Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, certain pistoleros stand out as either famous or infamous wielders of the wheelgun, be they exhibition shooters, or in this case, a serious practitioner of fighting pistolcraft. Periodically on Wheelgun Wednesday, we will take a quick look at such personalities. This week, let’s find out a little bit more about NYPD’s Jim Cirillo.
For those not familiar with the name, Jim Cirillo was one of the members of New York City’s “Stakeout Squad”, a team tasked to tackle the explosion of violent crime plaguing the city back in the 1960s. Jim and his colleagues would use the old-fashioned analog version of predictive analytics, otherwise known as good detective work, to choose a business that was likely to be robbed and “stake it out.” This involved waiting either inside or outside the location for the robbery to begin. Often it ended in gunfire, with the perpetrator/s dead or wounded.
Cirillo’s techniques and persistent practice with his wheelguns paid serious dividends. Over his career, he was involved in over 20 gunfights, a lot of them resulting in the offenders’ deceased. Due to his gunfights taking place in the cramped corner stores common to NYC, Jim had to be hyper-aware of his target and what lay beyond it. His instinctive shooting style paid dividends, however, and hitting criminals, not bystanders was a quality of his.
Weapon of choice
In the 1960s, the issued revolver of the day for the NYPD was S&W’s Model 10 chambered in .38 Special. Cirillo would regularly carry at least one Model 10, usually having another one on him as an authentic “New York reload”. Another revolver he was fond of was a 2″ Colt Cobra, also chambered in .38 Special. Cirillo would modify his primary revolver by wrapping the grips in electrical tape to better match the contour of his hand. He has written in his books that the gunfights were so fast and in such close quarters that when he ran out of ammunition in his primary revolver, often it was faster to draw his backup revolver and resume firing.
Though firearms and especially ammunition technology has dated some of Cirillo’s equipment preferences, his career story and firearms techniques are a wealth of information from someone who has been in so many gunfights in close quarters, and is highly recommended reading for anyone who carries a firearm, be it for work or self defense. Though Jim passed away a number of years ago, his wisdom lives on. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you read one of the biographies of this wheelgun wizard.