Sten Submachine Gun
|Barrel Length||196 mm|
|Rate of Fire||550 rounds/min|
|Muzzle Velocity||365 m/s|
Contributor: Alan ChanterIn January 1941 the design department of the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield, Middlesex, produced the prototype of what was to become the best-known SMG of World War II. The Sten took its name came from the initials of designers, Major R Vernon Shepherd and Harold Turpin (S and T), and Enfield (EN) where it was built. The Sten introduced an entirely new concept into the manufacture of SMGs as previously all such guns had been manufactured using traditional gunsmithing methods (often with the body and trigger housing being machined from the solid); an expensive and time-consuming operation. The Sten, however, would utilise cheap steel pressings, low grade metal, and had no fancy refinements at all. The finish was rough, with no wood being used in the stock or hand-grips and all other components kept to the basic minimum. Even so the first model, the Mark 1, was still considered to be far too complicated and was quickly replaced by the Mark 11, the production of which would ultimately result in over two million guns being produced by the ending of hostilities in 1945.
The Sten Mark II was possibly the most versatile of the several Sten models. The simple blow back bolt was not only simple but was a highly effective system for automatic fire. The Gun itself had a singular tube skeleton butt, a removable barrel and fixed sights. In addition, when mass-produced, the cost worked out at a very inexpensive £2.50 per gun. It would be employed in every theatre of war and was particularly favoured by the French Resistance Fighters because it could be easily dismantled and hidden away in a shopping basket or small suitcase. Another useful advantage for the Resistance movements was that the Sten had been designed to fire standard German 9mm ammunition, thus allowing captured enemy rounds to be employed without problem.
The main flaw of the Sten lay in its magazine. For some reason, co-designer Harold Turpin simply copied the magazine of the German MP40 without alteration, and had adapted it for the Sten. Unfortunately, by this, the lips of the magazine became critical to the feed of the ammunition. The slightest damage was often enough to cause a stoppage, a curse that often beset the Sten when the weapon was fired on automatic. Nevertheless the Sten was a most reliable weapon when kept in good condition and could generally be relied upon to fire with very few such stoppages.
The Germans too were greatly impressed by the simplicity of the Sten, paying it the supreme compliment of copying the design and producing several hundred thousand of their own for use by their Volksturm (German Home Guard) to be used for guerilla operations against the conquering Russians. The Sten would remain in British Army service until the mid 1950s when it was finally superseded by the Sterling SMG.
SMGs 1914-45 (John Weeks, article in War Monthly Magazine)
Everyman's Encyclopedia Volume 11
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944