Australia’s Owen submachine gun: Ugly but oh so effective! (Updated video)

It might have been ugly, but the Digger's Darling was a jungle-fighting favourite

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The Owen submachine gun proved to be as popular as it was unstoppable as a weapon for jungle warfare, and the so-called Digger’s Darling served Australian troops from WWII through to Vietnam.

It was more desirable in the field than the less reliable Thompson, Sten and Austen submachine guns, and some reports suggest US troops liked it so much the US military almost bought some.

About 45,000 Owens were made during WWII, and when eventually the weapon was phased out it was replaced by the F1, an evolution of the same design.

The Owen could fire accurate aimed shots but was commonly shot from the hip, aided by a sling across the left shoulder

The story of the Owen gun is inextricably linked with the man who came up with the concept, Evelyn Owen, who’d spent his childhood teaching himself to make firearms and bombs.

Probably in his early 20s, just before WWII, Evelyn built a prototype submachine gun in .22LR at home! Later he enlisted for war as a private solider and others resurrected his design. After much convincing, a reluctant Australian military was cajoled into adopting it.

Evelyn was commissioned and remained in Australia for the war, promoting his invention. He died in 1949, at the age of only 33.

Ian Skennerton, an expert on Australian and other military weapons, produced this video about the Owen, which tells the whole story very well. See his website for more details of his excellent books and other publications.

 

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