The Sten Gun

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

  1. Combover

    Combover Guest

    The 'for some reason' was the fact that they were only given £5 to develop the gun so used the Lanchester magazine design.
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Me too
    Outside of truly peculiar gun design decisions, and given a broadly similar barrel length and a successfully sealing chamber, that 'lack of stopping power' could only really be attributable to the ammunition a weapon used, couldn't it? Rather than any intrinsic flaw in the weapon itself?
    Or is a 9mm fired from a Sten somehow so badly affected that it is inferior to a 9mm fired from any other 9mm small metal gun? I would assume not (though there's 'proper' gun specialists on here that would understand such things far clearer than I.)

    It's like the old 'wet blanket/greatcoat' saw. Easily & often stated, but whenever I suggest we sort soaking a greatcoat and standing them in front of a bangstick, they never seem all that keen.

    Sten was what it was. A rapidly designed SMG intended to be produced quickly & cheaply in time of need.
    And considering the urgent exigencies involved in that design/production, I continue to get the impression it stands up reasonably well in contrast to other contemporary designs that were far more traditionally, & even luxuriously, designed, tested & constructed over a longer and less stressful period.

    (If I'd had a Lanchester replaced by a Sten, I too would doubtless have been a tad worried at the contrast (Lanchesters being quite sexy, obviously), but it would still appear from assorted contemporary accounts & opinions of quite serious 'gun people' to chuck out bullets in a broadly similar way.
    Combover and dbf like this.
  3. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

    Correct. The 9x19mm FMJ round has always been considered a tad marginal in stopping power, whatever it's fired from.

    Police forces who use 9mm pistols today generally use far more effective expanding bullets, but these are illegal for military use (special forces excepted).
    Owen and dbf like this.
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    George VI's Sten Gun, via & IWM:

    Carbine, Machine, Sten, 9mm Mk 2. © IWM (FIR 6283)IWM Non Commercial Licence

  5. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The 9mm is now considered 'marginal'? I find that surprising, seeing that it is intended for close-range weapons in the first place. Would not several 9mm hits from an SMG burst do the job in most combat situations, even with old-style hardball ammunition?

    Anyhow, I doubt that the 9mm was considered marginal in the 1940's. It was more powerful than the .380 revolver round, but the realistic alternative to the 9mm for a British SMG was the US .45 ACP. The .45 was about top of the tree in power at that time, but I think many felt that it was a bit of a handful. The US Army got by with it, but perhaps the British felt that the recoil was just a little too much for wartime conscript soldiers to control.
  6. Combover

    Combover Guest

    The 9mm MkIIZ produced a higher Muzzle Energy rating and a generally higher Muzzle Velocity than .45 ACP.
  7. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

    The debate concerning the pros and cons of 9mm Parabellum (or Luger) vs .45 Auto military ammunition has been running for something like a century.

    The .45 Auto fires a bullet of about double the size and weight of the 9mm and, other things being equal, the bigger the lump of metal you hit people with, the more likely they are to go down.

    However, the muzzle velocity of the .45 is only about two-thirds that of the 9mm, which means it has less penetration and a more curving trajectory (not important at pistol ranges, more so in an SMG) which means that the 9mm has a longer effective range. Furthermore, the bulk and weight of the .45 ammo means that fewer rounds can be carried for the same space and weight (little more than half).

    The .45 develops more recoil than the 9mm, which means that controlling automatic fire in an SMG is more difficult unless the .45 gun is much heavier (which of course the Thompson was). From my own experience of firing both 9mm and .45 in quick succession in otherwise identical pistols I would say that their recoil characteristics are different: the 9mm gives a sharp kick, the .45 more of a long firm push.

    Yes, multiple hits with either round should normally do the trick. However, the US Army has for some time being trying to return to a larger calibre pistol, either the .45 Auto or the newer .40 S&W with performance characteristics which come half-way between the 9mm and .45.
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    I have never fired a Sten gun but did have its successor the SMG (Sterling) as a personal weapon for many years.

    The standing orders for the SMG, as with the Sten was to only put a mag on the thing when you were actually likely to fire it. It wasn't much use beyond 200m, but I could never hit anything at 300m with an SLR and any target much beyond that ought to have been engaged with indirect fire "Danger close".,I liked the LMG (7.62 mm comnversion of the Bren". I had confidence about hitting a target with an SMG at close range with a snap shot.

    Stoppages were often a result of a faulty magazine, sometimes a weak spring or damaged lips or badly loaded. One way to damage the spring was to either put too many rounds in the magazine.or leave the magazine loaded for a long , Poor ammunition occasionally could cause problems.
  9. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Ode to a Sten Gun
    By Gunner. S.N. Teed

    You wicked piece of vicious tin!
    Call you a gun? Don't make me grin.
    You're just a bloated piece of pipe.
    You couldn't hit a hunk of tripe.
    But when you're with me in the night,
    I'll tell you pal, you're just alright!

    Each day I wipe you free of dirt.
    Your dratted corners tear my shirt.
    I cuss at you and call you names,
    You're much more trouble than my dames.
    But boy, do I love to hear you yammer
    When you 're spitting lead in a business manner.

    You conceited pile of salvage junk.
    I think this prowess talk is bunk.
    Yet if I want a wall of lead
    Thrown at some Jerry's head
    It is to you I raise my hat;
    You're a damn good pal...
    You silly gat!
  10. 17thairborne

    17thairborne Member

    For what its worth: While conducting research on the 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion, (17th A/B Div) I found a few instances where the US paras preferred the STEN over the carbine. A few men on LZ N dumped their M1A1s for a STEN, finding them readily since they were in close proximity to the LZs/DZs near Haminkeln.

  11. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I have had mixed reactions mentioning the Sten to veterans. My conclusion is that there is always poor expectation to something which doesn't look like the perceived expectation - "guns should be made by gunsmiths not sewing machine factories"

    Add a few 'incidents' and rumours then opinion turns against it even if it does its job. Similar reactions greeted the No.4 Rifle replacing the No.1, SLR replacing the No.4 and especially the SA80 replacing the SLR (I once said to a TA soldier on a rant about the SA80 being a "pile of shit" "how are your groups?" - "great" he replied).

    Among the positives - a Sergeant tank commander who (is still haunted by having) killed a patrol of nine enemy night time infiltrators with his Sten, a KAR Sergeant who killed a charging Rhino in Kenya by emptying a Sten mag into its ear (witnessed by his Officer who recommended him for an award, however the Rhino was not classed as 'enemy').

    Negatives - Reports of dropped or thrown down weapons firing and not stopping until the mag empty (my father lost a friend to one of these), weapons that rattled due to poor fit of parts, charging enemy not stopped by the rounds...

    I think the jury will be out for a while!

    Happy New year
  12. Combover

    Combover Guest

    A WELL MAINTAINED Sten Gun will NOT discharge the entire contents of the magazine. There is a sear which will hold the bolt in place when the trigger is released. If the trigger is never pressed, the sear will catch the bolt on its rearward travel.

    This is a very common myth. A defective Sten Gun would do this but by the same token, a defective Thompson, MP40, PPSh 41 or STG 44 will do the same. A defective part is a defective part not defective design. Basically, any weapon that fires from an open bolt with minimal safety features will do the same, if badly maintained.

    It IS possible to fire a round from a Sten with the bolt closed and then banging it (Hard) against a solid surface. Funnily enough you can also do the same with the supposedly superior MP40. I spoke to a 15th Scottish Division Sapper who told me he lost his best friend this way - with an MP40. Funny how people neglect to mention this when discussing the detrimental aspects of the Sten Gun.
  13. Combover

    Combover Guest

    Righto, I want to back up what I'm saying.

    I have at my disposal a rather interesting article by a an RAMC Major, a Maj F. S. Fiddes, who wrote of the effectiveness of an RAMC Field Ambulance in Normandy. He writes the following:

    Of 52 'Battle Accidents' resulting in GSW (Gunshot Wounds), Maj Fiddes states that 10 involve the Sten Gun (the only Machine Carbine in proper use with normal British Infantry, of which Maj Fiddes writes). He further states that the Sten was regarded as being a "Chancy" weapon.

    He further states that of the 52, 15-20 aroused the suspicion of self-inflcition. What he does not state is whether these 15-20 include the 10 attributable to the Sten Gun or not. For the sake of fairness, we can use the lower figure of 15.

    This leaves us with 27 accidental GSW. The 27 can then be split up into the following weapons:

    MGs (Bren, Browning, Vickers etc)

    Using the logic above, surely this means that at least on of those above is as 'Chancy' as the Sten?
    Given the higher numbers of Stens issued, as opposed to pistols and even, in many cases, MGs, can we assume that the reputation of the Sten is worse than is actually warranted?

    I would suggest that the rifle in the hands of people whose weapons drill was average at best, was as dangerous. You only need look at the footage on British Pathe to see that.

    I'm not looking for an argument but when you start to pick things apart, it DOES make interesting reading, does it not?
    Jen'sHusband likes this.
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Afraid Stats like that can't prove anything to me, as other factors aren't shown ...

    % battle accident per each weapon type would be much handier for comparison.

    And even then the proportion of weapons pistol/rifle/bren/sten in general use would have to be shown. Anyone have any idea of that?

    [If of the 52 battle accidents recorded 10 resulted from Sten use, that's roughly 20% of the injuries,
    but if the sten (for the sake of argument) represented 10% of all the weaponry used ... that's a proportionately high rate of accident.]

    My father hated the sten, and even allowing for hyperbole in his comments, nothing will change his perception of the gun and his immediate preference for a bren when the opportunity presented itself. Likewise, other individuals appreciated the sten's usefulness/role and no amount of negative personal accounts will detract from that.
  15. Combover

    Combover Guest


    That's the point I was trying to show. He made the statement about the Sten but his figures don't stack up and studying what he wrote it just muddies the waters, which cannot be used as 'proof' as Maj Fiddes was intending.
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    My Dad had an opinion and I never dressed it up as anything else: he had no figures as you suggest.
    I only refute the stats you quoted as being of any real use in your pursuit to prove that opinions were based on wrong intelligence.

    My father did not want to use a sten. He had been trained with all types of weaponry, he preferred a Bren to that and to a rifle. That does not muddy any waters, it's just so. You can't deny that choice.

    If you'd stop being quite so defensive about the weapon, you'd see that others are quite willing to concede that it's reputation probably shouldn't be as bad as is made out. I tried to find a way for you to present the figures you found in an acceptable format, it doesn't mean I disagree or agree, but as it stands they are as useful to a definitive approach as the hyperbole in a personal opinion.
  17. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Stens, brens and rifles - different tools for different jobs. We had the SLR in NI - more often bloody useless than not. Doing a hot pursuit into a terraced house with your shoulders nigh on touching the walls - if confronted from a side room turning that blasted great long barrel in a confined space? When for the short period we were issued .38 revolvers we were ordered to leave the chamber under the hammer empty. The SMG was at close range a reasonably hard hitting and accurate weapon ideal for street work/house clearing. Fired both the Sten and the Thompson at Ballykinler the 'captured weapons' armoury there was very interesting. Without trumpet blowing I was a very good shot (in a cadet team with the No4 years before where I learned under very keen shot) the first SA80 I came across appeared to me to be a joke by Mr Airfix. Yet when firing it soon became apparent that the rotation effect where the centre line of the barrel is above the centre line of the butt with a conventional rifles did not happen the recoil gentle as it was is straight back with the SA80.
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    It is an interesting statistic, but you cannot draw the conclusion that the Sten weas as safe as a no 4 Rifle or a Bren gun. .

    I can see the logic of your argument. The establishment of a 1944 infantry division included C contained 11,000 rifles, 6,000 machine carbines 1000 pistols and 1200 LMG. C 19500 s mall arms (an Armoured Division had around 6,000 each of Machine carbines and rifles.) C 15,000 small arms So, 10 GSW from carbines out of 52 GSW might not seem disproportionately high, regardless of what type of formation major Fiddes' Field Ambulance supported. .

    However all things are not equal, as some weapons were more likely to be handled while in a loaded condition. Men carrying rifles and LMGs were much more likely to be required to have their weapons loaded and made ready, because they would be served by infantrymen, or in the case of LMG's the weapons mounted at sentry points and on vehicles.. The safety catch of the STEN was notoriously "chancey" and dropping a leaded Sten could be dangerous. It was a short weapon like a pistol and much easier to accidentally wave in front of someone than a long arm such as a rifle or LMG. TStanding orders specified extra precautions were taken with the Sten such as not loading a magazine unless the weapon was to be fired or the soldier on sentry duty. A disproportionate number of Sten Guns were the personal weapons of support troops or vehicles crews, who should not have been carrying a loaded sten gun. So 10 out of 52 might be a much higher proportion of accidents from the much lower number of sten guns handled while loaded.
  19. Combover

    Combover Guest

    I'm not drawing that conclusion, so sorry if it came across that way. I was suggesting that using THIS exmaple, if one wanted to, you could easily use the same raw data to give the impression that ANY of the weapons was 'Chancy' and not just the Sten.

    The point here is that the reputation of the Sten has a lot to do with the myths that people come up with about it, but statistics can be made to fit if one so wants.

    The point about rifles was a throw away comment to back this up, little else.

    I reiterate my initial point...yes it had issues but the weapon itself was useful and filled a niche. The issues were not confined to the Sten but for some reason the Sten is more heavily derided than almost any other weapon save the Chauchat!
  20. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    With regards to accident proneness and proper use of weapons, I found a high number of accidents in the 9th Australian Division in Tobruk. The AIF were all volunteers, of course, though a significant minority had militia training. The division had not yet completed its training when it was committed to battle and it suffered numerous accidental injuries in Tobruk, often due to idiotic horseplay with firearms and grenades. SMGs (Thompsons) were relatively scarce at that point, so many of these injuries were inflicted by other arms.

    I read an interesting book about NWE called With British Snipers to the Reich by Clifford Shore, a rifle expert. Besides covering sniper work, Shore also discussed combat shooting in general. Like other observers, he was not satisfied with 21 Army Group's marksmanship and musketry. Hasty wartime training was part of the problem. A survey of units in 1st and 8th Armies at the end of the Tunisian campaign found that even many experienced soldiers had little idea of the capabilities of their weapons and thus often failed to get the best out of them. The Sten may have been a flawed weapon, but I think complaints about it reflected larger problems.
    Combover likes this.

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