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The Hudson Sten MkII(S) Plug Fire Cap Submachine Gun

This a review of a very rare working replica of a rare weapon of WW2 that was used by British Special Forces. In fact, this replica is so rare that the author has not seen another one of these guns in 6 years of WW2 Living History. Due to the nature of this ‘weapon’, it will also be a bit of a history lesson as well on the Sten MkII(S).

The real version of this weapon was developed for the Special Operations Executive for use by agents in Occupied Europe during WW2. It was probably the efficient suppressed submachine gun of the war. The ‘S’ in the name doesn’t mean silenced or suppressed as one might think but ‘special’. It complemented the Welrod pistol which is probably the most efficient suppressed pistol ever produced and is rumoured to still be service with Special Forces.

The Sten was designed by Major R. V. Shepherd, OBE, Inspector of Armaments in the Ministry of Supply Design Department at The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and Mr. Harold John Turpin, Senior Draughtsman of the Design Department of the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF), Enfield. Sten actually is an acronym with the first two letters standing for the designers Shepherd Turpin and the last two for where the weapon was first produced ie the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory in Middlesex. The Sten was cheap to build costing 15 shillings (about 75pence in today’s money) per unit. The Sten was a blowback submachine gun working on an open bolt. The box magazine held 32 9x19mm Parabellum rounds and had a theoretical cyclical rate of fire of 600 rounds a minute. The MkII was the common form of the Sten and around 2 million MkII’s were produced starting in 1941. The regular MkII weighed in at 7.1 lbs and was 30 inches long with a barrel length of 7.8 inches.

As previously mentioned the MkII (S) was developed for SOE (Special Operations Executive) for clandestine operations in Occupied Europe. The muzzle velocity was lower than the standard Sten and each gun and suppressor were matched to each other so one suppressor could only be used with a particular gun. To help with the overheating problem when used on sustained fire a canvas heat shield was laced to the suppressor to help protect the users hand.

On to the gun that is the subject of this review. This working replica of the Sten is made by Hudson which is a Japanese company producing Plug Fire Cap guns. It is all metal construction and weighs the same as the real thing. It is fully field strippable and select fire. In fact, the only difference between this gun and the real Sten is the fact that this one fires Plug Fire Caps rather real 9x19mm parabellum.

The Hudson feels very solidly made and mine has had a few knocks and bangs during re-enactments but still fires reliably. The ‘safety’ is the same as the real Sten i.e. just a notch that the cocking bolt goes into to prevent it from going forward and firing a round. Easily knocked off and many a ND would have been fired during service. The other ‘Safety’ is the cocking bolt must be pulled outwards so that you can cock the bolt.

The selector switch is a simple push switch with one way as repeat and the other as full auto. Having been taught to shoot on the Sten’s successor, the L2A3 Sterling 9mm submachine gun, I found the experience of shooting the Hudson Sten to be very similar to the Sterling, but being plug fire cap, without the recoil of the live fire version. The Hudson Sten goes through a 32-round box magazine in no time just like the real Sten. This version is fully collapsible so that means you can remove the metal skeleton stock, suppressor and barrel to make the MkII(s) fit into a backpack very easily indeed. I have actually done this on a re-enactment and when needed, quickly had the Sten back together and ready for action against the ‘enemy’.

Like the original and the Sterling you fire the Hudson by holding the heat shroud on the barrel or, as in this case, the suppressor with its canvas heat guard (this is actually an original heat guard from 1944). You never fire the Sten by holding the magazine (as seen in many war films) as this meant you were pulling the magazine towards you and damaged the feed lips on the magazine and causing a stoppage. During a contact, this could be fatal. Most of the time the MkII(S) was fired on auto in short bursts to keep the heat build-up on the suppressor to a minimum. The sound is a very much quieter report to compared to real firearms and other blank firers but for me, as it is supposed to be a suppressed weapon, this is not too much of a problem.

Stripping and cleaning the Hudson is very simple. To field strip the Sten you first remove the stock and the depress the end cap and twist taking care to let the spring inside the weapon to decompress and send the end cap flying god knows where. You then pull back the cocking handle and then twist to remove the cocking handle before removing the receiver and the spring for routine cleaning just like the real thing. To reassemble is just a reverse of the above procedure and is very easy. In fact, I stripped and reassembled the Hudson using my memory of the Sterling, and did it in less than a minute. You can also replace the suppressor with an optional heat shroud to the MkII(S) into a normal MkII Sten, but I choose to carry with the suppressor fitted.

To carry the MkII(S), I have fitted an original sling to the magazine housing and the stock which I use when go into buildings at events to look at stalls, exhibitions or to have a brew. Otherwise, I carry the Hudson in the ‘ready’ position i.e. I just need to bring the gun to bear because I am carrying the gun across my body and not using the sling.

This was not a cheap piece of kit to buy at nearly £500 for this excellent example. But as it is so rare it is certainly worth every penny and does cause a lot of interest at events around the country. As a re-enactor I find the PFC working replicas to be a satisfactory alterative to the traditional blank firing gun, especially if the traditional blank firing guns are either non-existent or prohibitively expensive. I have also managed to obtain some original magazines, cleaning rod and oil bottle.

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