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JIM CIRILLO: MODERN-DAY GUNFIGHTER THE INSIDE STORY

I first learned of Jim Cirillo in 1977 when I read an article about him in the long-defunct Warriors magazine. The article was written by Massad Ayoob (now a good friend of mine) and detailed the heroic exploits and combat shooting prowess of Cirillo while he was a member of the NYPD Stakeout Unit. I was so taken with the description of Cirillo’s skills that I kept that magazine and still have it in my collection today.

Fast forward to 1995 and I had just begun working for Paladin Press™ as their Video Production Manager. Since it was my job to bring video production capabilities “in-house,” it was also my job to manage the few remaining outsourced video projects that Paladin™ was working on. One of those was a video version of the book Stopping Power, being produced by Peyton Quinn. Peyton’s idea was to bring the statistical data of the book to life by interviewing gunfight survivors concerning the real effects that their rounds had on the other guy—and in some cases, the effects his rounds had on them. While discussing the project with Peyton, he mentioned that he was looking for veteran cops who had been involved in shootings that he could interview. Over the years, I had seen several articles that Jim Cirillo had written for gun magazines in which he shared some of the details of his experiences.

To make a long story short, I tracked down Cirillo, called him, and explained the concept of the project to him. When he asked how I found out about him, I referenced the Warrior’s article—and the fact that I still had it in my collection. By the time the call ended—about two hours later—I had convinced Jim to not only come out to do an interview for the Stopping Power project, but to shoot an entire video with Paladin™ that shared both his experiences and the tactical lessons he gleaned from them.

Jim Cirillo: Modern-Day Gunfighter was shot right before Christmas that year and provides a unique mix of Jim telling the stories of his many gunfights in an interview setting and him teaching tactical and shooting lessons on the range. Among the most memorable scenes in that video was his instruction in his “Silhouette Point” technique, in which a pistol is aimed by using the entire silhouette (not the sights) as a visual index. To show it properly, typically Jim would place tape over a student’s sights and have him shoot. To translate this to video, the camera had to be placed where the shooter’s eye would be to provide a first-person perspective. After much experimentation, we decided the only way to provide the right view was to sight the gun by looking through the camera. Since the camera eyepiece was on the left side, Jim had to hold the gun with his left (weak) hand. With taped sights, shooting left handed and sighting through a video camera eyepiece, Jim shot an incredibly tight X-ring group. He was 65 years old at the time.

This video is an incredible insight into the practical shooting skills of a true modern-day gunfighter. It includes detailed instruction in his “alternative sighting” methods, use of cover, realistic bullet and ballistics testing, the effects of clothing on bullet expansion, and probably the best explanation of the fundamentals of accurate handgun shooting I’ve ever seen. It is also the best collection of Jim Cirillo stories ever collected on video—as only he could tell them.

As you may know, Jim passed away in 2007. Once again, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Jim and to call him my friend. Like Colonel Applegate, Jim was someone I idolized during my early years of training, so having the honor of knowing and working with him was on of the highlights of my career.

Michael D. Janich