Czech vz.61 Photos and Catalog

Thanks to reader Denny, we have some more information on the Czech vz.61 “Skorpion” PDW, including pages from a CZ catalog advertising three different versions of the gun for sale. These three variants are:

  • vz.61 – the original version, in .32ACP (7.65mm) feeding from curved 10- and 20-round magazines. Has select-fire capability.
  • vz.83 – a version in .380 (9mm Browning) feeding from straight 12-, 24- and 30-round magazines. It is the same size and weight as the vz.61, and also has a select-fire trigger mechanism.
  • CZ-91S – a semiauto-only civilian version available in .32ACP, .380, or 9mm Makarov. This model does not have the rate-reducing mechanism in the grip, and is consequently lighter than the standard vz.61 (1.14kg in .32 or 1.28kg in .380 or 9mm Mak, compared to 1.3kg for the automatic versions).

CZ catalog page for the vz.83 CZ catalog page for the vz.61 Skorpion CZ catalog page for the CZ-91S
Denny also sent us a handful of photos of a cutaway Skorpion, which give some interesting and useful views into the mechanism. In particular, these photos give a decent idea of how the rate reducing mechanism works. There is a weighted block in the pistol grip which is pushed upwards by a spring. When the bolt cycles fully rearward, it hits a cam that pushes the weight down, and simultaneously engages a hook that holds the bolt at its rearmost position. The weight in the grip takes a shot period of time to travel down, stop, and then be pushed back up by its spring. When the weight returns to the top of the grip, it causes the bolt hook to disengage, allowing the bolt to return to battery and load a new cartridge. By adjusting the mass of the grip weight and the strength of its spring, the rate of fire can be fine tuned to whatever the factory prefers – in this case, 850-900 rounds/minute.

vz.61 Skorpion cutaway
Rate reducer bolt hook in unlocked position
vz.61 Skorpion cutaway
Rate reducer bolt hook in locked position
vz.61 Skorpion cutaway
Bolt locked rearward by rate reducer

You can see the rest of Denny’s photos here:

[nggallery id=220]

Last but certainly not least, Denny sent a scan of a poster showing an exploded view of the parts and mechanism of a vz.61:

Sa.Vz.61 exploded parts diagram
Sa.Vz.61 exploded parts diagram (click to enlarge)

25 Comments

  1. I absolutely *love* this SMG.

    I’ve fired one a few times and it is absolutely wonderfully controllable, accurate and concealable to boot.

    Rate of fire can overcome impotent cartridges, with the modern example being the P90.

  2. Hmm. 1970s-era Terrorist chic? The recently reviewed Mullin book on SMGs, MPs, and shotguns favorably evaluated the Vz61. At shotgun distances, say within 10 yards, three or four .32acp bullets would be pretty potent and from a very small, easy-to-use, compact weapon.

  3. An .32 caliber is not bad for this smg,there is other versions exists such as regular 9x19mm luger,makarov 9×18 and even 7,62×25 version but I never seen those personaly…
    Ones I seen gurad of statue of liberty was ecquiped with one,not even sore which version he had but according to straight magazine it have to be 9mm luger caliber,they also have H&K P7 pistols as well totally different ecquipmant from ordinary police force..

    • Thanks Denny and Ian.

      I’ll be getting to grips with those images tonight.

      My first thought is how familliar the construction looks, with the phosphated investment castings – just like the innards of a CZ sporting rifle (or at least the older ones like my rifles)

      • Yeah, Keith, they have some worked out tricks and just repeat them. They started with civilian sales long before Berlin wall fall-down. One fella I met here told me he had, in South Africa (apartheid was no issue, apparently) CZ75. He thought it was good gun but poor surface finish wore off easily. Now they try quite a bit harder and it pays. People in States go like crazy after CZ guns.

        • Mine are all from before the wall came down

          My oldest is a .22 hornet from the 1970s (it’s getting ready for a fresh barrel, from neglect by a previous owner, rather than wear), and I’ve a couple of CZs from the 1980s.

          I need to do some work on the youngest (late 1980s) as the groove for the ring holding the external mauser type extractor is eccentric to the surface of the bolt and that occasionally causes a second round to try to feed from under the bolt. but, I’ve lived with it this long…

          I used to hire a CZ75 pistol from a club I was a member of, but never owned one. They always had a very high reputation in Britain.

          • You can probably get new one; they would be legal in UK I’d believe. Actually, this short action Mauser-CZs were very popular in Europe.

          • Unfortunately breech loading pistols were banned on mainland Britain at the end of the 90s. There are a very few people (probably fewer than ten or twenty individuals out of a population of 60 M) who still legally have them because of their work with big animals in remote places.

            I suppose it might be worth applying…

  4. The 32 was a popular assassination weapon I believe in the 70s and 80s. With the Sincerer attached( full rubber baffles that the first round made a hole for ) and only good for a 20 round mag. I have heard the pillion passenger on a bike could be driven right up next to a car with the target in and a full mag dump followed. 20 rounds of 32 not dissimilar to a couple of rounds of OO buck at point blank range!

    • This ‘assassination’ thing escapes me. Were there any REAL and documented cases that this, in fact just pistol with legs, would be used for this purpose? There are so many guns to choose from. It may be just remnant of fairy-telling from Cold-War.

  5. Thanks! I’ve been fascinated by this weapon ever since I read about it as a kid in American Rifleman (I think) in the early 70s. That was when the big debate was penetration (9×19) versus knock-down (.45 ACP) and of course it all revolved around FMJ ammo. Then came Evan Marshall with real-world emergency-room statistics based on brand-name loads and it turned out that for one-shot torso stopping power the .32 ACP Silvertip was more effective than either 9mm or .45ACP FMJ. Just did a web check and supposedly there is a Cor-Bon .32 ACP that has… shall we say… interesting terminal ballistics. Not that I want to get shot in the chest with any gun from .22 short to .49 +p+ Magnum.

    But the Skorp is a weirdly fun little gun that strikes me as interesting, and personally – as someone who wants to hit with repeat shots if I miss on the first one – I’d pick a CZ 83 in .32 over a microlight .45. Never even fondled a real Skorp (my area of the Cold War dealt with a whole ‘nother level of ComBloc weapons) but I really like the old PDR Czechoslovak 7.62 CZ83s that came in during the early 90s. Big chunk of pocket-size Commie steel I can hit 7-yard triple-taps with, and I’d rather have a rather heavy .32 (loaded with Silvertips) that I can get comfortable with than a microlight .45 that breaks my wrist on the first round. Never was sure how well the Skorp would work with that lil’ ol’ gun with that tiny little stock, but from the Youtube videos I’ve seen the concept works well.

    The Skorp apparently did see some widespread sales to 3rd world countries (especially in Africa and the Middle East) that were getting Soviet aid. Most of these wound up in the hands of the secret police, so good luck finding any information. Kind of like the Thompsons and 1907 Winchesters who wound up in the hands of union-buster gun thugs during the labor wars in the US during the 20s and 30s.

    But for Stephen Hunter fans… in the American Handgunner interview Hunter said that he often wrote novels about guns he got interested in, and tried to figure out a way to write a book about them. (“Havana” is the 7mm Mendoza LMG book; “Tapestry of Spies” is the .455 Webley book.)So “The Second Saladin” is his vz. 61 book. If only the Kurd who was terminally fed up with US policy toward the Kurds (a pretty shameful history) had had some Silvertip .32s…..

    • The Cz83 (as a civie version of 9mm Mak.Vz.82) was made in both .32 ACP and .38 ACP. They were selling them statewide and they seem to have reasonably good rapport. Back in place of origin it’s kind of mix bag. I guess export had priorities. That is but a ‘weak tea’ when compared with 75 and following models. My own question is what they plan next; there must be some look-out for future, if they want to sustain the position they are in.

      • Thanks Denny! In the early 90s after the Wall came down you could buy .32 CZ83s in 32 for about $150 or less with two 13-round magazines long before anyone knew there were .380 or 9×18 versions. The story then was that they were companion guns for the vz. 61 and were used by Czech military or police. I had all the guns I needed (or could afford) at the moment but I really liked the ones a couple of friends acquired, along with back stories that were probably BS. There was just so much stuff on the US market in 92 with… interesting… stories. (Keep in mind that this was when the Indonesians bought the entire East German navy.) As mentioned I prefer a small but heavy pistol I can control, even if underpowered, to a lightweight overpowered gun. (As an example, the Star Starfire is my favorite “pocket” 9×19 because it is heavy enough to shoot regularly with comfort.) But I really liked the .32 CZ83s, especially because I have small (K-frame Smith/ 1911) hands and cannot get a comfortable, instinctive grip on most high-cap 9x19s including the CZ 75. CZ makes some neat stuff… at the moment I’m looking at the 527 bolt-action carbine in 7.62×39 (every SKS I’ve owned or shot was horribly inaccurate, and I’m just not tacticool enough for an AK)and it looks like a nice little hog/ whitetail rifle. If my long-lost rich uncle doesn’t die soon and leave me enough money for a Merkel Helix 6.5×55 I may have to buy a 527!

        • I truly believe what you say, Jim. I think with 527 on your line of sight you will feel like ‘king of the air’. Whole 520 line is immensely popular and I can observe ‘adjustments’ to price as a result. This is one item in marketing which does not make sense to me – it should be the other way. More you make and sell, the cheaper they should be.

  6. I don’t know if this was great for assassinating targets, but the vz.61 seems to have some sort of tactical flexibility in mind. Semi-auto operation for silent elimination and then switching to full auto mode in preparation for the firefight with the dead man’s guards, who will likely never report anything to their boss ever again… I think.

    I’d like to speculate more, but now you know too much! *suppressed shot from Walther PPK*

  7. Hi, Denny :

    I know I’m coming a little late to this article, but since we’ve had prior discussions on FW about this weapon before, I have to tell you that in my honest opinion, the vz.61 Skorpion has to be one of the very best compact SMG’s of all time, bar none. It has that perfect, or at least near-perfect, amalgam of features and functional characteristics most desirable in such a weapon — adequate firepower, light weight, dimensional compactness, balance, low recoil, instinctive and immediate pointing capability, accuracy, reliability, durability, mechanical simplicity, ease of maintenance, and widespread availability of ammunition, among others.

    I have read no end of comments on the Internet of the supposed lack of man-stopping efficacy of the .32 Browning ACP ( 7.65mm ) cartridge, and even of the .380 Auto cartridge. Somehow, I get the feeling that a lot of the commentators are either simply parroting an urban myth, or else are comparing apples to oranges. The fact remains that a well-placed shot in either caliber, or multiple shots thereof, will stop an opponent intent on mayhem. The trade-off with the vz.61 versus competing SMG’s, machine pistols and PDW’s is that fact that the vz.61 uses a lighter, less-powerful cartridge that provides less recoil and better repeat-shot accuracy, and is more user-friendly to boot. High-powered one-shot stopping power is all fine and well, but not when it is achieved at the expense of overall balance and other equally important features. Enough said.

    Thanks so much for the information and insights that only a knowledgeable real Czech veteran could provide — my hat’s off to you.

    And many, many thanks to Ian M. for recognizing the potential and facilitating this wonderful forum.

    • Hello Earl

      Thanks for positive comment as well! As I mentioned some time back, I do not see Skorpion as full-value SMG, probably because I never used it:-))). This is kind of niche design, but time proved its viability. Also factory and various second hand suppliers have done what they could to exploit its potential. Yes, the caliber may be (the original) on little ‘modest’ side but there are designs with even smaller one, such as HK PDW. So, all around, it may be called a success. Many servicemen elsewhere still carry it.

  8. Thanks Denny and Ian for this post of “Just fit for the purpose what designed
    for” machine pistol.

    It seems, the firing rate reducer mechanism of elevating mass mechanism has same
    concept with Russian Stechkin.

    • You are welcome (for my part) Strongarm. One more design in that calibre, to be rightfully mentioned is Polish Wz.63 Rak and following model, the Glauberyt.

      With al these out of production, you really must wonder, where next direction would lead.

  9. Did some googling of the assassination use and deffinately the VZ61 did feature commonly in the 70s for such a use. Seemed to be quite popular with terrorist groups in the 70s including the murder of Aldo Moro in 1978. Has popped up quite regularly inrecent ties including a murder in Britain recently where a British Soldier smuggled one back from Kosovo and then gunned down an Indian restaurant worker.

    • Ok, perhaps so. I recall Brigadi Rossi and Moro’s murder; that was total and horrible flop. See, the thing is, as was mentioned already by Earl, there is lots of ballast added to the story of this particular design from which some is doubtable. Being compact and potent does not make it automatically weapon of choice by terrorists and murderers. But, it is true, people use guns, any guns for their sinister objectives.

  10. ROF rate reducer is a brilliant idea, and more or less only reason why this weapon is and was actually in great deal more useful than all those micro Uzis, Ingram, Tec 9 and other open bolt assault pistols.
    They are fun if youre “gangsta” spraying the (mostly unarmed) opponents, but utterly and completely useless in some military/police role, or even security/bodyguard.

    Remember Scarab Scorpion (it was single shot, but in auto without the reducer it would be even more horrible POS).

    Idea : modernise this weapon with polymer frame (light weight) and higher capacity mag (30 rounds)
    and I think you can not miss if you use it as a PDW.

    Caliber is bit anemic in today standards, but it’s better to have 3 rounds of it in the target, than 30 of 9mm sprayed on the walls everywhere around the target.

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