STEN MACHINE CARBINE 9MM. Britain entered the Second World War without any form of machine carbine (sub machine gun is an American title). It soon became clear that we needed a small, pistol calibre automatic carbine to counter the rapid firing German MP38 and MP40. We bought Thompson guns from America as a stop gap. An excellent gun very well made but in .45” calibre and of the 3,000 sent by THE Americans, less than 1,500 arrived because of vessels carrying them sunk by ‘U boats’.
The Sten was developed to use a minimal amount of material, capable of being mass produced by unskilled workers and to fire under all conditions.
The Sten was designed by Col. R. V. Shepherd “S”, Harold John Turpin “T” who was the senior draughtsman at Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield “EN”. The Mark 1 gun was approved for issue on March 7th 1941.
The Sten eventually produced in 4 marks or types. Although people speak ill of the gun many comparisons were trialled using foreign and home produced designs, and in almost every case, the Sten came out the winner. Even the Germans realised the same, they made an exact copy for their special forces and a simplified version for their Volkssturm, (their Home Guard).
The Sten brought the fight back into Europe and it became a firm favourite with the underground resistance forces who received thousands, container dropped to them by the R.A.F.
Production numbers were as follows:
Mark. 1, (200,000)
Mark. 2, (2,600,000)
Mark. 3, (876,886) made by Lines bros the makers of Meccano
Mark. 5, (526,719)
These are production figures for BRITAIN ONLY. The gun was also made in Canada, New Zealand, a modified version in Australia and in the underground workshops throughout occupied Europe.
The Sten was also manufactured as a silenced gun, the Mark. 2 (S) with lightened breechblock, reduced length main spring and drilled barrel so as to bleed gases out behind the bullet bringing the gas speed down to subsonic, the Mk.2(S) remains to this day,(2006) as a gun others have tried to make as quiet but have failed miserably, with the notable exception of the Mk5 Patchett/Sterling.
For the underground, the Mk.2. was the favourite because it could be easily disassembled into 3 parts that could be concealed behind a loose brick, basket on the front of a bicycle or wherever. Post War has seen locally made Sten copies turning up in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Malaya and Vietnam.
The gun was let down by its magazine, this had a single feed and was prone to causing jams unless great care was taken filling the magazine, and sometimes, even then! Probably, the most famous feed jam in a Sten was when the Czech resistance tried to shoot SS-Obergruppenfuher Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. The Sten jammed so the attack was followed up with a Mills grenade, Heydrich died a week later resulting in dreadful reprisals throughout the occupied countries. However, with well-maintained magazines, there is little to better the Sten, even though its exterior finish leaves much to be desired!