Friday, July 13, 2007

Jim Cirillo, Dead at 76.

I learned today that Jim Cirillo died last night in an auto accident. Damn.

From 1968 to 1973, Cirillo was a member of the New York City Stake-Out Squad. His job was to confront the worst in the criminal world. He lived through no less than seventeen separate shootouts. He was involved in many more armed confrontations. He later moved on to U.S. Customs. After retirement from law enforcement, Jim Cirillo took up writing. His book, Guns, Bullets, And Gunfights: Lessons And Tales From A Modern-Day Gunfighter is a compilation of articles he wrote over the years.

Jim Cirillo was the "go-to-guy" for street smart analysis of gunfighting theory. He was the real deal, a no bullshit BTDT guy with the scars to prove it. He had seen the elephant. Hell, there were some who said he ate the damned critter. Jeff Cooper dubbed him "Cirillo the Great." Massad Ayoob agreed that he was one of the great law enforcement gun fighters of the modern era. For many years, Jim depended on a revolver to survive. Later, after careful analysis, he accepted the Glock pistol as a sidearm.

Jim would tape over the sights on semi-automatic handguns to teach instinctive shooting based on the silhouette of the gun. He believed in utilizing the unconscious mind to get shots on target faster than the son of a bitch trying to kill you. He also taught other alternative sighting methods, all formulated to allow the practitioner to survive in a gunfight. Jim taught survival with a gun inside five yards. 15 feet. Beyond seven yards, he believed the odds were against an adversary, and the trained shootist had more time to go to sights or cover.

It seems ironic, therefore, that Jim would tell of being able to see every ding in the front sight of his S&W Model 10 in his first gunfight. Ironic, at least, until one realizes that Jim Cirillo was not in the business of selling a technique to dedicated legions of disciples for profit and fame. No, Cirillo was in the business of making it possible for people to survive when the chips were down, when lead would shortly be screaming by them. Jim Cirillo did not teach gunfighting. He taught fighting with a gun, and surviving to go home for supper. He did not care that there was apparent conflict in what he might say or teach. He just wanted to get at the truth, the crux of the matter, when it came to the survival tool pouch in armed conflict. That is what made Jim special. Because he did not care if he would be remembered at all, he will be remembered fondly and he takes his place alongside the likes of Cooper, Jordan, Applegate and Bryce. Godspeed Jim.


  1. Never heard of the man until reading this, but I'm going to go out tomorrow and look for his book. Sounds like a man who's got a lot to teach.

    Thanks, Xav.

  2. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I've known of Jim since the early 70's when I started hearing about his reputation in NYC, and started to read some articles he wrote. Over the years I've learned a great deal from him, and as Xavier said, he is the real deal. Massad thought the world of him, and so did anyone else who dealt with him, or got to hear him speak.

    We have lost a truly great warrior. His work has saved the lives of countless Police Officers and civilians.

    May God bless Jim, and take him home.

  3. God Bless Mr. Cirillo and his family.That was an excellent eulogy. I'll be looking for his book.

  4. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Jim was a big believer in equipping carry guns with Crimson Trace Laser Grips. RIP.


  5. Anonymous7:59 AM

    For those that dont know, JC was a member of a NYPD unit tasked withtaking out extremely violent brazen armed robbers in the day. His team set up stakeouts acting with one Officer in the store as an employee, the rest waiting. when the robbers hit, well things happened. JC and crew ran with sawed off NYPD Stevens 311 doubles and 38 revolvers back then. That and his other undercover work was how he had so many shootouts. He was tasked for the hi risk stuff because of the fact he didnt lose profssional control. real nice fellow to all who knew him. Interestinly he was held in high regard in the black, hispanic, chinese/asian , Jewish communities as not being racial in his actions. He was true blue to the end.

  6. Anonymous10:00 AM

    I was debating taking his Close Quarters Pistol for the Street class. I didn't want to put it on my credit card at the time so I said to myself, I'll take it next year. I bought his book instead. After reading the book I wish I had taken the course. The next year he couldn't teach because of health issues ... that was last year.

    Missed opportunities. God bless.

  7. I met Jimmy while attending several of his training classes in the early 90's in Washington State. I attended these classes with a friend named Fuzzy Fletcher. Fuzzy is a tatooed, biker, with a past who found salvation and turned his life around, but loved to shoot and was a talented gunsmith. In one of the most amazing ways, Jimmy and Fuzzy became extremely good friends and it was a testament to Jimmy to see past the exterior of Fuzzy and see the man inside. Jimmy even convinced Fuzzy to stop whining about the direction of things politically and do something. With Jim's encouragement, Fuzzy ran for and was elected a city councilman for the town of Snoqualmie, Washington. Eventually Fuzzy served as Mayor of the town for 2-3 terms. When Mildred died and Jimmy was going through his grief, Fuzzy did his best to be there for him. Jim touched more lives than just through his instruction...

    I always smile when I think of Jimmy, when I closed my eyes and listened to him, he reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield, lol. I'll never forget the story of his NYC cop buddy who called him up one day explaining that he had a problem with his "piece" and could Jimmy fix it for him. Jim said to come right over but the patrolman couldn't for 3 days. When he did finally show, his "problem" was that he didn't know how to safely lower the hammer on a COCKED REVOLVER without making it go bang, so he had tied the hammer back with a ribbon and carried it that way for three days in his holster!!!!!!!!!

    I just found out today that Jimmy was killed and it hit me like a hammer. I've not spoken with him in years, but have never forgotten what he taught me, and will look forward to the day when we meet up again so I can enjoy his humor, intelligence and warm, caring personality. Jimmy was one of the rare "good guys" that you meet in your life and never forget. RIP Jimmy

  8. Scott9:20 PM

    I can say that ever since the mid 70s I could call Jimmy my friend. He and I would talk for long periods of time about his experiances. It was a eye opener for a young lawman. He will be missed by many!


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