Guns of Muschu
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Z Special Weapons

Z Special operatives had access to most weapons used by Australian, British and US forces. In addition to these the Services Reconnaissance Department also developed modified versions for some operations.

The following weapons were carried by the eight members of the Z Special patrol when they infiltrated Muschu Island.

Sten Submachine Gun
Of British design this 9mm sub-machine gun had a poor reputation among Australian soldiers, due to its tendency to either jam when used in jungle conditions or to "run away" uncontrollably.

The STEN name was derived from the names of the designers (R. V. Shepard and H.J. Turpin) and from the factory where they worked (the ENfield arsenal). The weapon was a simple design, developed in mid 1941 to fill an urgent need after the fall of France. In Britain weapons were in very short supply and with a German invasion feared, an easy to manufacture sub-machine gun was seen as the quickest way of re-equiping the army for home defense.

The Sten was a blowback operated weapon that fired from an open bolt. The tubular receiver and the barrel shroud were made from rolled steel. The gun was fed from a left side mounted magazine. The stock was of the skeleton type, made from steel. The sights were fixed, adjusted for 100 yards distance, a peep hole rear aperture and a blade front. The MkI featured spoon-like muzzle jump compensator. Some guns had a small forward folding grip.

The magazines were often loaded with 30 rounds instead of the full capacity of 32, to reduce strain on feed springs. Some were manufactured with integral silencers for undercover operations and were designated as the Mk.II(S). Rate of fire was around 500 rounds per minute. Normal operation for weapons of this type is for the user to fire 4-8 round bursts.

The Sten's poor reputation was partially due to its rushed introduction into service combined with the inexperience of the new recruits that were being hastily trained to bring the army up to strength in expectation of the German invasion. Problems with the MkI soon became obvious and these were rectified in subsequent models. Total production was more than 4 million when manufacturing ceased in late 1944.

In its intended role the Sten was actually quite a capable weapon. Originally envisaged to be used in relatively "clean" conditions, ie, urban or open areas as anticipated in England or Europe, when moved to the harsher "dirty" environment of Pacific jungle warfare its shortcomings soon became apparent. The side mounted magazine made it awkward to use in dense jungle while the weapon's intolerance to mud, water and foliage - particularly the tendency for the side mounted exit port to allow leaves and twigs to jam the bolt action - added to its original poor reputation. It was partially because of these problems that the Australian Owen gun was designed with a vertical magazine and a bottom exit port making it less prone to fouling.

A version was manufactured in Australia as a stop gap measure until the introduction of the Owen gun. Commonly known as the Aust-Sten (or Austen) it incorporated many of the modifications learned from the Mk1.

For some reason the Services Reconnaissance Department retained the Sten as one of its standard weapons - possibly due to the relationship between the SRD and the British Strategic Operations Executive with which it had its origins.

Many of the problems with the Sten were eliminated by rebuilds carried out by Z Special armourers, however its major shortcomings - the side mounted magazine and ejection port, continued to plague users.

All members of the Muschu reconnaissance team carried Sten guns. Read the narrative of The Guns of Muschu to see how the weapon was put to good use.

Wellrod Silenced Pistol

A British weapon that unlike other pistols with add-on silencers, had the breach mechanism, barrel and silencer built as a single assembly. Using a specially designed 9mm sub-sonic round, with an effective range of fifteen meters, the Welrod was reputedly the world’s quietest assassination weapon, its only drawbacks being that it was a single shot pistol and had to be manually reloaded from its six round but-grip magazine.

There has always been conjecture about the Welrod, particularly the ammunition used. To achieve silence the round was propelled by a smaller charge than those used in the Sten or Owen gun and hence its hitting power was reduced. Even the powder used was specially formulated to be smokeless and as near odorless as possible. To compensate for the projectile’s lower impact velocity there’s evidence to suggest that a variety of rounds were developed by SOE in Britain, including fragmentation, explosive and even toxic. This of course was against the Geneva Protocol and probably is one reason why the Welrod remained on the secret list until the late nineties. It’s know it was used until then by the British SAS against the IRA and even today full information remains a mystery – unusual for technology that is almost seventy years old.

There has been speculation that during the Second World War the “unconventional” ammunition was restricted to certain missions or that many SOE agents may have been ignorant of the true nature of the rounds used. It’s quite possible that the British reserved this type of “unlawful” ammunition exclusively for their European “dirty tricks” department, as there still remained an element of distrust between the British SOE and its Pacific sibling, such is the nature of professional military rivalries. There are no details as to the type of Welrod ammunition carried by the Muschu patrol other than the standard low velocity solid round and indications are that all SRD personnel had no reason to believe otherwise.

Smith and Wesson .38 Revolver

The Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 revolver was manufactured in the USA in large numbers during WW2 and supplied to the British under the war-time lend lease program. Many remained in service in the British and Australian armies until their replacement by the Browning 9mm pistol in the 1960's.

The revolver was often carried by Z Special as a back-up weapon. All members of the Muschu patrol carried one of these model Smith and Wessons.

Copyright 2006