The small arms community should remember its roots and work on
improving the internal functioning of weapons, rather than developing
peripheral products, such as laser designators and fire-control
devices, according to L. James Sullivan, a veteran small arms designer.
It takes longer for a soldier to reload—well over one minute—than
it does to expend all of the rounds in a single magazine, Sullivan
reminded a conference sponsored recently by the National Defense
Industrial Association in Little Rock, Ark.
Why not, he asked, take a look at some of the basic issues of the
design to help the soldier increase his ability to hit a target,
rather than invest millions of dollars in a weapon that is rapidly
becoming a Swiss Army Knife of rifles?
“Let’s fix the inside before we start trying to fix
the outside,” said Sullivan.
At the Joint Services Small Arms Symposium, Sullivan received the
Chinn Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Executive Committee
of NDIA’s Small Arms Systems Section, in recognition of four
decades of design and engineering achievements.
George Chinn is considered by many as the master of military small
Sullivan is known for his work on the M16 family of weapons. He
is credited with adapting the design of Eugene Stoner’s 7.62mm
AR10 assault rifle to a smaller 5.56mm version, which ultimately
became the now ubiquitous M16.
From his work with Stoner on the M16, Sullivan moved to Singapore,
to work on a new light machine gun for Chartered Industries, now
known as Singapore Technologies. The outcome was the 5.56mm Ultimax
light machine gun, noted by experts as one of the most manageable
light machine guns in the world. The secret of its manageability
is in Sullivan’s patented counter recoil mechanism, making
the Ultimax not just a manageable full-automatic weapon, but a machine
gun that can be aimed.
From Singapore, Sullivan continued to move West, to Italy’s
Beretta, where he worked on that company’s assault rifle program.
Although not adopted, he did complete the design for a 5.56mm assault
rifle. Returning to the United States, Sullivan went to Sturm, Ruger
& Company, in New Hampshire, to work on the design of the Mini
14 rifle, which is still in service today with the U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Service, as well as numerous police departments
and paramilitary forces around the world.
In addition to the Chinn Award, the executive committee decided
to recognize the often-overlooked sniper community. As the military’s
missions have changed in recent years, the committee has recognized
that the precision shooter is an essential element of the equation,
whether the assignment is peacekeeping, peacemaking or full combat.
To recognize the sniper as a full and accepted part of that equation,
the small arms section instituted an award for the sniper community,
naming it after one of the nation’s most successful snipers
of the Vietnam era, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock.
The Hathcock award this year was given to William “Bart”
Bartholomew, who retired from Maryland’s Baltimore County
Police Department. A Marine sniper for four years, Officer Bartholomew
joined the police force in the 1970s. After several years on the
force, he joined the Baltimore County Tactical Unit and is credited
with establishing that force’s counter-sniper program. He
established the Baltimore Country Counter-Sniper School, one of
only nine in the United States, modeled after the Marine Corps Sniper
School, in Quantico, Va. Under his guidance, the curriculum teaches
students that a sniper is not just a precision shooter. Instead,
this job encompasses a much wider range of skills and abilities.
To help promote sniper skills within that select community, Bartholomew
worked with staff at Heckler & Koch USA, of Sterling, Va., to
establish a counter-sniper competition, which has become an annual,
highly competitive event, attracting military and law enforcement
sniper teams from across the United States and around the world.
Virginia Hart Ezell is president of the Institute for Research
on Small Arms in International Security and a reserve lieutenant
colonel in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps.