The Skorpion vz61 is an interesting little buzz-gun that first achieved notoriety in real-life use and later found renewed fame in movies, TV shows, and video games.
The weapon was designed in then-Communist Czechoslovakia in the late 1950’s as a specialized weapon for elite troops. The gun was later more widely issued to soldiers who could not easily carry rifles as a more effective substitute for a handgun. This is the role we now refer to as a PDW or “Personal Defense Weapon.”
The Skorpion vz 61 is a compact little package. The gun has a wood pistol grip, machined lower receiver and stamped upper receiver, a forward mounted mag well, a 4 ½ inch barrel, and a wire stock that folds over the receiver. The gun weighs just under three pounds and is 10 ½ inches long with the stock folded and 20 ½ inches long with the stock extended.
The gun is direct blowback operation and fires from a closed bolt. The gun is cocked by pulling a pair of metal buttons, one on each side of the stamped upper receiver, to the rear. A three-position selector on the left side of the receiver allows for safe, semi-auto, or full-auto fire. A mechanical rate reducer slows the mechanism to allow a rate of fire of between 800 and 850 rounds per minute. The Skorpion fires the 7.65mm (.32 ACP) cartridge from 10 or 20 round magazines.
Although the Skorpion was designed from the outset as a submachine gun its small size and weight put it more into the category of those handgun variants modified to fire full-auto referred to as “machine pistols,” such as the Beretta 93R, CZ-75 Automatic, and Glock 18.
Over 200,000 sv 51 SMG’s were manufactured in Czechoslovakia from 1963 to 1979. The gun remained in service in the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia dissolved in 1993. The Skorpion has also been license built in Yugoslavia and has been purchased and used by several other nations, both inside and outside the old Warsaw Pact.
As befitting a design from behind the Iron Curtain the Skorpion developed a reputation as a terrorist weapon in the West during the Cold War. As one gun writer once said, “The Skorpion fits nicely in a diplomatic pouch.” In actuality the gun has a long association with Czech security and anti-terror forces. It is also reportedly popular as a discreet weapon for bodyguards to provide additional firepower over a standard pistol.
On the big screen the Skorpion has been featured in movies such as Ronin, The Matrix, Blade II, and The Dark Knight. On TV it’s been seen in The Unit, NCIS and as an alien/futuristic gun in both Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica. The gun has also been featured in video games such as GoldenEye 007 (as the “Klobb”), the various Rainbow Six and Call of Duty Games, and Counter-Strike Online.
Although a semi-auto version of the vz 61 Skorpion has been imported for several years, examples of the “real deal” full-auto SMG version are rare in the United States.
I got a chance to fire a full-auto Skorpion at the Lucky Gunner Blogger Shoot a couple years ago. The gun was a post-’86 Dealer Sample owned by Czechpoint, a company that imports small arms from the Czech Republic.
I was initially impressed by the small size of the Skorpion. With the stock folded it’s comparable to a full-size service pistol. The small cocking knobs on the sides of the receiver were difficult to grasp and get a hold of to cock the gun. This was much more difficult after several magazines had been fired through the gun as the metal receiver and metal knobs heated up considerably.
I was only able to fire the gun from the shoulder, with the stock extended. Although the 7.65 round is not known for its stopping power, it is a good match for a gun this small and light. With the gun’s fast 850 rpm rate of fire, and light weight, I was just barely able to control the gun in full-auto well enough to put rounds on a target about 10 yards away. I don’t think the gun would be as controllable if it was chambered in any larger caliber. Even then it took some work to keep the number of rounds fired per burst down. On my first attempt I probably fired off half the 20 round magazine before getting a feel for the proper trigger manipulation required to get bursts down to about five rounds.
The gun was definitely fun to shoot. The light weight and high ROF make it very “peppy” to handle. The first time I shot it definitely got away from me and, although I improved on later tries, I never did get to where I could control it as well as a more conventional SMG like an UZI or even a MAC 10. On the other hand, an UZI won’t fit in a standard sized holster either. I wasn’t able to try firing it with the stock retracted, but I wouldn’t expect much success in that mode, and the duel wield, as seen in some movies and games, would be near hopeless in real life.
In short, the Skorpion vz 61 is a special purpose built weapon, designed to fill a specific tactical niche where size, weight, and firepower are paramount. When used outside that niche more conventional pistols or SMG’s are probably better suited for the job.
(Make sure to watch the video of one of the Lucky Gunner Ammo Girls firing the Skorpion. This was her first time firing any gun, ever, and she got started with a bang)
Read my other articles on SMG shooting
Shooting the Kriss Super V SMG
The M3A1 ‘Grease gun’ was a rude, crude and effective submachine gun (Gun history)
Shooting the M3A1 ‘Grease gun’ (Range report)