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The Carbine, Machine, Sten or Sten gun was a British submachine gun from World War II, notable for its simple design and low cost of production, being made from only 47 different parts. It was even cheaper and more spartan than the German MP38/MP40, the previous benchmark in the field of mass-produced infantry weapons. The simplest version of the Sten gun, the Mark III, required only five man-hours to produce. It was distinctive for its bare appearance (just a pipe with a metal loop for a stock), and its horizontally-orientated magazine. The name Sten is an acronym, deriving from the names of the weapon's chief designers, Major Reginald Sheperd and Harold Turpin, with the EN derived from "ENfield", the location of the Royal Small Arms Factory (ROF) at Enfield Lock in London.



The Sten gun was chambered for the 9 x 19 mm Parabellum pistol cartridge, in part so as to make use of captured German ammunition supplies. The Sten was small and could be stripped down into a set of innocuous components, and was therefore particularly suited to partisan operations on the continent. Guerilla fighters in western and eastern Europe became adept at repairing, modifying and eventually scratch-building clones of the Sten (over 2000 Stens and about 500 of similar Blyskawica SMGs were manufactured in occupied Poland). It was often disparaged by soldiers for its inaccuracy, due to very basic sights, and stoppages due to the design of its magazine. Furthermore, it was prone to accidental discharge if dropped or knocked. The design was continually improved throughout the war, and the Mark V version, introduced in 1944, remained an issue weapon in the UK until well into the 1960s. It was replaced with the more conventional Sterling SMG which had also been introduced in small numbers in 1944 (under the name of its inventor, Patchett) and which started to be phased into service in quantity in 1953.

The Sten was a panic measure, designed at a time when Britain was facing imminent danger of being invaded by the Nazis. Prior to 1941 the British army had purchased Thompson submachine guns from America, but these were expensive and supplies were vulnerable to U-Boat attack. In order to rapidly equip a sufficient fighting force to counter the German threat, the Royal Ordnance Factory Enfield was commissioned to produce a radically cheaper alternative.

Missing image
Female worker posing with a Sten in a Canadian factory, 1942


Sten guns were produced in five basic marks, although the fourth was never issued.

Mark I

This rare weapon had a conical flash hider and a rudimentary forward pistol grip.

Mark II

The Mark II was the most prolific, at 2 million units.

Mark III

This even-simpler design was nearly as common as the Mark II.

Mark IV

The Mark IV was a pistol-sized version which did not progress beyond the prototype stage,

Mark V

This was commonly issued to paratroopers and was used in Normandy and at Arnhem Changes included wooden pistol grips including a fore grip, a stock, a fore sight and a bayonet mount. The Sten bandolier, which paratroopers carried, held 7 full magazines.

There were also modified Mark IIs and Mark VIs which incorporated an integral silencer. All combined, approximately 4.5 million Stens were produced during the war, many of which were airlifted by the crate to Resistance fighters and PArtisans throughout occupied Europe. Due to their slim profile, and ease of dismantlement, they were good for concealment and guerilla warfare. Unfortunately, the most famous engagment involving a Sten - the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich - was almost thwarted when the Sten jammed, its flimsy magazine being prone to warping, especially when it was used as a forward handgrip.

During World War II a version of the Sten gun was produced at the Long Branch Arsenal in Long Branch, Ontario, now part of Toronto, Ontario. Stens produced for Australian use got the name Austen.


As with the M1 Carbine, the Sten attracted affection and loathing in equal measure, its distinctively ugly design appealing to fans of the underdog, whilst its questionable reliability and durability did not endear it to front-line troops. Nonetheless the Sten saw continued use even after the economic crunch of WWII, replacing the Royal Navy's Lanchester submachine guns into the 1960s. Specialized versions of the Sten were used by British commandos in Korea in the 1950s, due to its very low weight and bulk.

Stens were so cheap and plentiful that, despite the generally high cost of WWII era collectibles, deactivated Sten guns can be had for less than 200.

An interesting tidbit; George VI carried a Sten Mk.II in his car for self-defence purposes in case of a paratrooper attack. This gun can been seen in the Imperial War Museum.

External links

See also

Template:WW2 Brit Comm Infantry Gunsde:Sten Gun ms:Sten no:Stengun pl:Pistolet maszynowy STEN sl:Sten


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