Released to the public in 2016, the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Carbine has steadily made a name for itself as one of the best of breed options in the ever growing Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) market.
The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 is a pistol caliber carbine made by the highly regarded firearms manufacturer CZ. CZ is an abbreviation of CZUB which in turn is an acronym for “Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod” a Czech company whose roots go back to 1919 in the former Czechoslovakia. The Scorpion EVO is imported by CZ-USA, its Kansas City, Kansas based subsidiary who has handled the US delivery of CZ firearms since 1997.
It’s a different Scorpion:
The modern CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 pistol caliber carbine is chambered for the pervasive 9mm Luger (9×19 Parabellum) cartridge. CZ had earlier produced the CZ Scorpion or “Škorpion” which was a select fire sub-machine gun developed in the late 1950s but the modern Scorpion is really a different animal altogether. The original select fire Scorpion models were chambered for the .32 ACP cartridge, which was the preferred law enforcement cartridge of the day, and later included models in both 9mm Makarov and .380 ACP.
The current CZ Scorpion EVO models actually derive from the Laugo sub-machine gun produced around 2002 whose design was then acquired by CZ and rebranded as the Scorpion. I mean, why waste a great name like Scorpion that is already associated with your brand? It was a perfect fit. Both the original Scorpion and the modern incarnation are lightweight, pistol caliber blowback weapons that fire from a closed bolt but actually have different design lineages. Produced domestically and for export, CZ manufactured the Scorpion EVO S3 A1 (A1 for automatic) starting in 2009 but as you know, there is a limited market for sub-guns and CZ smartly looked to expand theirs. Almost a decade after the sub-gun’s release CZ released the S1 (Semi-automatic) variant for the civilian market.
Man, am I glad they did.
The Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Carbine, even with the cool looking faux suppressor like we tested, weighs in at a trim 7 pounds and has a nice solid feel and balance to it. It is also offered with a muzzle brake in place of the fake suppressor. It is constructed largely of fiber-reinforced polymer but it does not in any way feel flexible or cheap, nor should it. At an MSRP around $1100 for this particular model you should expect a quality firearm and you get it. The folding stock is adjustable and extends to give the rifle a maximum overall length of 34.75”. The cold hammer forged and threaded barrel is 16.2” in length. As received by us, the carbine came with two, twenty round magazines, a bore snake and a genuine corrugated cardboard box. What else do you need?
Well, maybe a sight. Our CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 came with installed Magpul MBUS flip-up backup sights (or BUIS if you prefer, “back-up-iron-sights”). I have no issue at all with these sights and they work perfectly for the purpose for which they were intended – Backups. However, the Scorpion is just calling out for something as agile as it is, so a red dot or reflex type sight is a natural match to enable quick and accurate target acquisition. We had a reflex sight on it practically before it left the box although we did shoot it just using the backup MBUS sights as well.
You might want to pick up a few more magazines as well because you’re going to have so much fun shooting this gun you will run through mags fast. Here’s an area where the CZ shines. For some guns buying magazines is an expensive proposition. The smoky translucent plastic magazines for the Scorpion, which come in ten, twenty and thirty round varieties can be had for under $20! That’s sweet.
Early on when the CZ Scorpion pistol (not carbine) was released there were issues with some magazines getting cracks on the feed lips. Current magazines from CZ as well as other aftermarket manufacturers do not appear to suffer from these issues and we had no problems with any of the magazines we used. In conjunction with the announcement of a “Magpul Edition” Scorpion, Magpul is now selling thirty-five round Scorpion EVO 3 PMAGs if you need/want an even higher capacity magazine option.
The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Carbine has a side mounted non-reciprocating charging handle. If putting your rifle into battery with the patented MP5 palm “slap” puts a smile on your face (and it does mine) this is going to work for you. However, some folks who work the charging handle may find their knuckles abraded by the side of the full length Picatinny rail (aka cheese grater) atop the rifle. I personally did not have that problem, but if you do there are aftermarket charging handles that extend further from the rifle which give your knuckles some relief. On the subject of aftermarket products – there are a ton of them already available for the Scorpion and I will address two I would highly recommend right out of the gate later in this blog.
The grip is fairly smooth with just a few vertical grooves molded into it to enhance your grip. These are perfectly adequate as the recoil is mild – it’s not like you’re hanging on to a bucking bronco. There is also a firm rubber pad on the buttstock but this really serves to keep the stock from sliding on your shoulder rather than absorbing any of the minimal recoil. The forend is indented, giving your hand options for a comfortable radius to grasp it, and well-appointed with M-LOK attachment points from which to hang all you favorite “tactical” options and accessories.
Safety levers are ambidextrous and this is one of the few features where CZ missed the mark. When you rotate the safety into the firing position the lever comes into conflict with the top of your trigger hand around the base of your trigger finger. It is not enough to keep you from operating the rifle but many (most) folks find it annoying. Luckily it is easily remedied with an inexpensive replacement with either another style of selector to maintain the ambidextrous function or a non-levered indicator on that side. It is hard to say why CZ let this go as it is a pretty obvious, albeit minor, failing.
The trigger out of the box is just OK. I’ve shot much better triggers on much less expensive firearms. The stock trigger setup is right around 8 ½ to 9 pounds so if you are used to AR Mil Spec triggers for example (a fairly low bar), you won’t be impressed. Luckily, like the safety selector levers, the trigger weight is a really simple and inexpensive item to address.
The trigger group itself is brilliant. A single takedown pin unlocks the trigger group which then rotates down and out of the rifle for cleaning and maintenance. Two seconds out, two seconds back in. While it is out you can compress the bolt spring and remove the (heavy) bolt as well. This will give you access to clean anything you need to clean on a regular basis. Push the bolt back in, rotate the trigger group back into place and lock the takedown pin. Done. It’s a plus that the Scorpion is easy to access for cleaning because with the blowback action it can get pretty grungy inside.
The magazine release (also ambidextrous) sits at the front of the trigger guard and can be operated with either the tip of your trigger finger or the thumb of the opposite hand operating the magazine. If you have average size hands and/or 20 or 30 round magazines this works pretty well, but there are two caveats. If you have stubby fingers like me operating the release with your trigger finger isn’t ideal. In states where you are limited to using the ten round magazines (like where we did our live fire testing) you may also find the shorter ten round magazines difficult to grasp while operating the release with your thumb. It all works, but could be improved somewhat (and of course, there are aftermarket upgrades to do exactly that).
As mentioned earlier, there are two inexpensive modifications I would highly recommend for the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Carbine that will make shooting this gun more fun and more accurate. There are many companies making terrific aftermarket options for the Scorpion but both of these items come from HB Industries.
First, is the CZ Scorpion EVO Safety Delete. No, it doesn’t really delete the safety. What is does is replace the safety selector lever on your trigger hand side and replace it with a non-levered indicator. This quickly and cheaply solves the issue many folks have with the lever rubbing the top of their hand while shooting. It takes a minute or two to install and is well worth the few bucks it costs.
Second is the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 Reduced Weight Trigger Spring Kit. This improves the pull weight of the factory trigger setup from around nine pounds to a much better feeling five and a half pounds. If you’re modestly handy you can do this yourself in around 15-20 minutes working slowly. If not, a competent gunsmith could do it in half the time. It does not affect the hammer spring, only the trigger and disconnector spring, making the trigger operation lighter without affecting reliability. If you have this rifle it’s the best $9 you’ll ever spend. With the lighter trigger comes tighter groups. Me likey!
As mentioned earlier in this review, we added an inexpensive reflex sight to the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 carbine to augment the supplied MBUS sights for our testing. It obviously doesn’t affect the function of the weapon, but it does make it easier to acquire targets and makes it more fun to shoot. After all – this is supposed to fun isn’t it? Other than that the weapon was stock for now. We tried a number of brands of 115 grain FMJ, then some 124 grain and finally we proceeded to using 147 grain to try and push muzzle velocities into the sub-sonic range.
Through 200 rounds mixed with Blazer, Winchester WB and Federal Premium 115 Grain cartridges the CZ functioned flawlessly. We got nice tight groups in a big ragged hole at 25 yards and rang a 5” steel at 50 yards consistently without even trying hard. Out to 100 yards well… you’re going to have to make some adjustments. 9mm out of the 16” barrel is modestly better than out of a 4” barrel, but you will still be looking at a 6”- 8” bullet drop at that distance. Let’s face it, pistol caliber carbines are built for close to intermediate ranges.
We moved up to the 124 grain WWB and again got flawless consistent results. At this point we moved on from testing precision, assumed our best room clearing operator stance, and engaged multiple targets. The Scorpion EVO is so compact and maneuverable it feels natural to move from one target to the next and with the minimal recoil of the 9mm cartridge follow up shots are effortless. At 20 yards it was easy to find the center of the target over and over while on the move.
When we moved on the heavier 147 Grain Sig ammo we experienced our only failure of the day. On the third round using this cartridge we had a failure to eject the spent cartridge which required a quick clearing exercise. I have not used this particular ammo before so I have no track record to compare to. The heavier projectile is slowed down into the subsonic range and the tone of the gun’s report is noticeably different (but not hearing safe – keep the earpro on!). After clearing the FTE, we continued shooting the 147 until we ran out and had no issues at all. Maybe we got a light load? Sensitive to the different cartridges weight and velocity? Hard to tell. That’s all the 147 we had so we’ll put that on the list to revisit and see if the one failure was just a fluke.
CZ has produced a winner in the pistol caliber carbine market. It is functionally head and shoulders over the low end PCC choices in this market but of course, you do pay for it. The street price hovers right around $1K. However, it’s still a solid value and if you compare it to others in its class like the pricey SIG MPX, it seems like an absolute bargain. From the time you slap the charging handle down and engage your target you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.
And that’s priceless.