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Author Topic: From Nome Alaska to the AR15 - A long read of Jim Sullivan the original designer  (Read 254 times)

Offline BoBallistic

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Between the article "The Godfather Returns" in my latest Guns and Ammo (July 2018)and my research in Jim Sullivan I have found out many things about Mr Sullivan....Jim Sullivan we all should remember...he is the original designer of the AR15...Mr Sullivan is still among us at 85 years young and still drives like a bat out of H@##....LOL...Some history books will credit Eugene Stoner as the designer of the AR but it was actually George "Jim" Sullivan who was the original inventor...you can give the credit for the AR10 to Eugene....with a little assist from Jim on its design....

Jim was born in Nome Alaska in 1933 and because of the World War II right there only a few hundred miles away, the family made a decision to move to Seattle to escape fearing the spread of WW2. He was attending University of Washington for a couple of years and with him being at the age for the draft for the Korean War so Jim did what any sane person would do is to join the Army...He left the University of Washington to attend the Sparling School of Deep Sea Diving in Long Beach, CA.....
He joined the Army and thought he would be on their Dive team...be we all know how the Army or any military branch does you, they trained you they way they want to....The initial trained him to be a telephone installer and repairman but his civilian training made him a candidate for the Army Korean Dive team to do pipe installation and repairs for the invasion of Inchon Harbor....

Jim went to work for Eugene Stoner back in the mid 50's, Eugene who founded Armalite in 1954. Armalite was part of the Fairfield Engine and Aircraft Corporation. They were responsible for small survival weapons design such as their first published design for the Army was the AR5. Remember the AR stands for Armalite not anything else.....but I do remember the AR7, I think a bunch of us do and some still have the classic AR7....but their first 22 Hornet rifle the AR5 was pushed into production....the beauty of the AR5 is that it was modular similar to the AR7, it was waterproof, had to be able float in water and ammo stayed dry....this was due to many water ejections by the Air Force Pilots...so this was a much needed design.

Jim with his hands on experience and working after his Army days for Lockheed Aircraft Company came up with ideas of using plastic and aluminum in a survival type rifle so with these plans Jim went to work for Stoner (both of these guys were very young back then) Eugene being a Marine and independent weapons designer both working together came up with the AR5 design....They also thought of this weapon being used as the AR7 civilian rifle for back packing or hiking or as original design as a survival rifle. But first their bigger concern was the replacement of the M1

In 1955 the Army was looking to replace the M1 Garand something with more capacity and lighter....the Army was using the old FAL as their bases for replacement.....so Eugene and Jim went to work to come up with a design. Eugene Stoner came up with the original AR10 version similar to the Army's T44 and their T48 designs (the FAL design). Armalite submitted their design to the Army for consideration very late in the contest. Their original AR10 design weighted less than 7 lbs and had a capacity of 10+1....so the Army was happy with the AR10 design....
The AR10 design got the Army's Attention and they asked Armalite to come up with a design of a smaller caliber....in 1956 with the current philosophy the Army decided against the AR15 design because it was too late in the design phase to go with the new design, so in 1959 the Army designed to go with FAL designs the T44 and the T48...Armalite...you snooze you loose...for now....

In need of money, Eugene Stoner sells the AR10 through a licensing agreements to the Dutch. Even thought sales were limited and the AR5 the aquatic survival rifle did not catch on back then so the need for money increases....so Armalite licenses both the AR10 and AR15 to Colt Firearms....a guy named Robert Fremont a key player in the designs of both the AR10 and AR15, left Armalite for Colt Firearms with the continuation of the AR15 Design. This eases the financial commitment and Armalite release the Civilian version of the AR5 called the AR7 Survival Rifle the release was not in the 22 hornet the original design called for but the 22 LR. Armalite thought the 22 LR would be a stronger seller than the 22 Hornet and they were right....

Colt had money problems of its own back then so they sell the first AR15 not to our army but to the Federation of Malaysia (their Army).
In 1961 Stoner leaves Armalite to become a consultant to Colt Firearms...When he left Armalite they were out of the AR business (at that time). In 61 Our Air Force test the AR15 and purchases 8500 rifles. After testing the Air Force Standardizes the AR15  and puts a purchased order in for 85K AR15 rifles and changes it designation to M16 and also that year,  our Army purchases 85K rifles from Colt, now called the M16.....

In 1965 the M16 had the bugs worked out of it, but the jams and design flaws cost us dearly.  We lost many of young men due to the design flaws of the first M16.....but this did not keep the Army from ordering another 300K AR15 from Colt.....

Armalite was sold in 1983 to a Philippine Company called Elisco Tool Manufacturing Co. and in 1987 all US operations for Armalite ended by Elisco....in 1988 Colt loses the contract to government contract to supply the M16 for the troops to Eagle Arms. In 1989 Lewis Machine and Tool Company commonly known as LMT (I have heard of them) and they renamed their company to Eagle Arms and won the Government Contract for supplying the M16 to our troops.....

Colt was hurting financially really bad and had to file for Chapter 11 in 1992...ouch....and it drug on and on for years.....in 1994 a guy named Mark Westrom bought Eagle Arms. That same year Colt wins a Army Contract to supply 19K M4 Carbine of the M16 to the Army and Special Forces operations.....

Thought Armalite name was dead, think again...In 1995 Westrom and Eagle Arms purchased the right to the Armalite Name and Brands. They started producing the AR-10B in 308....during this same period, Knight's Manufacturer made the AR10 in derivative rifles, their SR25 rifle....Eugene Stoner left Colt in the early 90's before Colt file bankruptcy and went to work for Knight Manufacturing in hopes to get a Government Contact...The SR25 stands for Stoner Rifle which in its first design was made for snipers, heavy barrel, slower twist rate and slightly new AR10 design change.....all the design changes was to shoot 168 gn bullet out of it, so the Army award a contract for the 168 gn ammo only...to feed the SR25 rifle.....

Also in 1995, Colt wins another Government Contract in 1998 to produce another 16,000 M4 Carbines...Well in 1998 Colt wins back the contract to supply M16 rifles and had an initial order of 32K rifles, later on they made upgrades to the M16 A1 and called it the A2 configuration....the Army ordered 88K of them!!!
 
So that brings us back to the Article in the July Issue of Guns and Ammo where Surefire hired Jim Sullivan to modify the BCG (Bolt Carrier Group). He is an interesting man who moved from Nome Alaska because the WW2 was getting to close for his family....and now this.....what a great team that he and Stoner made when we were just pups ourselves......

Today there are over 12 Million, yes I said 12 Million that make parts for the AR style rifle in all of it wonderful variations....as some folks have said that it is the ultimate man's Lego toys....I happen to agree......
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Offline Gutshot

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Now there's a history lesson for everyone, Thanks Bo
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Offline BoBallistic

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Gut - Trying to find where Jim went to work in a small arms factory right out of the army....he only worked there for about 6 months and trying to find the name of the company and what his responsibility was and how long did he work there....he left this small company and went to work at Lockheed Aircraft Company working on the AR1 thru AR5 rifles before leaving Lockheed.....

It was fun finding out all this info on this guy and his role in the development of our beloved AR style rifles......

Another piece of documentation that I uncovered off the internet so take it for what it is worth, but after reading it...The M16 had haters and lovers of it......another 5.56 fact that I found out was the impact of the 55 grain bullet going at 3200 fps on the human body and how it describes it....don't want to tell you the details but you can image the horrors of war.....

http://www.m4carbine.net/showthread.php?139475-The-Secret-History-of-Eugene-Stoner-and-the-M16.....interesting.....but Jim Sullivan name is not mention in the Gov Report.....But download the PDF file to your computer and set back and read it...amazing facts in it about the M16.....

Another nugget: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-complete-history-of-the-ar-15-rifle

« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 05:44:15 PM by BoBallistic »
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Offline Madgomer

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Fascinating stuff Bo, thanks very much for the post.   I'm familiar with LMT (Lewis Machine & Tool), they're in Milan IL, just a short drive (20 minutes) from my in-laws place just south of the Quad Cities - in Rock Island County, home of the Rock Island Arsenal - no coincidence, there are quite a few small arms manufacturers in the area as a natural response to the arsenal being located there.  LMT, Springfield Armory (Geneseo), Rock River Arms, and more are some of the names you might recognize.  Really hard to believe that the insanity of Illinois' anti-gun politics hasn't driven all of them out of state already.  If any of you guys are ever in the Quad Cities with time available, see if they're giving tours on Arsenal Island - some interesting history there going back into the 1800's.

By the way, one of our TH members, Bob Berger, just moved to Milan a year or two ago, he might be able to share more about the various firearms manufacturers in the area.
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Offline yari

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quite a life. labor of love so to speak

mad- I always from that interesting for such a liberal state to have those companies
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Offline Madgomer

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quite a life. labor of love so to speak

mad- I always from that interesting for such a liberal state to have those companies
I think the goofy liberal crap came to the state long after the Arsenal was established, and the local manufacturers were either supporting the Arsenal or were entrepreneurs who learned the trade through the Arsenal & then set out on their own locally.  But yeah, at some point I expect the Chicago nonsense will drive them across state lines.  Les Baer for example is just across the river in LeClaire Iowa.
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Offline yari

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quite a life. labor of love so to speak

mad- I always from that interesting for such a liberal state to have those companies
I think the goofy liberal crap came to the state long after the Arsenal was established, and the local manufacturers were either supporting the Arsenal or were entrepreneurs who learned the trade through the Arsenal & then set out on their own locally.  But yeah, at some point I expect the Chicago nonsense will drive them across state lines.  Les Baer for example is just across the river in LeClaire Iowa.

i'm sure that is true, but at some point they will get pushed out unless ILL politics change I think
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Offline Madgomer

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Without question - I suspect most of those companies are already planning an exit strategy.  They're just one silly bill away from being forced to either leave or shut their doors.
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Offline BoBallistic

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Did not know all of this info but Jim Sullivan helped design the AR-15 back in 1957, and later the Ruger M77, the Stoner 63, Ruger Mini-14 and the crowd favorite Ultimax 100. Most recently he was the brains behind Surefire’s 60 and 100 round quad-stack AR-15 magazines.

And now he has tweaked the AR15 Bolt Carrier Group for Surefire....have a couple of those 60 round magazines form Surefire (they are still in their original packing) and never knew that Jim was a part of that design....Had to wait almost two years on those 60 round magazines...LOL

Had hear that first designs were from the AR1 thru AR5 (a Jim and Eugene collaboration) and the Air Force was interesting in a survival rifle, Eugene worked for Lockheed Aircraft Company at the time and Jim did not, but later on Jim did go to work for Lockheed ...later on they re-designated it the civilian version called the AR7....shortly after the AR7 was adopted, both Jim and Eugene Stoner jumped into action and developed the AR15, which was 75% Jim design and 25% Eugene design, and the AR10 which was 75% Eugene design and 25% Jim design....also read somewhere where Jim design the Ruger Mini 14, the Ranch Rifle.....



 
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Offline BoBallistic

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https://www.full30.com/video/9b50f8a825ab510b4c227c7b32a76bc1

Great Interview with Jim Sullivan......give some insite to Jim history and Armalite history and the AR15.....Jim started out as a Draftsman for Armalite......

Yep he was a drafter you can tell buy looking around at his desk...and that old pencil sharpener.......
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 05:58:14 AM by BoBallistic »
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Offline yari

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my first rifle was a M77 .270. it is still a heck of a shooter
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