Keanu Reeves used a unique shooting system in his recent John Wick movies. I wondered if it was all Hollywood magic, but I learned he trained over an extended period with Taran Tactical Training and that he shoots 3 Gun-type scenarios often. From his live-fire videos I watched, he is a darn accurate shooter who uses solid basic tactical techniques. His tactical trainer said that he is the “best weapons actor out there.” Well, his quick tactical reloads, aiming, fundamentals, and basic techniques looked fine to me. But, beyond the Hollywood glamour and for practical self-defense shooting would his unique technique work? What type of shooting system does he use, what are its features, and is it for you and me?
There are 5,624 shooting/grip/stance systems that we might use. Well not really that I am aware of, but I want to pique your interest in this unique and relatively new shooting system and tool. This system is named “Center Axis Relock” or C.A.R. for short. The real meaning of the name will make sense after you read about its features below. I researched this system and honestly could not find a whole lot of recent specific information about it, but there was some general information from a few short years ago. The C.A.R. developer died in 2011, and I could not find direct information from him or his estate about its details. Some police and military units use it, as well as Reeves and other shooters. John Veit, a C.A.R. trainer who formerly taught it with the original developer, says it is gaining acceptance throughout 22 states and police communities in the U.S. and Canada. But, I have observed in my small sample that there is not widespread use in civilian sectors now, primarily I guess because folks are not that familiar with it, have not practiced regularly with it, nor used it in street deadly-force encounters.
Here is a C.A.R.’s demonstration video I found on Youtube from Quadtap45 that shows its techniques and basics.
Many years ago I started with the Isosceles shooting stance and a locked thumbs (support thumb-over-strong thumb) grip for shooting my handguns, learned from my military experiences. Then I remember switching to the Weaver and then Chapman stances. Just a few years ago, I began successfully using the bladed Modified or Modern Isosceles position and the two-thumbs-pointed-down-range (straight thumbs) grip. The latter work very well for me, but I wanted to try the unique C.A.R. shooting system, mainly to see if it did help improve my target hits. When I watched the John Wick 2 film, it reminded me of it. By the way, C.A.R. is an acronym for the “Center Axis Relock” system, developed by the British Special Forces officer and F.B.I.-trained law enforcement Captain (recently deceased) Paul Castle. Did you see it in the John Wick movies with Keanu Reeves?
All Shooting Systems have Pros and Cons & are Personal
Recognize that I am not advocating any single shooting stance, grip, or system for anyone else. Also, remember that ANY shooting stance/grip system has both advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the individual to decide for themselves which works for them. And that some techniques are designed for close-up tactical gunfighting, and others are not. According to a C.A.R. law enforcement trainer who taught the C.A.R. system and point shooting with Captain Castle, it is built upon the natural abilities of the human body to function under severe stress, as in real-world combat, and not just the stress of range training drills.
This article is a report of how the C.A.R. shooting system works for me. First, I want to give the most basic concept of the system and its goal, then some of its key features, followed by my opinions and conclusions about it and where to use it, etc.
What is the Basic Concept of this C.A.R. Shooting System?
C.A.R. is not just a stance or shooting position, not just a type of grip, not just about a reload technique, not just about the natural point of aim, not only about weapons retention, and not about just sight picture, etc. It is a simple, flexible mixture of all of these things blended and more. It is a total, integrated combat tactical SYSTEM with key elements that primarily (not solely) law enforcement and military operators follow. It intentionally BLENDS its techniques with pistol, rifle, and shotgun combinations and existing techniques to improve the speed and accuracy of target hits.
Maybe it’s a 3 Gun possibility for you? Perhaps it’s something you want to use for close-up self-defense encounters? Remember from above, that it was developed by Special Forces military and law enforcement officer, Captain Paul Castle. Whatever you use it for, you must PRACTICE employing it, before you use it. And don’t forget to PRACTICE its elements. And another thing, don’t forget to PRACTICE it! Your life may depend upon your proper use of it.
The Goal of Using the C.A.R. Shooting System
Paul Castle said its goal is to improve the HIT RATE and to get on target quickly. Reports indicate that military and law enforcement members’ hit rates are lower than desired in deadly-force situations, somewhere between about 15 and 40%. His goal was to get hits somewhere close to a 95% hit rate for close quarters combat, tactical situations.
Key Features of C.A.R. Shooting System
Some of the C.A.R. features are similar to other systems or stances, grips, ready positions, etc. C.A.R. blends some existing conventional elements. Here are the eight important fundamental C.A.R. FEATURES:
1. Bladed Shooting Position/Stance
The shooter’s body is not entirely facing the front of the attacker, but slightly turned or bladed with the support-side shoulder forward. This stance and with the gun cradled close to the body, bones, and tissues of the upper support arm provide protection and reduce vulnerabilities. It presents less of the body to the attacker than other stances, but care must be taken, so that vulnerable vest portions are not exposed. The idea is to use the body’s natural center axis for physical stability, strength, control, and to increase the range of motion and fluidity.
2. Handgun Held Very Close to Body
When shooting, you hold the handgun in close to the body (either at eye level or chest level, depending upon the scenario), rather than fully extending your arms to the front. This stance is a major difference when compared to other conventional stances. This stance also allows a quicker acquisition of the close sights (if used) and a shorter focal distance from the eyes, to enhance and quickly acquire visual focus. It also aids weapon retention and helps protect against gun grabs. Maneuverability is easy, and you can use it for shooting in confined spaces, from vehicles, and for contact fighting. The hands held close to the body help prevent rounds from getting past body armor.
3. Handgun is Slightly Canted in Strong Hand Toward Support Side
Strong, firing hand/arm are partially extended (about half way but not straight) with strong elbow slightly bent to keep sights in close to eyes for quicker acquisition and a shorter focal range for eyes of between 14 and 16 inches. (Mine measured 14 inches from the back of my front sight to my eyes.) Support elbow is bent and pointed toward the ground. The cant is not as extreme as some gang and gangster cants. This method is another major difference when compared to other stances and grips. The cant prevents having to cant your wrist unnaturally and gives better alignment to the wrist and arm to help control the felt recoil.
4. Support Hand Grip Wraps Around Back of Strong Hand & Cradles Bottom of Strong Hand
This grip is similar to the “cup-and-saucer” support-hand grip but is more to the side of the strong hand, rather than its bottom. The support hand thumb is pointed up and presses against the frame for added support. The strong hand presses firmly into the support hand for even more firm support and control of possible slippage.
5. Blends Sighted and Non-Sighted Aiming
Depending on the scenario and distances as appropriate, C.A.R. does or does not use the handgun’s sights. But, if possible, the gun’s sights should always be used. Point shooting may at times be necessary. For close-up, tactical combat confrontations, and the need for speedy responses against attackers, you may not use the handgun’s sights at times. Because you are holding the gun in close, both sights and the target are quicker to access. The sights are then at a normal reading distance from the eyes.
6. You Keep Both Eyes Open When Using C.A.R.
To enhance peripheral vision for additional threats and developments and improved depth perception, both of the shooter’s eyes are open. This method emphasizes the accepted fundamental shooting principle that both eyes should be open. The shooter can use the sights without dealing with a double sight picture.
7. Place Your Support Eye to Better Alight Sights for a Total Perspective
A right-handed shooter will place the canted gun, and its sights close in front of the left eye to allow more depth and width of vision and a big picture whole perspective.
8. Utilizes Two Main Shooting Positions
C.A.R. uses High and Extended positions or stances. Use the High position for working in confined spaces, from cover, and while moving and hold the gun high next to the chest. This is like a high-ready position, but it is really a high-shoot position that helps to make it difficult for another to take your gun away. It is a flexible and strong base for using both short and long-range weapons, like handgun, rifle, shotgun, baton, pepper spray, etc. The High position helps to quickly handle any threat coming straight at the vehicle’s windows.
Use the Extended position for combat, assault, room entry or clearing, and when seated in a vehicle. It is the primary C.A.R. position and allows for high levels of accuracy and rapid shooting when moving or in small, cramped quarters. The gun is held in close 14-16 inches from the eyes and very near the body. Form a triangle with the arms and chest for natural aiming. This technique allows the eyes to be at their true focal distance, about reading distance, when shooting. In the Extended position with the gun being closer to the eyes, there can be a quicker lock on the target and sights and can be helpful when there are multiple attackers. See the short John Wick 2 movie teaser trailer from Lionsgate below for some examples of the C.A.R. techniques with several attackers.
Conclusions About the C.A.R. System
The bladed stance, keeping both eyes open when shooting, using your sights in some scenarios and not in others (like in close-up combat or self-defense encounters), and a firm grip, are not new or unique and not that controversial. But when combined with the C.A.R.’s other unique features and techniques given above, it makes for a very effective tactical up-close combat “system.”
Primary C.A.R. Advantages
- speed to employ your weapon for multiple targets
- getting off multiple shots rapidly
- quick sight acquisition
- help from using both eyes for a greater field of vision and peripheral identification of additional threats/targets
- obvious gun retention protection
- use in a vehicle
- reduced muzzle flip
Full disclosure: I did not use the system in an actual self-defense encounter, so your mileage may vary realistically, and you must practice this before you use it in combat. Safety First Always!
I was surprised at how it did seem to help my aiming and accuracy some. I think with your gun and sights being closer to your eyes and with both eyes open, it makes it easier and quicker to see the threat/target and to use your sights from a shorter distance just like if you were reading a book. I know with my farsightedness and presbyopia my near focusing is not the best, but bringing the front sight to about 14 inches from my eyes helped, especially when I added my readers. C.A.R. also offers the advantage of helping when shooting with both eyes open. Even though I sometimes shoot with my support eye closed (not recommended for most self-defense scenarios), I could shoot decently with both eyes open and not have a dual sight picture with this system. Remember, when surprise threats occur or when startled, the brain automatically influences both eyes to open, so this system could help for a real-world application.
Using C.A.R., gripping the gun tightly due to hand and arm placements and with the slight inward natural cant toward my support eye, I believe that my accuracy was slightly improved over a short-term period. But I withhold my final judgment until I have practiced more with C.A.R. Remember, technically when using the C.A.R. system a right-hand shooter places the inward-canted gun in line with their left eye (with both eyes open.) This method is counter to the way I was taught and what I practice. At first, this was awkward for me, but I did get over the double vision. Medical eye professionals seem to agree that our brain will naturally favor vision from our dominant eye and ignore from our non-dominant eye, whenever there is a disparity. So maybe this will happen when shooting with both eyes open wherever you place the gun relative to your eyes. But, I need much more practice with the system before recommending it for self-defense encounters and certainly before using it myself for personal protection. I do understand the benefits it has for law enforcement and the military.
I did experience a reduction of muzzle flip when using the C.A.R. grip and techniques. By controlling felt recoil with the tight and close-in grip support, I could get off multiple shots very quickly, with decent accuracy. However, I (and you) will need more practice with it for shot placement. The speed of shots was the most significant advantage, rather than accuracy, for me. When canting the gun inward just a few degrees, my forearm’s radius and ulna bones can be locked for support to my strong, shooting hand wrist and hand. This support along with the solid C.A.R. stance helps with control and speed for multiple shots.
Well, I hope my reporting of my experiences with this unique C.A.R. system of shooting helped you. I know I learned a lot in my research. You may or may not want to consider it, but at least now you have more knowledge of it to help with your decision to try it. I sincerely believe this system has great promise for tactical, combat situations for those who are thoroughly trained and experienced with it. It is especially attractive for specific military and law enforcement situations. It does contain several useful techniques. Sucess with your decision and remember to practice with this and any system or technique before you apply it and use it. Best!
Photos as credited individually.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].