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The 9mm carbine continues to grow in popularity, with more choices than ever before.

These firearms initially saw action on the plinking range using relatively inexpensive FMJ ammo. Many of the early designs were remakes of select fire weapons but were not reliable enough using hollow-point ammunition for defensive uses; nor was the 9mm perceived as especially effective.

More recently, however, 9mm carbines are being considered for home-defense and even for competitive shooting. Perceptions have started to change as the 9mm cartridge has become more effective for defensive purposes. There are improved bullet designs that tests have shown offer adequate penetration and reliable expansion in soft tissue when shot from pistols. Moreover, the 9mm’s lethality is greater when fired from a 16-inch barrel, with an increased velocity of about 150 to 250 fps over 3.5-to 5-inch pistol barrels. The efficacy of the 9mm carbine as a close-quarters weapon—when loaded with the proper ammo—is probably one reason several state university police departments use them instead of 5.56 NATO-caliber weapons.

The CZ Scorpion Evo 3 S1 Carbine is semiauto only and is available to civilians. It has a 16.1-inch barrel, an M-LOK forend and U.S. standard barrel threading of 1/2×28. It is assembled in the United States from imported and U.S. parts (for 922 (r) compliance). (Photo: CZ-USA)

Underscoring the 9mm in a competitive role for long guns, 3-Gun Nation launched a pistol-caliber carbine division in early 2016.

The CZ Scorpion EVO3 A1 submachine gun (SMG) was introduced overseas in 2009 but was almost unknown in the United States until 2015, when a pistol version started to be imported.

CZ-USA offers two carbine versions and one pistol version of the Scorpion, as well as a select-fire SMG for LE/MIL use only.

For this article, I tested the SMG and a semiauto carbine. Even though it is not possible for private citizens to own the Scorpion SMG, you can reconfigure either the carbine or pistol version into a short-barreled rifle (SBR) that gets you practically the same firearm—but in semiautomatic. SBR conversion is regulated by the NFA and requires prior approval from ATF (along with payment of a hefty $200 transfer tax), but the parts are available from CZ-USA and others.

… its features, reliability and right-/left-handed operation make it well suited as a plinker and home-defense weapon for those who prefer the caliber and use appropriate +p loads.

Gun Details

Scorpions are blowback operated. They fire from a closed, unlocked bolt and feed from a detachable box magazine. “Blowback operation” means the weight of the bolt and recoil springs keep the action closed until gas pressure at the breech has fallen sufficiently to the point that the rearward pressure on the shell case safely moves the bolt group rearward to extract and eject the case. (Potential shortcomings of such designs are more recoil and weight, as compared to locked breech designs.)

The charging handle (top left) locks the bolt rearward, but so does the bolt catch (bottom, center—forward of the selector), which can cause a delay if the operator attempts to release the bolt using the catch when it is also held rearward by the handle. In addition, the multiple sling mounting points include molded eyelets and a sling strap slit at the rear of receiver, as well as steel eyelets on the front. (Photo: Robb Manning)

Both the carbine and SMG have folding stocks that make them easy to carry discretely and store in places where a conventional carbine would be too large (e.g., tactical walls and the like). The SMG and carbine’s respective folded lengths are 16.5 inches and 26 inches, with unloaded weights of 6.1 and 6.4 pounds. The heavy bolt and sturdy folding stock factor into those weights—which might seem high for a firearm made with lots of polymer materials. However, the Scorpion SMG is dimensionally competitive with the HK MP5A3 that weighs 6.6 pounds and is 21 inches long with the stock fully collapsed.


Scorpions use a polymer receiver made of two pieces joined together, clamshell style, with Allen-head screws. A Picatinny-style rail is integral to the receiver shells, so care must be taken not to damage the rail by frequently changing optics with metal mounts that can chew the rails.

The barrel is attached to the forend, and the forend is mated to the front of the receiver with Allen-head screws. This attachment method facilitates easily changing the barrel from carbine to pistol length if you build an SBR. The trigger housing, grip and forend are one-piece polymer, while the hammer, searing and other internals are steel.

CZ uses cold hammer-forged, medium-profile barrels on both the carbine and SMG. However, the SMG has a length of 7.7 inches and a birdcage flash suppressor, while the carbine has a 16.2-inch barrel with a three-chamber muzzle brake on one version and a faux suppressor on the other.

Sights are very functional and aligned naturally with the shooter’s eye when shouldering the weapon. Note the drum with four different-sized apertures. The horizontal serrations reduce glare. (Photo: Robb Manning)

Scorpion stocks fold to the right and have three lengths of pull. The SMG and carbine can both be operated with the stock folded. Most significantly, the folded carbine’s 26-inch length offers obvious tactical advantages, given the weapon’s “fire on folded” capability.

The pistol grip is secured to the trigger housing with an Allen-head screw and can be slid forward or aft by ½ inch to adjust the trigger reach. The Scorpion’s unconventional grip shape and angle are not optimal for some shooters, but Yeti Wurks sells two replacements that change the ergonomics significantly.

The carbine’s one-piece forend is not a slim profile, but it’s also not so thick that a C-clamp support-hand grip technique won’t work. M-Lok attachment slots can be found on three sides, and a Picatinny-style rail is on top.

Slinging the Scorpions is easy for right- or left-handed shooters. There are two steel eyelets on either side of the front of the receiver, two molded eyelets at the rear and a sling slot on the left to keep the firearm slung close to the body for a right-handed operator.

The massive extractor engages a full ⅓ inch of the case head for ultrareliable function.

Operation and Controls

The Scorpion is easily operable by left- or right-handed shooters. A nonreciprocating charging handle slides on the side of the forend next to the barrel and can be swapped to the opposite side. As on an MP5, retracting this handle pulls the bolt rearward, and pushing the handle upward engages a notch to lock the action open. However, unlike the MP5, the Scorpion has a bolt catch that locks the action open after the last round is fired or when the catch is pressed upward.

The safety/selector is ambidextrous, with the SMG having a four position selector: “safe,” ”semi,” “three-round burst” and “auto.” Rate of fire in auto mode is a fairly rapid: 1,150 rpm. Large, ambidextrous magazine release levers are mounted just ahead of the trigger guard. (Yeti Wurks sells a much different stainless steel release for those who don’t like the factory design.)

The Yeti Wurks Switchback grip radically changes the factory grip and offers two back panels that fit medium or large hands. It also has a stowage compartment for batteries or the unused back. The Yeti paddle-style steel magazine release extends the release lever significantly below the trigger guard. Be careful not to inadvertently activate it.

Sights on the Scorpion are made from steel and aluminum and consist of a protected rear aperture and a protected post front. The rear sight has four apertures that rotate into place; each has a different-sized hole—from ghost ring for CQB/night-fire engagements to about 1.5mm for precision and distance shots. Elevation is adjusted at the front sight (as on the AR-15) using the threaded front post, while the rear sight adjusts for windage using a coin or the included sight-adjustment tool.

The SMG trigger has a travel of about 3/8 inch and a heavy pull of 9 pounds, 6 ounces, as measured with a Lyman digital trigger scale. As on most SMGs, the trigger return spring is hefty— possibly intended to help the operator maintain short bursts during automatic fire. The carbine’s trigger behaved similarly, with about 3/8 inch of travel, lots of creep and a total weight of 9 pounds, 5 ounces.

The Scorpion can use steel-cased and +P ammo, but aluminum-based rounds are not recommended because of its blowback design.

Range Time

Using five common factory loads, including hollow-point designs, function was perfect with both the SMG and carbine. Accuracy testing for the Scorpion carbine was done by firing off a Caldwell rest at 50 yards with a Leopold Mark IV 8.5-25 X 50mm scope. This optic is far and away “overkill” for a 9mm carbine tested at close range, but the parallax adjustment, high magnification and clear, distortion-free glass eliminate human sighting errors. My test carbine distinctly preferred Winchester 147-grain Brass Enclosed Base Winclean ammo, with respective best and average groups of .88 inch and 1.3 inches. These were followed by Black Hills 124-grain JHP, with 1.4 inches and 1.5 inches, respectively.

Winclean ammo uses a lead-free primer and a bullet with a completely enclosed base that eliminates airborne lead at the firing line. Its chronograph velocity also matched its publicized velocity—no small feat in my experience. Surprisingly, the ammo most likely to be used in this type of rifle—the 115-grain FMJ range ammo—shot very erratically, with average groups of 2.9 inches from both Remington UMC and Winchester USA brands.

Velocity increases ranged from 76 to 115 fps when shooting the 16.2-inch-barreled carbine, compared to the 7.7-inch-barreled SMG. Notably, the Black Hills 124-grain load showed the least increase; this indicates it is efficient, even in shorter barrels, with little upside to going long.

The Scorpion carbine performed much better with bullets heavier than 115 grains. Shown here are the best five-shot, 50-yard groups using Black Hills (1.38 inches) and Winchester (.88 inch).

If I were to deploy this carbine for defensive purposes, I would use the Black Hills 124-grain +P load. Fired from the carbine, this load has ballistics that exceed the .357 magnum fired from a handgun—a blazing 1,560 fps—compared to 1,416 fps in the SMG, and 1,316 fps in my HK P30L pistol with a 4.45-inch barrel. That’s an increase of 244 fps in the carbine over the pistol and clearly demonstrates that a properly loaded 9mm carbine is a contender for home-defense.

The Scorpion’s aperture sights work well; however, they could be improved with wider, square-shaped posts like the ones on the AR-15 (easier to see than the round post). Also, as expected, the 4.75-inch longer sight radius of the carbine over the SMG allowed more-consistent alignment and noticeably smaller groups. The stock positions the dominant eye directly behind the sights. If you switch to an optic, removing the iron sights is recommended, because an optical that is high enough to clear the irons will position your head too high and diminish the necessary cheek weld on the stock.

I liked the Scorpion magazines, because you can see the ammo status through the translucent body. They also allow easy insertion into the weapon when fully loaded and with the bolt closed. (A nice touch for future designs would be to have molded-in round-count numbers in five-round increments.) Although the carbine comes with 20-round mags, CZ-USA sells reasonably priced 30-round magazines.

The semiauto trigger pack (left), as compared to select fire (right). Note the auto sear above the hammer and three-round burst ratchet on the right side of the selector.

Although the bolt catch is mounted for right-handed shooters, it is large enough to be reached by a left-handed shooter’s trigger finger, allowing the bolt to be closed quickly after reloading. However, the safety/selector levers should be positioned higher, because I found that they consistently abraded the top of the trigger finger and thumb, especially on the right-hand side (“ambidextrous side,” for left-handed shooters); this abrades the trigger finger on right-handed shooters. CZ has fixed the problem with a “safety delete” cap that replaces the right-side selector switch.

The mag release levers at the front of the trigger guard are very large and easy to activate with the trigger finger or with the thumb if the magazine is grasped and pulled downward, rather than allowed to drop free. I found that grasping the mag like a beer can when inserting was quicker than other techniques.

Performance Results

Accuracy – Scorpion Carbine

Group Size (Inches)



Black Hills 124-grain JHP



Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ



Winchester Winclean 147-grain FMJ



Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ



NOTE: Size of the best and average of five five-shot groups was measured in inches shot by the Scorpion carbine at 50 yards from a Caldwell BR rest and measured center to center.

Velocity (fps) – Unsupressed

SMG Carbine

Gain With Carbine Length

Black Hills 124-grain JHP




Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ




Winchester Winclean 147-grain FMJ




Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ




Freedom Munitions 165-grain FMJ




NOTE: Velocity was a mean average of five shots measured 15 feet from the muzzle with an Oehler 35 chronograph.

Suppressor Fire With Dead Air Ghost-M Suppressor

The SMG was fired with the Dead Air Ghost-M suppressor. The Ghost-M is a modular pistol-caliber suppressor with lots of versatility in the calibers it can be used with, as well as in length configurations (long or short). Its construction and use of 17-4 stainless steel in the first five baffles, instead of titanium, give it the needed durability for full-auto fire with cartridges that have pressures lower than 10mm Auto pressure. The wide variety of mounts (seven pistons and six fixed barrels) enable users to use this suppressor on many firearms—even those with less-common metric threads, such as the 18X1 found on the Scorpion SMG.

I found that the Ghost’s versatility and performance make it a good choice for those who want to suppress several pistol-caliber weapons and pay a single $200 transfer tax.

The author shoots the Scorpion SMG full auto with a Dead Air Ghost-M suppressor.

The SMG functioned perfectly with the Ghost-M. I tested this suppressor in the long configuration. Point of impact shift was undetected at 16 yards. The SMG’s heavy bolt and springs and the Ghost’s baffle design eliminated any perceptible increase in back pressure from the ejection port in either semi or automatic fire. The Ghost-M also made automatic fire more controllable, especially when shooting lighter-weight bullets.

As far as sound reduction, the slower the bullet is, the quieter the weapon—which made the Freedom Munitions 165-grain HUSH the obvious leader. This load produced noticeably less report, even when shot from the unsuppressed carbine. Note that with a muzzle velocity of 717 fps versus 1,101 for the 147-grain Winchester Winclean, the 165-grain HUSH’s capabilities are limited, with ballistic performance slightly less than a .38 Special semi-wadcutter.

The muzzle brake on the carbine (top) vs. the birdcage flash suppressor on the SMG. The barrels are also threaded differently. Note the handstop on the SMG to keep the support hand from slipping forward toward the muzzle.

Well-Suited Firearm

Although I would have liked to see the Scorpion carbine as a competitive platform in 3-gun matches, its trigger is a significant hindrance, and the dual methods of locking the action open could create problems when reloading under stress. However, its features, reliability and right-/left-handed operation make it well suited as a plinker and home-defense weapon for those who prefer the caliber and use appropriate +P loads.

The SMG can be deployed as a machine pistol by removing the stock. With the Dead Air Ghost-M in long configuration, the entire system is still shorter than the carbine with the stock folded.

CZ Scorpion EVO 3 A1 SMG Specifications

Caliber: 9x19mm
Barrel Length: 7.7 inches
Overall Length: 16.5 inches/folded stock; 26 inches/extended stock
Weight: 6.1 pounds
Sights: Windage-adjustable rear aperture; elevation-adjustable protected post front
Stocks: Polymer
Action: Select fire: 1, 3, full auto
Rate of Fire: 1,150 rounds per minute (approx.)
Capacity: 30 +1
MSRP: $1,450

CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Carbine Specifications

Caliber: 9x19mm
Barrel Length: 16.2 inches
Overall Length: 26 inches/folded stock; 36 inches/extended stock
Weight: 6.4 pounds
Sights: Windage-adjustable rear aperture; elevation-adjustable protected post front
Stocks: Polymer
Action: Semiauto
Capacity: 20+1
MSRP: $1,049

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Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the September 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine