The STEN Gun: Darra & Khyber-Pass Edition

Updated: 1 day ago

The British STEN 9×19mm submachine gun, is one of the iconic firearms of World War Two. The weapon’s name comes from the names of the weapon’s main designers: the ST from Major Reginald V. Shepherd and Harold Turpin, with the EN from the RSAF Enfield arms factory where it was developed. With over four million, of various patterns being made during World War Two, this was once a firearm which could be easily found. It was a cheap, simple and relatively reliable design, born of necessity rather than anything else. It was such a crude and rugged piece of kit that it was famously nicknamed the ‘Plumbers nightmare’ amongst others.

Fig. 1.1. Right face: Darra-made STEN patterned after a MkII with a elongated barrel shroud and a protected front sight post, clearly inspired by the later MkV STEN (Source: Khyber Abdullah reference collection)

Fig.1.2. Left face: Darra made STEN patterned after a MkII with an elongated barrel shroud and protected from sight post (Source: Khyber Abdullah reference collection)

Darra Adam Khel, is the home to Pak-Afghan region’s last cottage gunsmiths. To this day, old STEN gun copies lie at the back of shops, covered in dust, relics of a forgotten age. These firearms were once extremely popular, sold regularly and in large numbers with them even being sold to Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989). Today, needs and wants have moved on with the advent of more modern firearms, these STEN copies are no longer the gun of the day so unwanted by almost all.

The STEN submachine gun is also known as the STEN Gun within Darra, however, this term is also used for similarly patterned and/or similarly looking submachine guns. Submachine guns are now made in various shapes within Darra, most notable are the MP5 and AK patterned examples which can be seen all over social media, these are the most popular and sold in quantity today. Darra produces, or has produced, almost every type of STEN variation imaginable, along with franken-guns, a mixture of various designs and/or with their own flair thrown in the mix.

Fig.1.3. Left face: A Darra-made STEN MkV pattern submachine gun (Source: Khyber Abdullah reference collection)


Fig.1.4. Right face: One of the more interesting Darra-made STEN variants chambered in 7.62x25mm with a vertical magazine and an AK-esque front sight post and an underfolding stock (Source: Kalashism Blog reference collection)


Fig.1.5. Left face: A Darra-made STEN pattern submachine gun chambered in 7.62x25mm with a vertical magazine and sporting an AK-esque front sight post and an underfolding stock (Source: Kalashism Blog reference collection)

The most common example seen is a STEN MkII type variation with the skeleton/triangle type buttstock, this is probably due to the fact that the barrel can be detached to be replaced, or for the ease of storage and cleaning. These are usually seen with either an extended barrel and barrel shroud or standard barrel length, plus the addition of the Lee-Enfield Rifle No.4-type front sight post, which also mimics that seen on the STEN MkV.

It is extremely hard to find images of these Darrai STEN guns, unless you happen to chance upon one during a visit into Darra Adam Khel. Locally, all variants are simply referred to as the ‘STEN’, but this name in turn has carried over to other simple submachine guns. These Darrai STENs can still be made upon request, however, their decline in popularity sees them increasingly simply taking up space on gun shop shelves.


Fig. 1.6. Darrai STEN submachine gun copies. Right to left: STEN MkII/V mutt type, STEN MkII type, STEN MkII type. Top left, you can make out the barrel of a STEN with Lee-Enfield type sight-block installed. (Source: Social Media via ARES CONMAT)