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Center Axis Relock (CAR) combat pistol technique with Jeremy Bentham
Below, Jeremy answers Mister Bob's question on combat shooting.
Hey James,
I apologize for taking a while to reply. I have been out and about lately and haven’t been reading my mail.
In any event, to answer Bob’s inquiry, it appears that the Center Axis Relock (CAR) combat pistol technique does work. The method is cogently presented by its advocates. It appears to be a particularly useful innovation for close quarter battle (CQB) situations and for gun-fighting in the midst of a riot. Holding your handgun close to your body in the CAR fashion helps you resist gun grab attempts at close quarters and /or attempts to pin your arms and yet still allows you to move, turn your body and fire your weapon in different directions at contact or near contact distances. Clearly for that reason Greq Ellifritz recommends using a similar retention position should you find it necessary to fire your handgun in the midst of a ‘flash mob’ : It appears CAR can also be used in conjunction with the Combat Focused Shooting technique espoused by Rob Pincus et al. Combat Focused Shooting advocates using a similar high stack two-handed retention position at armpit level for movement with a drawn handgun to preclude gun grabs from the side or rear. The Zombie Tactics video demonstrates the Combat Focused Shooting draw technique of bringing the gun from holster up to the armpit before extending the gun toward the target in the firing position. Punching the gun straight toward the target rather than swinging it up toward the target in a manner that might overshoot and miss.
The recent John Wick movies seem to have popularized CAR, in the same way the Dirty Harry movies popularized the two-hand hold and other aspects of Jeff Cooper’s Modern Technique of the Pistol a generation ago. So in the long run it remains to be seen whether CAR withstands the test of time or just turns out to be another training fad. Proponents of CAR have put on some spectacular demonstrations of it’s efficacy; however, one must remember that the experts always make it look easy and effortless. Shooting a handgun well requires practice, practice and more practice. About three year’s worth to obtain ‘expert’ level ability. Which is why people are always seeking training shortcuts to handgun proficiency and fads abound in handgun shooting. Like Dr. Thomas Sowell pointed out, human beings are not as creative as they would like to believe they are, so bad ideas keep getting recycled.
The Zombie Tactics YouTube video also does a good job of debunking the ‘gangsta’ side-ways pistol hold and demonstrating why it does not work and offers no advantage over the conventional vertical hand position method of holding a handgun. Regardless of how macho and devil-may-care it may make one look to hold a handgun in that fashion.
It is written that the Chinese Tong gangsters in Shanghai used the sideways firing position to lay down suppressive fire to cover their escape. As the gun recoiled to the side it would spray bullets over a wide area forcing pursuers to duck for cover. This tactic was said to work well with the “broom handle” C-96 Mauser pistol that was a favorite of Chinese gangsters pre-WWII. Especially the “schnellfuer” (select fire: semi and full-automatic) version of that handgun. Of course the collateral damage to civilian bystanders that got hit by the random spray of bullets was distracting to the authorities as well. Much like in early 21st Century American cities, the Chinese populace tended to blame the police for such random violence , especially the ‘foreign devil’ police forces in the international extra-territorial enclaves of Shanghai.
I first encountered the sideways hold position in back in the 1970’s in precision pistol target shooting where people held the gun with the traditional one-hand hold from the duelist stance. Some shooters would hold their handgun with the hand pronated because they believed that holding their piece that way would enable them to obtain a smoother trigger release. I didn’t see anybody win matches that way and the technique turned out to be a passing fad that disappeared, only to reappear in the movies as the ‘gangsta’ style.
A few years later, when combat handgun matches using the two handed hold become popular, one encountered shooters holding the pistol diagonally to compensate for cross eye dominance. Typically a right-handed shooter with a dominant left eye held the gun diagonally canted to the left in their strong right hand so they could align the sights on the target with their dominant left eye. Again, I didn’t see that this technique worked all that well as a short cut to compensating for cross eye dominance. To become truly proficient with a handgun, especially in fast moving combat shooting situations where you are moving and/ or your target is moving, one must learn to shoot with both eyes open in order to enhance target acquisition and maintain situational awareness. You have to get on target fast, align the sights in a flash sight picture and smoothly squeeze the trigger so as not to upset the sight alignment, all in one motion. Or like Bat Masterson opined "take your time in a hurry”.
Well James, you can pass this on to Bob. I trust it will answer the questions he might have about CAR.
Full disclosure: I love the John Wick movies. They are full of cartoonish Hollywood nonsense, of course, but it is exceptionally well choreographed Hollywood nonsense and has more basis in reality as far as shooting technique than most other contemporary action movies. Keanu Reeves did a whole lot of real shooting, three-gun style match training, to prepare for the role. Martial arts training as well, so it was the whole package and extremely entertaining.
Likewise I love the old Dirty Harry movies in spite of their obvious flaws too. They treated the use of firearms in a much more realistic manner than pervious action/adventure/crime dramas, yet they were still full of Hollywood theatrical nonsense.
“That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834
Q: “What do you need?” A: “Guns…Lots of Guns”.
Why Are You People Obsessed With John Wick?
How to shoot like John Wick Part 1
World War II 1911 Pistol Training
Being a Bad Man in a Worse World
Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival
prev:  ‘To Hurt People’     ‹  modern combat  ›     next:  'O' Sultan of Savagery'

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Jeremy BenthamJune 20, 2019 4:22 PM UTC

P.S. Again.

I plumb forgot to mention that besides preventing gun grabs the other major rationale for high-stack, close body hold retention positions such as those employed in CAR and Combat Focused Shooting is the need to NOT make muzzle contact against the body of your adversary if you are using a semi-automatic pistol with a moving barrel. This applies to nearly all the semi-automatic handguns that are in use with police and military operators today, such as the 1911, Glock, Sig-Sauer, Springfield XD, S&W M&P and etcetera, etcetera. If you press the muzzle of one of these pistols forcefully against the body of your opponent you will knock the slide and barrel of the pistol out of battery which will prevent it from firing. Therefore in order to ensure your weapon will fire at body contact range with an adversary you must be sure to maintain sufficient clearance between the muzzle of your gun and the body of the adversary so that your weapon will fire AND cycle its action properly so it can continue to keep firing as necessary. Hugging your pistol close your body like John Wick then helps ensure the necessary clearance (Lots of grappling and other close combat in the John Wick movies, eh?). On the other hand if someone shoves the muzzle of a 1911 or Glock pistol into YOUR belly, grabbing the pistol and leaning into it will knock the slide of the weapon out of battery and prevent it from firing, no matter how many times your assailant pulls the trigger. Not the optimum method of handgun disarming to be sure, but it could buy you precious seconds of time until you can figure out what else to do. Back in the good ‘ole days when most everyone employed in law enforcement on the North American continent carried a revolver, maintaining muzzle distance in close range encounters was not a source of concern with said operators. They could just shove the rigid barrel of their gat into their enemy’s chest and let fly with all six rounds. Either that or club their opponent over the head with the six-gun. Heavy revolvers such as the Colt Single Action Army (AKA the ‘cowboy gun’) were well suited for the custom of ‘pistol whipping’ and generally did not suffer ill effect from such rough treatment. Besides revolvers, semi-automatic handguns with rigid barrels like the M9 Beretta, the Walther P-38 and the Luger pistol will also fire and cycle their actions with the muzzle of the barrel pressed firmly against a human body or other obstruction.

This requirement to maintain muzzle clearance with most semi-automatic handguns also suggests that, as far as handguns are concerned, revolvers may be the optimum choice for close contact bear defense as well, regardless of the lesser number of shots any large caliber revolver will necessarily hold, compared to say a 10mm Glock or a Desert Eagle .50 AE. Thus should you suddenly find yourself with an 800 pound grizzly bear sitting on top of you, you won’t need to trouble yourself with such arcane considerations as muzzle clearance and will at the very least be able to shove the barrel of your .454 Casull into the furry body above you and fire away. Of course you need not have to choose between the two types of firearms as there is no law that says must carry just one gun. Except in New Mexico, where, believe it or not, it IS against the law for a concealed carry permit holder to carry more than one handgun.
Bryce SharperJune 17, 2019 9:24 PM UTC

I was wondering what happened to Jeremy.

Gunsamerica makes this case for this technique:

"Being shot with your own gun is a major concern in real-world self-defense shooting situations and CAR addresses this, while also helping you to quickly and accurately place defensive fire. It got my attention.

In most self-defense situations you start out behind the eight ball since you’re reacting to a threat. Worse case, your assailant has their gun or other weapon ready before you even begin to draw. A fast reaction is necessary and anything that improves your reaction time is a good thing.

If you’ve maintained your situational awareness—you’ve been paying attention to where you are and what’s happening around you—you may not be far behind, but you’re still behind. Through economy of movement that incorporates your body’s natural instincts, Center Axis Relock can help you respond, draw and get on target quickly.

The Fundamentals

Center Axis Relock was developed by Paul Castle who served in law enforcement as a detective and training officer. After retiring he decided to put his experience to work to develop a method to increase the safety and effectiveness of law enforcement and military personnel in close quarters situations. As most self-defense scenarios take place either at short ranges or in confined spaces, the methods he developed for professionals also serve private individuals and concealed-carriers."

So this technique is used when someone has gotten the drop on your and is close enough to be able to wrestle the gun away from you. Active Response Training on YouTube shows many such scenarios.

Why is this technique better than pulling a knife and stabbing the guy who's right on top of you or shoving him and running away if he's armed?

As someone who likes guns, I still think it's impractical and costly to emphasize some new gun technique and a firearm training over better, more cost-effective solutions.
Jeremy BenthamJune 16, 2019 1:31 PM UTC


Here's the link to the Zombie Tactics YouTube Video Bob referred to. Enjoy!

GunFu: Gangsta vs. Center Axis Relock – Zombie Tactics