The center axis relock is a style of shooting that has been around for a good long while, but has become more noticed as of late, thanks to the John Wick series of movies. I do not think that it is a bad thing to have this semi-mysterious and showy style presented on film. However, I think that people might be interested to learn a little bit about the style and how it was intended to be used. In addition, I would like to cover my own observations about the John Wick style of using this style for offensive close quarters engagements.
First thing to note is the origin of the center axis relock. It was developed by the late Paul Castle, who was a former British Police officer. He was very passionate about developing a technique for engaging people at close range with a pistol in a way that could be versatile and instinctive with some practice. Also, the idea was to use the bodies natural defensive movements and add a firearm into the mix. This style of shooting was not supposed to be taken out of the realm of reactive defense, nor was it intended or optimal for medium range engagements. This style was intended to be strictly for giving Police officers a style of reacting with a firearm that had little disadvantages and could be used with stunning effect in order to save their lives in a close quarters deadly force engagement.
With the origins and original purpose out of the way, I think it is worthy of note to point out that the system has been evolved by second and third hand instructors to include different positions for the ready and even stances for using this style for longer range engagements. Being that this style of shooting was intended to be reactive, it seems that most of the instruction given to students on this subject actually is intended to turn the style into what it can never be, a universal style to be used instead of any other. This kind of bastardization is not only seen in the center axis relock style, but this mindset has been poured into many other positions, stances, styles, techniques, manipulations, you name it. Don't forget the origins of the style. This was intended to be a tool for close quarters, not a universal style of shooting.
Now that this jazz is out of the way, let us talk about the way John Wick employs the center axis relock. If you look closely and mind all his movements, the first thing you will notice is that he only uses this style when it is called for or when he needs to. This is good to see that the actor is able to show how being versatile with your styles, stances, and techniques must match the situation. Now when you see him using the style, he is usually moving quickly through crowds or elsewhere. Also you will notice that he used the style any time he could in close quarters. As far as using the technique when moving around, even in open spaces, I think that it is a good idea. The center axis relock allows you to have your sights aligned and for you to scan through your sights while moving. Also, if you should have to fire quickly, you will actually be able to maintain good recoil control and keep a good amount of retention on your pistol.
Now let us talk about the presentation John Wick, or at least Keanu Reeves, has with the center axis relock. If you note the original method of employment, you are supposed to use your opposite eye and have your body well bladed in an attempt to present a small target. John wick actually uses a modern isosceles stance while trying to employ the center axis relock. This way of employing the technique doesn't seem to have him in a position to use his left eye. In fact, I don't remember seeing him use his opposite eye at all. What I figure is that his character was wanting to use certain benefits of the style by adapting it to a more universal and modern stance. The original style used the weaver stance by chance, which gave the style alot of good benefits. The adapted version does not offer quite as much. I noticed that this adapted style lacked comfort and control for fast and accurate follow-up shots. The relock in the name is very obvious when you employ the style properly in the weaver stance. You feel securely locked into position, while this modified style seems to lack comfort and much of the secure grip potential. Try it some time and you may notice a bit of discomfort if you strain to gain a tight hold on your pistol.
I can't say that this Hollywood version of the center axis relock is wrong, but I will say that it is not quite what it was meant to be. I feel that the adaptation is still valuable and practical in the sense of the ability to quickly react with good accuracy and retention when used on the move. Plus, it looks aggressive and sexy, which alot of the tacticool community loves to have in their toolbox these days.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.