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Synopsis

The Sten submachine gun - officially the 'Carbine, Machine, Sten' - was developed to fulfil the pressing British need for large quantities of cheaply produced weapons after Dunkirk, when German invasion was a very real possibility. Over four million were built during World War II, and the Sten was widely used by airborne troops, tankers, and others who needed a compact weapon with substantial firepower. It proved especially popular with Resistance fighters as it was easy to conceal, deadly at close range, and could fire captured German ammunition. Using stamped-metal parts that required minimal welding, the Sten's design was so simple that Resistance fighters were able to produce them in bicycle shops.

The Sten influenced the development of other inexpensive, easy-to-produce submachine guns, such as the Australian Austen and the US M3 'Grease Gun', while copies of the Sten were produced in Argentina, France, Norway, Denmark, Poland, and even Nazi Germany. In the years after World War II, the Sten was used in Korea and in counterinsurgency campaigns in Malaya and Kenya. During the 1948 Palestine War, locally produced Stens were employed by Israeli forces; in 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by one of her Sikh bodyguards using a Sten.

Its postwar successor in British service, the Sterling, owed much to the Sten; early examples saw combat at Arnhem in 1944 and it remained in service as late as 1988. Suppressed versions of the Sterling were used by British, Australian and New Zealand SAS forces, and the weapon even saw action with US Special Forces troops until the early days of the Vietnam War.

Featuring vivid first-hand accounts, specially commissioned full-colour artwork and close-up photographs, this is the fascinating story of the mass-produced submachine gun that provided Allied soldiers and Resistance fighters with devastating close-range firepower.

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