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Exercise Your Freedom | CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1

Exercise Your Freedom | CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1

Photo credit: Darren Parker

Looks alone make it clear CZ marched to a different drummer with the company’s take on a Pistol Caliber Carbine. And right to another fine result, too.

This feature appears in the April ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

A tidy excuse to put the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 review in the April issue could hardly be easier to come by, given a little Czech history—49 years ago this month marked the “Prague Spring.” Though difficult to interpret at the time and another 20-plus years in completion, it was the beginning of the end for both the Soviet Communist domination of Eastern Europe, and the Cold War. We think it’s safe to observe that the occurrence was a major bit of good news. 

Why we didn’t wait for the 50th anniversary will shortly be obvious as well: The news on this superb pistol caliber carbine is too good to delay another day. The problem, getting right down to it, is figuring out where to start. 

How’s that for compact? Stock deployability is first rate, but you can shoot folded if you must. The suppressor is faux, but fun. Photo credit: Darren Parker

The basics, at least, are easy. It’s a 9 mm straight blowback carbine with a 16.2-inch barrel, detachable magazine and folding/adjustable stock. We concede the words are vanilla, but as our photograph makes clear, an MSR-pattern knock-off it isn’t, and differences from those rifles pile up in a hurry. 

Exposed metal is an obvious example: The Scorpion’s unusual layout reveals almost none. Most of the exterior of the rifle is polymer—frame, grip, handguard, rails and stock. These encase an ingenious trigger module (that is removable with a single captured pin and no tools), a massive bolt/recoil spring (think heavy, not exactly large; tool-less removal here as well) and a 1-in-10 twist cold hammer-forged barrel (easily maintained with the provided bore snake). Into the bottom feeds a CZ proprietary magazine design (10-, 20- or 30-round, depending on local laws), also polymer. 

Lefty/righty is another departure: You’ll have a heck of a time finding a more fully ambidextrous firearm of any type. Selector/safety, magazine release and a charging handle of HK style—forward and above the barrel and swappable from 10 to 2 o’clock—all cooperate. 

Granted, the stock doesn’t fold both ways, but it’s clever just as it is, and it complements the perhaps-unique grip-to-trigger length adjustability. Loosening a single set screw yields a solid half-inch of forward/backward movement for the FAL-style grip. Fully adjustable ring-and-post (with four apertures) sights round out a handling-friendly 7 pounds. 

Our range work verified all the harbingers of the comfortable, intuitive (at least to us) handling. Accuracy impressed right off the bat, with the first three rounds literally on top of one another. It was so nearly a perfect triple, in fact, that we initially expected a serious sight or ammunition issue had taken us completely off a full-sized silhouette, but slight “ears” proved three hits. Normal break-in ended about 150 rounds shy with the conclusion we were missing the target too often—right through the center of a ragged hole. We moved to (sometimes) more challenging weights and bullet shapes with the same result—impact on top of impact, with everything from 95- all the way up to 158-grain subsonics yielding consistent accuracy and utter reliability (not a single malfunction with more than 800 rounds downrange). 

Massive ejection port kept us (easily) malfunction free. Another perfection: Riserless install of the outstanding Vortex 6 MOA Razor—save time and order them together? Photo credit: Darren Parker

We believe one major design factor accounts for nearly all the “shootability” of the Scorpion: Bore axis, bolt/recoil system and stock all work together to transfer recoil energy to the shooter in an uncommonly low and optimal “line.” This lets even modest-statured shooters stay on top of the gun and is the very essence of recoil control. 9 mm is bound to be soft, of course, but we’ll take everything we can get when it comes to putting shots right where we want ’em—something the Scorpion does with impressive regularity, even at 100 yards. 

The pistol caliber carbine, or “PCC” type has seen rapid growth in popularity in the last three or so years. Despite the versatility of putting the same cartridge in a short or long arm, these generally short, light rifles have seemed an answer to questions asked only in narrow circles: Are the weight, noise, recoil and cost economies sufficient to give up “full” rifle power or pistol maneuverability?

We are emphatically in the “yes” camp on this question, and even more so with Scorpion EVO 3 S1 experience under our belt. Whether your goal is simply versatile range fun in a handy rifle of economic caliber and profound out-of-the-box fitness, or more serious competitive or even defensive duty, it’s a trick indeed to think of something better than this CZ. 

Nuts and Bolts

When we can, we get help evaluating what might be called “creature comforts,” and we were able to do so with the Scorpion. Complaints and compliments were atypically uniform—shooting observations were all of “yee-haw!” class or some variation thereof—but the selector switch on the master hand side bugged everybody (but us).

GREAT ambi controls. The paddle in the middle is an alternate bolt release that is a great aid on reloads with retention. Photo credit: Darren Parker

Several commentators found the ambidextrous side of the lever a little too long, and a discomfort as it rides atop the third knuckle of the trigger finger. With the carbine in hand, a simple fix is easy to envision, but shoot your rifle a good deal before tooling up for any ad hoc “adjustments” to this control. Our reasoning is two-fold—it’s a safety, and we hate modifying them on principle, despite the tactile reality. But more important is the fact that this got by us so completely that we wonder if other shooters won’t have the same experience with more rounds downrange. Besides, compromising ambidextrous function on the side you’ll want it to be best/easiest seems a questionable undertaking. 

Compared to AR-style competitors, the Scorpion trigger will seem heavier, and it certainly measures so. Moreover, the MSR world’s many options aren’t there yet for the CZ. We emphatically wouldn’t let this decide a purchase, and we suggest you shouldn’t, either. For starters, the CZ Custom Shop has a fix (and the grapevine tells us it is fabulous), as may your gunsmith, so a fallback already exists. 

But we also found that our technique rapidly adapted to the particulars of the CZ trigger. The front end of the press is two-stage-like, so that’s just a training issue. More experience also let us see—in terms of increasingly precise paired shots—another benefit of the excellent overall ergonomics, and especially the “centrality” of the boreline relative to the height and shouldering position of the carbine. As long as your trigger prep is correct, sight picture is what matters: Don’t try to nurse the trigger through the slightly heavier break. Quality multiples at notable pace appeared immediately when we simply quit overthinking our press. We are not saying you won’t want a better trigger eventually, but good mechanics will reward you from day one on this truly fine value in a pistol caliber carbine. 

Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has also been a competitive shooter and firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, though he won’t admit how many more.