In weekly articles, Leigh offers some information on small arms, equipment and armour.
Osprey author, Leigh Neville, looks at the iconic Australian Owen Gun featured in King & Country’s Vietnam ANZACs range.
One of history’s more unusual sub-machinegun (SMG) designs, the Australian Owen Machine Carbine served as the general issue SMG with the Australian Army from the Second World War, through the Korean War to Vietnam. The Owen was distinctive for its top loading 33 round magazine, necessitating off-set sights. Spent casings, equally unusually, ejected from the bottom of the weapon.
Intriguingly, the prototype weapon was developed in three calibres; the common 9x19mm (9mm Luger or Parabellum), the .45ACP, and the oddball .38-200 (9x20mm or .38 S&W used in revolvers). Trialled against the American .45ACP Thompson and the British 9x19mm Sten, the Australian design came out on top in terms of reliability.
The weapon was much liked by Diggers serving in New Guinea and later Korea for its relatively light weight at just over four kilograms, its compact size and ‘pointability’, and automatic function which proved useful when firing at fleeting targets in jungle or scrub. The Owen was joined by the Austen, as the name suggests, an Australian variant of the Sten, but the weapon never enjoyed the popularity of the Owen.
The Owen was officially replaced by another top-loading design, the 9x19mm F1, in the early 1960s but stocks of the Owen remained in battalion armouries. In Vietnam, the Owen was still issued to lead scouts and some NCOs and signallers within infantry sections along with armoured vehicle crewmen. It was also an ideal weapon for officers. Although remaining popular, the 9x19mm round used by the Owen and F1 proved less than ideal in heavy jungle and both weapons were supplemented by the American 5.56x45mm M16A1.
The Owen is featured in two King & Country releases available from Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers:
KCVN064 Patrol Leader
and the Battle of Long Tan Set #1
For more information on ANZACs in Vietnam, we recommend to have a look at the Osprey Elite 103 book: