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Room clearing.

Click the pic for hi-res.

In this post, Nicholas of Quotulatiousness offered this comment:

Ah, yes, the Sten. Best room-clearing device since the Mills bomb. Just put in a fresh magazine, cock the bolt and throw it into the room. Oh, and make sure you're behind something bullet-resistant. Fortunately, by the time I was issued a sub-machine gun, they'd upgraded to the Stirling SMG instead, so I never had the opportunity to find out if this was actually true from first-hand experience.

This comment isn't as silly as it sounds (though I'd argue the penetrative capacity of the 9mm round... but Kim du Toit does it sooo much better). The Stirling has a positive safety on the grip that interrupts the ability of the trigger to trip the sear. The Sten does not. The Sten has the same kind of safety that the MP40 has - a notch in the receiver. That's it. In firing configuration, it looks like this.

So, it *is* theoretically possible to load it, cock it, and toss it in the room. But - not only does it have to hit on the butt (gotta move the bolt to the rear) it has to hit hard enough to move the bolt back against the spring with enough force to hit the back of the notch and move down into the full slot - and the sear has to be worn enough to not stop the bolt on it's movement forward (notice how the bolt in the second picture is stopped forward of the notch). A weapon in that bad a shape probably was a candidate for replacement or refurbishment anyway... Doesn't mean it didn't happen - but it would take a soldier brave stupid enough to throw away his weapon hoping for a little blessing (actually, a large blessing) from the Gods of Statistics, who are a famously fickle bunch. I'll stick with a Mills Bomb.

Anybody got good stories about it being used this way - especially published ones, I'd love to hear them! And to meet the man who did it - especially on purpose!


I know about things like a worn Sten. I have a old Mossberg 22 semi that has a safety much like the Sten. a movable pin through the bolt. Mine is so worn that it will fire very rapidly if you catch my drift. Don't want to sell it to some fool and can't bear to destroy it. I have had it for over fifty years.
A friend of mine learned how to use the Sterling SMG when he was a young Gunner in the Canadian Militia. It had its problems with reliability and safety as well. Especially by then (late 1980s) since the SMG was getting to be quite long in the tooth.
The sten has always represented to me the people fighting against the enemy. I have a bit of a romantic view of the sten. I also heard that you could run .380 through if desperate. Possibly just rumor.
Yes, even I have read many stories over the years, of the "Oops, sorry about that, don't panic, just dropped my Sten, anybody hurt?" variety. Hey it's an engineering problem, there's an engineering solution! If I had one of the things, I'd get me some drill rod, some sheet metal, a coupla' rivets, etc. and make an obstructive crossways bolt-like thingy, somewhere forward of that silly notch, that absolutely precluded the bolt from going past it. It would also save the mainspring from staying compressed all the time, and let air flow through the barrel to cool it, too. The people who designed the thing never intended it to be more than cheap and nasty, but I think they may have been a little too cheap and too nasty when it came to safety.
Hmm, now that I've thought some more... You haveta think about the bolt picking a cartridge from the magazine, and complicating the manual of arms, and... Well, all I can say is, that other folks have made SMGs that were almost as cheap, and significantly less dangerous to the user and his friends.
Oh yeah! The General Motors Greasegun! Shut the lid on the ejection port and you have a positive bolt stop! (I think; never seen one except for drawings.)