Shooting a Suppressed Sten Gun

During World War Two, the British spent several years developing a silenced version of the Sten gun for special operations commandos and for dropping to mainland European resistance units. This is a recreation of one of the experimental types, based on a MkII Sten with the receiver lengthened into an integral suppressor. So – how does it shoot?

28 Comments

    • Nothing quiets the bolt operation. As with most suppressed open-bolt SMGs, when the muzzle signature is suppressed you really notice the purely mechanical racket of the action operating.

      Incidentally, one correction. It was never correct to grasp the magazine or housing of the Sten with the left (off) hand. The manual was very clear on this, precisely because it can cause feeding malfunctions.

      The correct placement is to wrap the fingers around the barrel jacket ahead of the magazine housing, being careful to keep the third and pinky fingers and thumb clear of the ejection port.

      This also holds true for the Patchett/Sterling that replaced the Sten, and is the reason for the two crescent-shaped pieces of steel welded to the receiver tube in front of the ejection port and just behind the front sight on the right side. The aft one keeps your fingers away from the ejection port, the forward one keeps your fingers from getting dangerously close to the muzzle.

      cheers

      eon

      • Fired a suppressed Uzi one time. The sound of the bolt slapping back in forth in the action was about as loud as a staple gun and sounded like one.(at least to me) It made quite a bit of racket that could be heard from several shooting bays over.

  1. Trivia the easy way to fix the silencer tube on a mk11 sten is to cut down the barrel jacket/perforated shroud to less then then an inch and then weld it into the silencer tube
    However be warned the shroud is hardened so hard in fact that it will break lathe tools and piss off your machinist

  2. Ian,
    I found it interesting in the video that there seemed to be an echo. Did you hear it while firing the gun?
    Once again, thanks for all the information that you share. And keep up the good work.

  3. I’ve seen an online demo of the ‘built in’ silenced Wellrod pistol. Unfortunately, they were shooting at a metal garbage can so the racket generated made it nearly impossible to evaluate how successful the suppression really was.

    Would Glisenti ammunition captured in Ethiopia or North Africa have provided enough subsonic for all of these guns?

    • Since the Glisenti round was loaded to roughly 1,050 F/S with a 124-grain bullet, it might or might not have had enough recoil impulse to operate the Sten action. In the 9mm Welrod, which is basically a manual bolt-action repeater, it should work quite well.

      Throughout the war, the British used standard supersonic 9mm ball in the Sten MK 2S and MK 6. Postwar, subsonic “heavy ball” ammunition was developed for the suppressed 9mm Patchett/Sterling, usually with a 150 or 170-grain bullet. None was ever officially adopted but small lots were made and used for special operations.

      Today, probably the best choice would be 9mm 147-grain subsonic hollow-point ammunition. Practically every ammunition manufacturer makes their own version to government spec as a standard item, so you could shop around and get the best price.

      cheers

      eon

  4. Weapon of choice scenario:

    Location: Castle Dreistein, a once proud seaside “lodge” for the nobility now in ruins.

    Okay, guys, I’m getting a little sick of hiding in the strangely intact broom closet whenever it rains or snows around here. Most of the roof is gone and you really do not want to take shelter in the wine cellar (unless you like dealing with the flood waters that came out of the sewers yesterday). But I digress. Right now, we’re shadowing operatives of the “Burning Cross” militant group. These social Darwinists are allied with the “Kingdom of True Enlightenment” that occupied Fort Wooster two months ago. It appears that they are loading barrels of toxic chemicals (supposedly some sort of “zombie poison”) into a stolen Type VII U-Boat moored at the castle dock. According to the U-Boat’s proper captain, who is trying to get his ship back, the submarine can’t dive safely on account of a faulty ballast tank (thank goodness). Considering that our platoon is outnumbered by the militants, stealth is a priority. Our objectives are as follows:

    1. Verify the nature of the toxin
    2. Prevent the U-Boat from leaving port without destroying it (or we owe the good captain a new ship and we will owe the EPA an apology for spilling zombie poison in the sea)
    3. Arrest or eliminate all enemy personnel

    Weapons on hand to arm yourself and the platoon:

    1. Sten MK II S
    2. Smith & Wesson MK 22 Mod 0
    3. Welrod Mk I
    4. Suppressed RPK
    5. Hatchet (ax murder time!)
    6. Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife
    7. Stechkin OTs-38 silent revolver
    8. Device DM silent grenade launcher
    9. AS Val
    10. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!

    This activity is completely voluntary. You are not required to hunt toxin-smuggling goons if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • The most efficient way to accomplish (1) and (2) is to first fully carry out (3). For that, ideally you catch them in a typical militant/terrorist/eschatologist “prep rally” while their Fearless Leader is making a speech, and terminate the lot, while others are eliminating any leakers (guys on watch, etc.).

      Suppressed weapons for each function should be assigned for whoever gets each job. Myself, I’d go with suppressed HK SOCOM .45s for everything except taking out the gathering. During WW2, I’d go with suppressed M3 Grease Guns; as with the SOCOM, the .45 round is subsonic to begin with, so unlike subsonic 9mm, you’re not really giving up any killing power.

      For the “pep rally”, where silence may not actually be necessary, I’d suggest shotguns Dutch-loaded with buckshot and rifled slugs. Don’t worry about holing the Type VII or whatever, the hull, ballast tanks, and even the duckboarding on U-boats was built to resist anything up to 20mm cannon fire. You aren’t likely to damage it with small arms.

      Once this is done, call the Army, not EPA. Chemical Recon and etc. know how to handle control and disposal, while the eco-boys mainly know how to file lawsuits and hold meetings and/or press conferences.

      /yes, I’ve dealt with both in real life.

      cheers

      eon

      • “Who’s this guy!?”
        “I’m the undertaker, and your boxes are ready!” [fires shotgun into the crowd of militants]

        Is that how it went down in your plan?

        • Nope, that Hollywood stuff and you don’t do Hollywood in real life. You do them from behind the crowd and the boss both, from concealment, only “popping up” to fire, and that only if unavoidable.

          It’s called “encircle and neutralize from cover, at sufficient range and proper angles to avoid own goals”.

          The nice thing about slug loads and No. 4 buck is that your effective range is about 40 yards. That’s 120 feet, or nearly half a football field. As long as you have LoS, you don’t have to get within CQB range to do the job.

          Yes, rifles would be better. But a peripheral hit from a slug will stop the target long enough for a second round (or shooter) to kill him. Not always true with 5.56 or any pistol-caliber weapon.

          There’s a reason Western lawmen swore by ten-gauge shotguns, even after the .30-caliber rifles came along. When you have to kill the blighter right then and there, a 12-gauge or larger shotgun slug load is pretty hard to improve on.

          cheers

          eon

    • “1. Verify the nature of the toxin
      2. Prevent the U-Boat from leaving port without destroying it (or we owe the good captain a new ship and we will owe the EPA an apology for spilling zombie poison in the sea)
      3. Arrest or eliminate all enemy personnel”
      Further action should depend on result of 1., important is to determine
      a) how it can be neutralized
      b) how it looks and smell when deployed
      c) what equipment is needed to be safe against it
      after determining that it should be possible either to try
      a) make it harmless, if it is bacteria-based agent it might be possible neutralized if exposed to high/low enough temperature
      b) to cause alarm (LEAKAGE! LEAKAGE! LEAKAGE!) among enemy ranks, without freeing toxin
      c) to be able to intentionally free such agent

      • If you spill the toxin (which will be considered a last resort), I hope you’re able to clean it up. Then again, you’ve already prepared to neutralize the toxin if you’re doing that. Just remember not to sink the submarine while you’re at it (or else clean up will be more complicated as we will have to mop up a U-Boat’s worth of spilled oil along with the toxin). And do you plan to arrest the militants or just plain kill them all?

        • “arrest the militants or just plain kill them all”
          First option if possible, unless they as “operatives of the “Burning Cross” militant group” are not compliant with Hague Convention of 1899, Section II, then maybe use some flame weapons to match with their mark.

          As historical tidbit: in interwar period in France existed entity known as Croix de Feu that is something like cross of fire:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croix-de-Feu
          indicate its ideology as social corporatism, whatever this mean and/or if it was truly Croix de Feu ideology or only attribute by other to this entity I don’t know, so I will let to explain it to someone with better knowledge about Political History of La Troisième République

          • Looks like you just had a fire sale on tickets to the after-life. The goons just had to taste the flames…

    • Oh dear. Late to the party, and drew the short straw again!

      Nothing left for me but an old, arsenal refurbished M1895 Nagant 7-shooter gas-seal revolver with a suppressor/silencer and to assist me as I make my way back to the pre-arranged extraction point where the short take-off and landing virtues of the Polikarpov Po U-2 biplane will take me out of harms way, I have one of the Degtyarev prototype 7.62x38R sub-machine guns–basically a miniature DP “phonograph player” with top-mounted pan magazines so I only have to use the one gas-seal revolver cartridge type. Fortunately I’ve also been provided with this gas mask and an amoeba-pattern camouflage suit and a flashlight to signal the biplane at the extraction point. Hope I can make it…

      • Careful! The toxin is nasty stuff, and stepping in puddles of it is a bad idea! Thankfully no spills have happened yet. In your case, find the quickest way to sample the toxin in order to conduct analysis, sabotage the submarine’s engine/controls if possible, and extract unnoticed. Alternatively, you could kidnap their Fearless Leader by knocking him silly and then extract…

  5. Mention should be made of the L34A1 Mk 5 silenced Stirling SMG. These may have been the last of the Stirling SMG’s produced.

  6. Would have been much more interesting to show the difference in noise levels, by shooting a non-suppressed Sten along side the suppressed Sten.

  7. It would be worthwhile to read “The Sten Machine Carbine” by Peter Laidler.
    Lots of accurate information about Stens in general, including the silenced versions.

  8. Dear Eon, Your presentations are always interesting and factual. Your video equipment has improved since he early days of your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks, Paul

  9. Silencers (yes, I know–“suppressors”) are an undiscovered world, thanks to the National Firearms Act and the continued enforced ignorance of our American education system. Silencers reduce the firing signature of small arms (both muzzle flash and report) and change the sound of the weapon when fired. Silencers also add weight and bulk to the weapon.

    Changing the firing signature makes recognizing gunfire more difficult–but then in well-known shootings from the assassination of JFK through the highly-publicized mass shootings of the past few months unsilenced rifle fire wasn’t identified as gunfire. In a military context, a bored, tired, anxious private hearing strange noises has motivation to avoid bothering the sarge every time something in the scary wilderness makes a sound–most soldiers worldwide are city kids. Today’s soldiers may be familiar enough with the sounds of their own weapons on a formal live-fire range, through ear plugs, but a suppressed firearm in a rural setting will sound much different. The muzzle flash will have been masked (there’s still breech flash–try shooting a suppressor-equipped pistol on an indoor range with the lights out) and there is still the weapon’s mechanical noises from cycling and a muted and mutated report upon firing.

    I learned to recognize the sound of suppressed gunfire the old fashioned way. Currently I’m a range safety officer on a public range in a western state and silencers are common enough that I encounter them something like half of my range safety officer shifts.

    During the Second World War American and British armies reluctantly adopted many “evil” gangster weapons: the submachine gun and silencer were two. Even snipers were detested despite a strong cult of rifle marksmanship in both nations. Silencers were not perfect–not something that would magically cause the rifle shot to be inaudible, something that would add no weight or bulk to the rifle, something that didn’t require maintenance, and hanging a “can” on many standard military weapons will cause malfunctions. Typical silencers of the era would be relatively quiet for the first shots and then noise would increase as the silencer was fouled by propellant powder residue and by primer compounds and by bullet material (the gliding metal jacket sheds microscopic particles in barrels and in silencers) and by wear and tear on the silencer.

    The USMC conducted a battalion-sized experiment silencing the battalion small arms (mostly the 5.56mm) and found–surprise, surprise, surprise–that there was tactical value in modern combat. There’s little tactical value when rifle companies are lined up in Napoleonic firing lines three deep and shoulder to shoulder, but when fire teams are infiltrating the enemy lines, silenced gunfire made dispersed enemy strongpoints unable to detect that their neighbors had been annihilated. Lone sentries and listening posts and observation posts could be removed without triggering alarm. The primary value of a sniper is psychological–personal death from an undetected firing point. Trained snipers use firing positions that mask their weapon’s firing signature, and then the snipers displace or lay low to keep from being discovered and attacked in overwhelming strength. Trained snipers accept that their first shot will be their last from that position, and for several moments–especially when their target is less than a hundred yards from other enemy forces or when their firing position is less than a hundred yards from enemy units of squad size or more. Unsilenced rifle shots can be heard in excess of a mile away, depending on several factors. Silenced rifle shots, even with supersonic bullets, are detectable at a fraction of the distance.

    The STEN Mk II-S was not really suitable for the infantry platoon firefight: pistol caliber, semiautomatic only–and limited fire volume. I don’t have good figures, but I’m guessing that the reduced velocity heavy ball projectiles had a higher trajectory than standard 9mm Luger ball ammo and therefore had a shorter effective range, given the fixed peep sights of the STEN–fixed for one distance, supposedly 100 yards. I’m guessing that the soldier equipped with a suppressed STEN needed to be within 100 feet of the intended target to put a bullet in a location that would produce a rapid kill. There was a problem with using crossbows–the screaming and thrashing of the victims tended to negate the advantage of “silent” crossbow bolts. The STEN was noisier with suppression than a crossbow but was more accurate and the 9mm Luger bullet inflicted greater shock and trauma; the combination of greater accuracy and more inflicted damage was that the STEN gunner could engage targets farther away than the crossbowman and had a higher percentage of one-shot quick kills. When shooting sentry dogs, the smaller (and tougher, compared to a human) target required greater accuracy than shooting a human. It may be that I’m overly optimistic about the 100 foot distance–a proficient STEN gunner on single shot can nail a head target easily enough at 25 yards but 100 yard dispersion makes hitting the torso of a silhouette target more difficult. Modern suppressors can be more accurate–the STEN wasn’t exactly a target rifle to begin with and period suppressors would make it less so–especially when some silencer designs had muzzle wipes to contain more of the muzzle blast.

    Summary: the silenced STEN Mk II-S was a limited weapon. Something like four million STEN guns in all variants were produced by Britain during World War Two and a million or so more were made by others during and after the war. The silenced STEN was a limited weapon that did what standard infantry arms couldn’t do.

  10. “And just how does one keep the bolt cycling quiet?”

    Wasn’t it the noise from the bolt cycling in the MKIIS that drove the need for what became the Delisle?

    • Probably true. Note that any closed-bolt suppressed weapon is still going to have noise, which will be bolt cycling on the carbine you mentioned. The question is whether the bolt clatter will be heard by the intended victims…

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