The C-Clamp: Are SWAT cops using a sub-optimal technique?

Advocates of this technique claim that it is more accurate, more ergonomic, reduces recoil, increases target transition speed, and squares off the body armor toward your adversary


Many SWAT cops and tactical trainers — always scheming and searching for new tools, theories, and tactics which might help get them some advantage over their adversaries — have adopted the “C-Clamp” grip used while shooting long guns such as the AR-15 and M-4 platforms. 

The technique is simple: extend your support arm down the rail toward your muzzle, open your hand placing your thumb over the rail and point your index finger towards the muzzle. The technique seemed to have taken on its own life over the years and this is evident in the elbow rise. 

Is the C-Clamp a legitimate shooting technique for SWAT? The answer is as subjective as which weapon system is the best for SWAT, but here’s my assessment of the technique. 

Technique Born in Competition
The C-Clamp grip comes from the competitive shooting sports — advocates of this technique claim that it is more accurate, more ergonomic, reduces recoil, increases target transition speed, and squares off the body armor toward your adversary. 

My experience observing competition shooters using the C-Clamp is the elbow is mostly facing the ground — or perhaps a slight twist facing a seven o’clock position, if a clock was at the end of their rifle — while gripping their weapon. A quick Internet search will show you plenty of videos featuring shooters using the C-Clamp with their elbows twisted up to the point that it rises over the nine o clock position. 

Fatigue is the first drawback of this technique. Watching cops clear a large objective while extending their shoulders for such a long period of time creates too much fatigue which equates to less effective shooting on target. Don’t get me wrong, clearing a large objective is fatiguing no matter how you hold your weapon system. 

Consequently, SWAT cops must use a tactic that allows for the greatest opportunity to effectively engage their adversary whether it comes early in the clearing operation or after five minutes of room clearing. Simply allowing a bent elbow tucked or positioned closer to your body significantly decreases fatigue as more muscle groups are utilized to support your weapon. 

Another concerning factor is situational awareness as you traverse your objective. These tactical turtles have limited field of vision as they tuck in and around the weapon system and extend their arm and shoulders towards their muzzle. The peripheral vision on the support hand side is almost completely blocked by the shooter’s arm which is an obvious disadvantage.

Lastly, torque from the shooter’s wrist may become an issue for the SWAT cop. To demonstrate this theory, while standing, allow your support arm (with a relaxed hand) to relax along your side, then raise your arm, keeping it straight and stiff with the hand still relaxed, using your shoulder muscles and extend it towards the horizon, maintaining a completely relaxed hand. 

What almost everybody finds is when their arm is extended, their hand is slightly tilted pointing to a two o’clock position if a clock was in front of them. The point is, when you extend your arm with a relaxed hand, the hand isn’t straight up and down, it’s on a tilt or cant. Therefore, any movement in the wrist from the relaxed position will create some torque in which the shooter will have to compensate for. 

We shoot our handguns in a straight or twelve o’clock position without even considering that our hands are creating some adverse torque — we’ve trained to compensate for the slight torque it creates simply through muscle memory. 

When using the C-Clamp, there is torque which may not affect the competitive target shooter but will eventually affect the SWAT cop clearing rooms, floors, and buildings. This unusual torque can exaggerate minor fatigue, resulting in less effective shots on target.

Tactical Versus Tacti-Cool
Way too many SWAT officers will buy anything that is black and tactical. This type of cult behavior is easily influenced as they watch YouTube videos of self-proclaimed former “Special OPS” soldiers sporting thick facial beards and dessert camo holding their weapon system with an unfamiliar but ‘tacti-cool’ fashion. 

There isn’t any doubt in my mind that the C-Clamp technique is very effective for target shooters and some tactical operators. However, don’t buy into this tactical rock until you’ve trained with it under realistic stressors.

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