The hidden lesson of the Tueller Drill:

The original lesson:

One would think that a gun beats  a knife every time. With superior weaponry, the fight should be easily won. Sergeant Dennis Tueller, of the Salt Lake City, Utah Police Department, showed that it was not that simple.

The Tueller Drill:

"A common test of handgun skill was to start with one’s hands at shoulder level with a holstered gun and place two shots on a target 7 yards away within 1.5 seconds. Typically, those trained with handguns can complete the drill in 1.3–1.4 seconds, although some have managed the task in less than one second.

Sgt. Tueller wondered how quickly an attacker with a knife could cover those same 21 feet. So he measured as volunteers raced to stab the target. He determined that it could be done in 1.5 seconds. "
                                ~ Wiki Quote



Thus what has become known as the Tueller Drill proved that if your weapon is not in your hand, you are in danger from a rushing criminal with a knife  twenty one feet away.  Most people covered the twenty one feet in one and one half seconds for an average speed of  fourteen feet / second.

The hidden lesson:

My take on the lessons to be found in the Tueller drill are a little different than whether a gun or a knife wins a confrontation - I apply the time frame to our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly and mothers with children. The one and one half second time frame must be part of  everybody’s calculations of safety, especially for those with little or no ability to move fast.

If you are not prepared for a rush on your position from forty-two feet or seventy feet, because it is too far away to worry about, you are mistaken. Forty-two feet can be crossed in three seconds and seventy feet in five to six seconds.

One of the common methods of home invasion happening in our cities is the rush-in. The criminal hides nearby until the split second the victim opens her door, then rushes out of hiding and slams into the victim, pushing her through the door which is quickly closed. This type of attack also happens at atm machines.

I encourage seniors and mothers with kids to measure from their doorstep to the street, or to where someone could hide near their door.  This will give you some indication of whether your door step is inside the rushing zone.

When I am asked to speak to a senior’s group about crime awareness or the use of the cane for self defence, I always do this test. I set up a volunteer near me and I tell them I am a criminal about to rush him.  I ask him to slowly walk away from me and have the group decide when he looks safe. That is, when it looks like he can reach somewhere safe before the time I could reach him. Invariably it is less than fifty feet or about three and a half seconds from my position.

To get a realistic feel for the danger, borrow a teenager of either sex to watch from the street as you walk up your sidewalk or driveway. Then they should charge at you from the street when you reach the door. You can’t look or hurry until you hear them running and look at them. You must open the door, get in and shut and lock it before they hit the door or you.  At what distance are you safe, especially if you drop your keys in the excitement? You will only know if you time it. The same exercise can be practiced in a parking lot to get a realistic feel for the distances required for real safety between your car and the suspicious looking black van with the heavily tinted windows that is cruising nearby.

The Defence:
The best single way to foil a overwhelming attack like a rush-in is to have a second person with you. If they are beside you, the criminal can intimidate both of you at the same time, therefore have your partner stand well back from you and the danger area. Then he or she will be able to call 911 for help if an attack occurs, hopefully even stopping the criminal’s plan before it starts.


 This is also a good strategy for protection at an atm after dark or if you are in an out of the way place. When you go with someone as their partner, stand back and be a spectator, far enough back so you both can’t be intimidated at the same time. Cell phones are the best in this situation. At an atm, a criminal may still rush in and get your money but probably he won’t wait around trying to get your pin number and clean you out, if your friend is making a lot of noise about calling the police.

A few years ago there was an internet video going around  (pre-YouTube) showing footage from a store parking lot in Texas, I believe. In this sad case, a lady is seen walking into the parking lot when a man suddenly starts running toward her from the very far left of the lot. His run was later measured to have started about seventy-five feet from the woman. When he was approximately fifty feet from her, she noticed him. Her decision was to run directly away from him to her pick-up truck, which she managed to do easily, and try to open the door. In her haste she drops her keys and gets the door open just as the man slams into her. She is abducted and her lifeless body was found two days later.

A point to consider is that if she had turned and ran back towards the store, running to safety instead of away from danger, she may well have changed his mind about trying to abduct her right in front of the store, even though it was further away than her truck.

Sergeant  Tueller used his wits to gain us this information. It is now time for us to use it wisely and plan as best we can to manage the rush-in zone.

[For a video lesson on why cops shoot guys (or at least, should shoot them) with knives, look at Psychopath with a knife attacked cops.]