Skill Focus: Reaction, Response time
Dennis Tueller, a Salt Lake City Police Officer wrote an article for SWAT Magazine in March 1983 titled How CLOSE is TOO Close? In it, Tueller addressed his own experimentation, which determined that the average healthy adult male can cover a distance of seven yards (21 feet) in about 1.5 seconds.
While Tueller’s article is generally credited for establishing the importance of the “reactionary gap” within Law Enforcement circles, his estimates were approximations based on training experience; nothing more. It’s important to note that while many officers have referred to Tueller’s experiment as the “21-foot rule,” Dennis and the folks at Caliber Press have denounced the notion of such a rule.
Imminent Threat Solutions makes it very clear: “Many trainers and publications have misled their trainees and readers to believe that they are automatically justified in shooting an armed suspect simply because they were 21 feet away. On the flip side, others have been led to believe that they wouldn’t be justified in the use of deadly force against an attacker further than 21 feet away.” The truth of the matter is that the justification of deadly force all comes down to objective reasonableness and the totality of circumstances.
As stated earlier, the Tueller Drill wasn’t a drill created by Dennis Tueller, but a name applied to the demonstration of the principles identified in Tueller’s article.
Typically the Tueller Drill involves a role player armed with a knife who stands approximately seven yards away from a person armed with a gun. They face off as the “shooter” stands at the ready, waiting for the knife-wielding attacker to make a move. As soon as the attacker begins his charge, the shooter draws his or her weapon and goes “bang, bang!” Where this drill would typically end, Imminent Threat Solutions has added a modification that gets rid of that “Bang, you’re dead!” mentality.
ITS recommends playing the drill out for at least 15 seconds, with the attacker continuously pressing, saying “Bang” each time. Their reasoning behind this modification is because it takes time for a wounded attacker to lose the blood volume necessary to shut down the system via hypovolemic shock. Allowing the drill to continue beyond the “bang” forces the participant to fight through the attack until the end and helps eliminate surprise they might experience when their firearm doesn’t stop an attacker immediately.
To step it up a notch, consider implementing movement into the drill. ITS recommends the following modification:
“Turn opposite your gun side and begin at a 45-degree angle to offline the attacker and force him to change his direction of travel. Draw your weapon and engage the threat as you move. Don’t worry about establishing a two-handed shooting grip. The priority is mobility, not stability. Moving in a circular direction will force your attacker to slow his movement in order to adjust his direction. This buys time and distance.”
When properly understood, the Tueller Drill can be a viable drill to fill in some gaps in your training. While we tend to focus on edged weapons with this drill, it can be applied to any contact weapon. You can also play with the starting distance by making it closer or longer than 21 feet. Throw in obstacles too.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some tools to make you more successful in your training, but more importantly, more successful in your survival.