I’ve always found machine pistols to be absolutely fascinating. Guns like the Glock 18, the Beretta 93R, and the Stechkin machine pistol have always held my interest. Teeny tiny machine guns in common pistol calibers just seem to be a handful of fun. Handful being the keyword. Most machine pistols are tough to handle due to their excessive recoil, high fire rates, and small size. One that defied this stereotype is the Skorpion Vz. 61.
Most machine pistols fail rather rapidly. They aren’t super useful and are very niche weapons that are often less effective than a regular pistol. Submachine guns and carbines do compact firepower a lot better than any machine pistol. So why did the Skorpion defy that stereotype? Well, let’s start at why the weapon was made.
In 1961, the Czechoslovakian police forces wanted a compact weapon that would be more effective than a pistol but could be carried on the hip. At the same time, the military was looking for a weapon they could arm support troops with. These troops included truck drivers, artillery crewmen, tank and armored vehicle crews, and the like.
For these troops, a big battle rifle was clumsy and unnecessary. Specifically, the Skorpion needed to be lightweight and easy to carry but offer more firepower than a pistol.
Czechoslovakian arms developer Miroslav Rybar developed the Skorpion Vz. 61 for this role. The program began in 1959 but was completed in 1961, which is where the 61 comes from in Vz. 61.
Various other countries recognized the utility of such a weapon. For that role, the United States developed the M1 Carbine; the Russians did the Stetchkin; and decades later, NATO would develop the PDW for the same role.
Breaking Down the Skorpion
Simplicity was key to the development of the Skorpion. It utilized a straight blowback system, which was typical of the time. What was unique about the gun was that it fired from a closed-bolt position. Closed-bolt weapons provide a more reliable and accurate action, and generally less felt recoil.
The Skorpion utilized the teeny tiny 32 ACP rounds. By American standards, that was a tiny cartridge, but it was quite common in Europe and the standard of the Czechoslovakian security forces. The 32 ACP round allowed the straight blowback system to work without a delay mechanism, which simplified the design and made it cheap to produce.
While a delay mechanism wasn’t utilized, an inertial rate reducer was added to lower the firing rate to about 850 from 1,000 rounds per minute. However, the weapon did feature a last-round bolt hold-open device and two knobs giving it an ambidextrous design.
The magazines had a double stack design, and both 10- and 20-round magazines were produced. As the Skorpion was developed, so was a holster system that could be worn across the body. To holster the weapon, the user had to utilize the 10-round magazines. Subsequent reloads would be with 20-round magazines.
As a product of the 1960s, the gun utilized open sights. Nothing fancy, and there was no means to attach an optic of any type.
A folding wire stock sat across its top. Yet, the lightweight design did allow the weapon to be used without a stock, so the user could draw the weapon and react to a threat immediately.
Why the Skorpion Succeeded
The Skorpion was mass-produced by the Czechoslovakian state arms factory at the time. It outfitted more soldiers than originally intended. As intended, the weapon became a favorite of security forces, non-combat personnel, and armored crews. But it went beyond that. The Skorpion also became popular with Czechoslovakian Special Operations forces. It was also exported across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Most machine pistols suck, but the Skorpion was different. First, the 32 ACP cartridge generated very little recoil and added a degree of control to the weapon. Its close-bolt system also added to the weapon’s controllability, as did the aforementioned rate reducer. Additionally, the gun had a built-in stock!
Users didn’t need to draw another stock from somewhere else and attach it to their machine pistol. Further, the stock could quickly be unfolded and put into action. Even without the stock, the Skorpion was surprisingly controllable, even in full auto.
Additionally, the simple design made the weapon reliable and easy to produce. It was also short and light, so it was easy to carry and even conceal if necessary. The Skorpion might not have been revolutionary, but it was a damn good machine pistol and proved to be one of the most competent weapons in its niche.
The Skorpion Vz. 61 provided some serious sting in a very compact package. The weapon certainly lived up to its name.
Although the little 32 ACP weapon might seem anemic, when half a dozen 32 ACP rounds tear through you, it won’t seem so. While Czechoslovakia may no longer exist, the Czechs still honor the Skorpion name with their latest SMG, the Scorpion Evo. The Skorpion certainly packed some sting to it.
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