Austen submachine gun

The Austen (from "Australian Sten") was a 9×19mm 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.

Country Name Origin Year
Australia 1942
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia 1942 1945 View

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.

There was a suppressed version made for use by Z Special Force.

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.

Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Australia
Service history
In service 1942–1945
Used by Australia
Wars World War II
Rhodesian Bush War
Production history
Produced 1942–1944
Number built Mk I : 19,914
Mk II : 200
Variants Mark I, Mark II
Specifications
Weight 3.98 kg (8.8 lb) empty
Length (stock closed/open): 552 mm / 732 mm
Barrel length 198 mm (7.87 in)
Cartridge 9×19mm Parabellum
Calibre 9 mm
Action Blowback
Rate of fire 500 round/min
Muzzle velocity 366 m/s (1,200 ft/s)
Feed system 28-round Sten-compatible box magazine

End notes