Controlled cortical impact (CCI) is a mechanical model of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that was developed nearly 30 years ago with the goal of creating a testing platform to determine the biomechanical properties of brain tissue exposed to direct mechanical deformation. Initially used to model TBIs produced by automotive crashes, the CCI model rapidly transformed into a standardized technique to study TBI mechanisms and evaluate therapies. CCI is most commonly produced using a device that rapidly accelerates a rod to impact the surgically exposed cortical dural surface. The tip of the rod can be varied in size and geometry to accommodate scalability to difference species. Typically, the rod is actuated by a pneumatic piston or electromagnetic actuator. With some limits, CCI devices can control the velocity, depth, duration, and site of impact. The CCI model produces morphologic and cerebrovascular injury responses that resemble certain aspects of human TBI. Commonly observed are graded histologic and axonal derangements, disruption of the blood–brain barrier, subdural and intra-parenchymal hematoma, edema, inflammation, and alterations in cerebral blood flow. The CCI model also produces neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments similar to those observed clinically. In contrast to other TBI models, the CCI device induces a significantly pronounced cortical contusion, but is limited in the extent to which it models the diffuse effects of TBI; a related limitation is that not all clinical TBI cases are characterized by a contusion. Another perceived limitation is that a non-clinically relevant craniotomy is performed. Biomechanically, this is irrelevant at the tissue level. However, craniotomies are not atraumatic and the effects of surgery should be controlled by including surgical sham control groups. CCI devices have also been successfully used to impact closed skulls to study mild and repetitive TBI. Future directions for CCI research surround continued refinements to the model through technical improvements in the devices (e.g., minimizing mechanical sources of variation). Like all TBI models, publications should report key injury parameters as outlined in the NIH common data elements (CDEs) for pre-clinical TBI.