Bloke on the Range videos

4(T)

LE
I joined the Army in 85, and my first posting as an armourer was to Depot Queens Div in Bassingbourn in 86. At that point, there were nearly as many SMGs in the armoury as there were Rifles (1200 SMGs, 1400 Rifles IIRC). My personal weapon was the SMG, and being a keen young Craftsman I often volunteered or was voluntold to conduct the range tests on repaired weapons. I could easily get hits on fig 12 targets at 150m (the max length of the baffled range on the airfield at Bassingbourn) with the SMG; over two years I fired hundreds of 25-30 year old Sterlings, and I don't remember ever having a stoppage that wasn't caused by damaged mag lips, damaged ejectors or ammo (mainly ammo).

As far as I am aware, the fabled British Squaddies' antipathy toward the Sterling was an accumulation of various mistruths and mistaken identities, along with the oft referenced "Indian Ammo". Partly thanks to old wives' tales told about the Sten (and in one case, the Thompson), it garnered a NAAFI bar reputation as unsafe ("if you drop it it'll fire off the whole mag" - Sten), cheap ("It only cost £X to make" - Sten), unreliable ("the mags are crap" - Sten), plus "it always misfires" - Indian Ammo/Sten mags), inaccurate ("No one can hit anything" - early Stens?), and underpowered ("A wet blanket will stop the bullets" - Thompson, but possibly Indian Ammo as well).

By the late 80s, a big part of the SMG hate was snobbery that it was seen as a Remf's gun; if the chefs and spanner ******* got it issued it must be crap, and how could steely eyed infanteers be expected to use it? Rambo never used one, so the Blankshires and Loamshires should be issued Uzis forthwith and leave the old fashioned looking Sterlings to the attached arms.

I was posted to an Infantry Bn in 88, which was already kitted out with SA80, and we promptly went off to NI. Sterlings were issued for drivers (along with an 8 shot folding stock Remington Wingmaster for the escort!), with 10 round mags - a local mod I was dicked with producing prior to the tour. Once again, test firing with the diddy mags I experienced no stoppages at all.

As for the oft repeated "wet blanket" line about stopping power, my response was always the same: "Fair enough, you hold the blanket, I'll have the SMG". I read (somewhere) that this trope originated with the .45" Thompson SMG, where a wet blanket hanging loosely from a line sometimes could stop the slower moving bullets by absorbing the KE, but to be honest I don't give it much credit. Back to 9mm, a lot of confidence was lost with the 70s purchase of Indian 9mm, but by the 80s, I believe it was removed from stock. The NAAFI bar knitting circle still held on to the line that an SMG would either explode or the barrel would fill with spent bullets. Strangely the exact same 9mm ammo was considered to be a man stopper when fired from the much more tacticool L9A1 Browning pistol

The Sterling SMG was a robust, reliable and effective weapon which apart from being a cam net magnet was ideal as a personal weapon for support troops, crew served weapon operators, signallers, commanders and the like. The magazines were excellent (if heavy), the folding stock was rigid in place and folded neatly out of the way, the change lever was simple and well situated, and the trigger mech was bullet proof. In full auto it was easily controllable, and on Rounds you could get surprisingly accurate results for an open bolt weapon (with practice).



My own view is that most of the Sten stories are just oft-repeated nonsense; the sort of typical rowlocks that gets perpetuated about many different firearms. The weapon was startling and avant garde when introduced, and that started soldiers bumping their gums.

I don't even really hold with the "poor quality magazines" stories. The Sten went into mass production in 1942; by that stage of the war most of Britain's firearms subcontractors were experts in their (new, wartime) field, as they'd been making this stuff for almost three years by then.

In the case of weapon magazines, these contractors had been making mags for Enfields, Lewis guns, Lanchesters, Brens, and then many types of larger calibre weapons. Viz, the technology, materials and QC needed to make up-to-spec magazines was well known and practised. The volume production vs. QC issue had been picked up two years previous to the Sten with the teething troubles over initial No4 production, as indeed had the crucial issue of magazine fitment (feeding angle, bolt pickup, etc).

With millions of weapons made, and tens of millions of magazines, there of course would have statistically been a few duds that made it through the factory test firing and QC. Similarly, these millions of weapons were in the hands of mostly inexpert users, who'd thus generate the same sort of user incidents as they did with pistols, MGs and munitions.

Stens and their successor the SMG are very good guns. Cosmetics and sight picture aside, the Sten and SMG have almost identical shooting performance, with better intrinsic accuracy (ie machine rest test) than just about any pistol.
 
My own view is that most of the Sten stories are just oft-repeated nonsense; the sort of typical rowlocks that gets perpetuated about many different firearms. The weapon was startling and avant garde when introduced, and that started soldiers bumping their gums.

I don't even really hold with the "poor quality magazines" stories. The Sten went into mass production in 1942; by that stage of the war most of Britain's firearms subcontractors were experts in their (new, wartime) field, as they'd been making this stuff for almost three years by then.

In the case of weapon magazines, these contractors had been making mags for Enfields, Lewis guns, Lanchesters, Brens, and then many types of larger calibre weapons. Viz, the technology, materials and QC needed to make up-to-spec magazines was well known and practised. The volume production vs. QC issue had been picked up two years previous to the Sten with the teething troubles over initial No4 production, as indeed had the crucial issue of magazine fitment (feeding angle, bolt pickup, etc).

With millions of weapons made, and tens of millions of magazines, there of course would have statistically been a few duds that made it through the factory test firing and QC. Similarly, these millions of weapons were in the hands of mostly inexpert users, who'd thus generate the same sort of user incidents as they did with pistols, MGs and munitions.

Stens and their successor the SMG are very good guns. Cosmetics and sight picture aside, the Sten and SMG have almost identical shooting performance, with better intrinsic accuracy (ie machine rest test) than just about any pistol.
I can confirm from my experience that bad STEN mags are a thing, even factory-new ones (of which I have several, and one just will not run in my Mk.5 but will run in my Mk.2.). I mark them with which gun they'll run in and which they won't.

But with good mags, they run great.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
My own experience with Stens is limited to firing a Mk 5 on a weapons experience swan many years ago, and getting a Mk 2 to work in Sierra Leone, by manufacturing the missing backplate (minus the buttstock - not recommended!), neither of which filled me with confidence in the weapon. The mags that I have seen and used were very poor build quality and at least one wouldn't feed at all. However, I will admit that is all anecdotal, and I don't claim to be an expert.
 

Mufulira

Old-Salt
I joined the Army in 85, and my first posting as an armourer was to Depot Queens Div in Bassingbourn in 86. At that point, there were nearly as many SMGs in the armoury as there were Rifles (1200 SMGs, 1400 Rifles IIRC). My personal weapon was the SMG, and being a keen young Craftsman I often volunteered or was voluntold to conduct the range tests on repaired weapons. I could easily get hits on fig 12 targets at 150m (the max length of the baffled range on the airfield at Bassingbourn) with the SMG; over two years I fired hundreds of 25-30 year old Sterlings, and I don't remember ever having a stoppage that wasn't caused by damaged mag lips, damaged ejectors or ammo (mainly ammo).

As far as I am aware, the fabled British Squaddies' antipathy toward the Sterling was an accumulation of various mistruths and mistaken identities, along with the oft referenced "Indian Ammo". Partly thanks to old wives' tales told about the Sten (and in one case, the Thompson), it garnered a NAAFI bar reputation as unsafe ("if you drop it it'll fire off the whole mag" - Sten), cheap ("It only cost £X to make" - Sten), unreliable ("the mags are crap" - Sten), plus "it always misfires" - Indian Ammo/Sten mags), inaccurate ("No one can hit anything" - early Stens?), and underpowered ("A wet blanket will stop the bullets" - Thompson, but possibly Indian Ammo as well).

By the late 80s, a big part of the SMG hate was snobbery that it was seen as a Remf's gun; if the chefs and spanner ******* got it issued it must be crap, and how could steely eyed infanteers be expected to use it? Rambo never used one, so the Blankshires and Loamshires should be issued Uzis forthwith and leave the old fashioned looking Sterlings to the attached arms.

I was posted to an Infantry Bn in 88, which was already kitted out with SA80, and we promptly went off to NI. Sterlings were issued for drivers (along with an 8 shot folding stock Remington Wingmaster for the escort!), with 10 round mags - a local mod I was dicked with producing prior to the tour. Once again, test firing with the diddy mags I experienced no stoppages at all.

As for the oft repeated "wet blanket" line about stopping power, my response was always the same: "Fair enough, you hold the blanket, I'll have the SMG". I read (somewhere) that this trope originated with the .45" Thompson SMG, where a wet blanket hanging loosely from a line sometimes could stop the slower moving bullets by absorbing the KE, but to be honest I don't give it much credit. Back to 9mm, a lot of confidence was lost with the 70s purchase of Indian 9mm, but by the 80s, I believe it was removed from stock. The NAAFI bar knitting circle still held on to the line that an SMG would either explode or the barrel would fill with spent bullets. Strangely the exact same 9mm ammo was considered to be a man stopper when fired from the much more tacticool L9A1 Browning pistol

The Sterling SMG was a robust, reliable and effective weapon which apart from being a cam net magnet was ideal as a personal weapon for support troops, crew served weapon operators, signallers, commanders and the like. The magazines were excellent (if heavy), the folding stock was rigid in place and folded neatly out of the way, the change lever was simple and well situated, and the trigger mech was bullet proof. In full auto it was easily controllable, and on Rounds you could get surprisingly accurate results for an open bolt weapon (with practice).
The'wet blanket as opposed to a damp greatcoat' tale --I was using a No 4 rifle with an insert capable of employing .32ACP (7.65mm pistol rounds) as a relatively quiet means of disposing small game with acceptable accuracy. Again, not much noise however the scornful looks from others who only believe in a 465 Belchfire Magnum and all that recoil complete with seven feet of muzzle flash as the only way to knock off tasty edible animals. So my son and I borrowed Mrs M's spare guest room blanket and suspended same from the target frame at our indoor range --- to my sort of horror at 7 to 10 yards the little .32ACP just drilled its way though a double fold of blankies! We concluded the trial by not wetting the blanket and casually popping it into the laundry and made no more mention of moth holes! As the man said 'you hold the blanket and I'll pop off a few shots!"
 

4(T)

LE
I can confirm from my experience that bad STEN mags are a thing, even factory-new ones (of which I have several, and one just will not run in my Mk.5 but will run in my Mk.2.). I mark them with which gun they'll run in and which they won't.

But with good mags, they run great.

Interesting. Surely if the "faulty" mag runs in at least one gun, then it may not be the mag itself to blame, but a hitch in the overall system somewhere?

Have you taken a micrometer to the mag and guns, to see if there is a dimensional variation? E.g. does the MkII present the mag a bit deeper into the bolt path, or is the bolt itself slightly deeper in the ribs that pick the round up? Does anything change when you swap the bolts between the guns?

Ironically, I think that there is less to go wrong in an all-steel Sten than there is in the rather more "organic" No1/No4.

The Enfield misfeed checklist is something like:

1. magazine latch/rib fit
2. trigger guard fit/angle
3. front magazine screw bushing length
4. left/right magazine rear lip height
5. left/right magazine front lip angle
6. rear magazine scoop
7. bolt/boltway travel
8. bolthead profile
9. magazine follower fit
10. cut-off interface (No1, where fitted)

and

11. is the complainant (customer, sorry) closing the bolt in a smart, soldier-like manner, or is he a bit limp wristed...?
12. is the customer using proper ammunition, or some wibbly home loads with light/ sp bullets?

etc
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Interesting. Surely if the "faulty" mag runs in at least one gun, then it may not be the mag itself to blame, but a hitch in the overall system somewhere?

Have you taken a micrometer to the mag and guns, to see if there is a dimensional variation? E.g. does the MkII present the mag a bit deeper into the bolt path, or is the bolt itself slightly deeper in the ribs that pick the round up? Does anything change when you swap the bolts between the guns?

Ironically, I think that there is less to go wrong in an all-steel Sten than there is in the rather more "organic" No1/No4.

The Enfield misfeed checklist is something like:

1. magazine latch/rib fit
2. trigger guard fit/angle
3. front magazine screw bushing length
4. left/right magazine rear lip height
5. left/right magazine front lip angle
6. rear magazine scoop
7. bolt/boltway travel
8. bolthead profile
9. magazine follower fit
10. cut-off interface (No1, where fitted)

and

11. is the complainant (customer, sorry) closing the bolt in a smart, soldier-like manner, or is he a bit limp wristed...?
12. is the customer using proper ammunition, or some wibbly home loads with light/ sp bullets?

etc
Hmmm. "Less to go wrong" does not equate to less going wrong. As I said I am no Sten expert, but I know that the build quality especially on mks 2 & 3 was often extremely agricultural and wartime QC was not good. Magazines were notoriously bad, not just Naafi bar rumour, but documented in contemporaneous reports as the weak spot in the weapon. One of the reasons the Sterling mag was so robust and over engineered was to prevent recurrence of the same issue (as was told to me in in my armourer basic training by instructors who cut their teeth on Stens, Brens and No 4s). I don't doubt that the Sten was badly maligned by troops used to Lee Enfields being issued the Plumber's nightmare, but I also believe some of the things said about it were true, particularly the mags.
 
SMG was definitely primary weapon for a lot of people. For whom depended upon the orbat. For my first unit it was more or less every officer below major, most WOs (WO1 had pistol), SNCOs and det commanders, most drivers, the REMEs. Probably overall about 2 SMGs per 3 rifles.

There were a lot of SMGs in the armouries. IIRC ancils were six mags plus bayonet (SLR and SMG) with, so I understand, another four mags for each weapon to be issued from Corps mob stocks on deployment*.

Each sub-unit also had about 6x L4s and 2x CGs**. Not a lot of firepower for a unit expected to take part in covering force operations!


* There were occasional "outload" tests, where some unfortunate subunit - usually mine - had to go and collect its entire war deployment kit. This is when you had to figure out how to fit 10x NBC suits, 10x ten man rations, 30x GC rounds and about 100kg of 1m2 map sheets - all into a 1/2 ton FFR landrover.



** A sub-unit had convinced one hapless chap that his duties included carrying both CGs (+ rifle) on exercise. He was a bit (ok, very) educationally subnormal, so took it hook line and sinker, and duly staggered around with two CGs for a whole exercise season. The fun was eventually spoiled when he had to take a message into the tight confines of a Bde Tac where there were some particularly humourless VSOs in conference. It says a lot about BAOR that every other person he'd so far encountered in 1 (Br)Corps had automatically run with the wind-up!
As an ex scalyback, most of the techs were issued a SMG. Never saw a SMG bayonet. One time was issued with 4 blank rounds. Have a rubber SMG front cap? why I have no idea.

Always remember a young Female LT on the 25 m range putting the “charging / cocking handle” in the wrong way around. So the thing was very slippy. As she tried to load the thing her hand slipped and the bolt flew forward. Near took my foot off.
 
Hmmm. "Less to go wrong" does not equate to less going wrong. As I said I am no Sten expert, but I know that the build quality especially on mks 2 & 3 was often extremely agricultural and wartime QC was not good. Magazines were notoriously bad, not just Naafi bar rumour, but documented in contemporaneous reports as the weak spot in the weapon. One of the reasons the Sterling mag was so robust and over engineered was to prevent recurrence of the same issue (as was told to me in in my armourer basic training by instructors who cut their teeth on Stens, Brens and No 4s). I don't doubt that the Sten was badly maligned by troops used to Lee Enfields being issued the Plumber's nightmare, but I also believe some of the things said about it were true, particularly the mags.
I believe the Sten magazine was a copy of a German magazine from one of the earliest submachine guns ever made, via the Lanchester (which was a copy of an early German SMG). And that original German submachine gun magazine evolved from pistol magazines. The Sten magazine was as a result inherently not that great. The single feed and weak magazine lips were an inherent problem.

However, the priority was to get an SMG that was cheaper and easier to make than the Lanchester into production ASAP. Given the time to do it right, a different and better magazine design would have resulted, which is what the Sterling ended up with.
 
Always remember a young Female LT on the 25 m range putting the “charging / cocking handle” in the wrong way around. So the thing was very slippy. As she tried to load the thing her hand slipped and the bolt flew forward. Near took my foot off.
Witnessed a similar incident involving a Fg Off on a cold wet wintery morning, plus the charging handle in the wrong way round. Nobody hurt, but said officer was impolitely ordered off the range.
 
Interesting. Surely if the "faulty" mag runs in at least one gun, then it may not be the mag itself to blame, but a hitch in the overall system somewhere?

Have you taken a micrometer to the mag and guns, to see if there is a dimensional variation? E.g. does the MkII present the mag a bit deeper into the bolt path, or is the bolt itself slightly deeper in the ribs that pick the round up? Does anything change when you swap the bolts between the guns?

Ironically, I think that there is less to go wrong in an all-steel Sten than there is in the rather more "organic" No1/No4.

The Enfield misfeed checklist is something like:

1. magazine latch/rib fit
2. trigger guard fit/angle
3. front magazine screw bushing length
4. left/right magazine rear lip height
5. left/right magazine front lip angle
6. rear magazine scoop
7. bolt/boltway travel
8. bolthead profile
9. magazine follower fit
10. cut-off interface (No1, where fitted)

and

11. is the complainant (customer, sorry) closing the bolt in a smart, soldier-like manner, or is he a bit limp wristed...?
12. is the customer using proper ammunition, or some wibbly home loads with light/ sp bullets?

etc
There's a LOT of variation in simple things like outer dimensions, some are a rattling good fit and some are loose. I've got a mag loader that will fit on some and not others.

The factory new one that won't run in the Mk.5 seems to have slightly higher friction on the lips, which the shorter bolt run up doesn't cope with (runs fine in the Mk.2 which has further to go before contacting the round after trigger release.


I believe the Sten magazine was a copy of a German magazine from one of the earliest submachine guns ever made, via the Lanchester (which was a copy of an early German SMG). And that original German submachine gun magazine evolved from pistol magazines. The Sten magazine was as a result inherently not that great. The single feed and weak magazine lips were an inherent problem.

However, the priority was to get an SMG that was cheaper and easier to make than the Lanchester into production ASAP. Given the time to do it right, a different and better magazine design would have resulted, which is what the Sterling ended up with.
They're copies of MP28 magazines, and the MP28 was a modification of the MP18 to a conventional stick mag.
 

Chicken

Old-Salt
What was the reason behind keeping the horizontal magazine on the Sterling?

I can't think of a more ungainly place to mount a magazine,since it make's a MKII Sten 29 cm wide instead of 5.5 (distance measured from left side of receiver to end of MKII cocking handle.

The German idea with the MP3008 moved the magazine to under the receiver,I think as much to do with common sense as it was an effort to keep some familiarity with the MP38/40,especially as the gun was issued to Volkssturm who had limited/no experiance with the above guns anyhow.

I think the Sten is quite awful,most over here were gotten rid of as soon as possible in favour of the MP38/40 by Norwegian resistance fighters,The Norwegian forces used the MP38/40 as a reserve weapon untill the early 90's.

I wonder how many Soldiers lost the end of their little finger or burned their hands on the barrel of the MKII's?
 
Horizontal mag allows you to get much closer to the ground and still use the wpn.

1591167710837.png


I don't see why people have such a sad-on about side mounted mags, to be honest.
 
I joined the Army in 85, and my first posting as an armourer was to Depot Queens Div in Bassingbourn in 86. At that point, there were nearly as many SMGs in the armoury as there were Rifles (1200 SMGs, 1400 Rifles IIRC). My personal weapon was the SMG, and being a keen young Craftsman I often volunteered or was voluntold to conduct the range tests on repaired weapons. I could easily get hits on fig 12 targets at 150m (the max length of the baffled range on the airfield at Bassingbourn) with the SMG; over two years I fired hundreds of 25-30 year old Sterlings, and I don't remember ever having a stoppage that wasn't caused by damaged mag lips, damaged ejectors or ammo (mainly ammo).

As far as I am aware, the fabled British Squaddies' antipathy toward the Sterling was an accumulation of various mistruths and mistaken identities, along with the oft referenced "Indian Ammo". Partly thanks to old wives' tales told about the Sten (and in one case, the Thompson), it garnered a NAAFI bar reputation as unsafe ("if you drop it it'll fire off the whole mag" - Sten), cheap ("It only cost £X to make" - Sten), unreliable ("the mags are crap" - Sten), plus "it always misfires" - Indian Ammo/Sten mags), inaccurate ("No one can hit anything" - early Stens?), and underpowered ("A wet blanket will stop the bullets" - Thompson, but possibly Indian Ammo as well).

By the late 80s, a big part of the SMG hate was snobbery that it was seen as a Remf's gun; if the chefs and spanner ******* got it issued it must be crap, and how could steely eyed infanteers be expected to use it? Rambo never used one, so the Blankshires and Loamshires should be issued Uzis forthwith and leave the old fashioned looking Sterlings to the attached arms.

I was posted to an Infantry Bn in 88, which was already kitted out with SA80, and we promptly went off to NI. Sterlings were issued for drivers (along with an 8 shot folding stock Remington Wingmaster for the escort!), with 10 round mags - a local mod I was dicked with producing prior to the tour. Once again, test firing with the diddy mags I experienced no stoppages at all.

As for the oft repeated "wet blanket" line about stopping power, my response was always the same: "Fair enough, you hold the blanket, I'll have the SMG". I read (somewhere) that this trope originated with the .45" Thompson SMG, where a wet blanket hanging loosely from a line sometimes could stop the slower moving bullets by absorbing the KE, but to be honest I don't give it much credit. Back to 9mm, a lot of confidence was lost with the 70s purchase of Indian 9mm, but by the 80s, I believe it was removed from stock. The NAAFI bar knitting circle still held on to the line that an SMG would either explode or the barrel would fill with spent bullets. Strangely the exact same 9mm ammo was considered to be a man stopper when fired from the much more tacticool L9A1 Browning pistol

The Sterling SMG was a robust, reliable and effective weapon which apart from being a cam net magnet was ideal as a personal weapon for support troops, crew served weapon operators, signallers, commanders and the like. The magazines were excellent (if heavy), the folding stock was rigid in place and folded neatly out of the way, the change lever was simple and well situated, and the trigger mech was bullet proof. In full auto it was easily controllable, and on Rounds you could get surprisingly accurate results for an open bolt weapon (with practice).

Excellent post.
Also, quick and easy to clean
Easy to carry when folded
Could be used left handed
Happy days
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Having a horizontal mag allows easier prone firing,
Horizontal mag allows you to get much closer to the ground and still use the wpn.

View attachment 478969

I don't see why people have such a sad-on about side mounted mags, to be honest.
Thank you for saving me from looking for a photo like that!

Also, ergonomically side mounted mag loading is natural, and is especially easy to locate with the Sterling mag housing being directly in front of the trigger, without removing the gun from the aim.

On the negative side, the angular protrusions on the Sterling did as I mentioned earlier make it into a cam net magnet.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Excellent post.
Also, quick and easy to clean
Easy to carry when folded
Could be used left handed
Happy days
...And most importantly, when folded it fit perfectly into the side pouch of the GS & SAS bergan. :)
 

Chicken

Old-Salt
Horizontal mag allows you to get much closer to the ground and still use the wpn.

View attachment 478969

I don't see why people have such a sad-on about side mounted mags, to be honest.
Because they are awfull when clearing structures or shooting around cover?

Side mounted magazines really never caught on and I think the lower profile when shooting prone was more of an accident rather than by design since pretty much every gun produced has a mag underneath?
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Because they are awfull when clearing structures or shooting around cover?

Side mounted magazines really never caught on and I think the lower profile when shooting prone was more of an accident rather than by design since pretty much every gun produced has a mag underneath?
Ahem:

Ze Chermanns liked them:
1591172880011.jpeg

1591172947305.jpeg

1591173035210.jpeg


As did we Brits:

Extremely Rare And Immaculate WW2 Mk1 Sten Gun - MJL Militaria

1591173364042.jpeg

1591173533610.jpeg



Have you ever fired a Sten or Sterling?
 

4(T)

LE
What was the reason behind keeping the horizontal magazine on the Sterling?

The left side mag occupies the same space as the shooters supporting forearm, ergo no snagging on obstructions.

Bottom, top and right-side magazines all create an extra snagging point around the shooter.

Depending upon grip position, left side magazines are also often supported by that forearm, adding to weapon stability.
 

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