John Wayne’s .22 Rifle (designed by Jim Sullivan)

One of the many projects that AR-15 designer Jim Sullivan was involved in through his long career was a project to found the Wayne Repeating Arms Company (or WRA Co., not to be inadvertently confused with any other gun company with those initials). The company was backed financially by none other than John “the Duke” Wayne of movie fame, and its first product was to be a semiauto .22 rimfire rifle to compete with the Ruger 10/22. Sullivan designed the rifle and two prototypes were built in 1977 or thereabouts. Unfortunately, at this point Wayne had a falling out with his son-in-law (who was his business manager), and the new business manager who stepped in was not interested in the gun project. As a result, the funding ended and the project came to a rather abrupt end. However, Sullivan still has the two prototype rifles, and gave us a look at them. Frankly, I think they could have probably done pretty well against Ruger (especially with an association to John Wayne).

See what you think:

21 Comments

  1. Ruger is fameous with mastering complicated steel constructions in low cost “İnvestment Cast” technology and managed to build 10/22 into one piece wooden stock exposing minimum of metal surfaces needing fine polish. Mr. Sullivan’s prototype seems needing craftmanship to compete with German Korth. It seems, God had saved John Wayne to run into a battle with Ruger.

  2. That’s one handsome and well-thought-out design. It definitely goes on the list of Stuff I’d Like To See Someone Restart Production Of.

  3. I wish to take this opportunity to express my respect to Mr. Sullivan and his work. I had been once involved in semi-auto .22cal LR design including magazine and appreciate what it takes. Good job, Ian.

  4. Looks like a very nice higher-end rifle than the 10-22, not taking anything away from the 10-22 as I have a few. I especially like the look of the fore-end stock portion. Mr. Sullivan could be a twin for my next door neighbor. Seems just as nice & interesting to talk to.

  5. With the rectilinear receiver and that bracket on the right side, it looks rather like a space age descendant of the Remington Model 8. Speaking of which, I notice a distinct resemblance between its forend and that of the early version of the Remington 597 introduced in the late 1990s.

    Excellent design. Mr. Sullivan is clearly a master at his trade.

    cheers

    eon

  6. I LOVE a nice take-down rifle, and Mr. Sullivan’s .22lr take-down is really handsome. I would love to see that rifle be put into production and I would certainly buy one in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, in my eyes, Sullivan’s .22lr is far more good looking than Ruger’s rifle (and I have one, just like nearly every other gun owner in the USA). I was wondering if Mr. Sullivan’s .22 design is made of steel or has an aluminum receiver like the Ruger? The aluminum receiver on the Ruger is one thing that I do not care for about it. Now I am lusting for a rifle that has never been in production!

  7. If the receiver were to be a bead-blasted casting, or if it were to be made of anodized aluminum the manufacturing cost might not be that bad.

    Some advantages over a 10-22:

    1) take down capability,
    2) easy to clean from the chamber (without having to drill a hole in the back of the receiver),
    3) classic appearance, harkening back to the Remington 8 as other’s have written,
    4) nice rear sight (was it adjustable for windage?) Would be ideal for one of those Apple Seed shoots.
    5) does it hold the bolt back on the last shot?

    But who would make it? Remington/Marlin would not do it as it would cannibalize sales from the Speedmaster. Savage already has a semi-auto 22. Mossberg has the Plinkster. Winchester has the 1903 that whoever owns the Winchester name could bring out again for the retro crowd. Browning has their iconic semi-auto 22. CZ has their 512, which sort of resembles the rifle here in outward appearance; it is too bad as Mr. Sullivan’s design would have fit in well with the sort of rifles CZ is making.

    • Henry might be interested, as it would complement the AR-7 clone they already make, and would be able to use a lot of the tooling, etc., they use to make their lever-actions due to the receiver layout, etc.

      cheers

      eon

  8. John Wayne wasn’t completely new to the gun trade, he had been a spokesman for Great Western in the late 1950’s / early 1960’s. That was a California company that made cowboy style guns. Quality was not consistent and the company went under in the mid sixties. The company had a hard time competing with Ruger’s single action revolvers.

  9. Role of semi-auto .22LR is, at least in my view kind of fuzzy. Is it useable for marksmanship training? Probably not. I myself lot more preferred bolt action repeater. What it does is illusion of firepower. But, what really is this firepower with puny .22?

    I do not intend to start debate on this, however, on my part I see limited market for this type of firearm. So, even if this model succeeded, who knows how large the clientele would be.

    • IPSC mini-rifle, especially in countries where .22 lr is less restricted than more powerful rifle cartridges, and it’s nice for juniors as well. And then of course plinking. I agree that for small game hunting, serious marksmanship training and target shooting a bolt action rifle is better.

      As for firepower, the .22 lr is perfectly able to kill a man at ranges exceeding 300 meters(!), and with a semi-auto it is possible to get many hits quite fast at shorter ranges, which increases the chances of a disabling or killing hit. That does not make a semi-auto .22 lr rifle the ideal self defense weapon, but it can perform that role in a pinch. Here’s a pretty nice demonstration from the Iraqveteran8888 channel at Youtube:

      http://youtu.be/OUM1r_444CY

      • Have seen the video
        (fellas in (German military surplus jackets are cute)…
        yeah, have to agree – 1/2″ pine board at 200yrds, thru. No need to argue with that.

    • .22LR ammunition is cheap, so there’s a good market for hunting small game and target shooting. .22 also works for indoor target ranges, which considering that it’s -22C here this morning can be welcome this time of year.

      Given the low power of .22LR ammunition, a semi-auto blow-back action is probably cheaper to make than a bolt action.

      The problem with this particular rifle today is that it looks expensive to make for those markets. That might not have been a major problem if the manufacturer was going to be satisfied with small sales into a niche market. The original buyers were likely going to be willing to buy it at a premium mainly because they were fans of John Wayne’s movies and it had his name was on it. In that case they wouldn’t flinch at the high price and indeed would complain if the perceived finish and quality were less than top of the line.

      Today though, I don’t think there would be much of a market for it. People who just want a rifle to shoot could get one for much cheaper, and I’m not sure that putting a celebrity’s name on a .22 rifle would make it sell in today’s market.

      To give you an idea of what it would have to compete with, you can get a brand new Norinco JW22 take-down rifle for $169 in Canada, and they are sometimes on sale for less. These are copies of the older Browning 22 semi-auto take-down rifle and so are pretty similar in terms of being blued steel, a wooden stock, and compact take-down. Finish might not always be perfect, but the price is hard to argue with.

      Other brands may sell for as much as $500, but it’s a crowded market. Without some special marketing angle it’s not a market I would want to get into.

      • We used to have Lakefield Arms, now Savage. I just looked at their line-up; .22LR seem to be missing. no wonder if foreign competition is so cheap (not necessarily in quality sense).

  10. Ian,
    Concerning your article on the Lewis recently have you ever seen a 30-06 97 rd. drum with a round counter as described in Vol 1 of Chinn page 291 ?

  11. The safety looks similar to a Garand safety. Would make sense since Mr. Sullivan would have just finished work on the Mini-14 around this time.

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