The late Jim Cirillo was one of the better known gunfighters of the late 20th Century. While assigned to the New York Police Department’s infamous Stake Out Unit (SOU) from 1968 to 1973, Cirillo was involved in 17 shootouts. After retiring from the NYPD in 1976, Cirillo became a firearms instructor for the US Customs Service, and later, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).
Cirillo was also a tinkerer, trying to find various ways to improve his equipment to increase the odds in his favor. One thing that that Cirillo was worried about was the fact that rounded ogive bullets could skid off the skull of a target if not placed precisely. Cirillo had played with solid and reversed hollow-base wadcutters. However, these shapes were typically limited to revolvers, as the wide blunt meplat would prevent feeding in a semi-auto pistol.
To solve the issue, Cirillo ultimately came up with the idea for a discarding cap wadcutter. Ideally, the rounded cap would compose of a pair of interlocking pieces that would be spun off the slotted wadcutter projectile once the bullet exited the muzzle. Cirillo filed his patent application in October 1990, and received US Patent #5,097,767 in March 1992.
The problem was that no one would make his new projectile, and the design sat for several years. In the early 2000s, Cirillo was approached by R. “Fuzzy” Fletcher of Village Metalworks in Snoqualmie, WA. Fletcher was a fan of Cirillo’s and wanted to manufacture the projectiles as well as Cirillo’s “Hybrid” revolver concept, which combined with barrel and shroud of a Dan Wesson revolver with a Smith & Wesson revolver frame.
Unfortunately, Fletcher only produced the slotted wadcutters, not the discarding cap. Projectiles and loaded ammunition were available in .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, and .45 Auto.
Fletcher also played with a variant of the .38-45 Clerke, a .45 Auto case necked down for .38 Special projectiles. Developed by gunsmith Bo Clerke back in the 1960s, it was meant to provide a way to fire .38-caliber wadcutters in the M1911 without the hassle of special magazines required by the various .38 Special Midrange conversions. Folks had naturally tried to hot-rod the cartridge, and discovered that the parent .45 Auto case was not suited to higher pressures. This led to the wildcat .38-45 Hardhead (based off .451 Detonics Magnum brass), and later, the .38 Casull. Fletcher would base his .38-45 SafeStop off of the .38 Casull brass.