Center Axis Relock: Is John Wick Right or Wrong?

If you’re a hardcore gun guy or gal like all of us here at PPT, chances are you’ve probably seen the movie John Wick and/or the equally-awesome sequel John Wick: Chapter 2.  

We love these movies so much that we actually interviewed Taran Butler, the man who trained Keanu Reeves to be able to do all of that impressive shooting in the movie.

We’ve recently learned that filming has begun on the third (final?) chapter in the series, and that’s got us thinking about the films, particularly the shooting techniques we see in them.

Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the film, or read our article on it, the directors, stunt coordinators, and the actors themselves all went out of their way to make the stunts and gun handling in the film as accurate as possible to real life.

Of course, if you have seen the film or even just the trailer, you’ve probably wondered what the heck this is all about.

car shooting john wick
John Wick…gangster?

What you’re seeing here, with Keanu tilting his gun to the side like that, is not creative license, but is actually a real shooting technique created by law enforcement trainer Paul Castle.

paul castle
Paul Castle, inventor of CAR

Before his untimely death due to cancer in 2011, Castle developed what he called the Center Axis Relock (CAR) system as an alternative to modern weaver and isosceles stances.

So we’ve established that its a real thing, and not simply movie magic…but is it worth learning?

Let’s find out.

Why Center Axis Relock was Created

Most self-defense scenarios happen at close range, in confined spaces, usually within 8-10 feet, sometimes even closer.  

The problem with moving in a confined space in a traditional stance is that you have the gun way out in front of you, and you’ve more or less got your arms fully extended.  This gives you very poor leverage in the event someone gets their hands on your gun.

Isosceles Stance, PoliceOne
Isosceles Stance

The CAR system allows for less time between drawing and getting the target in your sights, as well as providing better weapon retention.  Getting shot with your own gun is more common than you’d think, especially dealing with an attacker at close range.

Armed defense against intruder
AKA “Oh SHIT distance”

For shooting and moving, or shooting at the range, a standard isosceles stance is going to be much better, but what about shooting inside a narrow hallway, or from a vehicle?  What about when the target is already at contact distance, maybe even inside where your arms would normally be in an isosceles stance?

These are the problems the CAR system seeks to address.  For this reason, it was never really intended to replace the weaver or isosceles stance (though we recommend the latter) but was meant to be another tool in your shooting toolbox.  

One more tool to keep you alive.  

How Does the Center Axis Relock System Work?

There are two main parts to the CAR system, each a shooting stance in its own right, and each with a specific purpose.

First, there’s the High position.  This is what you’ll be drawing into, with your body facing perpendicular to your target.  The support (non-gun-holding) hand clears clothing or other obstructions while the strong hand brings the pistol up and close to the chest.   The support hand then moves up (be careful to never sweep the muzzle over your support hand) and meets the strong (gun-holding) hand from beneath.

At this point, your weak-side foot should be at a 90-degree angle to your target, and the barrel of your gun should be up, level, and pointed at the target. 

Although not a goal or recommendation, it is possible to place accurate fire at a target within contact range from here – if you really needed to. You can also use your elbows to get distance from your attacker.

CAR high position
Be sure to check out this awesome article from GunsAmerica writer Wayne Lincourt that goes over the fine details of drawing into the CAR system.

This is your ready position.

From here, you have the option of transitioning to the Extended position, whereby you rotate your support elbow down while rotating your strong hand up to bring the sights of the firearm up into alignment with your strong eye (read up on Cross-dominant shooting if you aren’t sure which eye is your strong eye).

CAR extended position.
This is the extended position.

This is the position you’ll use for accurate aimed fire at range.  From here you can engage targets as normal, using your support hand to pull back on the gun, while using your strong hand to push it forward towards the target.

This creates a very stable, yet flexible “locked-in” firing position, while also presenting as small of a target as possible to your attacker.

Level 1 CAR System
You can watch this video for an idea of how the transition works.

What’s the CAR System Good For?

The main goal of the CAR system is to get your sights on the target quickly while maintaining solid weapon retention and a stable firing position.

It does this by using your body’s instinctive reactions and gross motor functions in a high-stress situation.  In such a situation, you may have trouble getting your sights aligned quickly, and if you are not strongly dominant with one eye or the other, it may be difficult to quickly choose the correct sight picture.

vortex viper red dot
This is less of an issue if you’re using a red dot optic on your pistol, but still worth thinking about.

The Center Axis Relock addresses these issues in two ways.  One, the first position, or High position, is designed to facilitate the maximum point-shooting ability for engaging a target that’s already at contact distance.

If you have an assailant in your face, punching the firearm out towards them gives them ample opportunity to begin wrestling for your gun, which is a dire situation indeed.  From the High position of the CAR system, it is much harder for such an assailant to get their hands on the gun in a way that will allow them to take it from you.

It also makes it very easy to point shoot without bringing the sights up, meaning you can stop such an attack before it gets going.

If the target is further away and you need to utilize your weapon’s sights to make an accurate shot, the Extended position offers an easy-to-use position for quickly and cleanly bringing the gun up and into a firing position that still offers a stable shooting platform and good weapon retention, while also allowing utilizing the correct sight picture automatically.

What’s it Not Good For?

Sounds good, right?

Make no mistake, I truly believe the CAR system is something every defensive-minded shooter should learn.  Another tool to have in the “Don’t Die” toolbox.

However.

I won’t go so far as to say the CAR system is a replacement for the isosceles stance most modern shooters are more familiar with.  This stance offers a better chance of moving and shooting “getting off the X” and out of the situation in general.

Isosceles Stance, thewellarmedwoman.com
Turns out, the modern isosceles stance should still be your go-to in most situations.

Remember, unlike John Wick, you want to be in as few gunfights as possible, and a well-armed retreat is better than a well-armed engagement any day.

The CAR system is also not great (in my opinion, there are those who disagree) for room entry.  If you enter a room with an attacker in an unknown location, you may have to pivot your entire body to make a shot, especially if the attacker is to your support side.

That being said, how often does that happen?  In most situations, if you have to draw your gun, you’re already reacting to a visual threat, probably one right in front of you.  For that, the CAR system is incredibly effective.

It’s also very good for moving through confined spaces with your gun in a ready position that reduces the likelihood of your gun being taken from you.  And believe me, you don’t want to be the person on the news who got killed with their own gun.

Parting Shots

The Center Axis Relock system is a shooting technique that may have been popularized by Hollywood, but it is way more than just filmic flim-flam.  This is a real-world technique, developed by a professional with over two decades of military and LEO experience.

And if used properly, as another tool in the “Don’t Die” toolbox, it can even save your life.

For more information, be sure to check out Sabre Tactical, the company founded by Paul Castle primarily to teach the CAR system.

Do you train with the CAR system? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments!

 

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7 Comments on "Center Axis Relock: Is John Wick Right or Wrong?"

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B.
Guest

oh wow. sometimes I do use this form and didnt even know someone already came out with it. I do not think its an issue of right or wrong but does it work for you and how efficient are you with it. everyone is different.

Jdljlr sdkf;W
Guest

THE best training for the CAR system is located throughout LA County and Las Vegas and other ranges. The are conducted by one of the longest standing trainers TIM GEORGE Civilianarmstrainingsystem.com

Lee David
Guest
CAR has been very useful for us older guys with bad eyes. You get easy rapid target acquisition but you line up under your non-dominant eye. That’s my left eye and I shoot right handed. Accuracy to 15 yards is same compared to ISO or Weaver. In CQB you can lay down a blistering accurate POA and protect your weapon. Reloads are faster. I like the bladed stance since you are a smaller target and it is more natural with my martial arts training. I shoot both eyes open which incr my peripheral vision. It isn’t meant to be a… Read more »
Silver fox
Guest

I read the article and watched the video of the guy shooting at 2-3 feet. I will probably try that the next time at the range. Until then I still like the 1/2 second faster Josie Wells draw-and-fire from the hip. That close I wouldn’t miss.

Dre
Guest
That was a well written article and appreciated by someone who has had the good fortune to train with Paul before he passed. One correction though, once you go to the extended position, it is NOT meant to line up with your dominant eye. If you go to extended with the pistol in your right hand, you line up to your left eye. If you extend with your left hand, you line up to your right eye. The idea is your nose will block the “other” eye from causing double vision or “ghosted” sights. Therefore giving the shooter a crystal… Read more »
Ray Williams
Guest

That makes sense.

Jay
Guest

And a second correction… I
If trained properly in the CAR method, one would not have to pivot the entire body to make a shot when entering a room for clearing…. Swap hands and eyes.