Military types

If you actually fire that sort of gun with that sort of hold aren’t you going to end up with a very burnt hand?

Sure, nice piccie and all but…..on the other hand he is RAF…..

23 thoughts on “Military types”

  1. No you won’t Tim. The Sterling SMG has a perforated barrel shroud precisely so that you can hold the weapon forward of the magazine without burning your hand. That’s what it’s for.
    My criticism of his hold is that his right eyebrow appears to be actually touching the rear sight. A cut above the eye looms!

  2. Nope, the Sterling is perfectly comfortable to hold in that position. Firstly, he’s holding via the barrel protector, not the barrel itself. Secondly, it’s extremely rare for a submachine gun to fire the number of rounds required to make the barrel very hot anyway

  3. Not much point in concentrating on aim like that. Beyond 25m the SMG isn’t all that accurate. If the target is closer, why would you need to aim so precisely?

  4. If the target is closer, why would you need to aim so precisely?

    Well say, for instance, one went on a pheasant shoot, but the owner said you were only allowed in if the SMG was on single shot.

  5. If I recall my cadet training, there’s no other place to hold it. I was roundly rebuked for holding it by the magazine. “Who the fuck do you think you are? Al fucking Capone?”

  6. The barrel shroud (the perforated tube) is well away from the barrel itself, so doesn’t heat up – it’s exactly where you’re meant to hold it, with neat little guards to keep your fingers out of the ejection port.

    As Patrick says, the bigger issue is he’s leaning in far too close to the rear sight and will hurt himself if he actually fires, though this is probably a posed shot with an empty magazine. (I had a pair of glasses with a fingernail-sized opaque patch on the lower corner of the right lens, where using an L1A1 SLR with a too-short buttstock meant the rearsight hit my glasses with every shot)

    If you hold it by the magazine, as beloved of Hollywood and ‘Battle/Action’ war comics, you risk messing up the feed angle and causing stoppages (though in those, you’d never have the stock extended, let alone fire from the shoulder).

    To some folks’ surprise, the SMG could be remarkably accurate; the back sight flipped over for 100m and 200m ranges, and you could expect to hit a Figure 11 at that longer range (from memory you had to, with the SMG APWT fired at 100m and 200m). Indeed, a 1945 British Army study gave serious consideration to arming most infantrymen with Sten Guns, since at 200m and 300m they were as likely to hit the target with those as they were with (heavier, more expensive) rifles. (Instead they tried to improve shooting over the emergency standards acceptable at that point in the war, where the manpower shortage was such that AA gunners, sailors and others were being hastily rebadged as infantry to make good losses)

  7. Small ‘for info’ addendum. Sterling was an SMG specialist and went out of business as the move to assault rifles came in. I know this well as my father was once chairman of the Sterling Armaments Corporation Ltd right towards the end – he was brought in very late to try and get the company into position for an assault rifle contract – but too late. I remember two characters well – Wally and Frank. Wally had, to my teenage eyes, the best job in the world. He sat in the bunker at the Dagenham plant receiving newly made SMGs and test firing them and factory zeroing. All day he just blatted off and fiddled with SMGs. Frank Waters was a brilliant designer. The double column / double feed design of the Sterling magazine is among the most reliable feed designs ever for any type of firearm. But his forte was blowback operation. Gas operation and bullpup config were both new to him. And he was getting quite old. Sterling never got to a decent AR design before the contract was needed. The MoD went for the initially shit (A1 version) but latterly just fine (A2 version and beyond) SA80. Ho hum.

  8. @JasonL.. Re the Sten… I’m old enough to have experience of the bastard devices (factory-gate price 2/6d – and it showed) and the general consensus of opinion was that in terms of accuracy you’d have difficulty hitting a barn-door – if you were standing inside the barn! I suppose it’s possible that “test” weapons in 1945 might have been manufactured to a higher standard, but I’d guess that squaddies only managed to hit targets with the Sten as well as with a Mk4 because they were bloody-awful shots! 🙂

    That said, excellent weapon for “room clearing”.

  9. Also it’s difficult to be seriously accurate with any SMG that fires from an open bolt. The massive cylindrical bolt is held back against the mainspring by the sear when you cock it. When you fire the whole bolt lurches forward, strips the round out of the magazine, and fires it. The weapon is wobbling around a bit when it fires. Accuracy depends enormously on how consistently you hold it when you fire. Different holds and different users affect the wobble. It requires discipline and muscle memory to do that. But when you ‘just absolutely have to kill every last motherfucker in the room’ (hat tip Q. Tarantino esq) then it’s the dog’s bollocks.

  10. Baron Jackfield,

    The trials team looking at the results (from WO 291/476 “Comparison of rifle, Bren and Sten”) did point out that the issue was not the inherent accuracy of the weapons, but the fact that few of the shooters were able to employ them anywhere near their potential: the scores were something like two hits out of three on a man-sized target at 200 yards with the rifle, firing at leisure from the prone (I’m merely an adequate shot & I’d be embarrassed to be missing any, under those circumstances; and I doubt the elderly L1A1s I was using back then, were much more accurate than a No. 4 Lee-Enfield); while they did nearly as well with the Sten. As you say, inexperience and lack of training, not the weapons.

    Rather than issue everyone except designated marksmen a slamfire SMG, the solution was – once the pace of warfighting allowed – to spend more time on actually teaching soldiers to shoot.

  11. Mark, that’s fantastic, I never knew any of that !
    Thanks very much for bringing it to our attention.

  12. One of the unappreciated benefits of an open-bolt weapon like the Sten is that the motion of the closing bolt offsets (to some extent) the recoil of the fired cartridge, meaning that it is easier to keep the weapon on-target when firing fully-automatic. Combined with its leisurely rate of fire, this makes for a weapon that is easier to shoot accurately and keep on-target than many of its contemporaries.

    I have shot the MP40, the Sten, the PPSH-41, the WW2-era Thompson and the M3.

    The Thompson with no foregrip is a PITA – unless ideally-positioned to resist it, the muzzle climb (up and left) from the heavy cartridge and high rate of fire is impossible to counteract. The weight helps a bit. The M3, shooting the same cartridge, while much lighter, benefits from the double advantages of open-bolt operation and a very sedate rate of fire, and is easy to control and keep on target.

    The MP40, with its lighter cartridge, open-bolt operation and middling rate of fire, is easy to control. The PPSH-41 is more fun than a barrelful of monkeys, its ridiculous rate of fire being offset by its greater weight, open-bolt operation and the typically-excellent muzzle brake.

    But the best of all is the Sten, with its open bolt, light cartridge, and pedestrian rate of fire. Easiest of all to shoot accurately and keep on target, and quite accurate enough for its intended uses. For the short bullet and the relatively-light cartridge, there’s no real accuracy advantage in any barrel much longer than the Sten’s 8 inches anyway. The ability to take a full grip of the barrel well-forward – not possible with the Thompson, the MP40 or the M3 – contributes greatly to the ease of control.

    There’s an excellent series of videos on YouTube called ‘Forgotten Weapons’, hosted by Ian McCullom, which looks at each of these weapons (and others comparable) in detail, including live firing, and discusses the various pros and cons.



  13. Most open bolt weapons ‘pre detonate’ the round. The firing pin is integral to the bolt and achieves ignition pressure on the primer just before the round chambers fully – so some push back against the forward moving bolt as it seals. Reduces recoil and also significantly reduces wear on the boltface.

    But can over-pre-detonate with shitty primers / poor quality ammo. I’ve had a Sterling with a round explode half in the receiver / half in the chamber. Showered me with fragments and the bullet got stuck in the barrel!

  14. It was my personal weapon for a while, and in practical terms you carry it at lot more than you shoot it, and the SMG had bits sticking into you no matter how it was carried. I didn’t like it, although I did find the way of making it fire auto while set to single shot. Which is how I qualified on it, the test being a walkdown from 25 yds to 5, and if you saved shots early you could double tap at the shortest range.

    There’s a book, The Sterling Years: Small Arms and the Men, Which chronicles the story Patrick outlines above.

  15. You hold it there.
    As I recall if you hold it by the magazine your gunnery instructor shouts at you “who do you think you are sir, James fucking Bond?”. If you hold onto the magazine it can come off as you fire and the smg will swing wildly to the side. That last bullet chambered can end up being fired off to the side and not towards the enemy. You mates may be in for a bit of a shock. Tellingly on the range your very pissed off gunnery instructor always stands behind you.

  16. Bernie G. Ditto. The LMG alone of those was a world-class gun, easy to operate, easy to hit things with.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    The SMG was my personal weapon for 12 years (SLR 3 and 9mm pistol 3) and I had quite a lot of fun firing it.

    That’s definitely the way you hold it and for stability you twist both arms down and towards each other as well as pulling back in to the shoulder. It couldn’t be fired left handed, or left eyed, because of the way the round was ejected.

    As for accuracy, its 35 years since I last had to qualify with one so it’s a bit hazy but I remember starting at at least 100m, might even have been 200m and walking forward to 30m in stages. You were expected to be reasonably accurate at the longer ranges.

    Where it came in to its own is in FIBUA and other close quarters areas, as others have said. There’s an excellent range in Otterburn where you walk up a valley with targets popping up left, right at centre. The short barrel allows quicker target acquisition and a double-tap improves accuracy and kill chance. We rarely fired them on automatic, waste of rounds but when did bursts of 3-5 at the most as you can only kill someone once. I never did any FIBUA or room clearance so can’t comment on the idea of spraying a room with one long burst.

    As for holding the mag, a definite no-no, as explained above. The other big no-no was tapping the mag on the end when its being fitted, especially after a reload. Its a fixed firing pin* and the working parts are held back and then released by the trigger. On release they fly forward, collect the round and then fire it when it locks in the chamber. The explosion sends the working parts back where the trigger mechanism locks them until the next time they’re released**. Tapping the mag can cause a round to get loose and lodge in the chamber causing a stoppage. Not good when there’s enemy fire around.

    That’s definitely a posed picture with (probably) and empty mag. The guys in the background aren’t wearing ear defenders.

    *As opposed to what people normally think of where pulling the trigger releases a hammer which hits mechanism that pushes the firing pin in to the round.

    **Obviously on fully automatic they just fly forward again as the trigger is held back.

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