The Wonder Tube: The Sten - 9mm

I like having a little header title rather than just nothing, anyway back on to a gunpost, I’ve been requested to do the stamped steel Sten and here we go.

So the Sten gun, it’s an iconic weapon nowadays, one of the cheapest guns of WWII and yet also one of the most heavily used and made, with roughly 5 million Sten guns made, now we get to how this icon of resistance began.

So as I said in the Thompson post, the British were using the M1928 Thompson for most of the early years of WWII, but there was a giant problem, cost. Thompsons were really expensive guns and in 1941 with the US entrance in the war, that made them even more expensive and with fear of a German invasion on the horizon, RSAF Enfield was ordered to make a design that was cheap and easy to mass produce.

So the main two men behind the design of the Sten were Major R. V. Shepherd, the Inspector of Armaments at The Woolwich Royal Arsenal and Mr Harold Turpin, a designer at RSAF Enfield. They looked at a previous design, the Lanchester SMG that was used by the Royal Navy.

What they effectively did was simplify the Lanchester SMG, removing the wood furniture and swapping it with metal, modified and removed the barrel jacket, ditched the flat muzzle, made the sights simpler and boom, the Sten was born.

Made of stamped steel fittings and using a mixture of fitted and welded parts, a Sten gun is usually made of only 60 main parts, something most pistols have more of. It wasn’t accurate, but it was cheap, reliable and easy to mass produce. Within a couple of years, the entire British military standardized on the Sten series. Before I continue, the name Sten was based off the first letter of it’s two designers, Turpin and Shepard and where it was made, Enfield. 

The entire English commonwealth went to the Sten gun in a matter of years, excluding Australia and the Owen gun. It was used by the British, The Canadians, the Indians and so many more. It was cheaper than most guns, could feed from it’s own mags, German MP40 mags and even older Lanchester mags, fed anything you could give it and wouldn’t stop working.

And it’s cheap construction made it one of the best insurgent weapons ever made. Many were parachuted into Europe to arm resistance groups from Poland to France used them. Poland made the now famous Błyskawica Sten copy, France made them and as the war went on, more and more copies of the Stens showed up in Europe, British made and otherwise

In a twist of fate, the Nazi Germans actually began copying Sten guns as the Gerat Potsdam project and later MP3008 to arm the German Volksturmm.

Following WWII, the Sten gun continued on as a stable of the militia force. It was used by the Commonwealth until the 1950′s when it was replaced by the Sterline, it was used by the Israelis during the Israeli War of Independence, it was used by the IRA against the British in Northern Ireland, the US MAC-V SOG units used the Sten Mark IIS suppressed version in Vietnam. It’s a common weapon used as a base for a number of homemade submachine guns from Brazil to Australia and despite being a 70 year old design, shows no sign in a popularity drop for those who need a submachine gun.

It’s an icon of resistance on par with the AK-47. When all hope seems lost, you can make one out of pipe, and when the Gestapo come knocking, you can show them a Sten. A gun this iconic is destined to be a film icon.

With it’s history in the arms of resistance fighters, the British commonwealth and criminals abroad, the Sten’s a common sight. It’s skeleton stock, side mounted magazine and sheet construction make it very noticable in films, and from the River Kwai to the Sands of Arabia, the Sten is an icon, and with a history this long, you know video games flash it off.

The Sten’s a relatively common sight, with the popularity of World War II shooters in the early 2000′s. It’s usually seen as the British’s version of the US Thompson, usually differentiated by being held by the side-mounted magazine, something never advised as doing so can lead to misfeeding. Rare versions like the Sten Mark IIS and the Błyskawica appear every so often, and even the post apocalypse of the Metro franchise isn’t safe from the Sten, as the “Bastard” carbine in the game looks just a bit too similar to the British sub-gun.

And that’s the tale of the Sten gun, born out of a desire for cheap guns and becoming an icon in the process. The Sten is as English as tea and imperialism, and yet the Sten has an air of resistance to it. It’s a cheap gun, but it doesn’t need anything fancy, it just needs to work. From France to Australia, it’s the kingpin of the cheap gun world, and will be used and made for years to come.