SAMOPAL Vz.61 Skorpion: A Czechoslovak machine pistol

Eric Sof

SAMOPAL Vz.61 Skorpion submachine gun

The SAMOPAL Vz.61 Skorpion is not a new weapon, but it deserves a mention for two reasons; firstly because it is a unique miniature submachine gun, and secondly because it is appearing more and more often in the hands of terrorists, criminals, and revolutionaries, largely because of its small size and concentrated firepower.


In its original form, it was of somewhat limited legitimate application; it was then increased in Yugoslavia. The two pistols are easily distinguished since Czech production has a wooden pistol grip and Yugoslavian models have plastic grips. Skorpion Vz.61 was used by many units of the Czech and Yugoslavian armies and has been exported to various African states with Communist connections. How these weapons find their way into terrorist hands is not for us to suggest.

That included the Irish Republican Army, Irish National Liberation Army and the Italian Red Brigades. The Brigades used the Škorpion during the 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro, also using this weapon to kill Moro. In the 1990s the Gang de Roubaix used the Škorpion in a series of attacks in France. In 2017 police in Sweden estimated that about 50 formerly deactivated weapons from Slovakia were in circulation among criminals in Sweden.

The Yugoslav version of the original Samopal Vz.61 Skorpion differentiates from the origin by the plastic grip. The Yugoslavian M84 Skorpion was manufactured in Yugoslavia and then Serbia since 1984 by Zastava Arms
The Yugoslav version of the original Samopal Vz.61 Skorpion differentiates from the origin by the plastic grip. The Yugoslavian M84 Skorpion was manufactured in Yugoslavia and then Serbia since 1984 by Zastava Arms (Photo: XY)


The original Skorpion (Samopal Vz.61 Škorpion) is the .32 caliber model, and it was designed as a light weapon capable of being holster-carried by crews of armored vehicles, as a self-defense weapon. It was designed by the constructors Miroslav Ribar and Jiri Cermak in 1959. Cermak was the director of the Uhersky Brod Ruzhak company. The small bullet is hardly a combat projectile, but as a last-ditch weapon for use by the crew of a stalled tank, it has some validity. The mechanism is a simple blowback bolt, and a change lever allows single shots or automatic fire.

In either mode, it can be fired one-handed, or the wire stock can be unfolded to allow its use as a shoulder weapon. It is unpleasant to fire from the hip since the empty cases are ejected vertically and usually hit the fire in the face.

The light bolt and weak recoil spring would be led to an unacceptably high rate of fire if left to themselves, and so a rate reducer is fitted into the pistol grip. As the bolt reaches the end of its rearward travel it is held b a catch; during the rearward movement, the bolt trips a light plunger and drives it down inside the pistol grip, against a spring.

Schematic view of the SAMOPAL Vz. 61 Skorpion
Schematic view of the SAMOPAL Vz. 61 Skorpion (Photo: XY)

This light plunger passes through a heavyweight and passes some of its energy to the weight, causing it to begin to move down. The plunger reaches the bottom of the grip and its spring sends it back, where it meets the descending weight and passes through it; this acts as a retardant to the plunger. Eventually, the plunger reaches the top of the grip once more and releases the bolt catch, allowing it to go forward and fire the next round. This all sounds very time-consuming, but in fact, it cuts the rate down to 840 rounds per minute, so the travel of the plunger is all over in about .0012 of a second.


Later models of the Skorpion were chambered for different cartridges; the SAMOPAL Vz.64 fires the .380 Auto (9 mm Short) cartridge; the SAMOPAL Vz.65 fires the 9 mm Soviet (Makarov) cartridge; and the CZ Vz.68 is chambered for the 9 mm Parabellum round. There has been little published about these variants and few have been seen outside Czechoslovakia. The SAMOPAL Vz.68 is, as might be expected, somewhat larger than the other models.

The Yugoslav variant of the SAMOPAL Vz.61 Skorpion was designated as the M84 Skorpion and it was built by Zastava Arms in Yugoslavia and then in Serbia.

Technical specifications: Skorpion Vz.61

Manufacturer: Czech State Arsenals (now Ceska Zbrojovka)
Type: blowback, selective fire
Caliber: .32 ACP (7.65 mm)
Barrel: 4.4 in (112 mm)
Weight (empty): 3.5 lbs (1.59 kg)
Magazine capacity: 10 to 20 rounds
Cyclic rate of fire: 840 rounds per minute

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1 thought on “SAMOPAL Vz.61 Skorpion: A Czechoslovak machine pistol”

  1. My favorite military surplus pistol! Nice to start grandkids on a Scorpion and work up to larger as they grow.

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