L. James Sullivan

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Leroy James Sullivan
Born (1933-06-27) June 27, 1933 (age 90)[1]
Other namesJim Sullivan
Alma materUniversity of Washington[2]
OccupationSmall arms designer
Known for

Leroy James Sullivan (born June 27, 1933) is an American firearms inventor. Going by Jim Sullivan, he has designed several "scaled-down" versions of larger firearms.

Early life[edit]

Sullivan was born on June 27, 1933, in Nome, Alaska.[1] Sullivan lived in Nome until he was seven years old, concerned that World War II would spread to Alaska, Sullivan's family moved to Seattle, Washington.[1]


Sullivan attended the public schools of Seattle, and later in Kennewick, Washington.[2] Sullivan went on to study engineering, for two years, at the University of Washington in Seattle. Aware that he was about to be drafted to fight in the Korean War Sullivan wanted to become an Army diver, so he left the University of Washington to attend the Sparling School of Deep Sea Diving in Long Beach, California.[2]

Military service[edit]

Sullivan served in the US Army, from 1953 to 1955,[1] although he was trained by the Army to be a telephone installer and repairman.[1] Due to his civilian training he went overseas to Korea in 1954, where he was assigned by the Army to be a diver to repair oil pipelines and other facilities damaged during the US invasion of Inchon Harbor.[1][2]

Small arms designer[edit]

Sullivan is largely responsible for the Ultimax 100 light machine gun and the SureFire MGX. He also contributed to the Ruger M77 rifle, M16,[3] Stoner 63, and Ruger Mini-14 rifles (scaled from the AR-10, Stoner 62, and M14 rifle respectively).[4]

Armwest LLC M4[edit]

In 2014, Sullivan provided a video interview regarding his contributions to the M16/M4 family of rifles while working for Armalite. A noted critic of the M4, he illustrates the deficiencies found in the rifle in its current configuration. In the video, he demonstrates his "Arm West LLC modified M4", with enhancements he believes necessary to rectify the issues with the weapon. Proprietary issues aside, the weapon is said to borrow features in his prior development, the Ultimax. Sullivan has stated (without exact details as to how) the weapon can fire from the closed bolt in semi-automatic and switch to open bolt when firing in fully automatic, improving accuracy. The weight of the cyclic components of the gun has been doubled (while retaining the weapon's weight at less than eight pounds). Compared to the standard M4, which in automatic fires 750-950 rounds a minute, the rate of fire of the Arm West M4 is heavily reduced both to save ammunition and reduce barrel wear. The reduced rate also renders the weapon more controllable and accurate in automatic firing.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shea, Dan (February 2008), The Interview: L. James Sullivan Part I, The Small Arms Review, Vol. 11, No. 5, Henderson, Nevada: Chipotle Publishing, LLC
  2. ^ a b c d Ezell, Virginia Hart (February 2001), The Evolution of Invention: An Interview with L. James Sullivan Gun Designer, The Small Arms Review, Vol. 4 No. 5., Henderson, Nevada: Chipotle Publishing, LLC, p. 78
  3. ^ Ezell, Virginia Hart (November 2001). "Focus on Basics, Urges Small Arms Designer". National Defense. National Defense Industrial Association. Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Defense Department Sticks With M-16s Despite Problems". Public Broadcasting Service. 2007-09-24. Archived from the original (Transcript) on 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
  5. ^ "Interview & Shooting: Jim Sullivan, AR-15 Designer". Full30: INRANGE TV. 26 November 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-02-28.