This has to be the Book of the Year for small arms. The authors have provided a detailed history of the Sterling Armament Company and its most famous product, the Sterling sub-machine-gun – Most Highly Recommended
NAME: A History Of The Small Arms Made By The Sterling Armament Company, Excellence In Adversity FILE: R3240 AUTHOR: Peter Laidler, James Edmiston, David Howroyd PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £40.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: MP28, Lanchester, Sten, Sten gun, Thompson, sub-machine gun, machine pistol, trench gun, .45ACP, 9mm Parabellum, Patchett, Patchett Gun, Sterling, L2.A3, Mk I, Mk IV, Mark V, sound moderators, magazine clips, folding stocks, telescoping bolts, non-telescoping bolts ISBN: 1-52677-330-9 PAGES: 335 IMAGE: B3240.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y6nv35x4 LINKS: DESCRIPTION: This has to be the Book of the Year for small arms. The authors have provided a detailed history of the Sterling Armament Company and its most famous product, the Sterling sub-machine-gun – Most Highly Recommended
From the earliest days of firearms development, great effort has been put into designing guns that repeat-fire. For most of the history of firearms the apparently insurmountable problem was created by the use of three separate components to the round. The igniter required a slow match or a sparking device to ignite the charge of black powder that would propel the stone or lead ball to the target. That meant the shooter had to load the components of the round manually into the barrel and any powder pan. A time consuming process that meant a shooter managing 3 rounds a minute was doing pretty well. It also meant that the small arms of this type were unreliable in heavy rain or when fording a river, and misfires were a regular problem.
The intermediate step was the cap and ball revolver, Sam Colt producing the first reasonably reliable repeating pistol. His Colt Dragoon was not only very heavy at around 8 pounds but it still required a similar laborious loading process. The critical difference was that the igniter was a percussion cap placed over a nipple or cone at the back of a revolving cylinder that contained 5 or 6 chambers. Each chamber was loaded by pouring black powder into each chamber, followed by a lead ball with or without a felt patch. The chamber was then rotated one turn for a rammer, which was attached below the barrel, to be applied to the lead ball, pushing it fully into the chamber, also compressing the black powder in the process. Speeding the process further, the rammer was hinged and did not have to be withdrawn from its stored position and then inserted into a barrel to allow the shooter to seat the ball correctly. Colt produced the Dragoon to tight tolerances, so that the lead ball was shaved as it was forced down the cylinder. That overcame a basic weakness of early revolvers by sealing the powder in each chamber from sparks and flame produced when the chamber next to it was fired. Previously, a shooter would have had to use cloth patches or smear grease over the end of the chamber to avoid accidental firing of all chambers at once and taking off the shooters hand.
The successor to the Dragoon was the Remington New Model .44 Army revolver which was lighter and, even today, looks modern when compared to the Dragoon. The Remington was still loaded in the same way but was often used with a number of spare pre-loaded cylinders which could be changed rapidly in action. It was a popular pistol and made the next step by being converted in some numbers to fire the new pistol cartridge. This was achieved by changing the hammer to strike the percussion cap, embedded now in the cartridge, and replace the original cylinder with one modified to accept the loading of cartridges into the back of the cylinder. Spare preloaded cylinders could be exchanged for very fast reloading. For some not too obvious reason, later pistols lost the ability to rapidly change cylinders and either featured a loading gate for one round at a time to be loaded as the shooter rotated the cylinder, or allowing the pistol to be broken by unlocking the barrel and cylinder assembly for reloading or allowing the cylinder to swing open to one side for reloading. Later in the life of the revolver, break action and swing action cylinders could be speed loaded, pressing down a loader onto an empty cylnder.
The significance of the pistol cartridge with its metal casing was that it was a complete unit that could be loaded into a cylinder or direct into a barrel chamber. It was reasonably resistant to water and could be loaded quickly. It has a further advantage in that it could be loaded from a magazine and this led to the self loading pistol, popularly, if inaccurately known as an ‘auto’ or ‘automatic’.
Once the first self-loading pistols had been produced, it was a relatively simple matter to develop them to be capable of selective fire. That meant that the shooter could select ‘safe’, where the pistol was locked to prevent discharge, ‘repeat’, where the pistol could fire each time the trigger was squeezed, or ‘auto’, where the pistol would keep firing as long as the trigger was kept pressed fully back, stopping only when the magazine had been emptied or the trigger been released.
In WWI, trench warfare required light weight rapid fire weapons that could be carried and fired as soldiers climbed in and out of trenches and advanced across a sea of mud. The result was the sub-machine gun and the most famous early weapon was the Thompson that was adopted by gangsters in the USA which immortalized it.
At the start of WWII, the Royal Navy needed to equip its boarding crews with compact but highly effective weapons and turned to the Sterling Armament Company for a sea-going sub-machine gun. Sterlings produced The Lanchester which was based on the German MP-28 and chambered in 9mm Parabellum. To meet naval requirements some steel and iron components were replaced with brass to better resist salt water corrosion. The Lanchester was built as a quality weapon largely by hand, adequate for initial naval requirements, but too costly and slow to build for mass distribution to the Army. The solution was seen to be the Sten Gun, or Woollies Gun, which could be produced cheaply in very large numbers but earned the ‘Woollies Gun’ description as being cheap and cheerful, after the Woolworth Stores which specialized in cut price products.
Sterlings had a gifted designer, Patchett, who saw the weaknesses and developed what was initially known as the Patchett Gun, or Patchett, as a greatly improved replacement for the Sten Gun. In the event, it had to wait for British Army re-equipment after WWII but became very popular and was sold around the world in large numbers. Some of these weapons are still in use today. They combined good design, good manufacture, simplicity, reliability and low cost.
The gun became known as the ‘Sterling’ and, in British service, as L2.A3.
The authors have told the story with good supporting illustration. The Sterling was produced in several Marks and included a version with noise suppressor, or silencer, and a police carbine which featured a longer barrel and without the full automatic capability.
The standard of illustration is first rate and includes end papers illustrating the Sterling Mk 4 and the silenced Mk 5. This will become a collectors book.