Austen submachine gun
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|Austen Submachine gun|
An Austen Mark 1 submachine gun
|Place of origin||Australia|
|Wars||World War II
Rhodesian Bush War
|Number built||Mk I : 19,914
Mk II : 200
|Variants||Mark I, Mark II|
|Weight||3.98 kg (8.8 lb) empty|
|Length||(stock closed/open): 552 mm / 732 mm|
|Barrel length||198 mm (7.87 in)|
|Rate of fire||500 round/min|
|Muzzle velocity||366 m/s (1,200 ft/s)|
|Feed system||28 round Sten-compatible box magazine|
The Austen (from "Australian Sten") was a 9 millimetre Australian submachine gun derived from the British Sten gun developed during the Second World War. In total 19,914 Austens were produced during the war by Diecasters Ltd of Melbourne and W. T. Carmichael Ltd of Sydney.
Design and development
With the war in Europe demanding most of the available material for the British, Australia was not in a position to purchase weapons from the United Kingdom or the United States and so they had to develop their own submachine guns. The British Sten submachine gun was taken as the basis for the Austen. The barrel, body (receiver) and trigger mechanism of the Mark II Sten were copied, while the folding stock and bolt, with separate firing pin and telescopic cover over the return spring, were copied from the German MP40. The folding stock also included a screwdriver and a cleaning rod which both unscrewed from the tubes of the stock. The weapon also featured twin pistol style grips (also copied from the MP40); the latter containing a small spare parts container inside. The weapon had a selective-fire feature permitting the firer to fire single shots or fully automatic at 500 rounds per minute.
An interesting production feature of the Austen was that some parts were manufactured by the diecasting process. These parts were the magazine housing, part of the mechanism for the stock and the forward half of the magazine. The magazine loader was also diecast. The two firms manufacturing the Austen were specialist diecasting companies.
An improved version, the Mark II Austen, which had an accompanying dagger type bayonet that was designed to fit over the muzzle compensator was designed, expanding on the use of diecasting, and produced in limited numbers with only 200 examples of this model being produced.
The Austen never achieved the level of popularity that the Owen gun achieved. This was largely because the Owen was a very reliable weapon and although the Austen was an improvement on the basic Sten, it was never able to achieve the Owen's reliability. Additionally, it has been asserted that the Owen was much more suited to jungle warfare. No doubt the Austen's side mounted magazine and bolt proved a hindrance to soldiers in the jungle, as this aspect necessarily meant that the working parts were more exposed to dirt and therefore prone to fouling due to the cocking slot's position on the right hand side of the body.
An obsolete weapon in 1945 and positively archaic afterwards, the Austen was rarely used in subsequent decades. In contrast, the Owen would remain in use into the 1960s.
- Skennerton, Ian. (1994). Small Arms Identification: 9mm Austen MkI and 9mm Owen MkI Sub-Machine Guns - Parts Identification and Lists, S.M.G.Series Notes, Exploded Parts Drawings, Descriptions, Accessories and Fittings. Published by Ian D Skennerton. ISBN 0-949749-24-9 ISBN 978-0949749246
- McNab, Chris. (2001). Twentieth-Century Small Arms. Grange Books. ISBN 1-84013-381-3.
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