Center Axis Relock — Is It The Real Deal?

Paul Castle passed away in 2011. Before he did, he pioneered a system of shooting called Center Axis Relock. It is actually used by law enforcement and military units all over the world—not by everyone, but by enough to establish that it has some real merits. This system has been controversial and has its critics. I believe that is because it goes against traditional shooting methods and died-in-the-wool traditionalists hate the thought of change. In short, this system is…different.

Photo of Paul Castle.
Paul Castle, the founder of Center Axis Relock. Paul was in law enforcement and worked extensively with other law enforcement and military teams. Here, Paul is in the Combat High position, “Looking for work.” Paul used a Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol.  (Photo: Morrison Tactical)

I’m not going to belabor it. Many articles have been written on how great or dismal CAR is. I’d like to hit two areas in which I think it really does well and tell you why—there are plenty of other works out there to see what it might do “wrong“.

Paul Castle invented the CAR (Center Axis Relock) System because most confrontations occur at very close distances. Based on that, Paul tailored the system to address such threats. Specifically, the CAR system addresses Weapons Retention and fast target engagement as its main attributes.

Where It Shines

Based on my personal experience, the CAR system is really perfect for engaging targets from vehicles and at Close Quarters Battle distances. It is incredibly flexible and uses scientific principles to the system’s advantage. Many of the techniques here use isometric tension as the weapon is held close to the body to create stability and mitigate recoil.

For confined spaces, I truly believe there is no better system. We’ll explore why here.

Center Axis Relock — The Basics

There are four stances in the CAR system: The High Position, the Combat High, the Extended Position, and the Apogee Position. All in all, it’s relatively simple. Throughout the Combat High, Extended, and Apogee Positions, the support side wrist (opposite of the weapon hand) is kept straight at all times.

Paul Castle did not like the term “Weak Hand”, so he called it the Support Side. Obviously, the Weapon Side is the one holding the weapon.

High Position

The weapon is drawn into the center (where our strength is located, hence the “Center” in Center Axis Relock) and held horizontally to the body. From this position, threats can be engaged at very close distances (say, 5-10 feet). The body is bladed to the target. Actually, we can use our body as an aiming platform, since the sights will not be used in this position. Center mass hits are easy, and to raise the point of impact, the torso simply leans back slightly. 

Front and side views of Jim Davis demonstrating Center Axis Relock, high postion
With the High Position, the weapon is close to the body, maximizing weapon retention. Our bladed body is used as a sighting platform, recoil is nearly eliminated, and a high rate of fire can be achieved with great accuracy. (Photos: Rebecca Davis)

This position is most useful for extremely close ranges such as hallways and vehicle defense. As Paul Castle mentioned, CAR acts in harmony with a person’s body. The natural reaction, when we are in danger, is for our arms to draw inward to the body. We’ve seen this many times during real confrontations. Now put a pistol in those hands as they draw inward, and you have the positions we see in CAR.

The High Position basically eliminates recoil and a rate of fire of 4-8 rounds per second is reasonable to expect. It’s perfect for weapon retention, as the elbows can be used to deflect attempted weapon grabs.

Blocking an attack.
In the event of an attempted weapon grab, the operator brings his elbow over the top, breaking the attacker’s grip. Follow-up shots or strikes are delivered. The pistol here is a Glock 19X with Fenix Weapon Light. (Photo: Rebecca Davis)

Combat High

Here, the weapon is raised to a sort of ready position with the operator looking over the top of the weapon. It allows you a full field of view and enables you to engage threats instantly. It’s useful for moving through structures and enclosed spaces because it allows flexibility. It is higher than the High Position, but not quite as high as the Extended Position . The pistol is canted to the side, about 30 degrees (but not held sideways as in “Gangster Style”). Targets can be engaged or disengaged immediately.

Another huge plus of this system is that, in the Combat High position, it can be held for a very long time by an operator. The support side elbow can be allowed to sink down to brace itself on the rib cage, which allows the arm to rest, and yet be ready for instant action. This is a big help when an operator is in position and has to be ready, and yet needs to retain as much strength while reducing as much fatigue as possible.

Combat High Position
The Combat High Position from the front. The pistol is canted 30 degrees, which is a natural hand position (straight up and down is not a natural position). The Combat High Position permits an operator to be at the ready for an extended period of time without fatigue. (Photo: Rebecca Davis)


Still holding the pistol canted to the side, bring in the sights to a reading distance (don’t worry, the slide will not hit you between the eyes, it just seems that way at first). This puts the sights in a range where you have a far better chance of seeing them. Why is that an issue? Because during a critical incident, the adrenaline rush makes vision difficult, often resulting in tunnel vision. Having the sights right up in your face will help you be able to see them. T

The pistol is held canted, about 30 degrees. If you hold it in the right hand, your left eye will be the one the sights are aligned with and vice versa. This also helps you to take the most advantage of any available cover due to your body’s angle in relation to the cover.

Jim Davis demonstrates Center Axis Relock, extended position, front and side view
In the Extended Position, the sights are at reading distance and the slide is locked back, nowhere near hitting the operator in the face. One concern that new students voice is that the slide might hit them in the face. Not at all the case. The pistol is canted 30 degrees, which is a natural hand position. The corner of the slide can also be used as an aiming point (extreme close quarters), which allows for a greater field of vision. (Photo: Rebecca Davis)


The Apogee Position is used for engaging targets at more of a distance; farther than the Extended Position. It’s the same as the Extended Position, except the rear sight is pushed out to the distance that the front sight was for the Extended Position. The pistol is still canted to the side and the sights are used. They are just a bit farther away. As with the Extended Position, if the right hand is holding the pistol, the left eye is the one that will see the sights the most closely.

Personally, this is my least favorite position in the CAR System. I’ve tried to adapt to it. The other positions work well for me and I quickly adapted. For some reason, though, this one and I just don’t jive. Rather, I use the standard Press-Out that the majority of shooters still use these days instead of the Apogee. Maybe I’ve used the Press-Out for too long to adapt to something else. I don’t know. That’s just me – others have adapted to it and use it.

Apogee Position from side.
Apogee Position. The rear sight is the distance that the front sight had been in the Extended Position. This position does not feel natural to me, and I do not use it. (Photo: Rebecca Davis)

For targets past about ten yards, I just use the Press-Out because I can do it better than the Apogee. Easy enough. I’m not a blind devotee to techniques that I’ve tried and found wanting, so if it doesn’t work, I discard it.

Jim Davis demonstrates the Press Out handgun position
In place of the Apogee, I automatically revert to the standard “Press Out” position. In close quarters, however, this position compromises weapon retention. It’s best used for distance shooting. I’ve been doing the Press Out for decades, it’s natural for me! (Photos: Rebecca Davis)

It’s Part of the Tactical Toolbox

Like many others, I have a tactical toolbox. That is to say, I don’t subscribe 100% to one system or another. I take what I like from various shooting styles and incorporate them into my own style. That said, for CQB and vehicle use, I’ve incorporated a very large portion of the CAR System because it just works.

Note that the CAR System will also work with long guns such as submachine guns, rifles/carbines, and shotguns. It’s especially effective at mitigating the recoil of shotguns. That’s for another article, though.

In Vehicles

What makes CAR so useful for vehicles? The fact that it offers nearly 360-degree coverage. Using the High, Combat High, and Extended Positions, you can fire nearly in a full circle.  It’s possible to engage targets from the driver’s seat out the rear passenger window, out the driver’s window, windshield, passenger window, and all the way out the vehicle’s back window.

Center Axis Relock inside vehicle
The Center Axis Relock system allows 360-degree coverage of your vehicle. (Photos: Rebekah Davis)

CQB/Close Range

As mentioned, the Weapons Retention aspect of CAR makes it especially useful for close range. As well, the flexibility and recoil mitigation makes it especially suited to these roles. Police, Tactical Teams, homeowners…all benefit from this versatility and flexibility. I honestly know of no other system that is this effective for close range. This isn’t target shooting and isn’t necessarily the most accurate way of shooting. It is, however, effective for quickly engaging hostiles.

Center Axis Relock close quarters
(Left) In confined spaces, the High Position allows weapons retention and a high, accurate rate of fire. (Right) The Extended Position permits a shooter to engage hostiles while making the most use of cover/concealment. (Photos: Rebecca Davis)

To Summarize

Center Axis Relock takes some getting used to. Some shooters might not adapt well and may be satisfied with adopting one or two techniques from the system. Others will dive in and never look back.

It absolutely has some profound advantages for certain applications that I believe make it solidly superior to other techniques. It’s not a cure-all for everything, but within its scope, it does some things better than anything else. If you’re interested, I suggest exploring some videos of this system to see how others are exploiting it. I think you’ll be impressed. I sure was.

Drawing of Paul Castle by Dick Kramer.
A drawing of Paul Castle by my late friend, Dick Kramer (Kramer Studios). (Photo: Morrison Tactical)
Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap