THE CENTER AXIS RELOCK SHOOTING TECHNIQUE
THE CENTER AXIS RELOCK SHOOTING TECHNIQUE
I am speculating that most readers are familiar with the various John Wick movies. For those that are not, Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a grieving dog lover and former assassin with a heart of gold who gets caught up in wildly improbable scenarios that feature multiple scenes of eye-catching gunfights, car chases, and hand-to-hand combat.
Some of the fight scenes in John Wick take place at extreme close-contact distance and consist of a blend of retention shooting and Judo/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As someone who has a fair bit of knowledge of both, my advice to concealed carriers is: “Don’t try this at home.” The John Wick movies have much in common with the Chinese-made Kung Fu movies that arrived in America in the 1970s. A viewer is best served by suspending belief and sitting back and enjoying the skillful choreography and athletic skill of the actors. Having said that, watching Keanu Reeves frequently use a shooting technique often referred to as the Center Axis Relock (“CAR”) reminded me that there might be a time and place for its use in a real-world self-defense situation.
Without going into significant detail, the CAR technique might be described as a compressed version of Weaver shooting position in which the support side elbow is bent and pointing towards the ground, and the strong side elbow is also bent but flares to the same side (left for left-handed concealed carriers, right for right-handed concealed carriers). This action tends to rotate my hand (and handgun) inwards approximately 90 degrees. I then have the option to maintain the position of the handgun where I can see the sights, drop it slightly below my eyeline, or drop my left elbow further downwards even further (the back of my elbow makes contact with my torso right around my waistline) so that I have basically assumed a compressed low ready position.
The CAR technique was developed by a law enforcement trainer named Paul Castle, and by no means have I done a good job in this article describing all of the nuances of shooting from this position such as foot position, angle of the torso to the target, and even correct positioning of the elbows. Instead, I would like to focus on two scenarios in which concealed carrier might find themselves in where knowing how to use this technique might be of value:
Situation #1: I am sitting in my parked vehicle and suddenly approached from my left side by an attacker only a few feet or yards away armed with a firearm or attempting to break through my driver’s side window with a crowbar or similar object. If use of lethal force is my only option (I might be able to dissuade the attacker with the crowbar by threatening to use lethal force if time permits), I have the option of releasing my seat belt by first sliding my left hand across my chest under the shoulder harness before unlocking the buckle so that my left arm does not get entangled in the seat belt if I need to suddenly exit the vehicle, drawing my pistol while using good technique that keeps me from sweeping my lower body, shifting my position in the seat so that my hips are as square to the door as possible, and then using the CAR technique so that I can align my sights with the target.
This technique works well whether the driver’s side window is up or down because I am more or less firing from a two-handed retention position and can see and align the sights. Using the sights greatly increases the chances that I can control the direction of the bullets leaving my muzzle. The reason that this is important is because I want to stop the threat as soon as possible and avoid misses might injure or kill anyone else.
Situation #2: For use as an alternative low ready position as opposed to the more traditional low ready position (arms extended and muzzle pointing at the ground) in the following situations:
- I am forced to take someone at gunpoint and hold them until law enforcement arrives on the scene.
- I may need to quickly apply lethal force in order to defend myself against the threatened actions of others if I believe that those actions would likely cause severe bodily injury or death and no other viable responses are available to me.
- I was forced to defend myself using lethal force and my downed or injured attacker remains at the scene and possibly capable of resuming their attack.
There are at least two reasons that the CAR technique might be viable if the concealed carrier further depresses the muzzle of the handgun so it is pointed towards the ground. One, standing in an extended low ready position for a long time period is tiring and hard to maintain. If the concealed carrier simply rests his or her support side elbow on the lower left torso then the weight of the handgun is largely borne by bone-on- bone contact, and not the muscles of the arms and shoulders. Two, concealed carriers with significant neck issues (my neck contains an assortment of degenerative disks, bulging disks, and bone spurs due to a motorcycle accident in 1972) may find that remaining in an extended low ready position for more than a few minutes may start compressing nerves and causing pain, which can be ignored, and muscle weakness, which cannot.
I learned of this technique in 2001, and used it at a least of couple of times on the job and an untold number of times as a student in training classes in lieu of the traditional low ready position during shooting drills when the instructor told the class to remain at low ready and then delivered a five-minute explanation of what the next drill might be and how to do it.
Is this a must technique for concealed carriers? Obviously not, as I only know a few other trainers that occasionally use it, and the others I know that do not use it have gotten by quite nicely for decades without it. Regardless, it is one technique that I have found useful and it would not be surprise me in the least to find out that there are other concealed carriers who find the same to be true for them.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 26 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.