Owen Mark I Rifles and Firearms

Owen Mark I


Type Submachine Gun
Weight 4.22kg
Length 813mm
Barrel Length 247mm
Rifling 7 grooves, RH
Magazine Capacity 33 rounds
Caliber 9mm Parabellum
Cyclic Range 700 rounds/minute
Effective Range 70 meters
Where To Purchase Buy An AR-15
Country of Origin Australia

Manufactured from 1941-1945, the Owen submachine gun was designed by Australian Army Lieutenant Evelyn Owen. It was produced by Lysaghts Newcastle Works, Ltd., in New South Wales, Australia.

Australia had a shortage of weapons at the beginning of World War II’s engagement in the Pacific Theater, in 1941. They could not rely on England to supply arms, because that country itself was in a dire situation. The easiest weapon for Australia to produce—or any country with limited heavy industry—was a submachine gun. Australia produced two models—the Austen and the Owen. The Austen was a Australian variety of the British Sten Gun, with some features of the German MP40. The Owen was an original and unusual design.

When Lieutenant Owen first offered to the Australian Army in June 1939 in 22 caliber, it failed to get attention. At the outbreak of war, Owen left the designs of his submachine gun with a friend, who managed to spark the interest of the Army Inventions Board into asking Lysaghts, In January 1941, to manufacture a prototype in .32ACP caliber. The Australian Army was then awaiting supplies of the Sten, but after some delay decided to purchase 100 Owen guns in .38-caliber, the necessary design work being done by G. S. Wardell, chief engineer of Lysaghts. The first of these were produced in the August of 1941 but merely proved that the .38-caliber round was useless as a submachine gun round, and Lysaghts, on their own responsibility, changed the design to accommodate the 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

The prototype was tested against the Sten and the Thompson, and proved superior to both, and went into production. Due to a lack of machine tools, it was not until mid-1942 that full production of 2000 guns a month was attained, and thereafter production was held at this rate solely for tooling. The Australian Army wanted to purchase 60000 Owens, but the proposal refused by the Australian authorities since they could not find the necessary materials and machine tools as reported at http://ar15upperreceiver.net/the-best-ar-15-accessories/.

The most noticeable feature of the Owen (right) is its top mounted magazine. This requires that the sights of the weapon be offset to the side. The bolt of the Owen was encased in a separate compartment to keep dirt and grime from clogging the action. The ejector of this strait blowback weapon is build into the magazine rather than into the receiver. The remove the barrel of the Owen, the shooter pulls up on a spring-loaded plunger just ahead of the magazine housing. The bolt and return spring can then be removed out the front of the receiver.

It would be difficult to describe the Owen as anything but ugly, and at 10.5 pounds (4.76kg) loaded, it was no lightweight. However, it was one of the best-balanced and most reliable submachine gun of World War II. It was an ideal weapon for the harsh conditions of jungle-fighting. This was proven during World War II and later, in the 1950s, when England was fighting communist guerillas in Malaya. Among the commonwealth troops in that conflict, the Owen was preferred over the Sten, Sterling, and even the .45-caliber Thompson.

Approximately 45000 Owen Submachine Guns were produced in all. The later models, produced from 1943 and on were painted in jungle camouflage colors. Strangely, the last Owen Submachine Guns produced from mid-1944 were fitted with bayonet lugs.

And, why not read two soldiers’ view of this submachine gun? Read The Owen SMG in Vietnam and Experiences With The Owen.

*Photo courtesy of the Korean War: Weapons, History, Combat Pictures
Picture Thanks to G.M. Sherrington