In his book Guns, Bullets and Gunfighting, Jim Cirillo made it clear why men who had distinguished themselves in shooting competition were prized by the legendary NYPD Stakeout Squad: they were already accustomed to shooting straight under pressure. The two men on that high-risk unit who won the most gunfights were Cirillo’s partner Bill Allard and Cirillo himself. Allard, who racked up the most shootout victories and never missed a shot he fired at a man in combat, explained the importance of competition experience when I interviewed him for the ProArms Podcast (downloadable to your computer or iTunes for free at http://ht.ly/fFdIO).
Allard, now retired, won a National Championship in conventional pistol shooting at Camp Perry, among his many titles. Cirillo shot mainly PPC during the time he was on the Stakeout Unit, but later became a big fan of IPSC, and had become a fan of IDPA as well before his untimely death in a traffic accident. Irrespective of which discipline they preferred, each had learned to make perfect shots under time limits “when the pressure was on.” Jim and I were on the same squad at the first Bianchi Cup match in 1979, and at one point in the tournament he told me he was feeling more pressure than he had in any of his gun battles. When I asked him why, he explained there had been a lot of time for the pressure to build at the match he knew was certain — and the fights happened so fast he was often able to run on auto pilot.
In my book Combat Shooting With Massad Ayoob (F-W Publishing), I compared Cirillo with Wyatt Earp and Col. Charles Askins, Jr. and the gunfights he experienced during the Depression years with the Border Patrol, through his WWII combat time, up to the 1950s when he won his last known shootout. I had the privilege to know and be friends with Charlie and Jim. I only look old enough to have known Wyatt Earp.
Askins won hundreds of shooting medals over the years — all in bull’s-eye, “the only game in town” — insofar as pistol shooting, during his heyday. Most famously, he won the National Championship of the United States in the 1930s. The point is he also won many a shootout with armed men. The confidence he had earned with a gun in his hand at the “match wars” stood him in good stead during the real battles, both police and military. Shooting fast and straight under pressure had become second nature for him.
Earp told his biographer Stuart Lake he competed in the informal shooting matches in the cow-towns he policed, long before the epic series of shootouts that began near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. in 1881. Earp had made a point of picking the brains of gunfight survivors as soon as he pinned on his first badge, and testing his skill against others with his firearms was something he learned early could give him a leg up when fighting for his life.
By Massad Ayoob
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