The Lanchester MK1 – The First British Emergency SMG from WW2

While the STEN gun endures to this day, if only as the “cheapest” full-auto machine gun that US┬ácivilians can purchase, it was not the first sub machine gun from the UK in World War II. That honor goes to the Lanchester MkI, which certainly has a familiar pattern.

With an utter lack of “gangster guns” in their arsenals, the United Kingdom was desperate to arm up with the prospect of a German invasion. According to Ian at Forgotten Weapons, the British military had nary a single sub-machine gun, despite their proven utility. Recognizing this, the British rapidly developed the capability, while starting to purchase Thompson SMGs – an expensive proposition.

Inspired by the German MP28, or rather reverse-engineered from one, the Lanchester is named after the primary engineer responsible for the weapon, George Lanchester. Lanchester worked for Sterling Engineering, which not-so-coincidentally became known for their Sterling sub-machine guns during and after the war.

The weapon was functional if a bit sparse, serving with the Royal Navy during and for decades after the war. The British Army quickly moved to the Sten, which was faster and less expensive to manufacture.

For the full story, field stripping, and details on the weapon check our Forgotten Weapons’ latest video below:


TFB’s FNG. Completely irreverent of all things marketing but a passionate lover of new ideas and old ones well executed. Enjoys musing on all things firearms, shooting 3-gun, and attempting to be both tacticool AND tactical.


  • PK

    Personally, of these fairly early SMGs, I tend to prefer the MP28/II. The Lanchester, as beautiful as that bronze magazine housing and as sleek as the stock… something about it has always looked slightly “off” in comparison to the MP28/II, to my eye. I’ve never really been able to pin down exactly what, though!

    • ostiariusalpha

      From a practical ergonomics perspective, the Lanchester has a considerably more horizontal grip than the Schmeisser, making it more awkward to shoulder for such a short LOP.

      • Ranger Rick

        And does not require the 32 round drum mag at an awkward angle.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Schmeisser’s MP28 doesn’t use the Luger drum mag either.

          • Ranger Rick


      • PK

        You know… that might be what’s always bothered me with the looks. Thanks for an outside perspective!

        • ostiariusalpha

          Right, if you compare the Schmeisser, Suomi, and Degtyaryov, they all share a common grip angle that the Lanchester stands out from because of its sleeker stock. Even the Reising has a more similar silhouette to the other SMGs.

        • kyphe

          When My eyes see a Lanchester they always keep looking for the rest of the Enfield like a bad photoshop image.

      • Mike

        30 round sticks might make it easier to shoulder over a horizontal mag, but the horizontal mag wins when you go prone.

        • Eric S

          Something I’ve learned with tube guns of that era is that their magazines suck. Part of the problem of having vertical mags is that they don’t seat well and cause the gun to jam. This is less of an issue with vertical mags because they don’t have gravity trying to pull them out.