Sterling SMG at the Range

The L2A3 Sterling submachine gun was a staple of British and small arms after World War Two, until the L85 rifle was adopted. Designed by George Patchett during the war and produced by Sterling, it is a simple and economical tubular open-bolt, simple blowback gun. It uses a very compact folding stock that is stable and useful when deployed, a very well shaped pistol grip, and a wonderful 34-round magazine. I’ve (surprisingly) not really had a chance to shoot a Sterling before, so I’m taking advantage of this one at Morphy’s to change that!

Overall, the Sterling is an excellent SMG. My only real complaint is that the stock layout and central position of the firing grip tends to make is a little bit bouncy in full automatic.


  1. There was a period after WWII that the British soldier was armed with the Browning High Power, the Sterling, the L1A1 SLR, the 7.62mm Bren and the MAG GPMG. In retrospect, a golden age!

    • And the only part of their empire they were able to retain w/ those weapons was the Falkland Islands. Perhaps they should have been running Toks, AKs, & PKs?

      • Mind you I was practically begged, aye earnstly requested to “re-run” Sierra leone by a black guy on lungi airport. Colonislism, stop them fleeing here by being shit there.

        But oil etc; I still wish I could have helped him.

        • By it being less shit there.

          And it was shit; be entirely justified with machine gunning loads. For peace.

          Really shit; reeked of rotting bodies.

        • Aye oil, etc. Diamonds, some shit in your phone commie china wants. Exploited places for junk. It is junk, we but a new one every year; phone.

          • “Exploited places for junk. It is junk, …”
            No argument there. And it goes into land fill.

      • We could have easily done it; just shot every bad guy in the head.

        No match for Western troops. Just bandits.

        • Bring back the Sterling, less arguments more machine gunning in the classic western liberal tradition. They were murdering cunts. Shoot them, if thats re-colonialism; I am all for it, the non nob head locals deserve a decent life.

          • He he… Meh. For profit… Life is not all about, that.

            “Well it is”


            Anyway; land re-disribution whatever… T’was right machine gunning a few for being twats and not drinking tea; that and beheading people.

            The Sterling could and should be used to enforce tea; Maripol… Bbbbbbb’ANG! (NO MILK BEFORE TEA ERROR) Tea enforcing robots he he.

      • “(…)only part of their empire they were able to retain w/ those weapons was the Falkland Islands”
        Excellent weapons and their successful deployment is not enough if political pressure make you to withdraw c.f. Opération Mousquetaire

        • Meh we can still flatten Moscow; as a gesture… Ruin your day though, in Moscow. For a vapourised country… “Our bell ends will fire; I hope you know that.”

          • We are determined to be Washingtons western facing orifice at all costs “wisely” bar obileration… But we really are stuck, so you’ll get too (hot) in Moscow via us, no doubt.

            Sorry about that, old bean.

          • “(…)determined to be Washingtons western facing orifice at all costs “wisely” bar obileration(…)”
            In such situation I could inform you that according to
            We shall refuse to recognize any government imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power. In some cases it may be impossible to prevent forceful imposition of such a government. But the United States will not recognize any such government.

          • The beeper thing; I think you mean.

            I think it’s nuclear war is a stupid idea, but yes I have no doubt we’ll fire if radio 4 doesn’t broadcast by lw some bollocks about femminist reactionary lesbianism by Germaine greer at 04:00 hrs.

            So do you feel lucky… You’d get that on the airwaves… On a loop forever. Think about it, like your beeper it could never be shut up. Constant.

            Doubtless most folk in Russia will take a stroll in the fallout. Thats why we advised to turn the radio on periodically for info broadcasts, news, on the hour; you’ll be listening 24/7 to the enemy broadcasts… And that is what you’ll get. Secret weapon see, they’ll run out of the stations in Siberia with there hands over there ears going I can’t take it anymore.

            Meh, meh, nag, nag. Forever.

        • Btw. do you remember how Argentines shot down British plane with MAG58? That is why it is called “best machinegun in the world” 🙂

          • Yeah, that was before the Brits implicitly threatened to use their Vulcan bombers to turn Buenos Aires into smoking moon-scape as revenge (although this was contradicted by later press conferences or whatnot). After the Black Buck Raids happened, all Argentine fighter squadrons went back to the Argentine mainland to defend their capital city. I could be wrong.

          • You are not wrong, this time. From people I worked with no one believed it (the conflict) will happen. It was kind of surreal. But then, look where we are right now….

          • I’ve never read this story. I’ve read accounts of RAF Harriers being brought down with the AAA the Argentinians had (some of it was top notch stuff), but this is new. When did Whose Harrier was brought down? He must have been flying really low, or making repeated runs over the same target.

      • The British gave up their empire piecemeal due to political pressure, economic weakness, and pussilanimous morality. Small arms were NOT a factor. Try reading history not Sergeant Rock comics. Or look how America I’d giving away its country without a shot thanks to open borders.

  2. I came on engineering level, into contact with Canadian version of Sterling, but never had a chance to fire it. And now this; wow!
    If you ask me, what is one British well designed firearm (part of some excellent shotguns), I’d say – Sterling SMG. Very good show Ian!

  3. I remember back in Canada in about 1970 you could buy the semi auto sterling on a pistol licence but it cost big money and real full auto was not that complicated or expensive for example my sten MK111 was only 60 dollars cnd

  4. Back in the 80s, when semi auto pistol calibre carbines were both popular and legal on airstrip one

    There were one or two open bolt Sterlings with the factory semi auto fire control, that had been made for plantation owners in the colonies.

    I never got to find out what the internal difference were compared to the selective fire version.

    Some people also had the very expensive closed bolt carbines (I can’t remember whether they had a linear strike or a rotating hammer).

    The sterlings always seemed noticeably long and skinny compared with other semi auto versions.

    If they’d been built with a larger diameter, then they could have had an even longer bolt travel for the same weight and length

    And along with the divided mass buffer system, could have been even softer shooting

    They seemed to be well liked and did I mention, very expensive?

    • It is natural that they were expensive.
      The war is over, which means it’s time to earn a couple of pounds. 😉
      The extreme STEN iterations worked just as well as Sterling, but had a fatal flaw. They were too cheap, which deprived the maker of the golden shower.
      Therefore, this design arose, which has absolutely no advantages over STEN, but with an unreasonably complex design.

      • Sterling marked the beginning of the end for British machine gun construction. The transition from weapons production to money production.
        Sterling was just a by-product of this process.

    • I just came here specifically to say that I’ve seen you wear that hoodie in at least a few videos and it looks awesome and very comfy.

  5. I don’t quite understand why two battalions of Paras were sent to the Falklands to fight with this weapon. It would be understandable if they were dropping in via parachute, but given that 2nd and 3rd Para landed on the beach at San Carlos, just like the Royal Marines, this seems like an awfully underpowered weapon for the circumstances. If memory serves, Col “H” Jones was killed at Goose Green while trying to advance with nothing more than a Sterling. From what I understand (and what the photos seem to confirm), individual Paras would ditch their Sterlings the moment a captured Argentinian FAL became available. In fact, I’ve heard that the RMC’s were anxious to exchange their semi-auto SLRs for the full auto Argentine rifles as well.

    • I’m pretty sure that most of the Paras carried LIA1s. Only officers, NCOs, radio operators, etc, were issued the Sterling, just like in non-para regiments.

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