Sten file photo [5510]

Sten Submachine Gun

Country of OriginUnited Kingdom
TypeSubmachine Gun
Caliber9.000 mm
Capacity32 rounds
Length760.000 mm
Barrel Length196.000 mm
Weight2.900 kg
Rate of Fire550 rounds/min
Range46.000 m
Muzzle Velocity365 m/s


ww2dbaseIn 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

Last Major Revision: Jan 2008

Sten Submachine Gun Interactive Map


Female worker operating an engraving machine for a Sten part, Small Arms Ltd. plant, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, May 1941Winston Churchill took aim with a Sten gun during a visit to the Royal Artillery experimental station at Shoeburyness in Essex, England, United Kingdom, 13 Jun 1941Female factory worker posed with finished Sten sub-machinegun, Small Arms, Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 26 May 1942British paratrooper with a Sten gun in training in Britain, circa late 1942
See all 26 photographs of Sten Submachine Gun

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
18 Jan 2008 12:08:25 PM

Nice pics of the Sten
2. Anonymous says:
4 Nov 2008 04:28:06 PM

who much does a fully auto sten mk2 cost on average in the u.s. ?
3. Anonymous says:
29 Jun 2010 02:52:59 PM

any fully auto gun is illegal in the u.s.
4. timberghost says:
1 Jul 2010 09:20:50 AM

Full auto guns are perfectly legal in the U.S. (most states). You have to get permission from your local law enforcement agency, pass a federal background check and pay for a $200.00 federal tax stamp before purchasing. All this sounds like a big hassle, but it really isn't. Your local gunshop can walk you through it. A sten mk2 usually sells for $2500.00 to $4500.00 depending on condition.
5. Anonymous says:
10 Oct 2011 09:08:08 PM

Full auto weapons require a FFL (Federal Firearms License) in the U.S. but they are obtainable and, my brother (whom has a FFL for auto guns considered obsolete or antique, what he collects) tells me there are different permits required for collecting and/or selling (depending upon what you plan to do with your weapon (i.e. collect for personal use, or sell and trade) however, as "timberghost" says: they are obtainable.
6. Alan says:
11 Oct 2011 02:07:06 PM

Scarey people. I'm glad I don't have to live in a land where freaky nutters are running around the streets with sixty year old sub-machine guns.
7. Anonymous says:
6 Jan 2012 10:27:24 AM

I'm glad I don't live in a country where the "NUTTERS" have taken away my rights.
8. Michael says:
29 Jul 2012 02:33:26 PM

"Why was it called the Sten?" Colonel Shepard: "It was called the Sten by the then Director General of Artillery. The S was from my name, the T from Mr. Turpin who was my draughtsman and who did a very large amount of the design and the EN was for England. That is the origin of the name, for which I accept no responsibility." In: Laidler, Peter (2000). The Sten Machine Gun. Ontario: Collector Grade Publications. pp. 363–364. ISBN 0-88935-259-3

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
Sten Submachine Gun Photo Gallery
Female worker operating an engraving machine for a Sten part, Small Arms Ltd. plant, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, May 1941
See all 26 photographs of Sten Submachine Gun

Famous WW2 Quote
"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!