Guns of the Silver Screen: V21N10

By Kyle Shea

Allied: Stens of Betrayal

It is 1940, and the British find themselves almost alone, fighting against the power of Nazi Germany. France, Belgium, Holland, Norway and Denmark have all fallen, and German troops are preparing for an invasion on the other side of the English Channel. The British army had been forced to abandon a large amount of its weapons and other equipment when it evacuated at Dunkirk, and the country now faces a possible invasion from occupied Europe. Before, the British had depended on Thompson submachine guns—but they were not enough, and they were expensive. To make matters worse, German U-boats had been sinking many supply ships carrying these guns from the U.S. Desperate, they sought to create a cheaper alternative that they could produce in their own country.

In 1940, the Sten was created by Major Reginald V. Shepherd and Harold J. Turpin. The name Sten actually comes from the first letters of their last names and the first two letters of “Enfield.” Stens were easy to make and cost far less than the American Thompson. The British made from 3 million to over 4 million depending on the information sources used, which sometimes include Canadian and other production in their numbers. There were a number of variants, each designated as a different Mark (MK), with the most common being the MK II. It served in the British Army well after the war, until it was slowly replaced by the Sterling submachine gun in the 1960s.

The Sten was one of the most used submachine guns in the world, seeing service in over twenty conflicts. Stens were even dropped behind enemy lines throughout the war to local resistance groups. They were light and easy to operate. The gun itself is an open bolt firearm, meaning that you pull the bolt back, and then the sear notch locks it in place. To fire it, you load the magazine and pull the trigger releasing the bolt, which strips a bullet and chambers then fires it on that forward stroke. This made it cheaper and easier to...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N10 (December 2017)
and was posted online on October 20, 2017


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