The Sten Gun

The Sten Gun was one of the cheapest guns produced in the Second World War, but it had some drawbacks…


British MK II Sten Gun


As a result of the evacuation of Dunkirk, the British armed forces found themselves with a depleted armoury and limited funds to replace them with. The need for a cheap, simple and mass produced weapon was desperately required.

Step forward two men; Major Shepherd and Mr Harold Turpin, both from the Arms factory in Enfield. They developed the Sten gun, using an amalgamation of names to come up with ‘STEN’, which would become one of Britain’s best known weapons, and see service in a variety of countries.

The Sten was of a similar design to the Lanchester (which it itself was a copy of a German MP28), such as a side feeding magazine, but in terms of execution, they were two entirely different weapons.

The Sten required few components and minimal welding, allowing the capability of smaller workshops to take a bulk of the work in assembling the sub machine gun.


British Prime minister winston churchill test fires a sten gun
Winston Churchill test fires a STEN


​Using 9mm ammunition, designed to take German rounds, the Sten was a versatile weapon. So much so, that huge quantities were handed to the French resistance from the British government in their fight against the Germans.

The weapon went through several redesigns, but the most common variant (and the one used mainly by the Airborne forces in 1944) was the MK II Sten.

Many soldiers have been quoted as saying that they much preferred the Sten to the American equivalent, the Thomson sub machine gun, because of its “British” feel. Although much loved, it was also an incredibly unreliable weapon.

Due to the sheer number of Stens produced, flaws became apparent but were deemed to not justify other modifications. For example, gun stoppages were frequent and led to multiple deaths, the weapon was volatile and known to go off without any movement of the trigger, sometimes being used in room clearances when grenades were not appropriate or available.

Despite the flaws in the Sten, it was still produced on a mass scale for years to come, only being phased out of the British forces in the 1950s before it ceased to be in operation in the British military in the early 1960s.
The iconic design of the Sten, the theatres of war it served in and the men who used it will undoubtedly never be forgotten.

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