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The STEN Machine Carbine (Submachine Gun)

Part 8

Image Collection 7

Gavin K. Watt

The STEN has been greatly maligned as being functionally unreliable and unsafe, particularly because of its susceptibility to accidentally discharge. Although there were many incidents of such malfunctions, the STEN proved itself an excellent firearm for its intended purpose. Its simple design could be cheaply manufactured by a wide variety of small shops without prior firearms’ experience. A significant drawback to the STEN design was the decision to copy the German single-position feed magazine of the MP-40, which required a special loader for charging. When the Perths arrived in NW Europe, they were issued MKII STEN. Canadian Small Arms, Long Branch arsenal produced 133,000 MKII STENs and 1,100,000 magazines.

Peter Laidler, The Sten Machine Carbine (Cobourg, ON: Collector Grade Publications Inc., 2000)
Doug Knight, ed. & Clive M. Law, Tools of the Trade – Equipping the Canadian Army (Ottawa: Service Publications, 2005)
Thomas B. Nelson, The World’s Submachine Guns, Vol. 1 (Cologne: International Small Arms Publishers, 1963)
Edward Clinton Ezell & W.H.B. Smith, Small Arms of the World (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 11th Revised edition, 1977)


1. A 3CID captain catches forty winks. His Mk II Sten lies beside him with cloth wrapped around its T-type buttstock, Normandy, 20Jun44. Note: The Sten is cocked, the cocking handle is in the safety slot.
(LAC, PA133103)


2. Two Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, 3CID flaunting a captured German flag at Hautmesnil, France, 10Aug44. The Corporal wields a Mk II Sten, which is also cocked and on "safe".
(LAC, PA183135)


3. A pair of Sten gunners of Le Régiment de Maisonneuve, 2CID kneeling outside a German concrete bunker on the Maas River at Cuyk, Holland, 23Jan45.
(LAC, PA151030)


4. A section leader of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, 2CID loading Sten magazines. Note – the corporal wears the Riflemen’s version of the Basic Pouches, which would not snap shut over the magazines, making it all too easy to lose them. His Sten mounts the frame-type butt-stock. The awkwardness of loading this single-position feed magazine is obvious. By comparison, the two-position feed Thompson stick magazines could be fully charged using finger power only. Oldenberg, Germany, Apr45.
(LAC, PA163401)


5. Cpl Gavey, D. Coy, Perth Regiment, 5CAD with his section on a roadside north of Arnhem hoists a MkII Sten. Holland, 15Apr45.
(LAC, PA145973)


6. After the armistice, two Canadians, one with a frame butt Mk II Sten, share guard duty with a German soldier at a barracks at Ijmeuden, Holland, 11May45.
(LAC, PA234397)


7. Two FMR soldiers posing during training in England, 27Jan43. One is armed with the Mk III version of the Sten, which has a fixed barrel jacketed almost to the muzzle. This variant was not usually found in Canadian service. It seems the MkIII was not manufactured in Canada.
(LAC, PA190317)


8. At times, cobbled-together variants of small arms were encountered. In this image, a Sten with a wooden pistol grip can be seen behind the right-hand officer. This may be the Mk V variant with its wooden buttstock removed and replaced by the frame-type stock. Caen, 18Jul44.
(LAC, PA130174)


9. A trooper of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion with a Mk V Sten slung on his shoulder seems to be enjoying the discomfort of a mother and father of a German family at Lermbeck, 29Mar45. The vertical fore-grip is obvious; this was sometimes removed and the carbine was held by the left hand in the same manner as a Mk II. All MkV Stens were manufactured in the UK.
(LAC, PA193269)


10. Another paratrooper of 1CanPara meets up with the Russians at Wismar, Germany, 04May45. The wooden buttstock of his Mk V Sten mounts the sling swivel on the top, in the same manner of British-modified Thompson SMG’s butts. This allowed carriage of the carbine across the body and at the ready.
(LAC, PA150930)

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