Most of the ammunition for our Sten gun is Italian, or rather made in Germany for Italy. I fancy this must be the first weapon the British army has had whose bore was measured in the millimetres instead of inches. They were going to make a new cheap automatic weapon, and having the vast stocks of ammunition captured in Abyssinia handy, manufactured the guns to fit the cartridges instead of the other way about. The advantage is that the ammunition of almost any continental submachine gun will fit it. It will be interesting to see whether the Germans or Japanese come out with a .303 weapon to git captured British ammunition.

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6 Responses to 22.9.42

  1. denis terry says:


  2. medawar says:

    The Japanese 7.7mm rifle and machine-gun cartridge was a rimless version of the .303″ MK7 rimmed cartridge anyway; most bolt-action rifles other than the Lee Enfield worked better with rimless cartridges.

    Italian and Japanese aircraft used ammunition based on a semi-rimmed export version of the 0.5″ Vickers machine-gun round. This cartridge was shorter, lighter and cheaper than the .50″ Browning and the Japanese exploited this to make a shortened copy of the Browning machine-gun that could fire at a much higher rate, with lightweight Japanese fighters being able to carry more cartridges. Pre-war tests by the RAF and Royal Navy had concluded that although the Browning cartridge was much more powerful than the basic 0.5″ Vickers, and needed a bigger, heavier gun, the actual damage done to aircraft structures was more or less the same: a half-inch hole clean through most airframe and engine components. The Royal Navy then commissioned a semi-armour-piercing round mainly for target practice, that was half the price of the fully hardened armour piercing round. This turned out to penetrate ordinary ship’s plating just as well, so it was quickly made standard.

    The RAF never used the 0.5″ Vickers in action (they went straight to 20mm cannon), though it was a standard weapon in the Royal Navy until the nineteen fifties, mainly on MTBs and MGBs.

  3. anon says:

    thanks medawar.

  4. I once heard a bus conductor (the clue to the age of this reminiscence is in the job title) describing how he whiled away his time in Occupied Germany after the war shooting ‘hundreds of rounds’ of captured German ammunition in his British sub machine gun, I presume a Sten. A cheerful character he announced the stop outside our large local cemetery as “the Underground”.

    I imagine ‘git’ should be ‘fit’?

  5. Medawar says:

    Bus Conductors, a much-missed breed.
    When one local Parish Council built an overflow cemetery on the edge of the village, the bus drew to a halt by the gates and the conductor gaily announced “Dead Centre of Arlesey!”

    With regard to the ammunition: German smgs and the sten were all chambered to the standard 9mm Luger round which has become 9x19mm NATO; Italians used the same cartridge with a slightly weaker powder charge (sten mechanism absolutely doesn’t care). More interesting is that you can shoot the 9mm Browning short round of the Walther PPK, Savage Pocket Auto, etc, in the post-war Russian “9mm” Makarov, but not vice versa. The bore diameter of the Makarov is the same as the groove diameter of the Browning, so the Western bullet behaves like it was in a good smoothbore in the Russian gun; it’s reasonably stable and accurate for thirty-odd feet, which might be enough in a pinch.

    I have always thought that the Met Police were being willfully ignorant and/or stubborn to claim that the shot which killed Jill Dando could only have come from a converted replica (actually, it’s almost impossible for it to have done so) because if the cartridge and bullet found had been fired in a Makarov or Chinese/Serbian clone, the bullet wouldn’t have engaged with the rifling, there would be no clear rifling marks, but it would still have had a lot of force. Exactly what they found, in other words.

    It is widely believed that the one-way ammunition compatibility is what the Russians intended, but I suspect whoever had the job of copying the Nazi’s 9mm Ultra round, which it looks like, just got muddled with the German language blueprints between bore and groove diameters.

  6. Medawar says:

    Adjacent keys; assuming the diary was transcribed with a manual typewriter at some point, it’s easily done and not easily corrected.

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