The 1960’s were known for three things: hippies, Vietnam, and pistol caliber sub-machine guns. Some of the most iconic SMGs ever designed would come out within a few years of each other, including the MAC-10, H&K’s MP5, and even the Beretta M12. They were all driven by the experiences gained in WWII and Korea which indicated a need for a small personal defense weapon for close-quarters fighting and storage in small spaces, especially for troops whose primary job isn’t firing a rifle — helicopter pilots, tank crews, and command staff in particular. One of the more obscure yet awesome firearms to come out of this era is the Czechoslovakian Škorpion vz. 61 . . .
The first time I saw this firearm was in GoldenEye. No, not the movie — the gun never actually appeared in that film — the Nintendo 64 video game. I spent many happy hours of my youth shooting virtual bad guys with the non-copyright infringing digital version of the firearm. Ever since, the Scorpion (I’m using the English version of the word because that accent is annoying to type every time) has enjoyed a healthy level of attention in movies and TV shows and is definitely one of the more interesting looking firearms to be produced.
Designed with tank crews and helicopter pilots in mind, the Scorpion is definitely a compact firearm. With the stock folded the gun is only two inches longer than a 1911 handgun and weighs roughly the same, making it something that could realistically be carried in a holster on a soldier’s belt with ease. That’s actually how it is intended to be used, as the guns all come with a leather holster and a 10 round magazine to allow it to fit inside. After exhausting those initial 10 rounds the shooter can then swap to the standard issue 20 round magazines, which come two to a magazine pouch and are specifically designed to fit together in the pouch to save as much space as possible.
Speaking of the magazines, the reason for the relatively exaggerated curve is due to the nature of the rounds being used. The Skorpion uses the .32 ACP cartridge, a relatively light load that comes in a semi-rimmed case. That slight rim means that the cartridge has a big booty, and the curve of the magazine accommodates all of that junk in the trunk. There is a later version of this gun that uses a more standard straight wall pistol cartridge and has straight boxy magazines, but it just doesn’t look as sexy. There’s something to be said for curves.
To make the gun more comfortable to fire, a wire frame folding stock was added. What makes the stock particularly interesting is that it is held in place when folded by two tabs on the front sight, and locked in place when open by a more traditional gear-like device. This makes the stock very quick to deploy and lock in place, but it takes a couple seconds to get it folded up. Then again, I’m guessing that having the stock locked and functioning would be more important in a firefight than being able to put it away quickly.
All of the controls for the firearm are on the left side of the gun, including the magazine release and the takedown pin. The intended manual of arms for this gun is to have the shooter retain the magazine, so the magazine release is placed appropriately for if a left hand is grabbing the magazine to remove it from the gun. Left handed people with long fingers might be able to simply hit the button with the trigger finger of their dominant hand, so for you few southpaws out there that might be an attractive feature.
Rather than having a protruding and ugly charging handle like the MAC-10 or the PPS-43, the Skorpion uses two round and ridged protrusions on either side of the gun to allow the shooter to operate the action. The gun will hold the bolt open after the last round in a magazine has been fired, making it easier to insert and load subsequent magazines. The nubs are not permanently attached to the bolt, and instead held in place almost identically to the way the charging handle in the SCAR series of rifles from FNH USA are designed to work.
Due to those nubs / charging protrusions / whatever, however, the gun can’t eject the spent cartridges to either side. Instead the Skorpion ejects the spent cartridges straight up into the air — something to be aware of if you are a particularly well-endowed female with a low cut shirt. Hot brass raining straight down on the shooter can be uncomfortable.
As with most eastern European select fire guns, the selector switch is pretty awful. It looks like some poor engineer tacked it on at the last second, and seems a bit flimsy compared to the rest of the gun. The interesting thing about the selector is that the central position is marked “0” for safe, with the rearward position marked “1” for semi-auto fire and the forward position marked “20” for full auto (there are 20 rounds in a standard length magazine).
Taking the gun apart is dead simple. There’s one captured takedown pin on the front of the frame that, when removed, allows the top section of the gun to slide forward slightly and clear of a lip on the back of the frame. Then the whole thing tilts forward and presents itself for cleaning. The gun is a closed bolt straight-blowback design, meaning that the bolt is pretty hefty but not very complex.
What’s really interesting is the recoil system — not only does it use the weight of the bolt to regulate the cyclic rate, but there’s a recoil absorbing spring contraption housed in the pistol grip that slows the gun down even more. That takes the cyclic rate from a rather zippy 1,000 rounds per minute to a nice and comfortable 800 RPM.
While that 200 rounds per minute drop might not seem like a big deal, it has a huge impact on the ability for the shooter to control the firearm. Thanks to the slow cyclic rate and the small caliber (.32 ACP) there’s almost no recoil — it’s like firing a slow little .22lr handgun. In fact, the gun is so easy to control that I had no issues holding it on target with the stock folded.
The cyclic rate and the perceived recoil of this gun are roughly on par with my previous favorite machine gun: the Beretta M12. I say previous because this gun snuck into the top slot thanks to the nifty design and the size. To be fair the M12 was designed to work with full power 9mm loads and this is only a little .32 ACP handgun, but when you’re sending a few well-aimed friends with that first round the size of the bullet doesn’t really matter that much.
What would I change? Not much, really. A threaded barrel for a silencer would be a fantastic addition to the gun, since something small and quiet is just about ideal for any personal defense situations. In fact, the folks who own this gun are looking for a replacement barrel to do exactly that — they don’t want to ruin the original. Otherwise this is just about the perfect personal defense weapon. Small, easy to use, low recoil, and highly accurate. Heck, I’d take one of these over an MP5K any day of the week. Although, maybe with a slightly larger magazine…
Škorpion vz. 61 SMG
Caliber: .32 ACP
Barrel: 4.5 inches
Size: 20.4 inches extended, 10.6 inches compact
Weight: 2.87 lbs empty
Capacity: 10 or 20 round magazine
MSRP: $600 (Semi-Auto civilian version)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.
Accuracy: * * *
The gun is roughly “minute of bad guy” at 15 yards, which is good enough for what it is. We’re not deer hunting or shooting 1,000 yard steel plates with .32 ACP.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The lack of ambidextrous controls and the wire stock keep the Skorpion out of five star range, but otherwise it’s damned good.
Ergonomics Firing: * * * * 1/2
There’s a bit more blowback than I’d like from the gun, but other than that it’s perfect.
Uh…no. Absolutely not.
Overall Rating: * * * * *
I’m seriously considering buying one of the semi-auto clones available and SBR-ing it just to have this much fun on a regular basis.