03 January 2014

Reader question about combat shooting

For a long time I have been meaning to post questions I get from readers along with my answers, so here is the first one.  More to come.  If you have a question and want my opinion, just e-mail me.

DM writes-

I used to frequent bladeforums a few years ago and I remember that you are a proponent of the CAR method of shooting. In your experienced opinion sir, how long does it take one to become proficient in this system (providing that they take training seriously). Also, what method of drawing a firearm would you recommend?

Thank you for your time, it is very appreciated.

DM

DM- Not that I every really did, but my New Years resolution is to not tip toe around anyone's feelings about this stuff when it comes to slaughtering sacred cows.  My dearly departed brother Paul Castle, creator of the CAR system, was the same way.  You will find tons of people saying good things about the man, especially now that he is not with us to defend himself.  Keep in mind that you do not have to like someone to use their information.  I considered Paul a brother.  That said...here we go-

I believe it was around 2002 that I first contacted Paul about doing a class for our SWAT team, after hearing another close friend, a Robbery Homicide detective from AL rave about CAR.  Paul drove up and did a class for us hosted by the Aberdeen Proving Ground Special Response Team.  The class was absolutely brutal and fascinating.  People would pass out and Paul would go nuts if more than one person tried to attend to them.  Because I was his point of contact, I got to spend a lot of personal time with Paul.  Here is the gist of the reasoning behind CAR, in my words with Paul's wisdom.

Most people who carry a gun, handguns specifically, whether military or police, will never have to fire a shot in the street.  When a good guy is involved in a shooting and prevails, what he did that allowed him to prevail is often never studied.  We are however getting better at this.  What seems to get studied less is what causes good guys to lose.  For most people, including those making a living off of training, the methods being used are like writing a prescription before making a diagnosis.

As a Martial Artist and student of Combatives, as well as being a street cop at the time, what drew me to CAR was that it was based on the anatomy and physiology of the the human body to include the eyes.  CAR integrates the pistol into my fighting system.  At the root of MCS pistol craft is the belief that it is about the fight, not the tool.  CAR allows me to get fast, accurate rounds on target, retain my weapon, deliver powerful strikes with both elbows, and strike with the muzzle of my pistol.

Let's start with the eyes and move down the body.  First of all, we are all familiar with the old adage of  "front sight in a fight" meaning that in a fight you should use your front sight to shoot.  In my opinion, this is bullshit and fairy dust, and here is why.  MCS pistol craft is based on the knowledge that the majority of street encounters will occur at 3-5 yards, last 3-5 seconds, and you will fire 3-5 rounds.  Of course there are exceptions, but you don't train for exceptions first.  Over the past decade I have been doing force on force using airsoft with military, law enforcement, and the citizenry.  Keep in mind that if you adhere to the safety protocols when using Simmunition, you cannot shoot someone within 7 yards (you know where real shootings occur).  The two most glaring realities of 1000's of drills are-

You cannot close one of your eyes under the stress of a CQB shooting or while moving.

Within 7 yards it is impossible to see your sights at all because if your arm is extended you do not have enough room to get the gun between your eyes and the threat.

If you wait until you can see your sights to pull the trigger, you may never get a round off.  This is especially the case if your back is against a wall.

At this point, I have to tell you that I do not use CAR out of the holster.  I use it when out of the holster and as Paul would say "looking for work" meaning that I am looking for targets to engage.  For spontaneous attacks, I use the MCS Drop Step.

Let's talk about body mechanics again.  I will explain this as a right handed shooter (93% of people are), if you are a lefty just switch it around.  On the range, a right handed shooter typically has their right foot just a little behind the left.  This causes you to remain stationary, or encourages you to move backwards in a straight line instead of getting off the X.  The reason behind this is that the left is your reaction side.  Meaning if you were to run away, you would typically power off your right and break to your left.  When faced with a threat, not just a deadly threat, people who only have pistol training and not combatives training will take this shooting stance even if they do not draw their pistol.  The #1 survival principle is movement.  This stance keeps you from moving.  This is further cemented by the rush of most shooters to get two hands on the gun, even at very close ranges.  Once the gun is out and both hands are on it, seldom will people take the support hand away even to defend against an attack.

One place that I deviate from CAR is that about 90% of what I do in MCS pistol craft is one handed.  The offhand is used to grab a loved one, and/or navigate to cover if the situation calls for something other than pulling the trigger.  If you have done a lot of formalized, square range training, it will be very hard for you to overcome the reaction of getting two hands on the gun and standing still and begin responding by stepping back as you draw and engage one handed.  Here is what the Drop Step looks like.



For me CAR came more into play as a police officer than as a citizen, but I still use it.  As I have written about before, law enforcement has the luxury, especially in uniform, to pre-deploy their pistols.  As a cop you spend a lot of time "covering down" on suspects as well as clearing buildings.  The Isosceles and Weaver stances are good for target shooting but suck for having to cover down on someone or move to clear a building.  The funny thing is even those who have not been training in CAR "collapse" or "suck in" when they become fatigued or have to move with a gun in their hand. For most of us, our natural focal distance is 11-13 inches from your eyes. When you have your hands extended out in the Isosceles stance, your front sight will be close to double that.  By collapsing into the CAR high ready position, you bring the front sight to your natural focal distance making it appear like a pip plate transposed over your target.  This, and natural indexing, allow you to be incredibly fast and accurate even while moving.

Presently I do not teach CAR classes, although I do teach some portions of CAR in my courses.  After my basic CAR course, I was invited the next week to take the instructors course.  The following year I was invited to become a CAR Master Instructor and attended the course at Ft McCoy WI with some very interesting people.  There was around 30 of us, including my Sensei, and that was the first and only Master Class.  After spending about three weeks of my life working with CAR, the most interesting thing I can say is that I can teach the basics to anyone who can hold a pistol in about 5 minutes.  The reason is it takes your body and adds the pistol, not adding your body to the pistol like the traditional stances.  Like I said, you can spend as much time on the traditional square range as you want, making a huge pile of once fired brass, but when you have your gun out and are moving, or get tired, you will revert to CAR.  The goal is to understand how our bodies work and train into it, and not against it.  I hope I have answered your questions,.

RIP Paul Castle "Those who know me, know me"

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