There were two main conclusions that can be contributed to Tueller’s research.
Tueller’s Drill was set up to train law enforcement.
First, an attacker with a knife could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds.
Second, a heckuva lot of law enforcement officers would be lucky to recognize a threat, unholster their sidearms, and successfully stop threats from being able to deliver blows with a knife in less than 1.5 seconds. This was quite a revelation at the time, and it changed the mindset of a lot of officers.
The mindset was fine, but the lessons that followed… not so much. Tueller’s research revealed training deficiencies of the day. Where it went wrong, in my opinion, was when they started teaching the number over the mindset. I recall this being demonstrated on the range at the academy. A large, intimidating deputy with a rubber knife rushed a student from 21 feet. The deputy did not run, just marched at a quick pace wielding the knife over his head and screaming obscenities.
The student had to recognize the threat’s approach, unsnap his holster, and draw his weapon. He failed. In fact, truth be told, we all failed. Some may have cleared leather and pulled the trigger, but the threat was so close he still would have struck a blow with the knife.
The 21-Foot Lesson was—graphically—received. Unfortunately, at the time, we learned the number more than the correct lesson.
In time, however, we learned to get off the “X” instead of being a static target. Instead of backing up in a straight line, we were taught to react by moving “off-line.” (Attackers in these scenarios may be so enraged they continue on the beeline path instead of tracking you.)
More important, we were taught to read body language, engage situational awareness (which directions could you move off-line, soft and hard cover, etc.), take advantage of reactionary gaps, and use other close-quarters defensive techniques not involving a firearm.
Civilian self-defense training should not focus on teaching civilians to be cops or overemphasize instruction in matters of law enforcement. However, I see far too many videos of self-professed firearm trainers, tactical weapons specialists, home defense “experts,” and even a few prior LEOs who teach like they did to officers or cadets at the academy or in the military and not to civilians. Too often, I have heard friends throw out the term “21-Foot Rule” and improperly state it as a threshold of a safe working distance from an attacker.
I hope after reading this that you dedicate some of your concealed-carry training to going beyond the minimum gun-handling skills and—as important—practice your communication skills, turn on your situational awareness, and use good old-fashioned common sense. —By Dave Dolbee, contributor for The Shooter's Log at CheaperThanDirt.com. Used with permission.