The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Sten Gun Buyers Rejoice
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by James Dunnigan
November 21, 2008
In Cyprus, the Greek defense forces (the Cyprus National Guard is the armed forces of the Greek portion of the divided island of Cyprus) is selling off some 9,000 of its oldest (as in very old) weapons to collectors. These World War II era weapons include over 7,000 Lee-Enfield No 4 rifles, 1,000 Sten submachine guns and 90 Bren machine-guns. A set of guns (one of each) is going for $1,700. The Stens, which are quite rare these days, go for nearly $650 each. All these weapons will be demilitarized (firing pins removed and a metal plug inserted inside the barrel.) The weapons would sell for more if they were sold in firing condition, but there was fear that terrorists or other criminals would buy and use them.
The other portion of the island is inhabited by Turks, and garrisoned by 30,000 Turkish troops. The National Guard is smaller than the Turkish force, but has over 50,000 reservists available. The Cyprus National Guard is now equipped with much more modern weapons. The Turkish troops arrived in 1974, to prevent the Greek majority from becoming part of Greece, and, it was feared, abusing, or even expelling, the Turkish minority.
The Lee-Enfield is one of the oldest, and still widely used, rifles on the planet. Over 17 million were manufactured between 1895 and the 1980s. While there are more AK-47s out there (over 20 million in private hands), these are looked down on by those who use their rifles for hunting, or killing with a minimum expenditure of ammunition. The 8.8 pound Lee-Enfield is a bolt-action rifle (with a ten round magazine) noted for its accuracy and sturdiness. The inaccurate AK-47 has a hard time hitting anything more than a hundred meters away, while the Lee-Enfield can drop an animal, or a man, at over 400 meters.
There are millions of Lee-Enfields still in use throughout the Middle East, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Iraq and other Persian Gulf nations. These are largely World War II leftovers. In the early half of the 20th century, the British gave out millions of these weapons to allies, or those being courted. Noting the accuracy of the Lee-Enfield (.303 caliber, or 7.7mm), the locals came to prize the rifle for hunting, and self-defense. There are still many gunsmiths throughout the region (and at least one factory in India) that will refurbish century old Lee-Enfields to "like new" condition. These craftsmen can "remilitarize" a demilitarized one. Ammunition is still manufactured, with the high quality stuff going for a dollar a round, and lesser quality for 25 cents a round. These rifles sell in the west for $500-1,000. Non-firing replicas can be had for a few hundred bucks, and for about twice that you can buy deactivated (cannot be fired) originals.
The 7.1 pound Sten gun was a cheap 9mm submachine gun produced by Britain during World War II. Over four million were produced, and was widely used through the 1980s. But at the end, it was found mainly in the hands of irregulars.
The 23 pound Bren light machine-gun was one of the more successful 7.62mm machine-guns to come out of World War II. It remained in use until the 1990s. Only a few hundred thousand were built, mainly by the British (who licensed it from the Czech designers).