Even before the end of the Second World War the British Army had realised that its Sten gun was far from ideal, its cheap and cheerful design being acceptable for wartime but not really suited for peacetime. It was not until 1953 however that a new sub machine gun started to be issued, the Sterling. This firearm was leaps and bounds ahead of the Sten, with an enviable build quality and reliability:The user’s manual described the weapon as:
The Sterling Sub Machine Gun, Mark 4, is a light and easily handles weapon that will selectively fire automatically or single shot. Standard 9mm Parabellum ammunition is used.
It is a short range weapon normally used for engagements at ranges up to 200 yards. It may be used at longer ranges dependent on the skill of the firer.
On account of its accuracy, lightness and reliability, the gun can be regarded as a general purpose weapon.
Butt. When not in use the butt is folded under the weapon reducing the overall length by 9 inches. With the butt folded the weapon can be used as a pistol. Body The forward part of the body i.e. the barrel casing, is perforated to assist cooling. It will be found that even after prolonged firing the body remains comfortably cool. Finger guards are fitted at both ends of the barrel casing.Trigger and Safety Mechanism The trigger mechanism is fitted with a change lever which can be set to give either automatic fire or single shot. The change lever also has a SAFE position which locks the trigger and sear, irrespective of the position of the bolt, which eliminates the possibility of a round being fired if the weapon is dropped. Backsight. The rear peephole sight is instantly changed from 100 to 200 yards range setting by rocking overBayonet. The bayonet is mounted so that it is off set when the weapon is in the firing position. It will be found that, when the weapon is held in the “on-guard” position for bayonet fighting, the natural balance of the weapon, with or without magazine brings the bayonet into the upright position.Note the bayonet lug in the picture above. The but has a very clever folding mechanism that allows it to be securely stowed under the weapon or extended out fully to support the firer:The manual explains how the butt is extended and retracted:This weapon has a rack number stencilled on the magazine housing which is either ‘06’ or ‘90’ depeding on which way you look at it!The magazines for the Sterling have a gentle curve to them and hold 34 rounds of 9mm ammunition in a double column, using rollers to allow it to easily transition into the breach of the weapon:These are noticeably better quality than the magazines used on the Sten gun and have the weapons designation stamped across the outside curved edge:Over 400,000 Sterlings were produced and they had an enviable reputation for accuracy They were to remain in service with the British Army until the early 1990s when the SA80 replaced them. This was not to be the end of the British Army’s association with the Sterling though as in the recent conflicts in Iraq a number of these weapons were captured from the Iraqi Army and were used in the cabs of vehicles attached to bungy cords as a quick grab weapon- being smaller and easier to manoeuvre than the SA80.
As ever this weapon is deactivated for legal ownership in the UK and is the first post-Second World War weapon in my collection. Interestingly science fiction fans amongst you might recognise the Sterling as the base weapon modified for use by stormtroopers as the E111 Blaster in Star Wars!