Sterling submachine gun

Sterling submachine gun

Infobox Weapon|is_ranged=yes

name=Sterling submachine gun
type=Submachine gun
origin=flag|United Kingdom
used_by=See "Users"
wars=Suez crisis, Aden Emergency, Cold War, Falklands War, Northern Ireland, The Gulf War (final batch)
part_length=198 mm
cartridge=9x19mm Parabellum
feed=34 round box magazine
rate= ~ 550 round/min
weight=2.72 kg
length=690 mm (483 mm folded stock)
variants=See text
number=400,000 +
The Sterling submachine gun is a British submachine gun which was in service with the British Army from 1953 until 1988 when it was phased out with the introduction of the L85A1.


In 1944 the British General Staff issued a specification which any new submachine gun should conform to. It stated that the weapon should not weigh more than six pounds, should fire 9x19mm Parabellum calibre ammunition, have a rate of fire of no more than 500 rounds per minute and be sufficiently accurate to allow five single shots to be fired into a one foot square target at 100 yards.


To meet the new requirement, Mr G. W. Patchett, the chief designer at the Sterling Armament Company of Dagenham submitted a sample weapon of new design in early 1944. The army quickly recognised its potential and ordered 120 examples for trials. Towards the end of the Second World War, some of these trial samples were used in combat by airborne troops at Arnhem and elsewhere, where it was known as the Patchett submachine gun. Given that the Patchett/Sterling can use straight Sten submachine gun magazines as well as the normal curved design, there were no interoperability problems.

After the war, with large numbers of Sten guns in the inventory there was little interest in replacing them with a superior design. However in 1947 a competitive trial between the Patchett, an Enfield design, a new BSA design and an experimental Australian design with the Sten for comparison was held. The trial was inconclusive but was followed by further development and more trials. Eventually the Patchett design won and the decision was made in 1951 for the British Army to adopt it. It started to replace the Sten in 1953 as the Sub-Machine Gun L2A1. Its last non-suppressed variation was the L2A3, but the model changes were minimal throughout its development life.

The weapon is constructed entirely of steel and plastic and has a folding butt which folds up underneath. Although of conventional blowback design, there are some unusual features: for example the bolt has sharp grooves around it which cut away dirt in the receiver and help to keep it clean. The magazine follower, which pushes the cartridges into the feed port is equipped with rollers to reduce friction and the firing pin is arranged so that it does not line up with the percussion cap on the cartridge until the cartridge has entered the chamber.

There is a variation of the Sterling submachine gun (L34A1) that is suppressed, where the only sound during its firing was from the reloading mechanism and the barely-audible explosive discharge, while the bullet speed is reduced to subsonic so that it does not make a sonic boom. [The Last Word, Newscientist magazine, February 16-22.]

Sterlings have a reputation for excellent reliability under adverse conditions and, allowing for the fact that a blowback action is used, good accuracy.

While it has been reported that the weapon poses no problems for left-handed users to operate, [] it is not recommended without the wearing of ballistic eye protection. The path of the ejected cases is down and backward, and facial, neck and arm burns can be incurred. In British Army use, the weapon was not allowed to be fired left-handed, even in single-shot mode.

A bayonet of the same design as that for the L1A1 was produced and issued in British Army service, but was rarely employed except for ceremonial duties. Its main difference from the SLR bayonet was a larger ring to fit the weapon's muzzle. When mounted, it was offset to the left of the weapon's vertical line which gave a more natural balance when used for bayonet-fighting.

The correct position for the left hand while firing is on the ventilated barrel-casing - not holding the magazine, as the pressure from such a grip markedly increases the risk of stoppages. The standard military 30-round magazine can hold as many as 32 rounds, but a maximum of only 28 is recommended in order to reduce stoppages. 10 and 20 round magazines are also available.


A total of over 400,000 were manufactured. Sterling built them for the British armed forces and for overseas sales, whilst the Royal Ordnance Factories plant at Fazakerley, near Liverpool, constructed them exclusively for the British military. A Canadian version was also manufactured under licence, called the Submachine Gun 9 mm C1 made by Canadian Arsenals Limited. It replaced the later versions of the Sten submachine gun from 1953 onwards. A similar weapon, the Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9 mm 1A1 is manufactured under license by the Indian Ordnance Factory at Kanpur, along with a Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9 mm 2A1 which is a copy of the L34A1 integrally-silenced version. At the beginning of the 21st century, these two weapons were being manufactured by OFB and used by the Indian Armed Forces.

The Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps uses Sterlings as their parade weapon.

Approximately 90 countries purchased various quantities of the gun, including Argentina (Navy), Ghana, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tunisia and some Persian Gulf states.


*British Army
** Unassigned: Patchett Machine Carbine Mark 1 (trials commenced in 1944)
** Unassigned: Patchett Machine Carbine Mark 1 & Folding Bayonet (same as above but with folding bayonet, never accepted)
**L2A1: (Patchett Machine Carbine Mark 2) adopted in 1953.
**L2A2: (Sterling Mark 3) adopted in 1955.
**L2A3: (Sterling Mark 4) adopted in 1956. Last regular version in service with the British Army.
**L34A1: Suppressed version (Sterling-Patchett Mark 5). Held in reserve by the British Army.
*Sterling Mark 6: a semi-automatic-only version with long barrel for police forces and private sales, also known as the Police model.
*Sterling Mark 7 "Para-pistol": shortened barrel, detachable solid stock.
*Canadian Army
**C1 Submachine Gun
*Indian Army
**SAF Carbine 1A: Indian made Sterling L2A1
**SAF Carbine 2A1: silenced carbine

ee also

* Lanchester submachine gun
* F1 submachine gun
* CETME C2 submachine gun
* MGP-84


*Ian Hogg, "The Complete Machine-Gun," ISBN 0-7026-0052-0

External links

topic=Sterling submachine gun view] mechanism]

* [ Sterling SMG - Official User's Manual]
* [ Modern Firearms] including several pictures of the various models.
* [ Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun] including an image.
* [ Photos of an early Patchett SMG, showing its strong resemblance to the Sterling]
* [ Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9mm 1A1] , Sterling L2A3 machine-carbine manufactured under license by Indian State Ordnance Factory Board.
* [ Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9mm 2A1] , Sterling L34A1 silenced machine-carbine manufactured under license by Indian State Ordnance Factory Board.
* [ of a MK7 (para)]
* [ Video #1 of L2A3 being fired]
* [ Video #2 of L2A3 being fired]
* [ Another video of L2A3 being fired]

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