The 21 Foot “Rule”- Tueller Drill Revisited

If you have read our earlier posts, we have discussed how action beats reaction.  One of the ways we can help overcome this deficit is by maintaining distance from a threat.  This has also been called a "reactionary gap".  The "gap" gives a person time to be able to react to a possible threat.

The Teuller Drill demonstrated that the danger zone of an attacker with a club or edged weapon is easily more than 21 feet.  In a controlled environment, the minimum distance that an officer was able draw their weapon from a holstered position and fire two rounds to the center of mass of an attacker running at them with a club or edged weapon was 21 feet.  The officer was expecting the attack.  On average it took the attacker just 1.5 seconds to cover the 21 feet.

The Teuller Drill has been misinterpreted over the years since it was first demonstrated.  Many times trainers would cite the Tueller Drill telling students that an attacker with a club or edged weapon had to be within 21 feet in order for deadly force to be justified.  This could not be further from the truth.

Each use of deadly force must examined under the totality of the circumstances.  The distance of the attacker with a club or edged weapon is just one factor that comes in to play, but it demonstrates that an attacker can cover a lot of ground very quickly.  It is unfortunate that many people get their information from TV & movies, and think that one or two shots with a handgun will immediately cause the attacker to fall to the ground stopping their deadly attack.  This is not the case.  People have been shot multiple times in the center of mass (upper chest) with pistol rounds and have kept on fighting for a long time. 

Because of this phenomena, some trainers advocate for always shooting your attacker in the face / head to cause a more immediate effect.  While shooting and hitting small area on a static target may be fairly easy on the range, real life situations are different.  Your attacker is moving.  You should be moving.  People may be around you.  You are accountable for all the rounds you fire.  The adrenaline dump you experience in this situation compounds the difficulty of making a head shot.  Is it possible? Yes, but should be limited to very close distances.

Ultimately, the lesson to take away from the Tueller Drill is that people with deadly intent can easily close a distance of greater than 21 feet to get to you in only a couple of seconds.  As a CCW permit holder / licensee, you need to recognize this fact.  Learn to be able to efficiently draw from concealment and present your weapon on target while creating distance from the deadly threat.  Your goal should be able to get your gun out and deliver rounds in under 2 seconds.  By speeding up your training, your flaws will become evident.  This will give you an honest assessment of your gear, carry site, and help focus your training.