It was 1940. Britain had been tossed from the continent, leaving most of its equipment behind in France. It was facing an imminent invasion, and was being choked off from supplies from the outside world by the German submarine offensive.
Britain needed weapons. It needed ’em fast. And it needed ’em cheap.
And so the “Sten” gun – the Saturday Night Special of submachine guns – was designed.
The Sten – named after its designers, Shepard and Turpin, and its factory, the Enfield works – must have been kicked off by Scots. It was not only designed to be ruthlessly cheap to build (the Mark 2 shown above, similar to the one I shot many many years ago, cost $11 in 1944 dollars to manufacture), but designed to be fed by captured ammunition that no other Brit firearm used (the Brits had captured immense stockpiles of 9mm ammunition from the Italians in North Africa; British pistols of the day used a .38 caliber round).
It was a cheap expedient that jammed constantly. And it was light enough that the recoil of the 9mm round and the bucking of the bolt back and forth in the receiver made it extremely difficult to control when firing full automatic (which was,with the Mark II, the only option).
And yet it was a symbol; that the ingenuity of Democracies would find a way to muddle through in the face of fascism.
And it’s a hoot to shoot, too. Not especially because of any redeeming qualities of its own; I believe the old saying is “the worst full-auto shooting is more fun than the best semi-auto”.
Or something like that.