using the device properly, but it works pretty well as engineered. As with all mag releases of this type I always worry a bit about a finger slipping onto the trigger accidentally, though.
The bolt release may be secondary (the non-reciprocating charging handle works perfectly well in this role), but it’s massive. Compared to an AR-15 paddle this is about three times the size. The difference is that with an AR-15 you push the button to release the bolt, and here you are pulling down on the tab instead. This keeps the profile of the gun slimmer (since there’s nothing sticking out from the side), but might be hard to use in an emergency as that pulling motion is more complex than a simple paddle press. Then again, that’s what the charging handle is for.
The grip is a little on the small side for me, but admittedly I have massive hands. At the moment there’s only one grip available for the gun, but given that it’s extremely easy to swap out (there’s one readily accessible bolt holding it in place) I’m betting that replacement grips will be available sometime in the future.
Installed from the factory on the left side of the gun is a sling loop. There are a couple alternate locations on the gun to mount this loop if that location doesn’t meet standards, or there’s an entire top rail to use if you want to go that route. Either way, weapons retention is definitely something that CZ thought about and included in their design from the beginning.
The last major change is the magazine. The EVO 3 uses its own proprietary mags. This is both a blessing and a curse. The 20-round magazines (a plus for home defense) seem to reliably feed ammo into the gun — though there have been reports that the feed lip was easy to break in early models. And they are definitely pretty to look at. But since there’s currently so little demand for them I wouldn’t hold my breath for replacement magazines being easy to find (or reasonably priced) for quite some time.
As a small aside about the magazines, they’re the reason that there are no stock kits currently available from CZ. Jeremy S. appears to have gotten his hands on something similar, but CZ is holding off on providing any to the market. The problem is that pesky 922(r) compliance issue — since the pistol is made in the Czech Republic by the CZ mothership and imported, adding a stock to the gun might make it illegal to own as an “imported evil assault rifle.”
Word is that CZ is waiting on an American manufacturer to start putting out American-made magazines so that the gun can be 922(r) compliant before they release any stocks, which is a pretty responsible thing to do actually. It would be better if they made a couple parts in the USA to begin with, but this is only the first production run after all. MSRP on supplemental factory 30-round magazines is rumored to be $19.95, BTW.
Taking the gun apart is actually not too bad. As Jeremy shows, there’s not much to it. As a note, Jeremy’s gun came with a stock adapter in the box as well as a buffer tube, but I got no such present in my box (Jeremy got his directly from CZ, I got ours from our friends at Kentucky Gun Co.). Apparently the plan is for CZ to sell the buffer tube and adapter separately in the future, but Jeremy got the added special sauce in the box for asking nicely.
What’s particularly notable from this video is how simple the disassembly process is — no non-captured bolts or springs to worry about, and very few parts to lose on the kitchen counter. High marks for ease of use, but with the grip still attached it might be tough to get into all the nooks and crannies of the gun for cleaning.
Speaking of stock kits, the rear plate is laughably easy to remove. The design is similar to a SCAR stock, but there’s a button in the center of the plate that needs to be depressed for it to slide free of the gun. It looks like a hex screw when you shine a light on it, but trust me it’s just a detent you need to push down to slide the plate off.
Out on the range, the gun feels pretty good. The plastic shell is somewhat slick, but there’s enough grip to make me happy that it isn’t going to fly out of my hand. The forward hand stop is definitely a helpful addition. It not only makes holding the gun with two hands easier and more comfortable, but also makes it easy to hook onto barricades and such for stability. Even holding it with one hand, the gun balances well and doesn’t feel uncomfortable to hold.
Until you flip off the safety.
The safety selector switch on this gun is ambidextrous, meaning that the large paddle that allows your thumb to depress it on one side is also present on the other. (You can, however, buy an inexpensive “safety delete” from CZ which will replace the right-side switch with a flat circular piece of plastic.) The design is basically identical to the old MP5 ambidextrous safety, except that on the MP5 the selector is mounted far above the shooter’s hand. With the safety position on the EVO 3, when the safety is flipped to the “off” position, the paddle digs into the trigger finger of your shooting hand. And when you fire the gun, that paddle is hammered into your flesh and beats on your bone.
I have to be honest here, this design feature made the gun physically painful to fire. I thought I might be doing something wrong so I consulted the manual, but there was nothing in there regarding my situation. I get the feeling that this is a result of actually using the gun as a pistol when it was designed as an SBR/SMG with the expectation that it would have a stock.
Without the stock all the weight from the back of the pistol is supported by your firing hand. Consequently all of that recoil is transmitted to that hand (and directly into your finger). With a stock, this shouldn’t be an issue, but as a pistol this is a huge problem. It made me stop shooting after two magazines because it hurt so much. I asked a couple other people at the range to try the gun and they all reported the same thing.
My recommendation for those who want to buy this gun — judicious application of a Dremel tool. There aren’t any replacement safety selectors available yet, and you’ll want to shave yours down until an alternate is available.
On the bright side, recoil is pretty tame and controllable, but I confess I was focusing more on the sharp pain in my trigger finger at the time.
Accuracy is acceptable. Shooting this gun as a pistol is decidedly harder than it looks, but once you get a stock on this puppy it should be accurate enough for a PDW (personal defense weapon).
The problem with this version of the Scorpion is that it’s being sold as a pistol. The gun was designed to use a stock, and while it can legally be sold as a pistol it should probably only ever be sold as a do-it-yourself SBR kit. The ergonomics make a lot more sense as a rifle or SBR, and certain painful design features can be avoided when using it as the original designers intended.
I applaud CZ for shipping it as a pistol so that we can enjoy it while waiting for our Form 1 to come back from ATF, but that’s not the definitive form of this gun. This Scorpion needs a stock to work properly, and with a stock this would be a rocking awesome PDW or pistol-caliber carbine. Without a stock, it desperately needs a different safety lever.
Specifications: CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Pistol (Discontinued 2015 and replaced with SKU 91351)
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum/9mm Luger/9x19mm
Barrel: 7.72 inches, 18x1mm RH thread
Weight: 5.0 lbs
Overall Length: 16.1 Inches
Magazine: Proprietary 20 round
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
The pain keeps small groups from appearing. Plus, as a handgun, the thing is a bit awkward and chunky to hold.
I can’t remember another firearm I’ve tested that has inflicted physical pain on me as I was shooting it. Even the Armalite AR-50 was a pleasure to shoot as long as you were behind it and not to the side. That can all be fixed on the Scorpion with a stock, though.
Reliability: * * * * *
No issues. Hundreds of painful rounds later with no cleaning in the Texas dust and she still works like a Swiss clock. Or Czech. Or whatever.
Customization: * * * *
Swapping the butt plate for a stock adapter is dead simple. The rails all over the gun make it easy to attach whatever you want, from a red dot to a Mr. Coffee. The only issue is the thread pitch on the barrel, which means no commercially available silencer will fit on it.
Overall: * * *
Let me put this in perspective. For $50 more than MSRP, you can buy an Uzi pistol that has none of the ergonomic problems and comes in a smaller package. If you’re looking for a high-capacity direct-blowback 9mm, that’s your ticket. But if you’re looking to SBR this gun, then you’ve chosen wisely — the POF MP5 clones are massively more expensive. The SIG SAUER MPX still hasn’t hit store shelves, but will apparently be priced about twice as much. And while MasterPiece Arms is getting on the right track, their MAC-10 like pistols just aren’t my speed. Keep in mind that we review guns based on how they come from the factory, not based on how they could possibly be configured.
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The CZ Scorpion for this review was provided by Kentucky Gun Company.