March 1983 was revolutionary for Law Enforcement Tactics, but should it have been? Dennis Tueller a now retired Lt. with the Salt Lake City Police Department, developed and conducted a drill to find out How close is too close? Today, the Tueller drill has become more than was ever intended, and not in a good way.
Lt. Tueller’s findings were first published in SWAT Magazine. The intended audience was, and to a certain degree is still, law enforcement. However, the principles and tactics apply well to your self defense. I highly encourage you to read Lt. Tueller’s article from the March 1983 issue of SWAT magazine titled, How close it too close?, find it Here.
The Tueller Drill was intended to answer two questions: How fast can the average officer (person) draw their firearm, and what distance can a threat cover in that time? A great drill and great questions! However, it is far from being a rule! Yet, there is this HUGE misconception that this drill constitutes a rule, even among leaders and professionals in law enforcement and law.
Here is why the drill is great, but, the “rule” is bogus:
- Each person is different. Tueller’s findings were based on a class of a couple of dozen new recruits he had in his firearms course. This is an extremely small test pool.
- The 7 yards/21 feet was arbitrary, for all intents and purposes. It was a distance they were comfortable at and had the availability to use.
- The drill was conducted for the benefit for his class; it was not scientific and conducted in laboratory conditions.
- The time that was determined to draw and put two rounds on paper at 7 yds was determined to 1.5 seconds. The time to cover 21 feet was determined to be an average of 1.5 seconds. This is a good baseline, but in no way assures stopping the threat. They are literally on top of you in that 1.5 seconds.Even if you make those two rounds count and the threat is killed instantly, they are likely to fall on top of you and still cause injury.
- In conducting your own Tueller drill, you can determine your personal reactionary gap (the distance that can be covered in the time it takes you to recognize and react to a threat.)
- You can gain a good understanding of your skills as they pertain to drawing and engaging a threat.
Points of interest and of note
It is important to note that in 1983, almost all police departments we using revolvers, leather holster with snap retention exposed on their hips, and the tactics were vastly different. Here are some things you need to know as a citizen who carry’s a concealed handgun legally for self-defense.
The draw dynamic is quite different for you than an officer. Officers have retention holsters and carry them openly, you likely do not on both counts. You have to consider the time it takes to recognize a threat, present your handgun for access, draw, and get on target, and fire. Officers just have to overcome the retention, and they may even already have their sidearm drawn due to the nature of the call.
Tactics have changed too. How we draw and shoot have evolved over the last 33 years. You can even get training for reactionary/reflexive, etc. shooting (close quarters emergency shooting, typically a “point and shoot” training, not much sight work)
Physical ability varies from person to person. The drill was conducted by people who had to meet certain physical requirements. Your right to self defense has no minimum requirements. If you have a handicap that prevents you from drawing your handgun like Billy the Kid, then you need to know and understand that.
Cover/Concealment is a basic and fundamental part of combat. Where the rule is, the more bulletproof the better; in the context of a hand held threat, any trip hazard is a help. Putting furniture, a fence, etc. will slow them down and give you time
What can we learn?
Do your own Tueller drills and get a good grasp of your own time, and get a distance. This should become your “hazard zone”
Use cover and concealment. Any object you can place between you and the threat will slow his time and in turn give you more time to act and react.
There have been many, more scientific, tests and studies performed since 1983, I recommend you poke around the internet and look into “The Force Institute”. They have turned out some great studies.
Don’t get caught up in buzzwords. The Tueller drill is a great tool, but it is no rule!