You can’t be a serious practitioner of armed self defense if you don’t understand the legal and moral implications of lethal force. One tool used to discuss such things is a concept called the Tueller Test.
Today we are going to talk a little about lethal force and handgun deployment. Over the course of this blog, I have been very clear that in Tennessee before a person is legally justified in using deadly force they have to Believe their life is in immediate danger, and the person against whom they are employing deadly force has the ability to kill or seriously injure them at the present time. Meaning, even though the peta guys that threaten to kill me over the butchering videos may have the ability to kill me, as long as they are expressing the threat over the internet, deadly force is not applicable because they can not kill me right now.
This is a pretty clear standard, but sometimes we may need a little clarification.
Back in the early 80’s Salt Lake city had some police officers hurt by knife wielding scumbags, and their Sergeant wanted to know how a cop with a gun was being hurt by a drunk with a knife. Basically the officers were hesitant to draw their firearms because they felt that they were safe as long as the guy with the knife was standing across a room.
Sgt. Tueller, than began experimenting to see exactly when a knife fighter was a threat. Obviously to use a knife effectively you have to be in contact range of your target (we are specifically ignoring thrown knives as they are generally tactically ineffective and not the reason for the experiment). However, an officer’s reaction time to an attack, coupled with the attackers speed combine together to allow a criminal to close the distance and strike an officer before the cop can draw his firearm and neutralize the threat.
Sgt, Tueller had volunteers test to see how fast they could draw their weapons, and other volunteers were timed how far they could run and stab a target. Based upon the good sergeants work, we now know that the typical individual can cover 21 feet and inflict a lethal wound in under 1.5 seconds. We also know that the typical officer takes 1.5 seconds to realize they are being attacked, draw, and fire their pistol.
Sometimes this is misunderstood – and I would recommend that you read the original article “How Close is too Close” in the 1983 edition of SWAT magazine. You cannot shoot someone with a knife just because they are 21 feet from you and threatening you, but if you do not act, they most likely can hurt you before you can react.
Basically, if someone has a knife, and they are threatening you with it, you would most likely be justified (unless of course you started the fight) in drawing your firearm and telling the person to “back off”. That way, if they do decide to initiate the attack and charge you, your reactionary gap is lessened, and you can defend yourself.
In my firearm classes, I normally demonstrate this by getting a volunteer, arm them with a holster and an air-soft pistol. I then explain the two rules of deadly force, and then stand about 21 feet away. I then ask the student for some money, they generally laugh and tell me no. I then pull out a large rubber knife and ask again. Sometime during the resulting conversation I begin moving my 350 pound body toward them as rapidly as possible.
The results are generally as follows;
- They stand on one leg, and raise the other towards their chest and try to assume a standing fetal position.
- They draw their gun, paddle holster still attached and then look at the holstered gun in their hand.
- They run away.
- They shoot two rounds into the floor in front of me, or off to my side.
In ALL the years I have taught this I have been shot twice – once was by a correctional officer that shot me the second I pulled my knife (I didn’t even get a chance to threaten – pulled knife – received welt from plastic bb) he sheepishly said “better judged by 12…” The other was a recently discharged Recon Marine taking an Armed Security Upgrade so he could work security at a nuclear plant. He simply drew and double tapped me right below my sternum with a speed that the majority of us will never practice enough to achieve.
I am a big believer in this demonstration as it allows an in depth discussion about what actually constitutes a lethal threat, and the proper methods of response.
However, for the video, I chose a test instead of a demonstration, the way we performed the demonstration in the video below gives an individual a INDICATOR as to whether they are below or above the 1.5 second reaction time average.
I had one student with a holstered, and loaded firearm stand and face a target. A second student stood shoulder to shoulder with the armed student, but he faced up range. This student held a 1 pound lead weight wrapped in a bandanna. He is will represent the knife armed aggressor.
At a time of the aggressors choosing, and without warning he will begin to race up range (away from the shooter and his target). When he begins to run, the shooter is told to draw and fire two shots at center mass of the target. He is told that shoot as rapidly as he can, but that he needs to hit the target.
As soon as the aggressor hears gunfire, he drops the weight – this signifies how far he could stand AWAY from the shooter and still inflict a lethal blow.
Remember, even if you hit the attacker, he still would have hit you at that distance. This gives the shooter an average of where he is justified to be worried if he is threatened by an attacker holding an impact weapon.