Having been refused by the military, E. Owen soon lost interest in small arms and went to serve in the army. On this his career as a gunsmith could end, but soon the situation changed. The first prototype of a submachine gun accidentally caught the eye of Owen’s neighbor, Vincent Wardell, who was working for Lysaghts Newcastle Works at the time. Wardell and Owen again discussed the prospects of the project and decided once again to submit it to the military, this time as a new development of an industrial enterprise, rather than a single designer. In the new quality, the experimental weapon in 1940 was presented to the newly created Central Council of Inventions of the Army.
Council experts led by captain Cecil Dyer expressed interest in the proposal of Lysaghts Newcastle Works. This interest was not least connected with the events in Europe. By the time the demonstration of experienced weapons to the Council, Nazi Germany seized France and was preparing to attack the UK. Thus, in the near future, Australia could lose the opportunity to purchase British weapons and equipment, which is why it needed to develop its own systems. The proposal of Owen and Wardell in this case could be a "spare airfield" in case of supply problems.
Owen Mk 1 serial submachine gun. Photo by Awm.gov.au
However, further work on Owen's submachine gun came with some problems. At the time of the demonstration of the prototype, Australia received assurances from the UK that the STEN submachine guns would be delivered soon. There was reason to believe that British weapons were superior to domestic ones in their characteristics, however, Australian experts decided not to rely on assumptions and to conduct comparative tests of the two samples. Lysaghts Newcastle Works have ordered several prototype weapons chambered for .38 S&W.
Since E. Owen at that time served in the army, most of the work on the development and improvement of his weapons was carried out by Lysaghts Newcastle Works. The main work involved the brothers Vinsend and Gerard Wardela, in addition, they helped master gunsmith Freddie Künzler. In the later stages of the project, Owen himself joined Wardell and Künzler.
Probably, the military did not want to get involved with a domestic manufacturer and wait until he completed all the design work, testing, refinement, etc. Because of this, Lysaghts Newcastle Works received an order, but was left without the necessary raw materials. The military department refused to provide ready-made barrels and ammunition for testing. Not wanting to lose the order, Wardell and his colleagues were able to convince the military of the need to change the requirements. After a number of disputes and consultations, it was decided to make a new submachine gun chambered for .32ACP. Such a change in the project made it possible to provide acceptable firing characteristics, but the main advantage was the possibility of using ready-made barrels for Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I rifles.
Evelyn Owen with her submachine guns. Photo Forgottenweapons.com
Creating a submachine gun chambered for .32ACP took only three weeks, after which it was presented to the army. It should be noted that some sources indicate the date of delivery of this prototype, which can cause certain questions. According to some reports, it was submitted to the 30 army on January 1940, but this information may contradict other data on the project. Anyway, all the work on the weapon-chambered .32ACP project using the barrel from the serial rifle was completed during the 1940 year.
The prototype submachine gun was sent to the test and proved its efficiency. After that, the military demanded to carry out resource tests, during which the weapon was supposed to make 10 thousands of shots. At the same time, they refused to provide the necessary ammunition, and the chances of the company-developer to get them on their own sought to zero. Thus, the military department again transparently hinted that it did not want to deal with domestic enterprises and wanted to buy British-made weapons.
In response, Wardell and his comrades proposed a new version of the weapon, this time designed for the .45ACP cartridge. The gunsmiths rightly believed that the Australian army certainly had no shortage of such ammunition, since Thompson submachine guns and some other systems under this cartridge were in service. An order was placed for the supply of cartridges, but by mistake (or malicious intent), a batch of .455 Webley cartridges arrived at Lysaghts Newcastle Works. However, these events did not affect the course of the project. Already finished the prototype received a new barrel, made from units of the old rifle of the appropriate caliber.
At the beginning of 1941, the development team of the promising submachine gun was replenished with Evelin Owen. He was recalled from the army and sent to participate in the development of new weapons. What kind of design innovations were proposed by Owen - is unknown. Working as a team, the Australian gunsmiths did not try to perpetuate their names to the detriment of the common cause. In this case, however, in the end, the weapon received the name of E. Owen, who joined in the development of it only at one of the last stages.
During 1941, the Lysaghts Newcastle Works team of engineers continued to work on their new project and "fought" with the military. In addition, several prototypes were tested, the results of which were used to refine new samples. Tests have allowed to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the project in its current form, as well as improve ergonomics and make some other adjustments.
In early September, the 41-th military department again changed its requirements for a promising submachine gun. Now, the military demanded to remake the weapon for the use of the 9x19 mm Para cartridge. Such cartridges were used by a large number of systems, including the STEN submachine gun. By the end of the month, the work on the modernization of the submachine gun had ended, and another prototype was presented for testing.
Owen, Wardellah, and Künzler presented submachine guns of their design for 9x19mm Para and .45ACP cartridges for comparative tests. Their rivals were the British STEN and the American Thompson, using similar ammunition. These tests, during which all possible parameters and characteristics were tested, allowed Lysaghts Newcastle Works to prove its case and demonstrate the superiority of its development over the designs of competitors.
At the beginning of the tests, all four models of weapons showed their best side, but as the conditions became more complex, the characteristics of the submachine guns changed noticeably. Particularly vividly the differences in the perfection of the structures appeared during the tests with pollution. The American "Thompson" after a stay in the mud continued to shoot, although it was not without delays and other problems. The British STEN test mud could not stand. At the same time, both samples of Owen submachine guns coped with all the trials.
Comparison of the four samples in conditions close to real ones helped the Australian military figure out which weapon to fight and which one should be abandoned. In this regard, the company Lysaghts Newcastle Works received an order for the production of a batch of 2000 submachine guns, which were planned to be sent to the army for military trials. Moreover, several samples and documentation on new weapons were sent to the UK with a proposal to check them and start mass production. According to reports, in the 1943 year, British experts conducted their comparative tests, during which Australian weapons again bypassed STEN and other samples.
A characteristic feature of the first submachine gun E. Owen, assembled in his own workshop, was extreme simplicity of design. In the course of further development of the weapon, the simplicity of the design was put at the forefront, which ultimately affected its final appearance. At the same time, the Wardela brothers and F. Künzler did not engage exclusively in the development of Owen’s first design. They proposed a number of significant innovations that were supposed to provide high performance without the use of compromise and dubious solutions.
During the tests, the authors of the project constantly identified various deficiencies and corrected them. In addition, new original ideas were introduced to improve performance. Because of this, the 1940-41 prototypes differed markedly from each other in both the appearance and the structure of the internal units. Consider the design of a serial submachine gun, designated Mk 1.
The main unit of the weapon was a tubular receiver, inside of which were located the bolt, return spring and some elements of the firing mechanism. The 9 mm caliber barrel 247 mm long (27,5 caliber) was attached to it in front. To reduce the barrel toss when firing, a slot-hole muzzle compensator was introduced, outputting a portion of the powder gases up and down. The design of the compensator during serial production several times changed. In addition, the barrel initially had fins for better cooling, but then it was abandoned. The barrel was fixed in place with a special clamp. Behind the latter was a small vertical shaft shop. A characteristic feature of the submachine gun was the top location of the store, simplifying its design. Directly under the shop shaft, on the lower surface of the receiver, there was a window for ejection of the sleeves.
Behind the bottom of the receiver was provided with a screw hole for attaching the casing of the firing mechanism. The latter was a trapezoid metal unit, in front of which there was a large trigger bracket and a pistol grip. Inside housed the details of the firing mechanism. Behind the casing attached butt. The weapon was not equipped with a forearm, instead of which was offered an additional front handle, secured with a yoke on the barrel.
Owen submachine guns of different series (above and in the middle) and Austin SMG (below). Photo Forgottenweapons.com
The design of the casing trigger and butt depended on the model. Early serial submachine guns, the so-called. Owen Mk 1-42 was completed with a casing with solid walls and a frame metal butt. Subsequently, the design of these units has changed. Modification of the Mk 1-43 received a wooden butt that was simpler and cheaper to produce, and the weight gain was compensated by windows in the metal casing walls. There were also some other differences, which consisted in the production technologies, the design of the muzzle compensator, etc.
The submachine gun Owen had automatics on the basis of a free shutter. The shutter itself was made in the form of a cylindrical unit with a hole in the back for the installation of a return-combat spring and the front part of a complex shape formed by a cylinder and a rounded surface. Inside the gate, a special rod was fastened with a pin, on which a return spring was put on during assembly. When the bolt was placed inside the receiver, the stem went into the hole of the special partition. Thus, the bolt and spring remained in the front chamber of the box, and the rod fell into the back, where the loading handle attached to it was taken out through a slot in the right wall of the receiver.
The trigger mechanism was located in the casing, next to the trigger and the fire control knob. It consisted of only a few details: the trigger, the sear that locks the bolt in the rear position, the fuse-translator of the fire and several springs. The interpreter-fuse box, displayed on the left side of the casing and located above the pistol grip, made it possible to block the sear, as well as to shoot single or in a queue.
Another option camouflage coloring. Photo World.guns.ru
The box-shaped detachable stores on the 32 cartridge were placed in the receiver shaft of the receiver. The upper location of the store simplified the supply of ammunition, and the spring ensured the movement of cartridges even in non-standard positions. It should be noted that the shop’s mine was not located along the longitudinal axis of the weapon, but shifted to the right. This provided the possibility of aiming with the help of the available unregulated rear sight and front sight.
The Owen submachine gun had a length of the order of 810 mm and weighed (without a magazine) about 4,22 kg. Thus, this weapon could not boast of great ease of use, but comparative tests showed that the loss in weight and dimensions is fully compensated by reliability and firing characteristics.
The principle of operation of the weapon was quite simple. Before shooting, the shooter had to insert the magazine into the reception shaft and load the weapon by pulling the bolt handle back. At the same time, the latter was retracted to the extreme rear position, squeezing the reciprocating spring and engaging the sear. Shooting could be conducted only with an open shutter. When you press the trigger the bolt under the action of the spring went forward, clinging to the cartridge in the store and handed it to the chamber. At the extreme anterior point of the hammer strike, he struck the cartridge primer and a shot occurred.
Australian soldiers with Owen SMG. Photo of Wikimedia Commons
Under the force of recoil, the bolt began to move backward, stretching the cartridge case behind it. Having reached the rocking extractor, it was disconnected from the bolt and under its own weight fell through a window in the lower surface of the receiver. The shutter, in turn, went to the rear position and, depending on the fire mode, clung to the sear or went forward again.
Such mechanisms allowed the Owen submachine gun to fire at a rate of up to 700 shots per minute. The effective firing range provided by the 9x19 mm Para cartridge does not exceed the 150-200 m.
For disassembly and maintenance of weapons should use the appropriate lock and remove the barrel. After that, the bolt and reciprocating spring were removed from the receiver. Unscrewing the bottom screw, it was possible to remove the casing of the firing mechanism. The butt, regardless of the design and material, was also attached to the screw and could be detached from the casing of the trigger.
The used ammunition system, despite its unusual appearance, provided the submachine gun not only with high performance, but also good resistance to dirt. The lower position of the window for ejection of the sleeves made it difficult for dirt to get into the receiver box, and also made it easier to remove it: sand, earth, or water when moving the bolt fell out of the window themselves. A large trigger guard was also useful. When firing, drop-down cartridges fell on it and bounced off to the side, without burning the fingers of the shooter.
Early prototype of Owen SMG Mk 2. Photo by Awm.gov.au
In the 1942 year, after conducting military tests, a new weapon was put into service under the designation Owen SMG Mk 1 - "Owen submachine gun, version 1". Later this designation was changed to Mk 1-42 (by year of release) to distinguish it from later versions. During the years of World War II, the Australian industry launched the 45433 order for new submachine guns. About 12 units of thousand belonged to the base modification Mk 1-42 and equipped with metal butts. In 1943, the production of the Mk 1-43 variant was launched, featuring a new USM casing and a wooden butt. Such weapons were made in the number of 33 thousand.
A curious feature of Owen's serial submachine guns was the coloring. This weapon was intended for use by the Australian army, which led the fighting mainly in the southern regions of Asia and the Pacific with its own landscape features. For this reason, the weapons were camouflaged for the jungle, mostly yellow and green. The overwhelming majority of submachine guns that have survived to our day, have exactly this color, although there are both black and unpainted samples.
There is information about the development of an upgraded submachine gun with the designation Mk 2. Due to some design innovations, it was planned to raise the firing characteristics, as well as further reduce the weight. This version of the weapon reached mass production, but could not force out the base Mk 1. As a result, the release of the Owen submachine gun of the second model was limited to several hundred pieces.
The series production of the Owen SMG submachine gun continued until 1944. The simplicity of the design and low cost of production made it possible to manufacture more than 45 thousand units of such weapons, which was sufficient to solve all the problems of the Australian army. This weapon was actively used by Australia during the Second World War and subsequent conflicts. With Owen submachine guns, Australian troops marched into battle in Korea and Vietnam. At the end of the sixties, a massive write-off of submachine guns began, which developed their resources. Some of the remaining reserves were sold to third countries. A replacement for weapons of the Second World War were the F1 own Australian developments.
Serial Owen SMG Mk 2. Photo by Awm.gov.au
Working at Lysaghts Newcastle Works, Evelyn Owen was listed as an employee and received wages along with his other colleagues. In addition, after the adoption of a new submachine gun for service, the payment of premiums and patent royalties began. In total, Owen made 10 thousand pounds on his project. He used the money to build his own sawmill. At the same time, Owen continued to work on promising weapons in an initiative manner. After the war, a self-taught engineer became addicted to alcohol and died in 1949, never seeing the use of his weapon in new conflicts.
From the point of view of Lysaghts Newcastle Works, the design of the submachine gun was not particularly successful. Until the middle of 1941, she had to work on her own initiative, not counting on any reimbursement of expenses. In addition, Vincent Wardell had to literally fight for the project and, as they say, spend my nerves on his progress. Only after the start of mass production, the companies appointed a premium for the creation of a project in the amount of 4% of the value of orders. However, payments under this contract were constantly delayed, which is why the company received the full amount only in 1947 year - three years after the end of production. Due to delays in payments from the military department, the company could not repay loans on time, which led to an increase in already considerable debts. Payment of debts, fines, etc. led to a reduction in company profits from baseline 4% to 1,5% of the total cost of mass production.
Self-taught constructor Evelyn Owen began creating his own submachine gun in the late thirties, wanting to help the country in defending against possible threats. In the future, the specialists of Lysaghts Newcastle Works, who brought the project to mass production, showed their enthusiasm on this basis. As a result of the joint work, one of the most massive Australian weapons emerged, which, however, first led to large spending, and then brought its creators only quickly faded glory. However, in stories small arms submachine gun Owen SMG remained as one of the most interesting developments, even if not received much distribution.
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