The Czech CZ-91S Civvie Skorpion
By Warren Ferguson

The popular and enigmatic Czech Skorpion machine pistol has played a role in informal conflicts and on the silver screen ever since it was conceived. Light and capable of being fired with one hand, the Ceská Zbrojovka (Uherský Brod) Skorpion vzor 61 was an early form Personal Defense Weapon that led to newer, more effective forms of the concept. The new CZ-91S pistol in .380 ACP is one such example, and it is civilian legal where importable.

The advantage of the original Skorpion has always been its small size, which allows it to be easily carried by armored crews and brought to use quickly. It can be shot as a pistol with good accuracy or as a shoulder weapon when its shoulder stock is employed. Acknowledged even by its producer, its chief disadvantage is the weak .32 ACP cartridge it uses. Over the years, the arm was redesigned in caliber and size to use the 9mm Makarov and .380 ACP cartridges.

The Model 82 Makarov and Model 83 .380 ACP versions also fit in a hip holster, but are somewhat larger than the original Skorpion. The CZ-91S is offered in semi-automatic only, and this .380 is conceivably aimed at the civilian market as one means of bringing cash into the Czech economy. Czech skill at arms manufacturing is legendary, and the CZ-91S is no exception.

The CZ-91S is a blowback operated, magazine fed handgun. It fires from the closed bolt via a hammer allowing it to be used as a pistol with good results. The 12 and 30-round magazines are straight rather than curved as with the .32 caliber version. The folding stock folds over the top of the receiver and the finish is deep black enamel by all indications.

A tan colored leather hip holster, cleaning kit and factory range target complete the sales package. The safety selector is on the left side and is marked 0 - 1. As such, this is not a remarked surplus firearm, but a new construction. The pistol is marked CZ91S CAL. 9 Browning MADE IN CZECH REPUBLIC.

The magazine release button is on the left side, but can be easily reached by southpaws with the trigger finger. A handy hold open device is located forward of the trigger guard on the bottom of the receiver. The magazine supports a last-shot hold open so reloading is a quick process.

The protected sights include a front post and a flip rear sight with the graduations marked as 75 and 100 meters. It goes without saying that both of these markings are wildly ambitious for this pistol. Used as a handgun, the CZ-91S works accurately to about 25 meters. Slap underneath the folding stock to unlock it, and the pistol operates best at 50 meters. It can shoot out to 75 meters or further, but with the short sight radius, the front post looms large and unforgiving.

The Skorpion at the range

Using an overhand pinch grip, the bolt of the pistol is pulled to the rear to load the chamber. The grip angle and feel are conducive to quick target acquisition even though the bulk of the arm is forward of the grip. For the range test, the CZ-91S was shot at 10, 25 and 50 meters.

Surprisingly, the Skorpion can be shot as accurately as any modern semiautomatic pistol at short ranges. This is despite possessing one of the worst trigger pulls of any firearm being both spongy and with a long pull. This flaw seems inconceivable given the immeasurable quality of the Skorpion as manufactured. The Czechs could have made the Skorpion cheaply, but milled it instead. Even the upper receiver stamping is done to make it both light and very strong. So why did they cut corners with the trigger? In truth, once the trigger is figured out, the slack can be taken up and the user can compensate.

At 25 meters, the Skorpion hit the target with an average of two inch groups using a two-handed grip and a slow, deliberate pace of fire. The most interesting and unexpected thing was when the shoulder stock was used.

At the same range, the accuracy actually got worse. The groups were closer to three inches and the reason for this inconsistency could be best understood when you consider the arm’s construction. The shoulder stock is very short and so the shooter’s face is somewhat over the top of the receiver. The ejection port is on the top and the pistol is blowback. When fired, the Skorpion launches the brass 20 feet into the air inches away from the shooter’s face, and the brass leaves a distracting flame trail in its wake.

The speed of ejection is confirmed by examining the brass. There appears to be an irregular swelling and discoloration that may indicate that the chamber is loose for certain extraction under all conditions, yet there are two ejectors. In any case, the Skorpion is utterly reliable, but strange to shoot as a shoulder arm. The 50 meter test showed an eight inch spread.

Field stripping

The user opens the stock. Even though the shoulder stock it made out of thick wire, the construction in quite sturdy. It can also be removed from the pistol. To maintain the Skorpion, no tools are used for disassembly. First, the user removes the magazine and ensures an empty chamber. At the forward end of the lower receiver, a captive push button, not unlike that of the M16, is pressed to the left.

The upper receiver is then pushed forward to exit the rear locking area. The upper receiver is then rotated to lower the muzzle. The cocking tabs are used to pull the bolt to the rear until the tabs reach a widened slot.The tabs are removed and the bolt can be pulled out using the spring assembly. The spring assembly is attached to the bolt. The process is quick and easy.


The Skorpion .380 pistol instantly draws the attention of other shooters at the range. The concept takes the submachine gun down to its lightest and smallest package so it can be holstered and fired with one hand. While the CZ-91S is not likely to ever be imported into the United States due to the receiver’s similarity to a full auto VZ-61, it has proven popular with civilian shooters and military collectors from Canada to Finland and elsewhere. Its classic global conflict heritage cannot be denied, nor its function and fun at the range.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N7 (April 2007)
and was posted online on December 7, 2012


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