Czech vz61 Skorpion: History and Mechanics

Czech vz61 Skorpion: History and Mechanics


Hi guys, thanks for tuning into another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum and today I’m
up here in Canada visiting Marstar and taking a look at a number of interesting
firearms they have in their reference collection. And one of them is this
vz.61 Skorpion machine pistol. Now there aren’t a whole lot
of true machine pistols out there. Most of what’s out there are pistols that were
then later retrofitted to become full-auto or to have full-auto variants, and the most
classic example of that is the C96 Mauser becoming in the 1930s the
Schnellfeuer automatic pistol. Well the vz.61 here is a true
from-the-ground-up machine pistol, and that makes it a really interesting gun. So a few basic statistics to start off with.
This fires at about 850 rounds a minute, It uses the .32 ACP cartridge in
20 round and 10 round magazines. These were developed in the late
1950s, prototypes were built in 1959, and then adopted by the Czech military in 1961. Now why .32 ACP? That’s one of the
first questions that often gets asked. The answer is .32 ACP is
conducive to a machine pistol. In order to make this something that’s actually
more useful than a true submachine gun, it has to be very compact. If it
gets much bigger than this, well you might as well carry a submachine gun
and have all the benefits that that offers. A small cartridge like .32 ACP
makes a small gun more practical. In addition .32 ACP was a calibre in
standard usage by the Czech government, or the Czech Armed Forces, at the time. So it
made sense. Later on this gun would be adapted to a number of other calibres,
including .380 and 9mm Makarov. But the originals were .32 ACP, and that’s
why we have the curved magazine as well, it’s to accommodate the
semi-rimmed cartridge of the .32. So the next question that comes up, or
should come up, is what’s the point? Why do you have a machine pistol?
If you’re going to design one it’s important to figure out exactly
what it’s going to be used for first, and then design it around those criteria. Well in the case of the Skorpion the purpose
was to have a personal defense weapon especially for, like, armoured vehicle crews.
Guys who needed some sort of weapon in case they had to evacuate their tank or their APC,
but they didn’t have room in an armoured vehicle for a full-sized rifle or
necessarily even for a submachine gun. But they wanted to have more firepower on hand
than just a standard sidearm, a service pistol. So that’s actually one of the relatively few
good reasons to have a machine pistol, and that’s what this was
designed specifically for. So we have the small cartridge, we have
a compact overall size, the stock folds up very compact over the front
of the gun. And it comes with (stand that up there, there we go), it was issued with an actual belt holster. Now a
lot of machine pistols, especially historical ones, have holsters that double as shoulder stocks
to kind of kill two birds with one stone. The Schnellfeuer is the classic original
example of that, and then of course there are things like the Russian Stechkin
which also have shoulder stock holsters. The problem with the shoulder stock
holster is they tend to be a little bit fragile, because they have to be made out of some
hardshell material that will retain its shape so that you can use it as a stock, but
they also have to be hollow to hold the gun. And you end up with stock designs
that are liable to cracking or breaking. Well the Czechs ignored that, they went
with just a plain belt holster, and that also, by the way, is why these have 10 round
magazines. Because with the 10 round magazine this thing slides nicely into its holster, like that.
Now this is pretty huge for a pistol holster, but this is substantially smaller than a
submachine gun, and you can in fact practically wear this on your belt (as in you can
in a practical manner just wear that on your belt, and it doesn’t take up very much space
at all). It can be drawn fairly quickly, put into action with the shoulder stock,
or without, and you have a pretty … a gun with a substantial amount of firepower.
It may be using a small cartridge, but at 850 rounds it puts out a lot of cartridges. Now, this is actually kind of a different answer to
the same question that led to the M1 carbine. The M1 carbine was not necessarily
for troops in armoured vehicles, but it was for support type troops who
didn’t want to carry around an M1 Garand but needed more than a 1911 pistol. So
they came up with this intermediate sized carbine that was light and handy to carry.
Well if you take that same requirement and emphasise the size and the lightness even
more, at the expense of ballistic capability, you end up with something like the Skorpion. To consider the purpose of this we
can compare it to the M1 carbine, we can also compare it to the Sketchkin.
The Stechkin is very similar to this in size, it’s a little more powerful with
the 9×18 Makarov cartridge. We could also compare this to the HK MP7,
and we could compare it to the FN P90. Now the P90 is a little bit more like the M1
carbine, it’s a little more of a submachine gun or carbine style of weapon. The
MP7 is maybe a little closer to this. The Stechkin is very close in general form
to this, although with the magazine in the grip. These are all a single family of guns, and that’s
kind of what the personal defense weapon encompasses. Something more than a pistol,
but less than a carbine or submachine gun. Now there’s a lot going on inside this gun, a lot more than you might expect. This is not just some simple blowback open bolt thing. So let’s take this apart and look at the mechanism. We don’t have a whole lot in the way of
markings to show you on these things. They’re not marked vz.61 or Skorpion anywhere, but there is a factory mark and a date of
production here on the bottom of the magazine well. This is a 1975 production, and we have a
cross-swords approval stamp down here. Just for comparison’s sake here’s another example. This is a 1963 production, so two-year date
stamp there, and that military approval mark. And then you’re also going to have the
serial number on the upper receiver right there. Now taking a look at controls, we
can see that this really is built as a submachine gun in pistol size. Unlike a lot of machine pistols which
are pistols that are adapted to full-auto. So if you look at the controls, obviously the
magazine is sitting here outside of the grip to allow a more submachine gun like bolt,
instead of having a reciprocating slide on top. We have a magazine release button
here, just like a typical long gun. We have a safety selector back here,
its marked 20 for full-auto, and then the middle position is safe, 0, and
the rearward position is 1, semi-auto. In the interests of compactness our bolt
handles are actually these two little nubs on the side of the action, and
so you grab those and you can (there we go), cycle the bolt open. And it
does lock open on an empty magazine, which I have in it now, and as you can
see the ejection port is right in the top. So this kicks empty cases straight up. There is a button here, which allows you to manually
hold the bolt open, so if I don’t have a magazine but I want to lock this open, I can pull this back
push the button, lock the bolt open like that. The sights are really not the strong point of
the gun, they are this just simple U-notch. There’s a flip to it, so you’ve got a
75-yard notch, or a 75 metre notch, and also a 150 metre notch
that shoots a little bit higher. Those are coupled with a flat top round front post, right there. One neat feature of this if you look closely,
you’ll notice that the front post is threaded into the front trunnion of the gun. However the
aiming point itself is actually eccentric, its off-centre on that threaded post. That
is done so that you can adjust elevation and windage both, simply by threading
that front sight in or out. So you screw it in or out to adjust your elevation, and
then to adjust your windage you just rotate it through a 180 degree arc of
travel left to right to put the sight exactly where you need it for your windage. The
idea is the amount of travel required there is inconsequential in its impact on
your elevation. So for elevation you’re going to be turning it in half rotation increments. And yeah, so for something like a
machine pistol, that’s perfectly adequate. You’ll find that on some other firearms
designs as well, mostly submachine guns. Then we also have a pair of front sight
protector ears right there, and those actually double as the retention springs for the folding stock. So this is a wire frame stock that is affixed
to a dovetail here on the back of the gun, and this has a rotary hinge. To unlock it you
just squeeze the two wings together like that, that unlocks the hinge there. This is a wire stock, the stock unit
is dovetailed into the back of the lower receiver assembly and then we have
this rotary hinge. In order to unlock the stock you simply squeeze the two parts together,
that unlocks it, allows you to fold it up, comes all the way over the top of the gun and then snaps in place over those front sight protector
wings. That keeps the stock nicely out of the way. It does not interfere with your sight picture
because the sights are right in the centre, and then the butt plate, such as it is, nests
over the barrel. That is also why the stock is so short, that stock is as long as it
possibly can be without coming in front of the muzzle of the gun. So it
doesn’t extend the overall length at all. So if you want the sight picture here,
it’s kind of typical for a pistol, but not superb. … There are going to be compromises that you have to make to
have a full-auto compact machine pistol and sights and accuracy are kind of one of them. All right, now disassembly. In order to take this
apart we want to have the stock extended. We need it on fire, either semi or full-auto, and
we want to, of course, check the the chamber and then drop the bolt. So we want the bolt down. Now all you have to do is push out this pin at the front, goes across to there, push that and pull it on that side. And then your upper assembly is going to slide forward,
just slightly, and we can rotate it all open, like so. Once it’s open, now we can take
the bolt and recoil spring assembly out. By the way, this assembly stays together.
So this is an elongated hole and when the pin is out this can travel back and forth.
When the pin is in, it locks these pieces in their assembled position. So slightly
backward, that’s with the pin out, that is assembled and when you put the pin in, it holds it there. But this allows us to disassemble the gun
without actually having the pieces come apart, without having the pin come loose, so there’s
nothing that can fall on the ground and get lost. Anyway, you will notice that the slots for the
bolt handles are slightly enlarged at the back. This is farther than you can pull the
bolt back when the gun is assembled, because the recoil springs
are compressed too tightly. So we’re going to pull the bolt back to here and
then these two little bolt handle knobs can come out. There’s that one, cool, the other one just fell right out, that’s perfect. I suppose those little bolt handle knobs could
get lost. But, well, nothing’s quite perfect. Now we can just pull the bolt and recoil
spring assembly out the back of the frame. Looking more closely at the bolt assembly, we have
a dual recoil spring, dual guide rod assembly here, … these springs are held on by this cap at
the back. I’m going to leave that in place for the moment. Breech face is here with an extractor on top,
and of course the ejection port on the very top. This is hammer fired, so it does not have a
fixed firing pin, fires from a closed bolt. This is a … very well behaved gun. There’s our firing pin on the back. And you’ll notice there is a hole here, with a
little sear like notch. That is for the rate reducer, and that’s an important and clever
and interesting element to this gun. So we’ll come back to this in
just a moment. The one last thing I want to point out is that the breech face is
only about 60% of the way forward in the bolt. This has what’s typically called a telescoping bolt (although it isn’t actually telescoping, it’s more like overlapping), where the barrel actually comes all the way back inside here. So the front end of the bolt is actually
wrapped around the rear end of the barrel. The famous gun that does this is the Uzi,
but there are a number of other examples. It was originally actually designed by
the Czechs shortly after World War Two. The idea here is this allows you to
have more mass to the bolt without making it longer in the back and requiring a longer receiver. You can kind of see that in the receiver
here, if you look down, you can see that the barrel sticks back in the receiver.
Well, just as far as the bolt sticks forward from the breech face. And yes, this gun is
quite dirty inside, it’s been shot a lot. Now the back end of this receiver has a lot of stuff going on. We have two elements here. We have the
the rate reducer back here, and we have the fire control group here. So being
hammer fired, it’s kind of impressive that they found room to put a whole fire control
group inside this little bitty receiver. So, we are on full-auto, so I have to depress
the auto-sear, this is a safety that would release the hammer when I’m holding the trigger down (there we go). So if I hold the trigger when the bolt cycles back it’s going to recock the hammer, and then you don’t want the hammer to
fall before the bolt is all the way in battery. So that’s why you have this little guy. When the bolt goes forward it’s going to depress this (if I do it from this side). Once that goes down, … think of this
as a secondary trigger, so in full-auto this is your primary trigger. When you want to fire, that’s going to fire the gun, bolt comes back, recocks. Now I’m still holding down the main
trigger, but in order to delay firing until the appropriate point in the cycle, we
have this lever up here which acts as sort of an automatic secondary
trigger, for lack of a better term. If I switch this to semi-auto then this gets
clicked down, and it’s going to stay down while the bolt is forward. When I pull the trigger the same thing is going to happen, except in semi-auto this no longer fires the gun. Okay, now on to the more interesting bit. The rate reducer here drops the rate of the
gun from what would probably be about 1000 rounds, or maybe a 1050
rounds per minute down to about 850, which is definitely more controllable. The way
this works is you have a spring-loaded hook here. This hook catches in this back hole
of the [bolt], right on that sear notch. So when the bolt comes all the way back that goes in there, and it’s going to grab the bolt
and hold it in position so that it can’t go forward. Because the bolt is going to hit this, because of the force that it’s coming back with … the bolt hits that, which pulls this hook down. Then we have a bunch of stuff in the grip. So I’m going to unscrew our grip assembly here, we have this plug looking thing down here.
That is going to come out and it has its own spring right there. I can then pull the grip off and now I’ve got this
aluminium, sort of a grip frame, and inside it is a reciprocating counterweight. So we have a steel weight here that can
slide up and down a bit. Now the spring, here, is going to nest inside there, and
it’s always pushing this counterweight up. So what happens is when this is all the way up, when the bolt hits the rate reducer here, the impact is going to throw this
thing down inside this short little tube, like so, it’s going to hit the bottom,
it’s going to reciprocate back up. And when it gets to the top this
is going to hit on the bottom of this bouncing part right here, and then
the main weight is going to smack up, transmit all of its inertia through into this. This hook comes up, that releases the bolt,
and then the bolt can go forward to fire again. You can very clearly see this happening
in the slow motion of the gun firing. The bolt will come to the back, stop, then go forward, and then there’s
a very brief pause at the front when … you have to wait for the hammer to fall, and then it will fire, come back, get hooked, stop, and then release and go forward and fire again. That is a really clever and very
effective little rate reducing mechanism. So all of those little cool technical elements
inside make the vz.61 really a remarkably impressive design technically speaking.
It was pretty successful, it certainly worked well for the Czechs and they
manufactured them for quite some time. It also proved to be popular with
security elements, security forces, intelligence agencies in some cases, and
unfortunately, terrorist organisations as well. The people who want to sneak around
with … a high volume of firepower available from a very small package,
have all kind of (or many) have gravitated towards guns like the
Skorpion because it does offer that. So, it’s gotten a lot of negative
association in the press, which is unfortunate given how interesting of a gun it is mechanically. Now I think it’s about time for me to find
out just how practical it really is to shoot, and I’m sure you would like to see some
cool high speed video of shell casings coming straight out the top of this thing.
So we are going to go ahead and take this out to the range. Stick around,
we’ll be posting that video tomorrow, should be pretty cool, and I’m really looking
forward to getting a chance to shoot one of these. So, a big thank you to Marstar for letting
me disassemble and show you (and then go out and shoot tomorrow) their
Skorpion machine pistol here. If you’re up in Canada, definitely check them
out for all of your shooting supply needs. And also a big thank you to my supporters
on Patreon. It’s you guys that make it possible for me to travel to places like
this and bring you guys guns like this one. Thanks for watching.

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. That rate reducer is a very intricate design on a firearm that already has a lot of moving pieces. It’s so amazing to see something like that was designed a very long time ago! I wonder if they were to manufacture a new version of this if they would not need the right reducer? And I’m not talking about the new Evo I’m just talking about remaking a version of this gun.

  2. Is it even accurate enough to justify windage and elevation adjustments? For what you end up with, it seems like a lot of engineering for a disappointing pay off. I almost think a micro Uzi or Ingram would be better.

  3. There was a 9mm luger version too. The first one was the Vz 68, the last version of the original Skorpion was also 9mm parabellum, called SA 361.

  4. It seems to me that people have the feeling that we’re so smart and advanced now. But ask any engineer grad to come up with something like that and their head would explode. Amazingly automated with nothing but springs and sears and so forth, no chips or motherboards or even electricity. We’re just a few nukes away from the stone age being that relatively few people alive understand this kind of engineering, let alone could invent on their own.

  5. Sorry ,Wheraboos. The Czechs’ hard work and ingenuity have very little to do with Germans .The Germans in Bohemia and Moravia were mostly landowners and farmers who took Czech lands after the 30 years’ War, not craftsmen and future industrialists . Germans never owned or managed the Czech factories and were not the designers and entrepreneurs . The NAZIS did seize Czech factories and put their bureaucrats in charge during the occupation from 1938-45, but since liberation, CZ weapons have been manufactured and designed by Czechs ( and Moravians , there is a difference ) .

  6. I shot one of these on full auto, recoil isnt bad, muzzle rise is manageable, just watch out for the rain of brass and keep your fingers out of the way of the bolt handles

  7. Thanks for a fascinating video. I had wondered why the bolt "hesitated" each time (saw the other vid before this one).

  8. I still want one of these in 7.63 Tokarev. They never made one, but I would think that's an ideal cartridge for this design.

  9. I had a cap gun that looked exactly the same…can't count the time I pinched my fingers with it lol

  10. The.Chec Scorpion I recall was accurate and came with a very efficient silencer. It may have been issued to the military, but it was mostly used by the paramilitary and secret police. I came acros it in the 1070s and the Stechin in Central America. It was better than the MAC M11.

  11. The rear echelon was staffed by "sappers". And sappers had a lot of pull and even in Vietnam they could get a Dominos pizza parlor built. When they weren't eating pizza and being cool they bitched and moaned about the weight of their Garand and M-16 so the U.S. Army immediately created the M-1 Carbine.

  12. that rate reducer blew my mind. what a reliable mechanical idea. so simple yet it would take a great mind to have thought of it. the hallmark of a great invention.

  13. Holy shit that's the Klobb! The wire stock is folded up giving it that goofy look i seem to remember

  14. I am a new subscriber, love your videos. Learning the history and mechanics of all these firearms is really awesome!

  15. I love the Czech republic, but I hate the Scorpion, both of these statements are wayy too much based on the fact, that I've played, lived and breathed ArmA2…

  16. So a machine pistol is a pistol that can go full auto? But when is it considered a SMG? Or is it a PDW?

    Ugh seriously what is the difference between a MP a SMG and a PDW?

  17. Glad you mentioned that it was popular with terrorists, though it isn't the fault of, or fair to, the gun, these just look like they have Al-Qaida written all over them. Did these originally come with that battleship gray paint on them?

  18. Love Czech guns, but never really took any real interest in the vz.61, until now.
    Especially that rate reducer changed my mind. You weren't kidding when you said that there's a lot going on inside that small firearm.

  19. I still want one of these, especially the official ones made by Czechpoint (that's their real name lol.) I currently got my eye on a 9mm luger variant with a bladetech stabilizer with transparent 20 round mags.

  20. Anyone else sometimes just finding themselves watching Forgotten Weapons..like…I wonder how a scorpion machine pistol strips down?…while ordering a coffee or something?

  21. Fired once out of them, nice one but never really worked out about red dot on left hand side near the barrel. just under the front sight. 6:30
    Any idea what is it for?
    Perhaps it is indicating that a round is in the barrel when bolt handle knobs are next to a red spot?

  22. im still thinking why is that skorpion at background still moving at last part of video ;D CZECHOSLOVAKIA MAGICC

  23. I remember seeing this in the first multiplayer frag game GOLDEN EYE.. called a klobb or something like that. An awesome weapon if I could afford a transferable not these replicas they're shit

  24. So if you disengage or removed part of the rate reducer would that eventually break the gun or would you just have 1000 rounds per minute scorpion? I mean I'm assuming the benchley something with break and with a fire rate higher than intended but… maybe not? LOL

  25. Being able to keep that on your hip is nice, not having to think about grabbing your gun could make a big difference if you're bailing out of a burning tank.

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