Guns of the Stakeout Squad By: Travis Pike


There are a lot of great books that are long out of publication. Ebooks have saved lots of them, but sadly, many other books remain out of print. “Tales From the Stakeout Squad” is a fantastic non-fiction book that’s absolutely full of valuable lessons about close-range gunfighting, but it’s out of print. There isn’t even an Ebook version of the book out there. I’ve read it once but sadly can’t find my original copy and can’t find another copy for less than a hundred bucks. 

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What I do remember is the guns, and today we are going to examine the guns of the Stakeout Squad.

Jim Cirillo, NYPD Stakeout Squad
NYPD Stakeout Squad veteran Jim Cirillo.

What’s the Stakeout Squad?

Do you know the stereotype that cities are dangerous places full of violent criminals ready to kill you at a moment’s notice? Well, that was New York in the 1960s. It was a violent place full of violent crime, and the Stakeout Squad was a solution to a violent crime wave. Their job was simple, target businesses likely to be robbed and stake them out. 

In a mix of predictive analysis, detective work, and some luck, the Stakeout Squad would get the jump on the bad guys before things went bad.

Black and White photo NYPD officers, one with a Model 10, in the 50's
New York City was a violent place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

The officers would plan ahead and find a place to hide or even build one. They set up inside or outside a shop they believed would be targeted and just wait. They positioned themselves in such a way that allowed for angles of fire to keep innocent people out of the line of fire. 

The Stakeout Squad became experienced gunfighters, often engaging multiple assailants in fast-moving, violent gunfights. Famed Stakeout Squad member Jim Cirillo officially killed 11 men in these gunfights. The squad used an interesting mix of guns that are fascinating to look back at. 

What guns did the NYPD Stakeout Squad use?

S&W Model 10 

The basic issued handgun for NYPD officers of the era was the classic S&W Model 10. The S&W Model 10 goes back to 1899, when it was known as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899, and later the S&W Military and Police, then the S&W Victory Model, before finally becoming the S&W Model 10. 

The Model 10 is a classic fighting revolver.
The Model 10 is a classic fighting revolver.

The S&W Model 10 emphasizes the classic fighting revolver of its time. This was a double-action, six-shot .38 Special revolver. The hammer was exposed, and the cylinder swung out the side with a hand ejection rod. The S&W Model 10 used by the Stakeout Squad had a 4-inch barrel. These were solid fighting guns for the period. 

In the late 1960s, the Model 10 might not have been cutting edge at the time, but it was fairly standard. Jim Cirillo talked about carrying two, and when the gun went click, it was always faster to pull a second Model 10 that deals with a speed loader. Where do you think the term ‘New York Reload’ came from? 

The Ithaca 37 

To match their .38 Special revolvers, the Stakeout Squad also had Ithaca 37 repeating shotguns. These pump-action designs were robust 12 gauge shotguns that were issued to the NYPD at the time. The Ithaca 37 was a favored police shotgun of the time. These were ambidextrous guns that featured a bottom loading and ejecting design. 

The Ithaca 37 
A good pump shotgun is tough to beat at close quarters.

The Stakeout Squad had both the standard 20-inch models and what Jim called cut-down models. He’s not specific with the barrel length, but further research showed Stakeout Squad members having 13-inch barrels. They would chop the barrel at the magazine tube, and the shorter guns were beloved for close-quarters work. These guns often had a loop on the pump to prevent the shooter’s hand from drifting in front of the barrel. 

The Ithaca 37 held five rounds of buckshot and these guns lacked disconnectors. You could slamfire the gun, but that doesn’t seem to be a consideration of the gun with the Stakeout Squad. Ithaca would also later produce a Stakeout model, but that seems like a post-Stakeout Squad design. 

Savage-Stevens 311 

Another shotgun mentioned is the Savage-Stevens 311. This was a modern double barrel gun issued by the NYPD for decades. This seems crazy since pump guns have existed since the 1800s. The NYPD often issued these double guns to detectives who didn’t have a ton of training on shotguns. The Stakeout Squad also got their hands on a few. 

stevens 311
The coach gun rode for quiet sometime

These guns had 18.25-inch barrels and, due to their design, would be quite short. The downside is you only have two rounds of buckshot to make your point. With that said, a long gun is better than no long gun. According to Massad Ayoob’s Stressfire 2, the NYPD was still issuing these guns when the book was published in 1992. 

The M1 Carbine 

One of the favored guns of the Stakeout Squad was the M1 Carbine. This predates the days when AR-15s ruled the roost and is an interesting look at how long the intermediate rifle has been the preferred tool. The M1 Carbine of WW2 fame provided a lightweight, short, and easy-to-use carbine that fed from a 15 or 30-round magazine. 

M1 Carbine
A lightweight, semi-auto rifle being a handy police tool? Who knew?

The M1 Carbine’s 30 Carbine round has shard hitting. The Stakeout Squad gunsmith would modify these guns to ensure they worked with Winchester jacketed hollowpoints. The M1 Carbine would serve extensively with the NYPD, including with ESU units. The NYPD has a history of modifying the M1 Carbine and producing very short models of the gun. However, it’s likely the M1 Carbine was modified extensively in the 1960s. 

S&W Model 76 SMG 

The Model 76 has an interesting history that ties back to Vietnam. As the name suggests, this gun came out in 1976, so it was late to the Stakeout Squad game. S&W produced the Model 76 because the Swedish refused to sell the Carl Gustav M/45, aka the Swedish K, to the United States due to its use in Vietnam. The Model 76 was made but never lived up to the M/45’s reputation. 

S&W Model 76 SMG
The S&W was no Carl Gustav

The Model 76 was an open bolt, 9mm, SMG that used a simple direct blowback design. It fed from a 36-round magazine. Sadly these guns seemed to only reliably work with hardball rounds, which weren’t a favorite with the Stakeout Squad. Jim Cirillo and the rest of the Stakeout Squad seemed to have a real distaste for this gun. He described the weapon quite creatively in Tales from the Stakeout Squad. 

Unofficial Firepower 

The NYPD required the Stakeout Squad to carry their issued revolvers but didn’t seem to mind if the troops carried a secondary firearm. It’s tough to say officially how many different guns the 40-man squad carried unofficially, but we do have a few examples worth mentioning. 

The Colt Detective Special 

When he wasn’t carrying two Model 10s, Jim seemed to prefer to carry a Model 10 with a Colt Detective Special as a backup weapon. This six-shot .38 Special wasn’t much different than his model 10, but it was lighter, shorter, and likely easier to carry. Jim mentions using tape to customize the grip to fit his hand. 

Colt Detective Special
Six shots in a snub nose? Why not?

The Walther PPK 

Jim also mentions carrying a Walther PPK in .32 ACP. This little gun would provide eight rounds of .32 ACP in a pocket-sized package. The Walther PPK was apparently never used in a gunfight but bore mentioning. 

Walther PPK
The Walther PPK offered a compact automatic as a backup.

National Match 1911 

Bill Allard, Jim’s partner, carried a National Match 1911. These highly accurate guns were designed for competition shooting at Camp Perry. The .45 ACP round is ballistically superior to the .38 Special and did offer faster reloads and higher capacity. Plus, this highly customized gun would be easy to control and quite accurate. 

Colt Gold Cup National Match Mark IV Series 1911
Compared to a Model 10, the 1911 held more ammo, was faster to reload, and packed a punch.

Gunfighters, All of Them 

The Stakeout Squad is a fascinating part of police history. Their gunfighting experience clearly showed what worked and what didn’t. It’s not a surprise they often used the M1 Carbine and short, repeating shotguns over their standard handguns when given a choice. I think if I was a member, I’d lean on the Browning Hi-Power, but that’s just me. Does anyone out there have a copy of “Tales from The Stakeout Squad?” 

If I can’t find one soon, Thriftbooks might get a hundred bucks from me!