Friday, June 10, 2016

The Tueller Drill

There are some moments where you wonder how things could get out of hand. The March 1983 issue of SWAT Magazine contained an article titled How CLOSE is TOO Close? by Dennis Tueller, a Salt Lake City Police Officer. The article is generally credited for first establishing the importance of the “reactionary gap” within Law Enforcement circles. The article addressed Tueller’s own experimentation, which determined that the average healthy adult male can cover a distance of seven yards (21 feet) in about 1.5 seconds.

Because of this article and Tueller’s experiment the Tueller Drill came to be. 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. In fact, by true definition, what’s typically labeled as the Tueller Drill isn’t even a drill, but a quick draw competition.

A role player armed with a knife stands seven yards away from a person armed with a gun (usually a police recruit). 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 their weapon and goes “bang, bang!”

The action halts as the charging attacker stops dead in his tracks because the shooter went “bang” before he could reach them, or worse, the shooter gives up because the attacker got there before the “bang.” If the shooter was a thinker, they may have had the foresight to side step the attacker, but it’s relatively rare.

There are a number of problems with this approach to this type of drill, but what it does do is reveal the number of training problems that have accumulated over the years. A training scar is a negative trait that’s come as a result of bad training practices. The scars were already there; the drill just revealed them.

There has been thousands of law enforcement recruits and seasoned officers alike being chased around the mat room by assaultive role players, only to stop and square up against their threat(s) the moment they draw their firearm. What changed in the dynamic? Nothing except the escalation of force. The very moment when movement was most critical is when they stopped moving. This is a training scar that develops from limited movement on the range.
I did this drill once with a young security forces airman when I was in the military. He was the attacker and I took off. He stopped and called foul. I smiled drew my paintball gun and put two center of mass on his vest. We did it again and he kept coming after me. As I was running away I drew and put two on his forehead on his helmet as we were running. He never got off a shot because he had not stopped!

To capitalize on the Tueller Drill, we have to get rid of the “Bang! You’re dead!” mentality. From my observations and experience with running this drill, I believe this is a deeply imbedded conditioning that most people have.

The drill should play out for at least 15 seconds, with the attacker continuously pressing. It takes time for a wounded attacker to lose the blood volume necessary to shut down the system via hypovolemic shock. Assuming the aorta (the largest artery in the body) was severed, it would take roughly five seconds for an average adult-sized male to sustain a 20 percent blood volume loss.

Even in cases where the heart stops, there’s enough oxygenated blood in the brain to support voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds. 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.

During any contact weapon attack, distance and mobility are your biggest allies. These are also the areas where I see people fail the most. Most people participating in the Tueller Drill just stand flat-footed as they draw their weapon against their charging attacker. As I mentioned, some will actually attempt to side step or backpedal. This type of footwork never proves to be very effective. You can’t step and slide in any direction faster than your opponent can run. Your only real option is to run!

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. Change his OODA Loop. (The OODA Loop and You 1/22/2016)
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. Terrain is going to play a factor in your movement, but the principles remain the same.

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, our environment is seldom flat and open.

As for the “21 foot rule”… Somewhere along the way, the term “21-foot rule” started getting thrown around in Law Enforcement training circles. However, neither Tuller nor Caliber Press ever used the term “21-foot rule.” To this day both Dennis Tueller and the folks at Caliber Press have denounced the notion of such a rule. It’s a training tactic. The drill is named after Tueller only because of his article, where the drill was derived from. 21 feet is a general idea. I taught using 30 feet. I’ve run the Tueller drill and I am not comfortable with 21 feet. 30 is my minimum. And it’s important that law enforcement and civilians alike learn that choosing to shoot is always a choice. Just because you deem something a threat doesn’t mean that can’t change. Maybe you believe someone to be a threat because you thought you saw a knife in their hand. As you got closer you realized it was a silver cell phone. You may have had your hand on your gun or may have started the draw. Re holstering a gun is always better than shooting someone. Being embarrassed is always better than shooting someone and then seeing no weapon. Target identification is one of the most difficult burdens put on a concealed carrier. Bag guys don’t usually have this problem. But we must.
The reactionary gap is the distance needed to react decisively and effectively to a given situation. There is no definitive answer as to how far a reactionary gap should be and things like terrain, physical conditioning, situational awareness, skill level and the nature of the attack can affect the required distance. I say 30 feet is my minimum. But I like as much room as I can get. Sometimes it will be less than 21 feet. You can probably know that you will get cut or hit in this situation. But just because it happened fast does not mean you can’t win the battle. Your reaction is always one of self-defense. If I get stabbed but stop the attacker it may mean the difference between living or dying.
The choice is yours.

Semper Paratus
Check 6

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