Articles, Blog

Sterling Meets Owen: The Australian F1 Submachine Gun

December 2, 2019


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at the National Firearms Centre, part of the British Royal Armouries at Leeds, and we are taking a look at an Australian submachine gun. In fact the last military Australian
submachine gun that was actually produced. This is the F1, and it was adopted
in 1962 to replace the Owen gun. Now the Owen was a remarkably
ugly, and remarkably successful submachine gun design that came
out of Australia during World War Two. I have a separate video up on the Owen. So if you’re interested in that, I recommend
taking a look at that video for all the background. It’ll be linked at the end of this one. At any rate, the Owen was getting somewhat long in the tooth,
and the Australian military was looking for a replacement. And so they designed a new gun that
would be a little bit cheaper to manufacture, but they wanted to try and keep
the best aspects of the Owen. And well, … after we take a close look, we’ll talk
about whether or not they succeeded in that. But they, of course, kept the very
iconic top … mounted magazine design. They … actually kind of adopted a lot of the
elements of the Sterling submachine gun. So this gun would be produced from 1962 until 1973,
and they would make in total about 25,000 of them. So really not all that many in the grand scheme of things. The gun would be in service until the 1990s, when
it was ultimately replaced by a version of the F88, the … Austeyr F88, basically a Steyr AUG
that was adopted by the Australian military. So at that point, as with so many things
the Austeyr was intended to replace both the rifle and the submachine gun in a single
… bullpup, you know, compact rifle package. And it did that, replacing the F1
and the L1A1, the Australian FAL. So, let’s go ahead and take a
closer look at how this thing works. It is a simple blowback action, but it
does have some unique elements to it. Our markings on here are on the
side of the pistol grip assembly. Actually not the firing assembly itself, which is removable, but on the extension that’s welded onto
the receiver to contain the trigger group. And that’s just simply Submachine Gun, 9mm, F1. And then a serial number there. … Honestly, I haven’t seen enough of these to
know exactly what the serial number progression is, and there’s not much information written on them. My suspicion is that 73 is the year of manufacture,
and they restarted the serial numbers each year. But I’m not a hundred percent sure on that. The other side has our selector switch which
isn’t actually in a position there, (there we go). So that’s the safe position, that is the fire
position. It then has a progressive trigger, so pulling back just this far will fire in semi-auto. And
you can actually hear the disconnector clicking there. And if you want to fire in full-auto you
just pull the trigger all the way back. We have some writing up in here. There are two pins that hold the actual fire control
group in place. Those pins just push right out. However, you have to rotate them into the
free position instead of locked, so that’s locked, that is free. And in that position
we’re able to just push these pins out. We’ll get to disassembly though in just a moment. The charging handle is pretty
typical, it is non-reciprocating. Charge the gun back, close the charging handle, which
then blocks off this slot in the side of the receiver. Prevents dirt from getting in there. The gun does have a nice inline design. The
… receiver tube runs straight into this stock. Handles fairly nicely. In typical
kind of Commonwealth preference there is a sling swivel on top of the buttstock,
you’d see that on the Owen gun as well. The rear sight is a fixed aperture. However, it
can fold down like this, flush on to the receiver to prevent it from being damaged. That’s almost a necessary thing …
as thin and flimsy as this rear sight is. I would … expect this to be very prone to damage. If you are wandering through the jungle in Vietnam,
which by the way is where these things were used, I think it would be very easy to catch
this on something and bend that, especially this little top bit with the aperture,
if not knock the whole thing out of canter. Interestingly, instead of being mounted somewhere out on the
muzzle, the front sight is mounted to the side of the magazine well. On the one hand that reduces your
sight radius to something about a foot, if not a little bit less than that, 400mm or less. On the other hand, this is a nice easy place to put
the sight that allows it to be at the proper elevation, without adding, say, a front sight
tower sticking off the front of the gun. So you know, with decisions that one might disagree with
on gun design like this, there’s almost always a rationale. We may not agree with that rationale,
but they’re never done randomly. And so the decision was made to put the front sight back
here where it just adds to the mass of the magazine well. Speaking of which, the magazine release button is
on the left side here. Push in, pull the magazine out. These guns use standard Sterling magazines. They will
also use the Canadian made Sterling pattern magazines, which don’t have these cool rollers in them. And they can
actually also feed from Owen gun magazines, apparently. Which makes sense if you’re replacing the Owen, it allows you to
still use some of the magazines that are in service and in inventory. The Stirling mag, which is what it was really
intended to be used with and primarily used with, is a fantastic submachine gun magazine.
It is double stack, double feed, the rollers give it a very nice smooth
operation, and it … will hold 34 rounds. At the front we have a bayonet
lug on the side of the gun. There’s a sling swivel of course, but then
we have a … lug for the ring on the bayonet and a locking lug. This will hold a
standard SLR FAL pattern bayonet. You can remove the … barrel by pressing in
this button and unscrewing this front assembly. Unfortunately, this one is really tight and
I don’t have the wrench on hand to do it, so we’re gonna leave the barrel in place, but we will
go ahead and disassemble the back end of the gun. Start by taking the buttstock off.
There’s just a nice easy catch right there. Rotate the buttstock about 45 degrees,
it comes off with the recoil spring. Pull the bolt out of the back, very simple bolt. Then we’ve got the trigger assembly to remove. As I mentioned before, we rotate both of
these pins to the vertical free orientation and then the pins can just be pushed out. If you look at this pin you’ll
see it has two flats cut into it, that’s how it manages to be removable
in one orientation and fixed in the other. Once those pins are out, then we can just pull this (there we go), we can pull this assembly out. You’ll
notice they did in fact, just use an FAL grip on this thing. Along with probably the trigger
guard, and I think the trigger itself. Or at least the bottom half of the
trigger is taken from the Australian FAL. Once we have the grip out
you can see how it works here. When I pull the trigger back just a little bit, it
drops this sear just enough to release the bolt, and then trips it back up through
the semi-auto disconnector. If I then pull the trigger the rest of the way
it’s going to pull this down and hold it down. The receiver itself is basically just a tube with a bunch
of, you know, all the stuff welded on to it that you need. There’s the locking interface for the rear
end cap, the latch for holding it in place, charging handle, retained by that,
rear sight, magazine well, we’ve got our basically frame for holding
the fire control group in there. … I didn’t mention this before, this
is just a very simple basic hand stop to … give you some warning before you
pull your hand back under the ejection port. … Since it feeds from the top, it ejects right out the bottom.
There are good reasons to do a top feed design like this. For one thing you do get a bit of a bonus and an
assist from gravity in both feeding and ejection. It’s harder to get a case stuck in there when the whole bottom
is open and gravity is going to pull cases down and out. It also makes it harder for dirt
and debris to get into the gun. You know if you have … an ejection port on the
side, dirt can get in and it’ll sit in the receiver tube. If it’s literally pointing down … any dirt
that goes in tends to fall right back out. And then lastly having a top mounted magazine
has some advantages and some disadvantages, this is something that always comes up.
A top-mounted magazine has the benefit of you … can go nice and low prone with the gun, because
you can have a long magazine without … hitting the ground. It also means you don’t have a magazine sticking
out the side where it could interfere with brush or anything else that you’re trying to walk through. The downside, of course, is that it does
interfere with your centre mounted sights. So sights on this sort of thing
have to be offset to one side. One of the curious questions to me that I
have not yet been able to find an answer to is why the Australians offset their sights
to the right of the gun instead of the left. This is great for a left-handed shooter
like me, but it’s a little bit awkward for right-handed shooters who have to roll their head a little
bit over the side of the gun to line up on the sights. The Australians are the only country that I’ve ever run
into, at least that I can recall running into, that have done … right side sights. Basically left-hander sights. And
it’s not just the F1, they also did this on the Owen gun. Everybody else who has ever done
offset sights puts them on the left side, which is more convenient for right-handed shooters
who make up the vast majority of any military force. So, if you happen to know why the
Australians did this I’d love to find out, otherwise I will probably have to go to some
place like Lithgow and ask the people there. The bolt for the F1 really doesn’t have anything
particularly new or innovative or different about it. It is just a big heavy mass. It … is longer
than … a lot of submachine gun bolts, but it’s not necessarily that much heavier, because it has a lot
of hollow space in the back where the recoil spring nests in. It does have a fixed firing pin. It’s actually
going to be like this when lined up in the gun. Feeds from the top, extractor on the bottom, kicks cartridges out downwards, of course. … Apparently part of the idea with the F1
was to have a lower rate of fire than the Owen. The Owen wasn’t all that fast, the Owen
was something like 700 rounds a minute. The F1 is allegedly more like 600. To my mind that
difference isn’t really significant, but apparently it is true. I haven’t actually fired an … F1 and I do always
take printed rate of fire numbers with a grain of salt, because there are a lot of factors that can go into those. There’s the whole thing field stripped. Again, pretty basic simple submachine gun, so. Well, let’s go ahead and talk about how it actually
handles, and how this qualitatively compares to the other submachine guns that are out there. From the sources that I found it appears that, while
these were originally intended as front-line combat guns, in Vietnam (which is the primary place where they
were actually used in combat), they were fairly quickly replaced by American M16 rifle and carbine
variants which were preferable to a lot of the soldiers. And these kind of got relegated to a
sort of secondary usage, guys like drivers. And to my mind looking at one of these,
and admittedly without having fired one, I think they managed to lose a lot of sort of the special
sauce that made the Owen such a really fantastic gun. The top mounted magazine they have
retained, which is good for what it is. However the sight radius is quite a
bit shorter, which doesn’t help things. I think the progressive trigger is a mistake. I don’t
think those have ever been really all that effective, … they are not preferable in my mind to a selector
switch, especially a simple three position selector. If you want to have semi-auto, just take your safety switch
and give it three positions, a safe, a semi, and a full. I think that works better than having
this sort of progressive trigger pull idea. They lost the major element that made
Owen gun so incredibly reliable, which is basically this split in the gun
where the bolt is up in the front, but it is very specifically and very effectively
segregated from the recoil spring in the back, which allows it to really be very
resistant to ingress of dirt and debris. And the F1 here gets rid of that in favour of just a very
simple typical open tube design like a Sten or a Stirling. The grip is fine, the stock is fine, the inline design is fine. The rear sight I think is a problem,
much too easily damaged there. And overall, I don’t want to say this is a bad
submachine gun. Everything I’ve been able to find out, everything I’ve discovered from handling it,
it’s a perfectly adequate, good submachine gun. It’s just not in that upper echelon of really
great submachine guns like the Owen was, so. At any rate, I’d like to give a big thanks to the
Royal Armouries for allowing me to pull out their F1. These things are pretty rare to find outside of Australia
these days, so it was a really good opportunity for me. If you’re interested in visiting the Pattern Room, well, the
Pattern Room Collection which is part of the NFC today. They are open by appointment only to
researchers, not to the general public at large. But if you contact them via their website,
which is in the description text below, they’d be happy to chat to you and make an appointment
to arrange a visit for whatever research you’re doing. Thanks for watching.

21 Comments

  • Reply Alpharius Omegon October 7, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    U forget everything is upside down here so the feed and sight are all correct down under, as for why we did it….. Couldn't tell u cos I'm left handed as well so you see no complaints from me 😛

    I wish we made more indigenous war gear but alas 🙁

  • Reply Eisen Kursk October 8, 2019 at 1:30 am

    that rear sight is giving me the heebly jeeblies

  • Reply Steven Humphries October 8, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I used this weapon when I served, loved it although it climbed high right, and it was a top magazine. Wizard you are mistaken. Very simple to use, although the sights were a waste of time.They were great for us in the Navy as the size enabled easy movement in corridors, and shooting around corners, so far as the sight, it's a spray and pray….lol But I did enjoy firing this gun. Short bursts were the optimum choice, to reduce the climb.

  • Reply True South October 8, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    The F1 SMG is a fairly good weapon for armoured vehicle crews. I used one for about 4 years before the F88 replaced it. Sure the F88 carbine is an awesome replacement but the F1 was still a good bit of kit for its time.

  • Reply Dis Count October 9, 2019 at 2:15 am

    they should have let some kid in a shed design it

  • Reply rooster teeth October 12, 2019 at 8:18 am

    I only ever fired it during recruit training at Kapooka. Tankies used them as there personal carry weapon due to their size. Never even saw one in an infantry battalion. Anybody else remember that trigger jarring your finger on full auto or was that just a figment of my imagination?

  • Reply Maury Ginsberg October 13, 2019 at 9:23 am

    10:52 The reason the sight is on the opposite side is because it was designed in the southern hemisphere where everything is opposite & reverse to what it is like in the northern hemisphere. You can do an experiment to demonstrate this anomaly by pulling the plug out of a sink and watch the water swirl the opposite direction. I hope this explanation helps.

  • Reply scooter2099 October 17, 2019 at 1:49 am

    Truth was, as a former section forward scout (late 70's) – I once asked the CSM what I was supposed to aim at with the F1 – being ex-Vietnam, he said you weren't expected to hit anything with it – basically it was a shoot and scoot weapon. If you ever got into an unexpected contact as a Scout, just spray in the general direction of the bad guys and run like f*ck. Good advice. Sights were a luxury.

  • Reply wilson pickett October 17, 2019 at 4:15 am

    Two full magazines at man size target at 25 meters didn't need a single patch never make sailor with a hangover who went to bed at 5am and on the range by 7am have to shootand the army instructor,s quote about the F1 at 50 yards a good woolly jumper would stop the bullets

  • Reply Jay Ray October 17, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Most Australians are inbred and therefore left handed, hence the sights.

  • Reply MupDog October 20, 2019 at 6:25 am

    Open breach weapon…slap the top of the mag to drive it home and you find yourself with 30 rounds at your feet and having to reload all over again. Fun times watching the new guys get a bollocking from the range officer!!

  • Reply Chris B October 22, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I remember playing with one of those when posted to 1sig in the late 80s. Generally underwhelming and rarely used from memory

  • Reply Trigger Time October 25, 2019 at 6:06 am

    Everyone, put your hands up as if you are holding and imaginary rifle as a right hander.

    Now raise your elbow out, and in turn roll your right wrist inward.
    Fairly natural.
    Now try tucking your elbow down towards your body and roll your right wrist out to the right.
    Not as natural.

    It's just ergonomics

  • Reply Gwongetouthere October 26, 2019 at 10:04 am

    can you please fire one of these for us??

  • Reply Declan Jones October 28, 2019 at 5:09 am

    Well I would imagine that the right side sights are because naturally to get a sight picture the weapon would need to be tilted, so it makes sense to have a tilt that makes access to the mag with the left hand easy. Tilted the other way, maintaining a sight picture whilst prone and doing a mag change might become more awkward. Maybe a potential factor among many.

  • Reply Omar Austin October 28, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    There are SO many weird guns in the world that you could make a pretty badass video game with them. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to learn C# and how to use the Unity game engine.

  • Reply RGP B October 29, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Jfc the unpersonalized ads are a nightmare on this channel

  • Reply Ron Ti November 2, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Actually to be a little picky the replacement for the F1 was the F88…..carbine. Nice short barrel, and good when you have to get in and out of vehicles, helos, etc. Joined too late to even see an F1 but great to read the excellent comments from ex-ADF members.
    Thanks for your service guys….

  • Reply jtan163 November 2, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Thats an L1A1 bayonet thanks Ian. 🙂

  • Reply jtan163 November 2, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    FYI I believe F1s were not used in Vietnam. I believe the Owen gun was in service in the early tours, and it was eventually replaced with AR-15s/M16s when the Owen went out of service.
    Since the issue of the AR-15/M16 I don't believe SMGs have been on general issue to infantry battallions.
    The F1 was intended as a weapon for someone whose main job was not infantry combat, e.g AFV crewmen, drivers, MPs, etc.

  • Reply Elvis Presley November 5, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    I guess ian doesnt like progressives.

  • Reply mick Warnie November 17, 2019 at 8:53 am

    The owen was still used untill 1966 and it was not ugly you are

  • Leave a Reply