Tueller, 21 Feet, Situational Awareness, Stress

Self-Defense Exclusion Zones
July 15, 2015
Self-Protection, Public and Private Safety
November 30, 2015

Tueller, 21 Feet, Situational Awareness, Stress

Tueller, 21 Feet, Situational Awareness, Stress


Today’s ramblings include:

The Tueller Drill; making self-defense decisions; accepting that you are on the X and how to get off of it; training options, reasons, and choices; Stress inoculation

Everyone knows the Tueller drill, okay, a bunch of people know the Tueller Drill. Sgt. Dennis Tueller is the Salt Lake City police officer, now renowned instructor, that first published the idea of the “21 Foot Rule” in SWAT Magazine in 1983. Simply put the 21 foot rule is less a rule than it is a guidepost, we instruct it as a decision point; but Sgt. Tueller found that to be the distance that can be covered by an attacking assailant in the time that it takes a trained officer to draw and fire his sidearm. Thus the drill is a “bad guy” running toward a “good guy” from 21 feet to simulate a knife or club attack. Law enforcement and military and civilians alike use this drill to hone draw times, and movement techniques, and threat assessment and a bunch of other skills-hard and soft. Those that have participated in the Tueller drill with us in the ADS Shoothouse have experienced the pressure of a 200+ pound man (okay, I’m up to 230 now) charging at them, with as much surprise as I can manage, and feel their thumbs turn to jelly and their feet stop responding to the commands of their brain.

21 feet seems like a LONG distance. Until you’re being charged and that level 2 holster has a death grip on your gun and your legs move in slow motion. Veterans of our training will remember standing on the big red X with a faceless man in a red shirt running at them while trying to place as many Simunition rounds into a lethal target area of the bad guy as they can before they get bonked. Most of the time the good guy gets bonked. A few times the gun actually gets fired, occasionally one of those shots hits the “bad guy” somewhere, and once in a great while the shots hit a vital enough spot to stop the charge. That does not happen very often. We use the drill to reinforce a number of lessons:

  1. Situational Awareness is the most vital skill for self-defense.
  2. Situational Awareness is the most vital skill for self-defense.
  3. Situational Awareness is the most vital skill for self-defense.
  4. That getting off the X is a skill that actually requires real practice, it is not intuitive
  5. Have a high quality holster and practice with it, we believe an action requires 3000 repetitions before it is automatic and repeatable under extreme stress.
  6. Punching holes in paper at the range and moving, then shooting at a moving target (that is about to hit you with something) requires complimentary yet vastly different skills and practice.
  7. It’s good to avoid a gunfight and better to avoid a knife fight.

In case the list doesn’t make it clear, the most critical lesson we want every student, of all of our training programs, to take to heart is the vital importance of situational awareness and adjusting your plan to address that assessment. Like I said earlier, we don’t teach that 21 feet with an armed assailant is a shoot no shoot decision point. It is, like everything else in self-defense, far more nuanced than that. We reinforce that it is a point where you need to make assessments about opportunity and motive. We need to perform a threat assessment—do they have a knife, are they signaling that they are coming for me? An angry “bad guy” with a knife, pacing back and forth at 21 feet is a threat worthy calling the cops (or requesting someone call them) or if you are a cop or you are armed. drawing a firearm, and then making the assessment. Just because you learned that someone with a knife can get you quickly does not make it a self-defense shoot if they are still 21 feet away. Use of force escalation may be appropriate but it might not be deadly force time.

As the “good guy” the burden is on you to do the right thing, that burden also tilts the risk equation against you. Our law enforcement brothers and sisters are aware of that burden all too well, those of us that are armed and trained citizens also shoulder that responsibility. Training followed by conscientious practice is vital to help us develop and tune our capacity for situational awareness, the better we are at staying in touch with our environment, the more we practice, the easier it becomes. Our force-on-force approach is our secret sauce. We construct our training using the tried and true “crawl, walk, run” method and help you understand a skill and why it works and is important, walk through using the skill and some of the variations and scenarios it might fit, then we’ll put you in some of those scenarios…then, when you are ready, comes RUN. The running phase is why we are different, we help you to experience the physiology of stress, you’ll get to understand, fist hand, what that instructor was talking about when they mentioned “fine motor skill deterioration” and “tunnel vision and auditory exclusion.” This adds the experience of stress to reinforce why you do, what you do, in your stress free practice. We loving refer to this concept as stress inoculation.

Getting this training is as easy as making a decision and picking up the phone. As a fully dedicated training facility with a variety of instructors and programs ADS has the ability to custom fit your training program to meet your specific needs and concerns. We’ve trained folks with skills across the spectrum like: Special Forces operators, SWAT, patrol officers, up and coming ninjas, sorority girls, teens, and grandparents. Give us your thoughts or just describe your situation, and we’ll help craft a program that suits you whether it involves learning to shoot, learning to use a baton or pepper spray, striking and grappling or just tightening up the decision making process associate with running away, we can help.

The next step is training, ADS will get you there, no matter your level, no matter your fitness, no matter your age. The critical concern is starting. You can think your way out of most every situation but you can’t really think your way out of all of them.


Call, write, email, instant message, tweet, carrier pigeon, to find out more information about how we can custom tailor your training program, we can put together a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly schedule of courses and practice drills to help you develop the skills that you feel that you want to have

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We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training

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