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The Pivotal WWII Gun That Nobody Wanted to Put Down: The Plumber’s Nightmare


Initially designed and produced during WW2
for British soldiers, the Sten was developed as a direct response to both dwindling supplies
of American made Thompson machine guns and the evacuation of Dunkirk, during which the
British abandoned many thousands of guns. In an effort to re-arm its troops as quickly
as possible for the defense of the homeland, the British Government requested that the
Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield design an alternative to the increasingly hard to
obtain Thompson. As the old maxim states, “You can have it fast, good, or cheap- pick
two”. Given the title of this article, you can guess which two were emphasized. The original design for the Sten is chiefly
credited to two men, Major R. V. Shepherd and Harold Turpin who finalised the design
in the closing months of 1940. The first Sten prototype was reportedly of reasonably high
quality for what it was, featuring a flash hider, a foregrip as well as wooden finishings
that gave the gun a sleek appearance. About 100,000 of these were produced in the summer
of 1941 before the government decided to strip the already spartan Sten down to save money,
materials, and reduce build time even further. The result was the Sten Mark II. Just a few
months after it entered production, the Mark II became both the bane and the boon of many
an Allied soldier’s life. On the one hand, the Sten Mark II could be
produced for less than $10 (about $160 today) in about five man-hours. (In contrast, the
Thompson cost about $140, or about $2,300 today, to produce.) Not only that, but the
Sten used only two machined parts, the barrel and the bolt, with the rest being made, as
a 1943 edition of Popular Science put it, from “the cheapest kind of stamping”.
Initially the design even used common bed springs as a main component. With the help of assembly lines, all total
an estimated two million Sten Mark II’s were produced during the war (and approximately
four million total in the Sten line of guns). Due to its simplistic design, the Sten Mark
II was remarkably easy to maintain and required virtually no lubrication to function properly.
In fact, the construction was so simple that resistance fighters who couldn’t get their
hands on the genuine article even sometimes just made their own. Another benefit of the
Sten’s jury-rigged design was that it could be easily customised to accept magazines from
other guns, silencers and viewing sights. The ammunition for the gun was also easy to
come by, given that the Mark II was specifically designed to use the 9mm German Parabellum
bullets, which were the most commonly used round by the various European militaries.
Needless to say, they were readily available even to resistance fighters in Nazi occupied
territories, particularly as the Germans started to retreat. The Mark II was also literally murder in close
combat, able to fire off rounds at a rate of 500-550 per minute (though its clip only
held 32 rounds). It was also relatively accurate up to 100 metres (if one kept a firm grip
and used short bursts) and was light and easy to conceal. Essentially, the weapon was ideal
for taking out many enemy soldiers in close range, and if you surprised them, perhaps
even before they’d have a chance to raise their weapons. So what was the problem then? Well, if you, say, bumped the gun hard enough
or dropped it (or just set it down too firmly), it had a tendency to fire on its own. What’s
worse is that if it was in full-auto mode (or sometimes even if not due to failures
in the mechanism that would occasionally make it fire single shots when in auto-mode and
vice-versa), it would unload the entire clip in its self-firing frenzy. Beyond the gun firing when soldiers didn’t
want it to, it also was ridiculously prone to not firing when they did want it to. This
was due to the inherent flaw in the magazine feed design, which was intentionally based
on the magazines used in the German MP-38. (They did this for compatibility’s sake.)
The problem with this design was that it used a double column, single feed mechanism, meaning
two columns of bullets would have to merge into one for firing (requiring an extremely
precise feed angle to work). This is in contrast to the double column,
double feed design in the much more reliable Thompson. The former is still fine if the
parts are well manufactured and sturdy… but the Sten parts were anything but that,
particularly in the early going when the British were desperate to churn out as many of the
guns as possible and had little in the way of quality control. (For this reason, Canadian
produced Mark II’s were noted as being much more reliable than their British equivalent.) This jamming problem was so bad that it was
common for soldiers to extensively test fire each of the Sten’s they were issued before
trying to use them in combat. Units that were determined to be more prone to jamming than
others were tossed aside. But even if you had a Mark II that seemed
to perform well at first, small amounts of dirt or other debris could cause the guns
to jam, which was a particular problem in the muddy conditions prevalent across the
Eastern front. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the long opening that the
cocking knob ran along readily allowed such debris to enter the gun. Heydrich-mercedesThe most famous example of
a Sten Mark II jamming at an inopportune time was in the assassination attempt of SS-Obergruppenführer
Reinhard Heydrich, “The Butcher of Prague”, in Operation Anthropoid on May 27, 1942. The
assassins waited along Heydrich’s normal daily commute, which would necessarily pass
a certain bend where they knew the car would have to slow to a near stop. In a move that
later resulted in Hitler calling Heydrich an idiot, Heydrich chose to drive his daily
commute in an open-top Mercedes, rather than in an armored car with extra guards, as you’d
expect one of the biggest mass murderers traveling in, essentially, enemy territory to do. As such, when the exposed car reached the
bend in the road, one of the would-be assassins, Jozef Gabčík, pointed his Sten Mark II at
Heydrich at near point-blank range. He pulled the trigger and the Sten gun did what it was
wont to do- jam. Luckily for the assassins, rather than order
his driver to speed off, Heydrich told him to stop so he could go after the attackers.
While Hydrich did eventually manage a rousing chase, when the car stopped, one of the other
assassins, Jan Kubiš , chucked a modified anti-tank mine at it. The resulting explosion
and shrapnel severely injured Heydrich’s spleen, left lung, diaphragm, and fractured
a rib. Nevertheless, bleeding profusely, he still chased his attackers for a time before
becoming too weak from his injuries. Later, surgery was partially successful, in that
he survived at first and his wounds began to heal, but a few days later he succumbed
to infection and died. Despite its many problems, the Sten Mark II
played a significant role in the Allies’ early efforts in WW2, managing to put an exceptionally
deadly close-range weapon in the hands of Allied fighters, instead of the hunting and
bolt-action rifles left over from WWI, which were all that some soldiers had to use before
the Mark II. That said, the Sten’s importance didn’t
stop soldiers from giving it colorful nicknames like the “Stench Gun”, the “Plumber’s
Nightmare”, and the “Woolworth’s Wonder” after a popular British retail chain known
for selling cheap toys and gifts.

100 thoughts on “The Pivotal WWII Gun That Nobody Wanted to Put Down: The Plumber’s Nightmare

  1. For more action packed facts about WWII check out this video entitled WWII Files – Pigeon Guided Missiles and Literal Bat Bombs:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbPG8jSud14

  2. The British got their added kicked out of America twice and countless times out of Europe, Africa, China, and India, did they arm the troops with weapons that wouldn't come back to hurt them after they were left behind in retreat?

  3. Hey English guy don't show a picture of a Russian gun in Call Of A Thompson submachine gun we here in the United States love our Thompson submachine gun watch it

  4. Do not call a magazine a clip a magazine is not a clip it is a box magazine magazine say it again magazine got it maybe they should have had an American do this

  5. We had one M3 Call the grease gun All Steel Two Pieces welded together same problematic double stack single feed magazine but I think it's fair a lot better than the sten gun United States used them up until the 1960s and 70s tankers use them

  6. I  do not know if it has been mentioned before. The two that attacked Hydrich had removed the stocks from their Stens for concealability. On the first shot they blew the recoil spring retainer out making the guns useless. I know an individual that in his position had his choice of almost any firearm in the world. He carried a Sten the whole time he was their.

  7. Too many inaccuracies to mention. I wish he'd done some research and facts rather than folklore.
    Stock photo of a Russian PPSH-41 and tells us it is a Thomson. Really awful video.

    (I would go as far to say that he made half of it up himself.)

  8. Clips are often used as an interchangeable term with magazine. It's very popular to do so and isn't something to get worked up about

  9. Guys… guys… GUYS! C'mon! I think it's funnier that so many people would think someone with the build of Amy Winehouse and sporting a more annoying accent than John Oliver would actually nail the particulars of a firearm in a major war. I'd trust his expert opinion on say, buying some slacks or a sex toy for the old bags balloon knot, not on things like warfare or motor vehicle operation…

  10. It’s a gun. It kills people. That’s all I need to know, apart from how to fire it it and why on earth I would want to kill someone.

  11. I remember going to WoolWorths as a boy here in the States. They even had a lunch counter with the best hot ham and cheese sandwich’s accompanied by fresh milk. That was in the early 1980’s. Currently in the downtown area of the town I live near the WoolWorth building still stands including the name across the front although the retailer of the same name is no longer in business. Oh and no lunch counter either lol.
    Cheers mate

  12. Hey everyone in the comments section bagging on Simon for showing the wrong gun and a few other things. He just reads the script. He isn’t the one who chooses the photos and isn’t in charge of research. So give him a break it’s not his fault. Plus this isn’t the only channel he narrates and he does several videos per day. And lastly nobody really cares that the picture wasn’t a Thompson so you aren’t impressing anyone, in fact you are simply demonstrating the truth of the matter which is you’re an asshat. Just go play checkers by yourself who knows you might win a game or two this time.

  13. Your videos would be more watchable if you'd STOP WAVING YOUR BLOODY HANDS AROUND LIKE AN ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR OR AN ITALIAN GREENGROCER. Thank you.

  14. These guns are far more accurate than you would think possible, go to utube Hicock45 and he shows you how it can perform.

  15. My father said he was issued the first ones when he was in the RE and they were very twitchy. His section was given an order to fire single shots and half the weapons went into full Auto mode which was not what was wanted. They were quickly taken back and he got issued a P14 rifle.

  16. I know commonly known gun knowledge is not known where you were born or in chezkia where you are now please meet up with bloke on the range to get the facts correct. I love your content anyway its very accurate but is in need of some correction. Ps I hope I spelled the preferred English name of Czech republic new English name correctly.

  17. Ur a inaccurate bold prick fucking Nazi it was world war2 u idiots who cares it done the job idiots go back and pick on the Nazi party lol

  18. I can say that the MkII which I owned was very reliable. I'll disagree with you on the lack of needed oil. A very light coating is necessary to maintain function. It was a very fun and simple weapon and would feed empties. However, later I got my hands on a Sterling and I'll probably never own another Sten.

  19. The brits should have begged the germans for peace instead of dragging the great USA into there war that they were loosing. Instead of fighting thay threw there wepons away and ran for the beach. If it wasnt for the US thete be no england.
    And it a magazine you stupid fuck. Oh ya Monty was a fag.

  20. Hey, I love all your work on biographies, today I found out, top tenz, imma die hard fan
    But this was a joke… 1ST THINGS FIRST! IT IS A MAGAZINE, NOT A CLIP THE FEEDS ROUNDS TO THE WEAPON. The term "clip" makes it easy to spot who knows the basics on firearms. Next, the Sten weapon system could I no way shoot even semi accurately at 300 FRIKIN METERS. Try an M1 Garand. That'll do the job. And by foregrip on the Sten, I'm assuming the horizontal magazines that soldiers had few options as to where to place their hands to stabilize the weapon. I love your work, just not a gun guy eh? Lol

  21. Check out the picture of Churchill shooting the gun at 3:20 , look at the guy in the suit to the right of Churchill , look at the size of his nose

  22. Wonder when this channel is actually going to be concerned with historical accuracy. The photo of a "Thompson" isn't a Thompson, not even close. And the gizmo that holds the bullets ISN'T A CLIP. It's 2018 for God's sake, IT'S A MAGAZINE!!!

  23. That’s not at Thompson, that’s a Soviet PPSH-41. Also it’s called a magazine, not a clip. Stop playing COD and get out to the range once in a while, and you’d know that.

  24. Wtf is this idiot doing on a channel ,thats suposed to teach about history ,when this nutcase cant even do proper research about the topic he is talking about .
    I know a lot about WW2 and am even offended by the stupid mistakes in the video .If someone uses info from this ,you'd be able to guess why they got a D-.

  25. I had a never used Sten II, what a piece of…. Basically a jamming bolt action rifle, if the round went by off. Neat piece of history, but garbage.

  26. This is embarrassing. You clearly did not do much research and don't know much on the subject. In the past I have been impressed with your focus on providing good information, which this is not.

  27. 100% not a Thompson, how can I believe anything you else you say when you waffle on such an easy picture to precure

  28. When I served in the Royal Artillery from 1956 through 1959.
    I was issued the Sten Gun, alongside my Lee Enfield 303.
    As a Radar Operator, the Sten was issued basically because it was small and easily stored in either Radar Sets, Tactical or Fire Control.
    We were trained to use the Sten, and how to operate and maintain it.
    However we actually trained with it rarely. Just enough to allow us to use is, if it became necessary.
    We had more training on our Rifles. Where I became a Marksman.
    Same can’t be said about the Sten.
    But there really no need to become a Marksman with it.
    Close fighting it was spot and spray. Although mostly that was in case we were ever attacked.
    As a Mobile Unit, the chance of that happening were slim to none.
    So basically our training was on our Rifles. Where any engagements would be at a distance.
    Our training was what every Soldier went through, no matter their position. Cook or any other support positions.
    The Sten gun filled a gap, other than the better designed Bren Gun, against the better armed Germans.
    So cheap and plentiful was the rule of the day. Thankfully the only shots I fired, were at the Rifle Range, at Cardboard Targets.
    But I believe it was basically to give the British Soldiers some comfort in a close up battle. But the Trusted and efficient Lee Enfield, was accurate and dependable.

  29. To be fair, the Sten's lousy reputation, is somewhat mitigated by the number of people whose lives depended on it, but were still around for years afterward to talk about its lousy reputation. This nightmare liberated half a continent !

  30. I'm pretty sure it's already been said but that is not a Thompson at 1:45, that would be a Russian ppsh 41

  31. Today you found out that the ammunition feeding device the Sten (all marks) is called a MAGAZINE.
    Today you found out that modern small arms ammunition normally utilize the self contained CARTRIDGE. That is made up of a prime, a case, smokeless powder and a projectile normally called a bullet.

  32. for f sake you wanker it's a 32 round box magazine not clip for the love of God. take off the fake ass glasses and get rid of the fake accent. you've proven you can't research for trash.

  33. Was going to correct you calling it a clip as opposed to a magazine but it looks like you e got bigger fish to fry. Love your work.

  34. Funny, it cost less then $10 in WWII. I bought my Sten MkII back in 1990 for $600. It is now worth about $6000 due to the fact that it is a legal transferable Machine gun.

  35. The fact that you can cobble together a fully automatic weapon like this with minimal machined parts explains why an assault weapons ban is doomed to fail. (There needs to be a cultural divorce between lethal projectile weapons and testosterone).

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