As mentioned in my VMHT AR-15 Uzi magazine adapter review, I am a big fan of re-using magazines that I already own. I was able to find a way to use my unmodified Uzi mags in my AR-15, but what other guns could take them?
I did find one… the Nite Scout A3. More after the break.
The Portugese-owned defense company INDEP wanted to make a domestic SMG for the Portugese armed forces, and developed the LUSA. INDEP already had experience manufacturing the G3, so they went with a similar style for their new proposed SMG. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more expedient for the Portugese government to just buy MP5s from the Germans. The tooling for the LUSA was sold off to an American company for presumably a lot less than it cost to develop.
Thus, the Nite Scout A3 (NS A3) is a LUSA derivative, which is in turn an HK G3 derivative, which is in turn a CETME derivative. That’s a distinguished lineage for a gun most people have never heard of.
The original American manufacturer of the LUSA stuck with the proprietary LUSA mags. I have no experience one way or the other with them… like almost everyone else on the planet, because no one owns the LUSA. It was probably not a great decision, albeit we’re talking about a couple decades of hindsight here.
Nite Scout, on the other hand, elected to go with unmodified Uzi magazines. I am extremely biased, but the choice to go with unmodified Uzi mags was a terrific idea, given that these are cheap and readily available. I bought my Nite Scout A3 for about $700.
The LUSA and NS A3 have some superficial similarities to the MP5, so let’s quickly discuss the big difference, besides part incompatibility: the MP5 uses roller-lock operation, whereas the NS A3 and LUSA are direct blowback.
This is a serious difference. The NS A3 is substantially heavier than the MP5 due to the need for a heavy bolt, but is presumably somewhat less finicky about other elements of operation due to the simpler action. Many HK aficionados seem to forget the delight of dealing with bolt gaps and rollers, for some reason.
One other difference is that the MP5 has a last round bolt hold open, whereas the NS A3 does not. It’s unclear to me whether the LUSA has one, but the Uzi mags prevent this gun from having it, in any case. This isn’t really a big deal, but it’s something some people care about.
The ergonomics, otherwise, are pretty similar to an MP5. You’ve got the selector switch that’s only easily usable by people with Teutonic uberman-hands, along with a relatively-easy-to-use charging handle up front. Manually holding the bolt open is super-easy, which comes in handy during cease-fires at the range. The only hitch was that the safety lever can go past safe when rotating it from fire, so you want to be a bit gentle when pushing back to safe.
In an effort to fix the safety problem, I tried using a spare plastic PTR-91 lower. Nominally speaking, this fit the gun and lined up with the hole, but the endcap was unable to fit on due to a very small dimensional difference with how the metal piece at the end of the lower sits (it’s a few mm too low). I suspect that some creative dremel work would resolve this problem, but I’m not there… yet.
The mag release is different, of course. Since unmodified Uzi mags have the catch all the way down, the magwell on the NS A3 is very elongated and has the release all the way on the bottom. For reasons completely a mystery to me, they elected to go with a small button rather than the much-larger lever-style catch found on the Uzi (and VMHT magazine adapter). This isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s a weird decision from an ergonomics perspective. I have a lot of muscle memory from yanking out an Uzi mag while depressing the lever release on the bottom of the magwell with my thumb… why not leverage that, forgive the pun? In any event, a larger button would have been a nice addition… this may be something fixable via creative welding.
I tested 20rd, 25rd, and 32rd Uzi mags, and did not experience any compatibility issues. You have to slap the mag pretty hard to get it to lock in, but it’s solid from there. They did not seem to drop free easily, but assuming mags will always drop free during a reload is bad technique anyways.
Now, it’s gotta be said: the gun is heavy – about 6lbs 6oz. For reference, an MP5A1 (stock-less MP5) is about 4lb 4oz. You’re paying about 2lbs for that direct blowback action and the elongated magwell. Of course, it’s also heavier than a Colt LE6933 and any number of centerfire SBRs, too.
I bring this up to remind the reader that this gun, much like the Uzi and almost every other stamped-steel gun, is obsolete. I wouldn’t feel unarmed if I were carrying it, but it would not be the first gun I would pull out for serious usage. This gun clearly relies on a couple attributes for sales: unmodified Uzi mag use and HK-esque looks. I don’t damn it for either of those (in fact, I love it for both reasons!), but I want to be honest about what we’re dealing with.
The handguard has threaded holes for screws, but unlike the website’s claims, this gun has no rails included. (You don’t get to call something a “tri rail handguard” when there’s no rails!) I don’t know what rails would work, and there’s no documentation on that front. It looks a whole lot like they just drilled a random rail section to get it on there.
The iron sights are a clever mix of an AR-15 front post and an HK rear drum. I personally hate the HK drum sights, because they’re a pain to adjust without special tools, and the V-notch is not a great option for quick sighting. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that they work once you get used to them. I do like that you can use a tritium front post easily on this gun, though. Either way, they cut a nice profile across the gun.
Field stripping is similarly HK-esque, but a bit different. To remove the end cap, you need to unscrew a nut at the back of the receiver, pull a pin, and then take off the endcap. I struggled a bit with pulling it off, but a tight gun from the factory is probably a good thing. I like the nut and screw arrangement, but it’s another thing you can lose compared to the usual HK pins.
After pulling off the endcap, you need to disassemble the buffer by pushing on the retainer slightly, pushing through a tapered pin at the back of the receiver and removing the buffer retainer and buffer. The decision to use a tapered pin was weird, in that the pin is held in by the endcap anyways. The BCG should slide out after the pin is removed. The BCG is a one-piece affair that weighs a fair bit (as to be expected from a direct blowback system).
I do appreciate that the bolt carrier group is not as finicky as the G3’s – I always worry that I’m going to accidentally lock the bolt on my PTR-91, which is always a pain to fix. I would have liked it if the removable barrel had been retained from the LUSA design, but I’m guessing that was a cost-savings measure. Removing the handguards requires a tool, but I don’t see the point of removing them in a field strip, either.
Reassembly is the field strip in reverse. You will need to apply slight pressure to the buffer spring retainer to push the pin through, and make sure you start with the narrow end of the pin!
On the range, it shot like every other 6lb pistol, which is to say “very awkwardly”. Lining up the sights when shooting offhand was basically a nightmare. The trigger pull is pretty heavy, too. Mechanical function was great, though… no reliability issues spotted. It was weirdly accurate off the bench, and that gives me hope that this gun can be resurrected for use as an SBR. I used a mix of steel-cased Brown Bear 115gr 9mm and Freedom Munitions 147gr 9mm ammo.
I am undecided about the utility of using the magazine well as a makeshift VFG, but I’m also notoriously skeptical of VFGs in general. If this were the smaller A1 or A2 model, I’d be more apt to use the magwell for a hand support. As it was, I just went for a standard “all the way out” style hold.
If you were going to buy the Nite Scout A3 for use as a pistol, don’t bother. It’s too big and too heavy. If you want a blaster SBR that uses unmodified Uzi mags, this is a nice place to start. It’s not going to be as light as a stock Colt 9mm AR-15 SBR, but it’s not too far out of the envelope, especially when using the relatively-heavy VMH Uzi mag adapter and a decent heavy buffer. But if you don’t care about using unmodified Uzi mags, it’s hard to recommend the NS A3 over a lighter and more ergonomic gun like the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 (which is also easier to convert to an SBR).
Final note: getting in contact with the Nite Scout team has been nightmarish. Their listed phone number does not work, and they seem rather uninterested in responding to their email without whining on their Facebook page. It took them months to send out a threaded endcap that I paid them for. I shudder to think about what a warranty issue would look like. It’s a good thing this gun is tough, because you may be in trouble if something breaks.
EDIT 7/7/2020: Believe it or not, I recently pulled this rifle out of my safe in SBR form (with a C-More Railway on top and a SiCo single port ASR brake) to shoot an Outlaw Steel match after my main PCC went down.
- The heavy trigger was not conducive to quick shooting on smaller steel. You get spoiled by the really good AR triggers. By the end, I was getting almost used to it, but it definitely worked against me.
- The rifle itself was reliable enough. I had one FTF that I will attribute to my reloads. It was not ammo sensitive. I used a mix of random factory ammo and it kept chugging along.
- The weight was tolerable, but not pleasant. It mitigated recoil to an extent, but hours into a match, I was wishing for something lighter. It probably slowed down my transitions slightly.
- The aluminum handguard was almost too hot to hold by the end of the match. I may try retrofitting an MP5 handguard on the gun to see if this is fixable.
- I didn’t love the safety, but it was usable.
- Accuracy seemed acceptable.
- That 8″ barrel was handy when working ports on barricades.
I didn’t place very well (10/16, IIRC), but it wasn’t dead last, either. For an obsolescent rifle I hadn’t shot in years, it was actually not a bad placement at all.