June 12, 2023
With absolutely no advance warning, last spring (2022), CZ disclosed a new Scorpion, the CZ Scorpion 3 Plus, to the firearms media. However, the public release was to be a year later. This gun is currently available in both pistol and carbine form, and I secured a sample of the carbine for testing. I’m very familiar with the original version, the CZ Scorpion EVO S1, and view it like a family member—I both like and love it, but there are certain small things about it that just irritate the hell out of me. Fortunately, and unlike most family members, it was easy to fix most of those weaknesses with the original Scorpion. I like the design enough to have bought the original Scorpion pistol I got in for testing nearly a decade ago. Upon announcement of the new generation, I was eager to see if they’d fixed all of the minor imperfections in the original hugely successful gun that spun up a whole aftermarket parts industry. Let’s look at the design itself before we dive into how the new version differs from the old and cover why you might want to upgrade certain features.
The Best Weirdest PCC on the Market
For a long time after it was introduced, I considered the CZ Scorpion the best value, and best entry level pistol caliber carbine (in carbine or pistol form) on the market, whether you were looking for something for personal defense or to get into competition. It was light, relatively inexpensive, completely reliable, and easy to upgrade if you wanted to. Plus, it had very weird looks, which I considered a plus. In fact, since its introduction it’s appeared (usually the pistol) in countless movies and TV shows simply because of its looks. But the unusual looks are more than skin deep, its very construction is unusual. The upper receiver (which is the serialized part) is two pieces of polymer bolted together. The entire gun is modular in construction. You don’t need tools to take it apart. You can replace just about every part on it except the barrel with 1.5mm or 3mm punches/wrenches.
A brief bit of history—as a child of the ‘80’s, I grew up in an era where the communists were the bad guys (well, they still are, but a lot of people have been dissuaded of that since so many of them elected to public office in this country have really good PR machines). I spent much time reading all sorts of Cold War spy novels and thrillers; not unrealistic drek like Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy, or unrealistic excellence like John LeCarre’s Smiley novels, but rather excellent gritty tomes from the likes of Len Deighton, Martin Cruz Smith, Bill Granger, James Grady, Robert Littell, and J.C. Pollock. One firearm which frequently made appearances in these novels was the CZ Skorpion machine pistol. It is human nature to want what we can’t have, and the mystique of the Skorpion was only increased by its “trapped behind the Iron Curtain” status.
The original Skorpion, officially the Skorpion vz. 61, has a very distinctive profile—attractive to some, with very unique Cold War-era lines. This straight blowback hammer-fired gun featured a 20-round magazine in front of the pistol grip, a wire stock which folds over the front of the firearm, and is chambered in .32 ACP. Why .32 ACP? Because it was the standard service cartridge of the Czechoslovak security forces. The .32 ACP is not a very powerful cartridge, and when combined with the Skorpion’s very muzzle heavy nearly 3-lb weight controllability on full-auto wasn’t a problem.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union is long over, and the Czech Republic is now a strong U.S. ally in Europe. Semi-auto pistol versions of the original Skorpion have been sold in the U.S. for years. But the Skorpion has that “vz 61” in the title because the little buzzgun was finalized in 1961—not exactly a modern design. The completely new Scorpion EVO 3 A1 was introduced in 2009, and this submachine gun has been very successful. The Scorpion EVO is a slightly modified version of the Laugo LG 205, a Slovakian prototype submachine gun. CZ USA introduced a pistol version of this gun into the U.S., the Scorpion EVO 3 S1, circa late 2014. Scorpion EVO 3 A1 is the designation of the select-fire sub machinegun, and the “S1” on the imported version indicates a semi-auto only function. The Scorpion SMG is currently in use by military and police forces in over a dozen countries. Apart from the lack of a stock or select-fire capability the EVO 3 S1 pistol is identical to its SMG brother, and the only difference between the pistol and the carbine is the length of the barrel and the stock on the back. The 3+ could be considered an evolution of the Scorpion EVO design.
Why an evolution? Even in the era of the AR-15, a lot of police agencies in America and abroad still like 9mm subguns and/or SBRs and carbines. But, as I said, this is the era of the AR-15, and administrators want as much similarity as possible. CZ has gotten a lot of requests for a Scorpion with an AR-style magazine release. The Scorpion 3+ is the result. Currently CZ is offering several versions of the Scorpion 3+. There are two pistols, the Micro with a 4.2-inch barrel, and the standard with a 7.8-inch barrel. There are two carbines with 16.2-inch barrels, one tipped with a muzzle brake and the other (what you see here) with the end of the barrel enclosed by a faux suppressor. CZ’s plan is to phase out all versions of the Scorpion EVO 3 S1 but the 7.8-inch pistol, as that’s their biggest seller (and it’s offered in black, gray, FDE, and OD green).
One housekeeping note—in almost all of CZ’s materials, and on their website, it is referred to as the Scorpion 3+. But on the side of the gun you’ll see CZ SCORPION 3 PLUS. As my contact at CZ told me, “ATF says only Roman letters, Arabic numerals, and the ‘—’ hyphen allowed in engraved names and serial numbers, so the engraving says PLUS. We prefer to use the + shorthand.”
The Scorpion is chambered in 9mm, and has a straight blowback operating system. Blowback systems generally use heavy bolts, sometimes with strong springs, to keep the bolt from moving backward until pressures of the just-fired cartridge have lowered to safe levels, and that’s what you get with the Scorpion. The bolt is a big rectangle of steel, with a recoil spring sticking out the back, curled around a guide rod. At the end of the guide rod is a small polymer pad which rests against the rear of the receiver. The total weight of the bolt assembly is 22 ounces. In contrast, the BCG (bolt carrier group) of an AR-15 usually weighs 11.6 ounces. The entire receiver, including the MIL STD 1913 rail atop it, is polymer. In fact, the rear of the receiver is two polymer halves which are connected by screws. If you feel firearms should be all blued steel and finely grained wood, the Scorpion isn’t for you.
Back in the day, when I first examined the Scorpion, I wasn’t sure how to react to its construction. A screwed-together polymer shell? It took me a while to realize that the Scorpion is the modern equivalent of the Sten SMG in that it is made as efficiently and simply as possible to do its job—it’s just made using modern materials and manufacturing techniques. While it has a very stylish design, the Scorpion EVO 3 is not any more complicated than it needs to be, something that could never be said about the Heckler & Koch MP5.
The Scorpion has a charging handle forward of the receiver, similar in position to what you see on the HK MP5. It has a small polymer hook for your finger, and does not reciprocate when firing. It is also easily reversible from the left to right side. I’ve mentioned it twice, so now I’ll do it one final time—I’ve heard the Scorpion referred to as the “poor man’s MP5”. While it is definitely less expensive than the badly overpriced MP5/94/SP5 series of firearms made by at least three other manufacturers besides HK, I think of the Scorpion more as an alternate reality/sci-fi MP5.
Provided with the Scorpion are an excellent set of iron sights. The Scorpion sights have changed a bit over the years, and some models of carbines in the past have been supplied with Magpul flip-ups, but I prefer the CZ units. They have machined aluminum bases. The front sight is an AR-15 style post adjustable for elevation, protected by wings. The rear sight is a flywheel with four apertures of various size, adjustable for windage. FYI: the top receiver rail of the CZ is a little higher off your cheek than the rail of an AR-15, so putting an optic meant for a flat-top AR on it will put the reticle maybe half an inch higher than you’d get with an AR. Considering the trend for taller optic mounts, that shouldn’t be an issue for most people.
The handguard of the carbine is smooth under your hand, and features M-LOK slots for attaching accessories. Polymer is a good insulator, and pistol cartridges, unlike rifle cartridges, take quite a bit to heat up a barrel, so unless you’re doing repeated mag dumps as fast as you can pull the trigger likely you won’t even feel the heat under your hand. The safety is a polymer bilateral lever that rotates down for fire. The markings on the receiver for safe and fire are probably unlike any you’ve seen elsewhere, they seem more suited to a computer program: a white “0” for safe, and a red “—” for fire. If the hammer is cocked you can work the charging handle even if the safety is on. If the hammer isn’t cocked and the safety is on, the bolt will only pull back about half an inch, just enough to see if the chamber is loaded.
Inside the angular trigger guard, the trigger is polymer with a ridged face that is raised in the center. CZ Scorpions are not known for having great trigger pulls, and the fire control group on the 3+ is the same as in the EVO S1, so you’ll get the same of that below-average performance. Trigger pull on my sample was exactly eight pounds. The trigger provides a bit of a rolling break—not gritty, but not quite as crisp as a traditional single stage. With a little practice, you can stage it in the middle for a bit more precision. Where you’ll see most of the difference between the original Scorpion EVO S1 and the 3+ is in the controls. The 3+ has a bilateral magazine release, with an AR-15-style button on the right side that you can reach with your trigger finger. The magazine release on the left side is in the same spot, but is a slightly pivoting button. The bolt does lock back on empty magazines. The bolt release is at the bottom front of the trigger guard, right behind the magazine well. It is a serrated tab, and there is one on either side. It is best operated with your thumb—pull down to send the bolt home.
The stock of the Scorpion is as iconic as the rest of the gun. It is sturdy, adjustable for a 12- to 14-inch length of pull (LOP), and has a thin rubber pad at the back. There is a QD socket on the back, but utilizing that might be tricky, as the stock folds. Because the bolt reciprocates fully inside the receiver, the Scorpion can use a folding stock, and with the press of a button it folds to the right side. There is a small hook on the side of the stock that locks onto the bottom of the magazine well, keeping the stock closed. A sharp pull pops it open. The folded stock clears the ejection port, and you can shoot the Scorpion with the stock folded.
I mentioned how the design is very modular. The stock attaches to the receiver via a simple pushbutton/slot combo. To remove it, fold the stock, revealing the button at the back of the receiver. Depress it, then slide the stock up off the back of the polymer receiver. The fit is likely to be tight (deliberately, you don’t want your stock rattling), so you might need a nylon/rubber hammer to get the stock off the gun. But you don’t need to take the stock off for cleaning. Disassembly for cleaning is shockingly simple. Take the magazine out, lock the bolt back, and push out the receiver retaining pin located above the front of the magazine well. It moves from right to left, and will be retained. Then grab the front of the magazine well and pull down, and what CZ calls the trigger unit, but what you and I and everybody else will want to call the lower receiver, comes right off the gun. The fire control group is contained within the unit. Please note that the trigger unit/lower receiver is not the serialized part. The serial number is set into a steel plate on the upper receiver, just below the ejection port. The pistol grip is not part of that unit, and stays attached to the upper receiver. Using the tip of a finger, pull back on the bolt and then down, and the bolt assembly will come out the bottom of the receiver. And that’s it, for cleaning. CZ doesn’t recommend disassembling the bolt, or taking apart the fire control group.
The Same, But Different
So, what’s the difference between the new 3+ and the original Scorpion EVO 3 S1? While versions of the Scorpion pistol have rail sections molded into the handguard, all pistol and carbine versions of the 3+ have M-LOK slots in their handguards. The original Scorpion had a smooth, sharply angled grip. Too smooth and sharply angled, as it wedged your hand up high against the receiver, right where the safety could poke your trigger finger hard with EVERY. SINGLE. SHOT.
People, including some of those at the top of European firearms companies, sometimes forget just how large the US consumer firearms market is. More private citizens buy guns in America than all the cops, military, and private citizens in all of Europe combined. And, sorry to say, most of those European cops and soldiers don’t know anything about anything, take what they’re issued, and if there’s something about it they don’t like, they don’t say a word. U.S. consumers, on the other hand, won’t shut up if there’s something about a gun they don’t like. Which is why some manufacturers never understand the weak points of their designs until they introduce them to the American masses, they haven’t yet met anybody willing to tell them that the emperor has no clothes. It wasn’t until the Scorpion entered the U.S. market that the people at CZ understood that, yes, the original safety design was completely horrible. The long lever, which rotated down to the fire position, badly poked the shooter’s finger in every setting but full-auto, something not available to U.S. consumers due to unconstitutional laws. So later versions of the EVO 3 S1 had shortened safety levers, the same ones you see on the 3+.
But with the 3+ you’ll also see a new pistol grip. It sports far less of an angle than the original grip and has improved texturing. It also doesn’t send your hand up and into the safety like the original grip, so you shouldn’t even feel that right-side lever touching your trigger finger. The contours of the upper receiver are a bit different on the 3+, but unless you’ve got an original to compare you might not notice the difference. The biggest difference is the lack of snap hook attachment points on the 3+ that could be found on both sides of the original Scorpion, polymer at the back of the receiver and steel where the handguard met the receiver. The differences in the upper receiver of the 3+ seem to be all external—internally, the bolt group on the 3+ is the exact same as on the Scorpion EVO S1.
Where you’ll see the biggest difference between the original Scorpion and the 3+ is in the trigger unit/lower receiver. The bolt release on the original Scorpion was just on the left side, a steel tab which you pulled down (again, using the left thumb worked the best) to drop the bolt after inserting a fresh mag. The original Scorpion had a bilateral lever for a magazine release on the front of the trigger guard that rotated forward. You might be able to reach it with the tip of your trigger finger, but I found the best way to work it was with the thumb of your support hand as you grabbed the spent magazine. It was very natural and quick. Because of the 3+’s new magazine release, existing Scorpion magazines won’t work in the 3+. The magazines themselves are identical but for the notch on the left side for the magazine catch. The new magazines do work in the original Scorpion EVO 3 S1, however. Scorpion magazines, except for the spring, are completely polymer.
Old mags fit and function in the new gun…if you hold them in place. They’ll even lock the bolt back. All you would need to fit an old mag to the new gun is to machine a cutout for the magazine release in the left side. But unless you’ve got some machining equipment at home, that would probably cost more than just buying a new magazine, so…. Right now, there are 3rd party magazine manufacturers for the original Scorpion—the Magpul 35-rounder (which includes the Palmetto State Armory magazine), and the PGS 32-round Hybrid polymer/steel magazine designed by Manticore Arms and sold by Prepper Gun Shop, plus a few others I don’t know well enough to recommend, in addition to the factory CZ magazines. With the new model you will be relegated to obtaining factory magazines unless and until aftermarket magazine manufacturers decide to jump into the game.
If you already own a Scorpion, the fact that the new version takes different magazines might, okay, will be irritating. If you don’t own a Scorpion, this won’t be an issue for you. Scorpions ship with two 20-round magazines. I wish they shipped with the standard 30-rounders, but then CZ might not sell as many spare 30-round magazines to consumers at an additional $24.99 apiece. For years, CZ struggled keeping up with demand for their Scorpion magazines. CZ Custom is busily cutting magazine release cutouts on CZ and Magpul Scorpion EVO magazines to get them to work with both generations of the Scorpion. Or you can send them your mags and they’ll put the cutouts in those. I don’t know that the controls on the 3+ are any better or worse on the original, but they’re different. If you’re used to the original, using this gun your muscle memory will be all screwed up, as the bolt release is where the magazine release used to be. If you’ve never held a Scorpion before, the new controls will work just fine for you.
The controls of the Scorpion 3+ are now completely ambidextrous/bilateral/reversible. But if their goal was to make them closer to that of the ubiquitous AR-15…the magazine release is closer, but the bolt release is further away from an AR in design than the original, so I think it’s a wash. When I disassembled the 3+, and compared its trigger unit to that of my personal EVO 3 S1 pistol…I discovered they were the exact same dimensions. Not only is the fire control unit (trigger group) the same, the entire 3+ trigger unit (lower receiver) fits perfectly into an older EVO 3 S1 Scorpion. So, it is possible to retrofit your older Scorpion with a new 3+ trigger unit, if perhaps the new magazine and bolt release seem like the best idea ever to you. Of course, all your old magazines won’t work. I reached out Jason Morton, VP of Marketing, to see if they planned on offering 3+ trigger units to retrofit existing Scorpion EVO3 S1s. He told me, “Supply chain is dedicated to firearms production at this point. I would expect that the retrofit kits would eventually be available, though there is no timeline for that at this point.”
Things They Should Have Changed, But Didn’t
Remember how I mentioned that there were a lot of little things I didn’t like about the Scorpion, but most of them were easy to fix? Let me explain. But first, before I start, you (and all the aftermarket parts manufacturers) will be happy to know that all of the internals on the 3+ are the same as with the original EVO, so if you’re looking to upgrade your charging handle, safety, or trigger pull, replacement parts meant for the EVO 3 S1 will fit on the 3+.
- Charging Handle—the hook on the factory charging handle is just too small. CZ should have upgraded it, but didn’t. It fits one finger, and if you’re trying to work it in a hurry, you might end up skinning your knuckle. If you’ve got big hands, and are wearing gloves, it’s almost too small. If you want to give it the old-school HK MP5 slap to chamber a round, you’ll probably end up disappointed. However, a number of different companies make replacement charging handles with extended hooks, and they are inexpensive and a vast improvement. I’ve tried models from HB Industries, but my favorite comes from Manticore Arms—it is just the right length and has no points or sharp edges, so I can work it with my palm. All you need to swap the factory charging handle from one side to the other, or to replace it entirely, is a 3mm punch, and it really only takes a few seconds. Whether you stick with the factory charging handle or upgrade to something bigger, make sure you position your optic where you won’t skin your knuckles on it working the charging handle. Ask me how I know.
- Trigger/Trigger Pull—an eight-pound trigger pull is not good, by any standard, and some Scorpion trigger pulls are heavier than that. Plus, I don’t like the feel of the ridged trigger under my finger. HB Industries is just one of many companies making upgraded/improved Scorpion parts, and they sell a replacement spring kit for just $9 that will bring your pull down to 5.5-pounds or so. It might require you to drill out one screw, depending on whether or not your trigger pack retaining screw is welded in place. They also sell various aluminum replacement trigger shoes that look cool but more importantly feel good under the finger. Timney has also introduced a drop-in trigger for the CZ-USA Scorpion 3+.
Check out a complete review and installation guide of the new Timney CZ ScorpionTrigger here
- Grip—the factory pistol grip on the 3+ is a vast improvement over the original one, but both are held in place by one simple screw. If you want to swap it out for a different style, you have a lot of options. I’ve got a YetiWurks grip on my pistol, but plan on trying out the Magpul MOE grip for the Scorpion. Unlike with the AR-15, where every replacement part seems to cost $50–80 at a minimum, Scorpion parts are inexpensive. You can lighten your trigger pull, replace your trigger, charging handle, and pistol grip, for well under $150 total.
- Recoil—the CZ Scorpion has a surprising amount of recoil for a 9mm. From the recoil you’d think you were sending .45 ACPs downrange with each pull of the trigger. I think this is mostly due to the weight of the bolt. It is a significant percentage of the total weight of the gun, and the simple physics rule is, more reciprocating weight=more recoil. The muzzle doesn’t rise, the Scorpion just bounces around in your hands. It’s not abusive, I mean, come on—it’s a 9mm carbine. But still, you’ll come away surprised.
The Scorpion is eminently reliable, and I wouldn’t want CZ doing anything to mess that up, but adding some sort of recoil-attenuating device to the gun would be a great idea. B&T secured the Army contract for a submachinegun with their APC9K, which is so simple in design it looks like something out of Miami Vice. But that and other B&T guns feature a simple hydraulic recoil buffer inside the receiver that noticeably reduces recoil, and something like that would be a simple add to the back of the Scorpion’s bolt assembly. Sure, that would add cost, but it would make a difference to people who know the difference. It’ll probably never happen, but a man can dream….
Banging and Clanging
Pistol caliber carbines are just fun to shoot. Recoil is not abusive, they are quieter than pistols and rifles, and they generally hold lots of ammo which means that while they are also fun for experienced adults at the range. They are also a great choice for new shooters, young and old. The first time I brought home a Scorpion pistol, my then 13-year-old son’s eyes lit up. He knew exactly what it was, as he’d used a Scorpion EVO SMG for hours in Call of Duty. Guns that look cool get kids (especially boys) interested in shooting, and the sci-fi Battlestar Galactica looks of the Scorpion are about as cool as cool gets for teenage boys.
I feel pistol caliber carbines, or arm brace-equipped “large frame pistols” chambered in pistol cartridges, are the absolute best choice for home defense for just about everyone. Low recoil, high capacity, easier to aim than a handgun, and effective without being deafeningly loud. At the range, as is standard with PCCs, I did accuracy testing at 50 yards. I used a simple EOTech HWS. The lack of magnification didn’t handicap me—the eight-pound trigger of the Scorpion handicapped me. An eight-pound trigger really isn’t much of a handicap if you’re doing center mass mag dumps into a home intruder across the room, but it does tend to impede shooting those tight groups your editor wants you to photograph for the article….
I’ve never found the Scorpion to be picky about bullet profile, and it ate hollow points just as readily as it did FMJ ammo. As an experiment I tried some Norma frangible ammo. This load features a 65-grain bullet travelling at very high velocities, and is meant for indoor ranges and shooting steel. I was curious if it’s offbeat weight/velocity combo would cause any problems for the Scorpion—nope. The frangible ammunition was not nearly as accurate as most of the traditional ammunition I tested, but it was great for its intended purpose, shooting steel.
I had a lot of fun running steel at my club, as well as punching paper. You can burn through a lot of ammo very quickly even when limited to 20-round magazines. The new Scorpion provided no surprises—it works the same as the old one, the only time you’ll notice a difference is when changing magazines. I’ve got a lot of time behind Scorpion pistols and carbines, including a converted full-auto one belonging to Mark Krebs, of Krebs Custom. They are always a blast to shoot. At the end, I found my opinion of the CZ-USA Scorpion 3+ the same as of the original Scorpion EVO 3 S1—it’s like a family member. I love it, enough so that I can overlook its little faults…while never passing up the opportunity to talk about them, in hopes that it, someday, will improve itself.
CZ-USA Scorpion 3+ Carbine Specs
- Type: Semi-auto, straigh blowback
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel Length: 16.2 in. CHF
- Receiver: Fiber-reinforced polymer
- Muzzle Device: Faux suppressor (muzzlebrake available)
- Overall Length: 36 in. (extended), 26 in. (folded)
- Height: 9.4 in.
- Weight: 6 lbs., 10 oz. (without mag)
- Safety: Bilateral Manual
- Magazine: CZ, 20, 30 rds.
- Sights: Post front elevation adj., Four-aperture rear windage adj.
- Trigger: 8 lbs. (tested)
- Accessories: two 20-rd. magazines, sight adj. too;, pull-through bore cleaner
- MSRP: $1,499
- Contact: CZ-USA
About the Author
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. A former police officer he is a USPSA Production Division Grand Master. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.