Articles, Blog

Too Late and Not Much Better: the Austen Mk II SMG

Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on I’m Ian McCollum, and I am here today at the National Firearms Centre, part of the British Royal Armouries in Leeds, and we are taking a look at an Australian gun today, this is an Austen Mark II submachine gun. Extremely rare. The Austen, actually we have a previous video on
the Austen Mark I, as well as a video on the Owen gun. So if you’re interested in the submachine guns that the
Australians were actually using during World War Two, definitely check out those. However, the Austen was riddled
with problems from it’s very inception, but that didn’t prevent them from
attempting to make an updated model, and that would be the Mark II. And on the
Mark II they kind of doubled down on some of the things that had been tentatively
tried in the Mark I, namely die casting. Where the Mark I had a single die cast part, the front
grip and magazine well, the Mark II doubles down on it. They made a bigger and more complex die
casting for the front, and they also turn the whole back half of the gun and trigger
assembly housing into another die cast part. … Well, I’ll tell you what, we’ll talk about production
and when these were around in a minute, but first let’s dive right into this, because it comes
apart totally differently than the original Austen. And we’ll show you the inside
and compare it to a Mark I. I’ll point out, first off, that this paint job is actually
pretty typical of Australian submachine guns, you’ll find it in particular on Owen
guns – and here on this Mark II Austen. Now, let’s compare that to
our Mark I Austen (there we go). So what you see on the Mark I is we
have a die cast front grip and magazine well, but the back end here is pretty
much analogous to a regular Sten. On the Mark II they have incorporated the
… barrel nut into this front die cast section, and then they have made the entire back
end of the gun a second die cast section. Looking at it from this angle, it looks like
the stock on the Mark II is much longer, which would be remarkable given that the
Mark I stock was often considered to be too long. However, this is kind of an optical illusion. The
difference is on the Mark II the stock is mounted, as … makes sense, it’s mounted in this die
casting. So it’s actually moved forward here. Which means in order to have the same
length of pull, the bars have to be longer. And this does in fact have
the exact same length of pull as the Mark I, despite the stock
rods being really remarkably long. On the Mark I we have a button located here
on the rotary mechanism to unlock the stock. On the Mark II that button has been
again added into the die cast assembly, and it’s depressed right now
and it will stay that way until we open the stock up, and then that’s going
to lock into position and the button pops out. So then to close the stock,
you push that in and fold it down. Sling swivel also in the back of the die casting. We have a two position aperture sight here. It can flip
back and forth, 100 and 200 yards, that’s a nice improvement. You know, it may or may not be actually
all that useful, but on paper at least, it’s an improvement over the single fixed sight
of the standard Sten and the Austen Mark I. The Mark II was fitted with a plug style of bayonet
lug for its own unique bayonet that would fit on there. Unfortunately, I don’t have
the bayonet to show you. Our receiver markings are on the left side of
this cover plate over the trigger mechanism. We have Austen, SMG, Mark II and XP.
This is an experimental model. Same manufacturer as the
Mark I that we did a video on, DC. We do still have the semi-auto selector,
so single fire and auto on the other side. Front sight is the same sort of just large, simple
triangle that you get on all of the other Sten guns. And this still uses the same 30 round
(but we tend to load it to 28), Austen magazine. Interchangeable with Sten magazines
and this one’s really tight, but there it goes. Magazine release button right here. So, handling wise this is basically
the same as the Mark I Austen. Disassembly, however, is completely
different. So start by taking the magazine out, there we go, it’s normally not that stiff, it’s just
the condition of this particular one. Now we have a disassembly button right here, that is going to push out this lug and allow
us to take the entire front diecast assembly off. So I push that in and then that slides off the front end of the gun
and gives you a comic-book laser pistol. Or just the front end of an Austen. Now to get the receiver tube off (this
is actually sort of vaguely MP40 like, which makes sense because a lot
of elements of this are MP40 like), what we’re going to do is pull
the trigger and then we can… With the trigger pulled means
that the sear drops down, right there, and then that allows us to slide
this off without it catching there. Once the upper assembly is off,
we can then pull out the bolt assembly, so we have our receiver tube and barrel.
And the barrel’s fixed in place here. And then just like the Mark I,
and just like the MP38 / MP40 this has a self-contained recoil
spring nested inside the bolt head. Now the die casting changes were probably
not really a step forward for the Austen. The die casting had never really been
super-successful in the first place. However, they did make one definite step
forward with the Mark II Austen, and that is they got rid of the firing pin on … this self-
contained recoil spring. So this is a Mark I bolt assembly, and this is the Mark II. And on the Mark II the firing pin is now milled
integrally into the front of the bolt face, And the recoil spring still nests inside, but you
no longer have any sort of tolerancing issues. You can now interchange these
recoil springs between guns without having to worry about making
sure that the firing-pin protrusion is just right. So that is definitely an improvement, but it’s pretty much the only improvement
between the Mark I and the Mark II. The die casting here is
kind of cool, it’s neat how they… you know, you were able to get one
very complicated … part all in one go, assuming that your quality control stands up. That does, of course, mean you have to have
some sort of access to the internals in order to, you know, put in fire control parts and
work on them if anything goes wrong. So they have this screwed on plate on the side here, which, thanks to the magic of time-lapse
and editing, I can go ahead and remove. Other side of the plate there. And you can see all of the actual fire control internals,
which aren’t much, given that this is a Sten gun. So. So that’s pretty much all you’ve got in there. It is
still just the same basic Sten gun fire control system. In total only 200 of these were ever made,
because they were not really a success. They were introduced in August of 1946. So part of that
limited production is almost certainly from the fact that by this time the war is over, and they really
don’t have the need for more submachine guns, especially more relatively crummy
submachine guns like the Austen. And they were then declared
obsolete in August of 1946. Yeah, the exact same August
of ’46 that they were introduced, they were also declared obsolete and
put into storage, the few that they had. So with that few of them
produced very few exist today, and it’s really cool to have a chance
to actually take a look at one here. A big thanks to the Royal Armouries
for giving me the opportunity to do that. Short of going to Australia, I’m not sure where else
I would be able to easily find a Mark II Austen, so. The Royal Armouries does have a big public
museum, open pretty much every day of the year with a bunch of stuff on display. They also have
the National Firearms Centre collection, which is an extensive firearms collection,
which is not strictly open to the public, but it is available by appointment to
researchers and other serious investigators. So if that sounds like you, get in touch with them
by way of their website in the description text below, and set up an appointment and come
take a look at what they have down here. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Too Late and Not Much Better: the Austen Mk II SMG

  1. doubled down??? wouldn't that be Double up? as they are adding parts they deem effective as oppose to "doubling down" wouldn't that mean they retracted the feature? after thinking it to be a good idea?

  2. Then, there's the "Kokoda" , another Oz experimental design:

    The Mk 2 Owen and a couple of other attempts at making a more compact SMG

    Eventually they came up with the F1. This was a bit of a hybrid but it usefully adopted the excellent Patchett / Sterling" magazine (top-mounted, of course):

  3. I really appreciate the comparison of the two firing pin groups. I am sure it added work to filming but it comes across great on video!

  4. I saw that exact paint job in a school WW2 Pacific war book, pictures of Aus stens. I knew exactly what this was as soon as I saw the picture!

  5. Why was this sub-machine gun so bad? That was not actually discussed! It would have been cool if the deficiencies of the firearm were actually debated. It would also be interesting to find out who expressed the opinion about the quality of the firearm. If it was the Brits (POMs), there is always a bit of cultural baggage between them and the Australian's. The POMs always like to put a bit of shit on the Aussies and visa-versa. So could you please talk about the why and the where for of the opinions on these weapons, it would make these great videos even better. Always truly informing and enjoyable. Thank you!

  6. I was told that the paint used or Owen guns originally came from Railways stocks because it was readily available metal paint and sort of the right colours for jungle use. Not sure if this carried over to the Austen or if people were just used to these being the "right" colours.

  7. So was this made by someone named 'Austen' or was it just a portmanteau of Australia ('Au') and sten (sten gun, which it was based off of); Austen (literally Australian sten gun)?

  8. The STEN has an interesting family tree. The various iterations of STEN British service (MK1 thru 8 IIRC) AUSTEN MK I & II, M3 & M3A1 Grease, Gun and copies made in Germany, Argentina, France, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Israel and probably others.

    In fact I think I recall the STEN being a inspiration for a firearm produced in South Africa.

  9. Nah, MK1's are better, great for pig rigs with a pong box in thick scrub… But nothings beats a Owen, pong box and bras bag..

  10. "Hey, we created a Mk. II Austen!" Australia: "Yeah, no. We'll just go ahead and label it obsolete and call it a day. Screw off!"

  11. I just don’t understand some of these old pipe guns. So much wasted space for such a small cartridge. It’s a fairly large gun for how short the barrel is, I guess looking back and criticizing isn’t fair but damn, no one said let’s make the bolt shorter? No one said, let’s put the magazine in the grip like the pistols of the era? I just don’t understand why this design was so common.

  12. If these things went into actual production and were made in serious numbers, they would have almost certainly turned up in the hands of the Rebel Alliance in the Star Wars films.

  13. Ian, if you ever get the chance to come across to Australia, you need to check out the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. You can do a self guided tour of the workshops and some of the factory where they made a variety of arms. We knocked together versions of the L1A1 (licensed FAL) and F88 Austeyrs (Yes we love just shoving AU infront of things, quite vivid imaginations) just to name a few.They also have an incredible collection of small arms you could spend a day gawking at, I think you would be quite impressed with it!

  14. Yes,it wasnt much good,but as I said before,it was all based on
    a poor design to start with..The use of die casting was mainly because there wasnt much of a stamping industry here at the time..There was also another post war SMG,called the Kokoda which was a bastardised version of the M3 grease too wasnt accepted..Army then got a SMG,called the F1,which was designed and built at Lithgow,it was a combination of the Owen and the Stirling ,though they Owen stayed around til Vietnam…The F1 was OK,but the extraction system caused the breeches to wear that time SMGs were no longer used much,superseded by assault rifles such as FAL and M16

  15. DC stands for Die Casters who were in Richmond Melbourne (building is still there). The other manufacturer was W.T. Carmichael of Sydney. Production of the MK 1 was split equally between the two.

    The point of the Austen has been lost on many people. It wasn’t made to be cheap…IIRC it was even more expensive than the Owen. The point was to be faster to produce due to the die casting processes (a fail) and to put into weapons production the only two manufacturers in the country that had die casting expertise and equipment and who at the time were making less important items for the war effort.

  16. If they'd taken the Sten and just added the two hand grips they'd have had something of an improvement. Maybe a better buttstock, too. The MP38 folding buttstock isn't that great. Oh, well. A case of over reach.

  17. Ian, you're definitely an awesome history teacher somewhere in some parallel universe. Your attention to details, the historical significance of those details, and especially your attention to, and memory for, what some uninterested and uninteresting people might consider "minutia", makes all the difference in videos like these. These videos definitely fall as much under the category of history as they fall under the category of "gun stuff." I think a lot of viewers would agree with me that if someone else did these videos they just wouldn't be the same thing. Awesome work, man.

  18. This should have been the new blaster for the First order, space age looking, comes from a related nation to the sterling, it would have been perfect. It's a shame Disney doesn't seem to have much to any creativity.

  19. The biggest problem with all Austens are that the elements they adopted were british and german, which couldn't be built very well upside down

  20. Come on people dont bash the Aussies…fine looking gun and sure they wuda sorted out the niggles and made a tuff gun for a tuff people. I ain't a Aussie btw

  21. OMG! The gun was declared obsolete in a month after being declared AND one of them survived to be showed to us! That's incredible!

  22. The use of "we" in the intro piqued my interest. Other than Ian, how many people is Forgotten Weapons these days? In-Range is Ian and Karl, but I can't recall seeing anyone not in a guest role in front of the camera or acknowledged to be behind it or in the editing suite. Just curious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *