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Top Modern Gunfighter Jim Cirillo develops a new defense handgun ammo load

A renowned 20th century gunfighter has designed a line of police and defensive ammunition. Are bullets slow and heavy or are they light and fast? Do they expand or do they fragment? Are they deeply penetrating or do they penetrate near the minimum? What can we learn about the way bullets should perform from a true American legend?

Jim Cirillo was born in Manhattan and grew up in Queens. He is a combat veteran of the Korean War, In 1954; Cirillo joined the staff of the NYPD Firearms Unit on Rodman's neck as a firearm instructor. The NYPD requires their firearm instructors to have at least five years of street experience. While with the NYPD, Cirillo won three state PPC championships and tied the PPC national record.

In the late-1960s, New York City suffered from a long sting of deadly robberies. In response, in 1968 The NYPD formed their now famous Stakeout Unit, a specialized Unit within the elite Emergency Services Unit of which Cirillo was a charter member. The Unit was made up almost exclusively of NYPD firearm instructors. Over the next five years the unit arrested 242 perpetrators, Of these, 43 were shot to death in bloody confrontations with the police.

By the time the Unit was disbanded in 1973, Cirillo had the highest number of hits in the Unit. This included shooting three perpetrators in one incident, just two hours into his first stakeout. In his many gunfights, Cirillo has come out on top in more than a dozen armed encounters, more than anyone else with the Unit has. In fact he has a better gunfighting record than most of the famous gunfighters of Wild West fame.

During his tour with the Stakeout Unit, Cirillo was required to attend each post mortem to assist the forensic investigation. In addition to his own gunfighting experience, these autopsies immediately showed Cirillo what does and does not work.

After 22 years of service, Cirillo retired from the NYPD and joined the U.S. Customs Service as a firearms instructor. As captain of the U.S. Customs pistol Team Cirillo and his partner won the two-man National Championships. Cirillo then took his skills to the Treasury Department where he served as a firearms instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

The "Sage of the Stakeout" retired from federal law enforcement in 1991. He continued to tinker with different bullet designs. It is important to know that Jim Cirillo was a peer of Lee Jurras with the original Super Vel Company. Super Vel made 90-grain Hollow points for the 9mm and 125-grain JHPS for the .357 Magnum at a time when the major factories loaded only hardball and lead semi-wadcutters. In fact many of the .38 Special 110-grain cup-point jacketed hollow points used in NYPD stakeouts were hand-made by Jurris for Cirillo.

Cirillo's first patented bullet design was a modification to the Kaswer PinGrabber (HANDGUNS, January 1993). Cirillo put a large slot across the saw-tooth, wadcutter, hollow point and installed a round plastic nose cap. The .45 ACP version of this 185-grain JHP expanded to a rectangle measuring .64 by 1.22 inches. This remains the largest permanent crush cavity. With an average of 13.5 inches of penetration, this 1,075 fps saber-tooth bullet had a Fuller Index of 92 percent One Shot Stops.

Political timing was not on Cirillo's side. He perfected the nose capped saw-toothed bullet in 1993, just as Winchester Black Talon became the center of an intense public controversy. While the major ammo companies considered Cirillo's first bullet design, he set out to design an even more aggressive version. This time he teamed up with Roscoe Stoker of Performance Plus. Stoker is a regional ammo loader who supplied police in San Antonio, TX area. Stoker had also dabbled in high performance bullets. In the mid 1990s, Stoker experimented with Beeline frangible bullets made in Nova Scotia. Beeline eventually teamed up with Cor-Bon to result in the BeeSafe line of ammo.

Cirillo and Stoker have developed two very different versions of their Platinum Plus ammunition, a Standard version and a Special Application version. The latter is available only to law enforcement. Both use Total Fragmenting Soft Point (TFSP) and Epoxy Hollow Point (ExpHP) bullets. Compared to conventional loads, bullets in the RBCD Platinum ammo have half the weight and twice the velocity. For example, the Standard load in .40 S&W is a 77-grain TFSP at 2,000 fps in .45 ACP, the Standard loads are 90-grain TFSP at 2,036 fps and a 115-grain TFSP at 1,650 fps.

The ExpHP loads are designed especially for police use while the TFSP are for personal defense. The Platinum Plus Standard loads penetrated an average of 8.8 inches of gelatin. This ranged from the 6.5 inch low from the 10mm 77-grain TFSP to the 25 inch high from the .45 ACP 113-grain TFSP. The police-only Special Application Ammo averaged 5.5 inches of penetration in bare gelatin and six inches after defeating soft body armor. This means the Standard loads, available to all shooters, are better for personal defense that the restricted Special application loads.

Some people prefer high momentum, high weight retention and deep penetration. Cirillo wants high energy, bullet fragmentation, instant energy transfer and limited penetration.

A Competition Electronics chronograph confirmed the RBCD claims for incredible velocity. The slowest load in the line-up was the .380 ACP 45-grain TFSP AT 1,500 fps from a Beretta 84F. The fastest of the standard Platinum loads was a tie between the .357 SIG 60-grain TFSP and the 10mm auto 77-grain TFSP at 2,500 fps. RBCD Performance Plus does indeed make the world's fastest handgun ammunition.

Since energy is based on the square of velocity, all these Platinum loads have extremely high levels of energy. The 9mm 60-grain TFSP has 539 ft-lbs of energy. This compares to just 295 ft-lbs for the 9mm 147-grain subsonic hollow point. Energy is the ability to do work--like disrupt tissue--like penetrate barriers. The .40 S&W 77-grain TFSP has 683 ft-lbs of energy. Compare this to just 290 ft-lbs for the .40 S&W 180-grain JHP.

While energy goes up with the square of velocity, felt recoil only goes up linearly with velocity. With lighter bullets, Cirillo and Stoker can pack more energy at the same level of recoil. The .40 S&W 77-grain TFSP has a Power Factor of 154. This compares to 153 for the 180-grain JHP. The .45 ACP 115-grain ExpHp with 700 ft-lbs of energy and the .45 ACP 230-grain JHP with 348 ft-lbs of energy have the identical 190 Power Factor.

The same felt recoil as conventional ammo and more energy explains why the Platinum ammo cycles auto pistols so reliably. Functioning is a complex combination of the energy of the bullet overcoming the energy stored in the recoil and main springs. And the momentum (Power Factor) of the bullet overcoming the inertia of the slide at rest.

It is not enough for the round to have more energy than the round used to design the spring system in the firearm. The round in question must produce BOTH enough energy and enough momentum. The Platinum loads do. In one series of cycle tests, the Platinum .40 S&W 77-grain TFSP and 37-grain (police-only) ExpHP both functioned reliably in an H&K USP 40 pistol and an MP5/40A2 submachine gun.

Each bullet is developed specifically for the caliber, however, the construction between calibers is similar. All Platinum loads use a special copper-rich alloy for the jacket. Made of five different metals, the jacket material was developed to control bullet expansion and to be ductile enough to better fill the barrel rifling. RBCD claims their jacket have 30 percent less friction than the gilding metal used in most bullet jackets.

TFSP bullet uses a soft lead alloy pellet made of lead, aluminum and zinc on top of a mixture of polymer and powdered metal. The ExpHP has a core made entirely of epoxy mixture. The percentage varies by caliber, but the powdered metals mixed with the epoxy or the polymer include lead, iron, tungsten and titanium. While it may not look like it, the ExpHP core is 10 to 30 percent powder metal. All of the Platinum loads use Winchester lead-free primers and flash-suppressed Noel/Adco/St. Marks ball powder. The cartridge cases vary by caliber but include IMI Match, Winchester and Starline.

Both the TFSP and the ExpHP bullets fragment on impact. Stoker prefers the term "disintegrate." Fragment implies pieces of the bullet with some real weight will be recovered, even if the frags only weigh 5 to 10 grains. Disintegrate implies almost nothing will be recovered and this, in fact, is closer to reality with these loads. On impact with gelatin, both the TFSP with the softpoint lead ball and the ExpHP with the epoxy and powder metal core totally fragment on impact. Tiny pieces of jacket, lead and plastic are all that is recovered.

Large fragments of lead from the nose pellet are recovered from the TFSP bullets. The lower impact velocity calibers and loads, like the .45 ACP 115-grain TFSP at 1,650 fps have larger pieces of lead and bigger sections of jacket. The higher impact velocity calibers and loads, like the .357 SIG 60-grain TFSP at 2,410 fps, have smaller pieces of lead and jacket.

The rapid energy transfer from all these Platinum loads results in temporary stretch cavities with very large diameters. The shape of these stretch cavities is almost spherical. This is the wound profile that gives the best results in typical personal defense scenarios. These scenarios involve near-frontal bullet impacts, and few tactical barriers.

The energy transfer is extremely rapid and the penetration distances as a rule, are very short. This is perfectly acceptable for ammunition geared for personal defense. These scenarios generally involve near-frontal shot placements and rarely involve tactical barriers. The 9-inch and 12-inch minimum penetration distances established by the Border Patrol and the FBI respectively, are for police duty ammo. Their street success of the Glaser Safety Slug has proven that ammo for the civilian defense can penetrate as little as 5 to 6 inches of gelatin.

In terms of wound ballistics, the RBCD Platinum ammo has a Fuller Index at, or near, the top of their respective calibers. With the high levels of energy and an average of 9 inches of penetration, the Platinum loads in 9mm and, above all, have a Fuller Index of 90 percent One Shot Stops or better.

Two of the more interesting Platinum loads are the 90-grain TFSP and 115-grain TFSP both in .45 ACP. The 90-grain TFSP packs over 800 ft-lbs of energy and dumps it all in nine inches of gelatin. This works out to a Fuller Index of an astonishing 99 percent One Shot Stops with a Power Factor less than 230-grain ball. The 115-grain TFSP at 1,650 fps penetrates 15 inches of gelatin, has a Power Factor equal to 240-grain ball and a Fuller Index of 94 percent. This may be the best overall load in the entire ammo lineup.

We fired the standard Platinum loads for accuracy from a sandbag rest. At the same time, we compared the point of impact versus the point of aim from the Platinum Plus ammo and conventional hollowpoints.

The Platinum loads proved to be more accurate than many exotics because both the TFSP and ExpHP bullets have a uniform cross-section. Frangible bullets with a mixed core of birdshot pellets and plastic can be harder to spin-stabilize. These Platinum loads placed 5-shots into group sizes from 3.5-inches at 25 yards, depending on caliber, from duty length handguns. This is clearly accurate enough for personal defense.

We fired two very different calibers to compare the point of aim to the point of impact. As a rule, lighter and faster bullets impact lower on the target than slower and heavier bullets. Given the same felt recoil the faster bullet generally exits the barrel at a lower point on the recoil arc than a slower bullet. This is less of an issue at close combat ranges but can be a real problem at long ranges.

From 50 feet, the center of the .357 SIG TFSP group was 1-1 1/2 inches from the center of the FMJ group. The center of the .45 ACP TFSP was 3 1/2 inches from the center of the FMJ group. This, again, is easily close enough to the conventional ammo for personal defense.

Future plans at RBCD include a hostage rescue load for the .223 Remington and the .308 Winchester. A 12 gauge load is not planned, however, loads for the .44 Special, .41 Magnum and .44 Magnum have been discussed. The .44 Special caliber would benefit the most from a Platinum bullet.

RBCD produces two very different bullets in their Platinum Plus line: the Total Fragmenting Soft Point, left, and the Epoxy Hollow Point, right.

With a muzzle velocity over 2,400 fps, the .357 SIG 60-grain TFSP penetrates up to 7.5 inches of ordnance gelatin. Most Platinum Plus loads penetrate in the 6.5 to 10-inch range.

With a muzzle velocity of 1,650 fps, the .45 ACP 115-grain TFSP penetrates 15 inches of gelatin. This gives it a Fuller Index of 94 percent One Shot Stops.

Platinum Plus ammo is available in all the popular duty calibers like the 2,000 fps, 9mm 60-grain TFSP 2,000 fps, .40 S&W 77-grain TFSP with 2,000 fps, .45 ACP 90-grain TFSP.

The .45ACP 115-grain TFSP shown recovered from gelatin. The lead, aluminum and zinc nose pellets remain intact with this load but disintegrate on faster loads.

Even with very light bullet weights, the Platinum Plus loads have enough velocity for reliable functioning in all auto pistols. Jim Cirillo Shooting.

As part of the NYPD pistol team, Cirillo won the New Jersey State championship with both duty and off-duty handguns. He is shown with his winning target.

Jim Cirillo, right, served as the captain of the U.S. Customs Service pistol team. Customs inspector Jim Grabbatin, left is shown along with their 2-man team National Championships awards.

RBCD produces two versions of the Platinum Plus. The standard version is available without restriction to all shooters. The special application version was developed for tactical teams.

While with the NYPD Stakeout Unit, Jim Cirrilo learned the tactical advantages of high-speed ammo.
                            RBCD PLATINUM AMMO
                                     ENERGY FACTOR
.32 ACP        37 gr. TFSP   1,815     271    67    std
.380 ACP       45 gr. TFSP   1,500     285    68    std
.38 SPECIAL +P 50 gr. TFSP   1,825     370    91    std
.38 SPECIAL +P 60 gr. TFSP   1,705     385   102    std
9mm            50 gr. TFSP   2,160     518   108    saa
9mm            60 gr. TFSP   2,010     539   121    std
.357 Magnum    50 gr. TFSP   2,355     614   118    saa
.357 Magnum    60 gr. TPSP   1,975     520   119    std
.40 S&W        37 gr. ExpHP  2,550     534    94    saa
.40 S&W        77 gr. TFSP   2,000     683   154    std
.357 SIG       28 gr. ExpHP  2,820     477    76    saa
.357 SIG       50 gr. TFSP   2,470     678   124    saa
.357 SIG       60 gr. TFSP   2,410     774   145    std
.45 ACP        45 gr. ExpHP  2,550     650   115    saa
.45 ACP        90 gr. TFSP   2,036     828   183    std
.45 ACP        115 gr. TFSP  1,650     700   190    std
10mm           77 gr. TFSP   2,420    1015   186    std
                            PLATINUM AMMO WOUND
                         BALLISTICS STANDARD AMMO
                             (INCHES)   INDEX %
.32 ACP        37 gr. TFSP      7.0       69
.380 ACP       45 gr. TFSP      8.1       76
.38 SPECIAL +P 60 gr. TFSP     10.0       84
9mm            60 gr. TFSP      8.0       90
.357 Magnum    60 gr. TFSP      8.0       90
.40 S&W        77 gr. TFSP      7.0       95
.357 SIG       60 gr. TFSP      7.5       95
10mm           77 gr. TFSP      6.5       97
.45 ACP        90 gr. TFSP      9.0       99
.45 ACP        115 gr. TFSP    15.0       94
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Author:SANOW, ED
Date:Apr 1, 2001

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