Extratropical cyclones dominate autumn and winter weather over western Europe. The strongest cyclones, often termed windstorms, have a large socio-economic impact due to the strong surface winds and associated storm surges in coastal areas. Here we show that sting jets are a common feature of windstorms; up to a third of the 100 most intense North-Atlantic winter windstorms over the last two decades satisfy conditions for sting jets. The sting jet is a mesoscale descending airstream that can cause strong near-surface winds in the dry slot of the cyclone, a region not usually associated with strong winds. Despite their localized transient nature, these sting jets can cause significant damage, a prominent example being the storm that devastated southeast England on 16 October 1987. We present the first regional climatology of windstorms with sting jets. Previously analysed sting-jet cases appear to have been exceptional in their track over northwest Europe rather than in their strength.