Interview & Shooting: Jim Sullivan, AR-15 Designer

A co-worker shared the below video with me the other day. A very interesting interview with Jim Sullivan who worked with Eugene Stoner and who designed the AR-15. Although Eugene Stoner is given full credit for the AR, according to Jim he had a very small role in the actual design. I don’t know the true story other than what I have read, but the team that Stoner had around him didn’t hurt with creating his legacy and a great battle rifle. No matter who designed the rifle the end result is a weapon that has endured 50 plus years of combat and a pretty solid record of reliability after the politicians were taken out of the equation.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to, the first introduction of the M-16 under Robert McNamara then the Secretary Of Defense, his staff and budget team, the Whiz Kids as they were called at the time decided to cut cost and corners by substituting stick powder vice the ball powder in the ammunition the weapon was originally designed to use. Along with the ammunition controversy and what one can only say the stupid claim that the rifle was self cleaning. It created a false sense of security that caused a lot of issues in the field. What troop wouldn’t want a self cleaning rifle? And again to save money, cleaning kits were never issued to troops. But that is a whole story unto itself.


After watching the video it sure seems as though the evolution of the AR15/M16 rifle is continuing under Jim’s tutelage. One interesting item, at least in my mind is the way his recent modifications allow the rifle to go from a closed bolt system to an open bolt and full automatic fire. He also talks about how he made the bolt heavier which keeps muzzle flip down to a minimum during a full auto burst. Jim made a statement that this rifle could eventually replace the M249. I don’t have the technical background to refute his statement, only time will tell. And my only experience with the M249 is carrying the damn thing around for a week and shooting it twice on a range. I can tell you it sucks carrying that machine gun around! And for those that have carried it for months or years? I am sure they would welcome a lighter weapon with close to or the same rate of fire.

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