Travis Haley Interview (Part 4): The Controversial C-clamp Technique

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

In the previous chapters of this interview, Travis Haley talked about his experience with the AK platform and his thoughts about necessary upgrades for the AK platform.

In this final part of the interview, I asked him about a famous and controversial C-clamp grip, when the shooter extends his support arm, aggressively gripping the handguard with a thumb over bore. This grip was largely popularized by the training movie Magpul Dynamics: The Art of the Tactical Carbine, in which Travis Haley and Chris Costa trained a group of students.

Vlad: The C-clamp… How was this technique developed? What's your personal take on it?

Travis: So the C-clamp… Where does that come from? I am the “why” guy, so I wanna know. So people started calling it the C-clamp, but there has always been a “C-Clamp”.

Recruits with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion practiced breathing techniques and various marksmanship fundamentals during grass week. April 23, 2020. (Lance Cpl. Devin Darden/ Marine Corps)

When I did marksmanship in a Marine Corp, when I would do offhand, we would use this position we called “C-clamp” or “delta ring”. But it wasn't a combat stance. It was a totally bladed marksmanship stance, with slings wrapped around your arm. And I used to take my marksmanship book and slide it into my vest. And I'd have my pen sitting right here. And I would reverse my hand. We'd call this “C-clamp”.

So when the other instructor in Magpul was starting to shoot like that back in the day, I'd always say: “Hey dude, you need to stop doing that”. He said: “No man, it keeps the gun flat, it keeps it down”.

Author, demonstrating “C-clamp” technique in the Philippines in 2012.

Well, first of all, you can't see shit. Which isn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem is when I see other people start doing this stuff with handguns or carbines.

What happens is when your hand is at max rotation, and your shoulder is rotated up as well. So your wrist is locked, your shoulders at max rotation, guess what's left in the middle?.

Your elbow. So what we're starting to see now, doctors have actually diagnosed a new thing called “shooter's elbow”. Tennis elbow is inside. Golfer's elbow is on the outside.

Author, demonstrating “C-clamp” technique in the Philippines in 2012.

We're seeing an actual combination of both golf and tennis elbow in shooters from doing this stuff nowadays, which is creating a lot of inflammation in their elbows. So what did you notice this instructor doing?

Remember him putting the tape all over? So I told him I said, dude… He complained: “Man, my elbows hurt”. So I'm like: “You need to stop shooting that way because people are gonna start following you”. And that's why you never saw me shoot that way.

I was a little high with my elbow, but I've even modified it back down because I started having issues as well. Because I started to learn and I started to be adaptive. And I was like, wait, we can't do that anymore.

Author, demonstrating “C-clamp” technique in the Philippines in 2012.

When the gun recoils, everything moves versus shock absorbers, everything allows the gun to simply recoil. Recoil is good. It's not a bad thing to let the gun bounce.

People try to stiffen it up and hold it. Everything moves. So it's a simple biomechanics explanation.

I could go into depth… The great thing about our doctors, they don't shoot. One guy I go to mostly is a Canadian. He doesn't shoot a lot. He's really afraid of guns.

But I show him: “Hey, here are some things that guys do in the military. Here's a position they take. Here's how they shoot”.

Author, demonstrating “C-clamp” technique in the Philippines in 2012.

And when I showed him the C-clamp for the first time, he's like, what other techniques do you have? I showed him a couple more. And asked: “Okay, why the first one?” That was his first thing. And he doesn't know anything about shooting.

I said: “Well I don't know. You tell me. You're the freaking expert”. He's like: “Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but the gun explodes and has recoil. It has a kick. Right? That's why I'm afraid of guns”.

I said: “Yeah. It does”. He says “So why would you hyperextend your arm like that?

And I'm like: “Because it keeps the gun down on target?” He said: “That's not how the human body works. That's like telling an athlete to be very rigid. They're gonna laugh at you”.

So we've taken these simple concepts, brought subject matter experts in, and said, don't do that. Those kinds of guys go out there and say, yeah, just put a tape on... Get a cortisone shot…

No. Fix the problem.

Author, shooting a rifle in 2015, after abandoning the “C-clamp” method. Photo courtesy of Vadim Veedoff.

That's not the C-clamp that is the issue. It's people creating these brands, these emotions, these preconceived notions that they think work because they have a lack of knowledge. And then not wanting to change is just an absolute mindset.

If you live in a world of boundaries, well, eventually you're gonna hit that boundary, then what are you gonna do? You're gonna fail.

So that's where we constantly take the knowledge. I like to study the human element more than the gun. Because I could take any gun in the world and apply good mechanics to it. Doesn't matter.

So when people say how do you shoot so fast or how do you think and operate so efficiently. I say: ‘I do less. Because I have more knowledge. Because that knowledge allows me to have better options”.

But if I don't have options, I'm gonna stick with these theatrics. Which is what it is.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: Instagram: YouTube:

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  • Hoyden Hoyden 6 days ago

    When we get tactical shooters on the skeet field we have to rebuild their stance and get their thumb off the top of the barrel.

  • MediumSizeTex MediumSizeTex 6 days ago

    I don't know why it's "controversial"; it's their rifle, they can shoot it with a weird, awkward, ligament-straining grip if they want. I tried the C-clamp thing after I saw it the first time and abandoned it before even attempting to shoot that way because holy chauchaut that is a multiple-joint injury lookin' for a place to happen. Every use of force training I've ever attended has emphasized how easy it is to utterly destroy an aggressor's arm once you get it fully extended and the wrist/elbow locked, why in blazes would anyone-- especially in a defense/combat situation-- want to put themselves in that vulnerable a position before they even make contact?

    • Aerodawg Aerodawg 5 days ago

      same. tried it one time and my elbow was already starting to complain after a couple mags. kicked it to the curb and never looked back.