The Sten Gun

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Jet_Black_Dan, Apr 26, 2005.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I'm a avid reader of the 'perception vs facts' threads on here: PIAT, Sherman etc.

    One can draw nice overlapping Venn diagram with Perception, Preference, and Opinion. What intrudes very little on these are facts. I would dearly love some facts, good solid ones. I am not a veteran so I cannot allow myself the benefit of opinion, I've never fired any of the weapons so I cannot have a preference, and perception is not something I'd allow myself in these cases.

    So stats can indeed be used to present any kind of argument. Aside from the % and proportion issues, what cannot be ascertained from the RAMC info is conditions or circumstances: dropped weapons, recognition of enemy, time of day, circumstances, what have you.
    One can shoot at a man in the dark with a Bren thinking he was the enemy: battle accident.
    One can jump out of the back of a lorry with mates around and drop a loaded sten: battle accident.
    One can prepare to aim and then fire just when a person steps in front: battle accident.
    One can be advancing with a pistol, trip and pull the trigger: battle accident.

    Which was the fault of the weapon?
    Or are there reasonable expectations that could and should be imposed on materiel in battle conditions and some just fall short?
    Well that's just the point, isn't it.

    Whatever the take, here we have a weapon for which apparently specific Standing Orders exist ... ... and are there any such orders, above the usual training standards, for other weapons types?
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Some more Sten thoughts:

    1. In pictures, I often see the operating spring wrapped around the bolt and exposed in the open. Was this a problem? (Catching grit and jamming, etc?)

    2. The US M3 SMG might be an interesting comparison for the Sten, though nobody here has mentioned it before now. It too was an inexpensive, all-metal second-generation gun designed for quick mass production. Though never very popular with US troops the M3 stayed in service longer than the Sten, some seeing service in Vietnam. The Chinese and the Argentinians copied it, which does not argue that it was a bad gun. It had a heavy bolt, which made for a lower rate of fire and thus greater accuracy than some other SMGs. I don't think this is widely known, but British units in the MTO used the M3--I have seen a picture of a 1st London Irish Rifles officer carrying one in Italy. It would be interesting to know what British users thought of the M3. For that matter, a general survey of wartime second-generation guns (M3, PPS43, Owen) might give us a better yardstick for the Sten.
  3. Combover

    Combover Guest

    The Sten's open operating channel shouldn't have been a problem if it was left dry or lubricated with graphite. You were never supposed to oil or grease a Sten's internals.
  4. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Kew has some interesting documents relating to the switch from commercial Thompsons to M1 to M3 and Lend Lease Supply - I don't have my notes to hand however recall discussion around adequate supply of, and satisfaction with, the Sten leading to reductions in requirements (in either .45in or 9mm). In the general Lend Lease records the figure is less than useful giving "SMG .45in. All types" as supplied to the British Empire. Some types were reserved for specific theaters/units or allies - such as Polish forces (who certainly used the M1 SMG in Italy). There were of course official and unofficial 'In Theater Transfers' which are harder to pin down.
  5. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Putting aside any military training - purely from a mechanical point of view when supposedly a sten is dropped and it goes 'run away' what pray stops the sear engaging? We all knew the drill for a 'runaway' GPMG - simply break the link - yet in years I never once saw a runaway gun either in the light or SF role. Willing to wager there are more tales of runaway guns than reality. The No4 rifle - I was pamphlet 21 (Range Qualified) and was actually on a range when an 'immediate signal' was handed to me by the range warden - not that it affected me - but I do remember it well. it was with immediate effect ALL LIVE FIRING OF .303 No4 RIFLES IS TO CEASE. Later I heard that a combined cadet force laddie had a breech explosion and a bolt failure (memory on that) that was the end of the No4 although I believe cadets carried on with blank until they got the new rifle. Civil clubs must have had checks?
    Jen'sHusband likes this.
  6. Combover

    Combover Guest

    Exactly the point Wills! Well made.
  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I think one aspect of the Sten is that it was very much a "low status" weapon. Its users were normally "support" troops, the Home Guard, irregulars, saboteurs etc. The cheapness of the construction I suspect tended to "rub in" the low status that was probably already felt by its prospective users i.e. "you aren't important enough to have an expensive gun". And the military is a very status-conscious institution after all.

    It's like if you had a sales force and gave them all BMW's, except one person, who was given a Ford Mondeo. The Mondeo is a perfectly reliable car, but I bet this salesman would find no end of faults with it until he was given a BMW as well.
  8. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    While it is true that the Sten was issued widely to the categories you mention, it was also used by the first-line infantry as well. Stens were issued to infantry platoon commanders in 21 Army Group, and at least one man in each rifle section was supposed to have one. One of the mortar numbers at platoon HQ also carried a Sten.

    I do think that the Sten's visible cheapness probably told against it. This would have made a particularly sharp contrast for troops who had previously used the Thompson, like the divisions that came back from 8th Army to join 21 Army Group for D-Day. Commandos and others who had some choice over their weaponry often seem to have preferred the Thompson.
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    The answer is " a manufacturing defect or damage." You may be ignoring the realities of pre 1980s manufacturing. However, the Sten gun was designed and built in the era before Baldridge and TQM. Rework was normal and no one wanted to own any built on a Friday afternoon. A well manucfactured weapon should not go off if dropped. The sear should ensure that the working parts are held to the rear securely enough to withstand being dropped and a degree of manhandling. It should never be possible for the working parts to traveled back far enough to engage a round from the magazine without being stopped by the sear. But this assumes that the sear has been manufactured within tolerances. Ammunition should always contain enough propellent to force the round to leave the barrel. (It should not be possible for an SLR to fire on auto rather than single shot, but dirt or a matchstick will achieve this too!)

    Is there a suggestion that there are no documented instances of manufactuiring defects? It is entirely reasonable for men of the 1940s to be suspicious of a weapon demonstrably manufactured as cheaply as possible.
  10. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Good point.

    Combine that with design flaws, a lack of proper training and an esthetically unappealing weapon and it is no wonder the Sten never became a favourite.
  11. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Utter drivel - as a precision engineer I am aware of the manufacturing tolerances - what I will not ignore is inventing 'evidence' why would the sear not be seen as faulty in everyday use? The SLR was often illegally fired on full auto - by 'fixing' the firing pin - madness too, the thing was uncontrollable. This I heard uncle Jack tell me nonsense can go on for ever!
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  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I like facts.
    I wonder if there is anything helpful in any of these files?

    I hope the search link below doesn't 'time out'. (If it proves so, I'll put in file refs, in case anyone thinks any like comparison studies, or motion study look promising. I posted a 'report' of the action of Bren , so there might be something similar which perhaps also discusses criticisms.

    I doubt that there is anything as regards small arms injures - on a par with the RAMC comparative study into tank and crew casualties - in this lot, but you never know...

    Ref what TTH said about 21 AG platoon commanders carrying stens. I'm currently re-reading a book by one officer who mentions at various points being issued with, carrying, and firing, a sten. Although he has very strong opinions on just about every aspect of the NWE campaign, he says absolutely nothing opinion-wise about his sten. As the author hasn't missed an opportunity to point out mistakes, failings etc, unless I hear anything to the contrary I'll take his omission to mean that he had no problems with the weapon.
    Combover likes this.
  13. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Difficult to imagine anyone having a negligent discharge with a Browning 9mm pistol, yet a pal of mine did. A full sergeant with 15 years service - tiredness overtook training - that rightly did not wash and he was reduced to lance sergeant, months pay and a loss of one months seniority it was deemed to be on active service in a place that may have endangered civilian life. Anyone who has run ranges will tell you that when the Sterling (SMG) was being used the respect for the beast grows - alert is the word. We kept the details firing to three at most trying to watch a line of SMGs being 'made safe' has the possibility of not being a safe place.Many soldiers talked of the dangers of the Sterling - the danger was the firer. I do not buy this badly made tosh, all weapons will have been test fired at the factory, weapons issued to units - faults will have soon been picked up by unit armourers, to suggest different implies the soldiers were badly trained and could not spot a duff weapon when they fired it. Of course weapons may have arrived on the front line 'unit untested' but the factory tests will have weeded out most if not all faults. Which I suggest would be at odds with the outbreak of dropped 'runaway guns' we hear of.

    He liked it (anecdotal):
    brithm and canuck like this.
  14. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Not only the firer; sometimes the firing point officer was at fault too. I was once running a range doing classification on the Sterling. I had to leave the range under the control of another officer as I had a dental appointment. When I returned, the first thing I noticed was a soldier firing from the left shoulder - not allowed as a blowback would go straight in the firer's face. Having stopped that nonsense, I was then shown another gun which had had a partial blowback and had bulged the case of the round. If you want a thing done well, do it yourself!

  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    My father, a WW2 RA signaler told me that he never trusted the sten gun he was issued and that a loaded weapon could fire if dropped. I'd prefer it if these views, honestly expressed by the soldiers who fought WW2 were treated more seriously than to be dismissed as "tosh"

    Duff manufacturing can happen, even in the most quality conscious situations with all the modern manufacturing methods that "guarantee " quality. . It was not pilot error which resulted in the space shuttle to Challenger explode. .
    Ammunition should not leave the factory without enough propellant. But I once saw an SMG leave a mans hands while he was firing on automatic with the force of two rounds striking a round stuck in the barrel.

    Absence of proof is not proof of absence. There is a well documented distrust of the Sten gun. The idea that the Sten gun would not fire accidentally if dropped while loaded is a hypothesis, to be tested. There is a null hypothesis that this never happened and that the reputation was a psychological rather than mechanical phenomena.

    The story of "distrusted weapons" is interesting in its own right. The sten gun, SA80, Covenentor & Crusader tanks, P38, P39 are or were all weapons with a poor reputation.
    canuck likes this.
  16. Combover

    Combover Guest


    The theory is that Sten guns WILL fire of a full magazine if dropped. I refer you to the other posts about that and to the post containing information from Mr Laidler on the subject.

    It has yet to be proved, as far as I'm aware, that a well maintained Sten will do this.

    It CAN (note I said CAN not WILL) fire off a single round but so will any other open bolt SMG with minimal safety features.
  17. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Kind of an interesting video. I was taught never to trust a safety but this one looks pretty robust. It would take a heck of a drop to move it off safe and then to fire it.
    brithm and Owen like this.
  18. Jen'sHusband

    Jen'sHusband Punchbag

    Dave, I was toying around with a couple of Stens the other day - a Mk.II and a Mk.III, with both the skeleton stock and T stock and have come to the conclusion that you'd probably break the stock before the bolt handle jumped out of the slot.

    If it did it should be caught by the sear which, unless there is something drastically wrong with it (i.e. it's missing or has been replaced by a blob of ice cream), will prevent the bolt from going forward unless the trigger is depressed.

    I know of sears on guns which, to put it politely, have seen their fair share of life, followed by being subject to D.P. lectures. The sear is still going strong some 70 years later.
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  20. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    An interesting reference here to the Mark V Sten being manufactured to a much higher quality standard that previous marks. Also a mention of modifications being necessary in 1942 in order to make the weapon work properly.

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