Firearm Infobox
Name, Image, type, origin
Name Sterling submachine gun
Image 300px
Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
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Service history
In service {{{service}}}
Used by See text
Wars Suez crisis, Aden Emergency, Cold War, Falklands War, Northern Ireland, The Gulf War (final batch)
Production history
Designer {{{designer}}}
Designed 1944
Manufacturer {{{manufacturer}}}
Produced {{{production_date}}}
Number 400,000 +
Variants See text
Weight 2.72 kg
Length 690 mm (483 mm folded stock)
Width {{{width}}}
Height {{{height}}}
Barrel length 198 mm
Diameter {{{diameter}}}
Crew {{{crew}}}
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum
Action Blowback
Muzzle velocity
Effective range
Maximum range {{{max_range}}}
Other identifying characteristics
Wood parts (Y/N) {{{wood}}}
Common color {{{color}}}
Imprint {{{imprint}}}

The Sterling submachine gun is a British submachine gun which was in service with the British Army from 1953 until 1988 when it was phased out with the introduction of the L85A1.


In 1944 the British General Staff issued a specification which any new submachine gun should conform to. It stated that the weapon should not weigh more than six pounds, should fire 9x19mm Parabellum caliber ammunition, have a rate of fire of no more than 500 rounds per minute and be sufficiently accurate to allow five single shots to be fired into a one foot square target at 100 yards.


To meet the new requirement, Mr G. W. Patchett, the chief designer at the Sterling Armament Company of Dagenham submitted a sample weapon of new design in early 1944. The army quickly recognised its potential and ordered 120 examples for trials. Towards the end of the Second World War, some of these trial samples were used in combat by airborne troops at Arnhem and elsewhere, where it was known as the Patchett submachine gun. Given that the Patchett/Sterling can use straight Sten submachine gun magazines as well as the normal curved design, there were no interoperability problems.

After the war, with large numbers of Sten guns in the inventory there was little interest in replacing them with a superior design. However in 1947 a competitive trial between the Patchett, an Enfield design, a new BSA design and an experimental Australian design with the Sten for comparison was held. The trial was inconclusive but was followed by further development and more trials. Eventually the Patchett design won and the decision was made in 1951 for the British Army to adopt it. It started to replace the Sten in 1953 as the Sub-Machine Gun L2A1.

The weapon is constructed entirely of steel and plastic and has a folding butt which folds up underneath. Although of conventional blowback design, there are some unusual features: for example the bolt has sharp grooves around it which cut away dirt in the receiver and help to keep it clean. The magazine follower, which pushes the cartridges into the feed port is equipped with rollers to reduce friction and the firing pin is arranged so that it does not line up with the percussion cap on the cartridge until the cartridge has entered the chamber.

There is a variation of the Sterling submachine gun that is suppressed, where the only sound during its firing was from the reloading mechanism and the barely-audible explosive discharge, while the bullet becomes subsonic so that it would not make a sonic boom.[1]

Sterlings have a reputation for excellent reliability under adverse conditions and, allowing for the fact that a blowback action is used, good accuracy.

The Sterling poses no problems for left-handed users to operate.[1]

Users Edit

File:Argentine POWs guarded by 2 Para.jpg

A total of over 400,000 were manufactured. Sterling built them for the British armed forces and for overseas sales, whilst the Royal Ordnance Factories plant at Fazakerley, near Liverpool, constructed them exclusively for the British military. A Canadian version was also manufactured under licence, called the Submachine Gun 9 mm C1 made by Canadian Arsenals Limited. It replaced the later versions of the Sten submachine gun from 1953 onwards. A similar weapon, the Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9 mm 1A1 is manufactured under license by the Indian Ordnance Factory at Kanpur, along with a Sub-Machine Gun Carbine 9 mm 2A1 which is a copy of the L34A1 integrally-silenced version. At the beginning of the 21st century, these two weapons were being manufactured by OFB and used by the Indian Armed Forces.

The Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps uses Sterlings as their parade weapon.

About 90 countries purchased various quantities of the gun, including Argentina (Navy), Ghana, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tunisia and some Persian Gulf states.


  • British Army
    • L2A1 - (Patchett Machine Carbine Mark 2) adopted in 1953.
    • L2A2 - (Sterling Mark 3) adopted in 1955.
    • L2A3 - (Sterling Mark 4) adopted in 1956. Last regular version in service with the British Army.
    • L34A1 - Suppressed version (Sterling-Patchett Mark 5). Held in reserve by the British Army.
  • Sterling Mark 6 - a semi-automatic-only version for police forces and private sales, also known as the Police model.
  • Sterling Mark 7 "Para" - shortened barrel, no stock.
  • Canadian Army
    • C1 Submachine Gun
  • Indian Army
    • SAF Carbine 1A - Indian made Sterling L2A1
    • SAF Carbine 2A1 - silenced carbine


  1. The Last Word, Newscientist magazine, February 16-22.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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