If you ever took one of my first level classes in the last 29 years, you’ve heard of Larry Anderson.

A key element of self-defense is knowing how fast an assailant can close on you from a distance. In 1983, my friend and colleague Dennis Tueller published his study in SWAT magazine titled “How Close is Too Close,” proving that the average adult male could close seven yards from a standing start and deliver a fatal knife strike in an average time of 1.5 seconds.  We made a “Tueller Drill” out of it.

In June of 1993, Larry Anderson was a student at my LFI-I class (now known as MAG-40) and I watched him perform the drill.  I detected a stumble, but he still made contact with his “victim” before he fell…with a spiral fracture of tibia and fibula.

It was a learning moment in more ways than one. We now had witnessed proof that even an assailant with a fresh, severe leg injury could be a deadly threat at that distance.  I recall Larry closing that gap and simulating the fatal strike in a mere 1.8 seconds.  Larry remembers it as 1.6.  Same point still made.

Larry had felt a “crack” in his leg as he began the run but charged through it anyway, aggravating the injury.  He still has steel screws in his leg from the surgical reconstruction.  Second lesson: testosterone can be a substance of abuse.

At the Deadly Force Instructor class I taught in Pittsburgh a few days ago, Larry was kind enough to stop by and tell his story to the thirty-plus instructor candidates.  He allowed that, yes, there is such a thing as too much testosterone.

But no such thing as too much heart, as Larry went on to prove.  A fine instructor in his own right, Larry teaches house of worship protection.  He has done a lot of good in the intervening three decades.

Larry, my brother, you’re a solid guy and a true mensch.  Larry Anderson has more steel in him than the bolts in his leg bones, and I herewith publicly salute him.

23 COMMENTS

  1. A very interesting article! My hat’s off to Larry. I’ve always heard of this tactic labeled as the “Twenty-one-foot rule,” but I have largely dismissed it as the stuff of exaggeration or bar chat. I believe the most recent time I’ve crossed paths with the concept occurred while watching an episode of the TV series, “Justified,” where an attacker attempts it only to stumble and fatally fall on his own knife.

    One-and-a-half seconds? No way. However, after considering the source, the evidence presented in your article tells me that I’m the one in error, for Larry’s pulling it off with a fractured leg in 1.6–1.8 seconds certainly convinces me that doing so in 1.5 seconds is indeed possible. That said, it still doesn’t “compute” when I run the scenario through my mind’s eye, even when using a bad guy in top physical condition.

    In my imagination, the 21 feet has to somehow be “shorter,” while the 1.5 seconds somehow must be “longer” in order to pull this off. Yet, as we all know, one’s biases and preconceived concepts and imaginary run-throughs of various combative scenarios can sometimes be dangerously distorted. (I’m almost always tougher, quicker, better prepared, keener, smarter, wide awake, and more accurate than the bad guys who’ve just forced entrance into my home. Yea, right.)

    When transposed into reality, I’m looking at 21 feet from where I’m now sitting, and clicking off 1.5 (and 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, and 2.0 seconds) as I sit here and am still challenged to believe that covering that distance in that amount of time while accurately striking a target with a blade is possible. I’m experiencing difficulty imagining doing it in a flat 2.0 seconds.

    All this said, I owe an apology and thanks to Larry, yet another thanks to Mas Ayoob, and an additional apology to auto mirrors everywhere.

    • @ Glenn in TN – “That said, it still doesn’t ‘compute’ when I run the scenario through my mind’s eye, even when using a bad guy in top physical condition.”

      It certainly can be done in 1.5 seconds by most healthy people. An athlete in top physical condition could probably do it in about a second.

      I have run the Tueller Drill several times in training. I have done it the classic way by running toward the shooter. I also did it once with the shooter actually drawing and shooting at a target while I ran away from him (behind him and away from the target so that it was safe) with the distance that I able to run, before the shot, being measured.

      Action prevails over reaction. The runner has the advantage of surprise when he launches his run. In the case of the drill where I ran away from the shooter, I deliberately paused to keep the shooter guessing as to when I would start. I calmly looked around, looked at the sky, killed time for a few moments. He could not start his draw until I launched.

      Then suddenly, I launched into a sprint. The shooter was caught off-guard. 21 feet? Heck, I got over 30 feet before the shooter could draw and get off his shot!

      Keep in mind that I have always been overweight and have never been an athlete. Plus, I was in my 50’s when I did this particular version of the Drill. The shooter was a trim, young man in his 20’s. Yet, because of the element of surprise, I beat him easily.

      If I had been a serious attacker, standing 21 feet away and armed with a long-bladed knife, I would have been on him and cut his throat before he even got his gun out of the holster, assuming the same element of surprise.

      So, after running the Tueller Drill several times in real life, I am a believer. A person armed with a knife, or a club, is a serious threat at 21 feet, especially if your gun is still in its holster. A truly fit attacker, especially if he has the element of surprise, is a danger well beyond 21 feet.

      Don’t doubt it.

      • IMHO, the clever assailants will conceal
        their weapons, often with what can be considered a “furtive posture” or movement, most often using the hands. The defenders may have a fatal moment of doubt, and not react soon enough. My policy is generally to create some distance by moving laterally while preparing to say or otherwise signal something effective. If someone moves aggressively in imitation, it is a clue that my own furtive move may be in order. By all means, shooting early enough can be critical. Like in “The Good, the Bad, and the Less Attractive,” if you’re gonna shoot, shoot, don’t talk!

      • @ Strategic Steve – “…if you’re gonna shoot, shoot, don’t talk!”

        You always have to keep in mind what Jeff Cooper called “Problem No. 2”. Explaining your actions to the boys in blue who are holding the handcuffs!

        You can’t just shoot because you think there may be a possible threat. If you want to stay out of prison, you have to satisfy the conditions of the AOJ Triangle. That means waiting until you are truly under threat of suffering death or grave bodily injury.

        Thus, the attacker will always have a lot of the initiative. Therefore, you may be forced to take other actions prior to shooting. One should be prepared to issue verbal commands, create distance, impose barriers, and/or draw one’s own weapon prior to committing to shooting. Such actions will, hopefully, warn off the attacker (since, clearly, he is not dealing with easy prey) or else, cause the attacker to betray his hostile intentions so that you can clearly articulate why you had to shoot.

        Especially in today’s environment, dealing with Problem No. 2 is almost as bad as dealing with primary Problem No. 1!

      • @TN_Man,
        Thanks for the convincing and fascinating account, which has helped alleviate some of the my lingering doubts still nagging at me. I don’t doubt as much–now–as I’m simply having trouble working it out in my imagination. I suppose you could say that while I no longer doubt it, I’m still having trouble believing it. (Once did the same concerning ships floating, planes flying, 32psi tires holding up cars, and accepting that a projectile traveling more than 3 football fields per second is traveling relatively slowly.) I’d love to try it myself but age and “Arthur” wouldn’t stand for it.

        Thanks again for the wonderful account. Best wishes!

  2. Mas: I recall you saying that at the time it happened, there were a lot of students younger than him present. When you asked Larry about it his response was something to the effect of “I immediately knew it was a bad injury so I knew I had to really turn on the gas!” Outstanding!

  3. Mas, when I took LFI 1 20 years ago everyone in class easily was under 2 seconds including one guy in a wheel chair. I have every student taking MAG 20 Range with me do the drill. They are always surprised how fast they are.

  4. In my opinion, the Tueller Drill should be regarded as a general principle rather than a specific rule limited to knife attacks over level ground. If the assailant has a hard time getting to the victim (e.g. a barricade he must get over or around), the critical distance is shorter. On the other hand, if it’s hard for the victim to deploy his defense (e.g. handgun in pocket holster), the distance is longer.

  5. Strategic Steve wrote:
    ‘IMHO, the clever assailants will conceal
    their weapons’.

    As a martial arts instructor told me: “People will hide a blade behind their finger. if someone walks up to you pointing at the ground; you are about to be stabbed.”

    • Friend Nicholas, you make a good point. Obviously we now know not to walk around pointing a finger at the ground, in order to avoid being misunderstood. I may start wearing shirts printed with optional signaling choices, so that I can just point to the most appropriate one in the moment, with “Pray!” followed by “No!” and “Quit!”

  6. NEWSFLASH!!! If you ever had a desire to play ice hockey in Hell, now is the time to try it.

    Today I received my NEW JERSEY concealed carry permit. I never thought this day would arrive. Of course, there are lots of flies in the ointment. The legislature is trying to outlaw concealed carry everywhere except in our homes. [That is only a slight exaggeration.] I am only allowed to carry the one gun I tested with. The permit comes with a court order I must have with me when carrying. That has the gun’s make, model and serial number on it. I was told I can add guns to the court order. I’m sure that is true, if I test and pay for each test with each gun I want to add.

    I spent hundreds of dollars to get this permit, filled out a lot of paperwork, and waited, I don’t know, three or four months. Now comes the real kicker.

    MY CARRY PERMIT IS GOOD FOR TWO YEARS. IN ORDER TO RENEW IT, I HAVE TO REPEAT THE ENTIRE PROCESS I JUST WENT THROUGH. THAT MEANS DOING THE PAPERWORK, FEES, TESTS, FINGERPRINTING AND WAITING ALL OVER AGAIN, TWO YEARS FROM NOW.

    Could that law change? Could NJ ditch the permit altogether, or make the process more reasonable? Yes, but that would be another miracle.

    I doubt I will renew my permit in two years. I also doubt I will do much, or any carrying. I live in a county with very low incidents of violent crime.

    Yes, I should move to a “free” state. I stay in NJ because I am “working poor” and my family gives me a good deal on rent.

    So, I have my guns to protect me from tyrants, large and small. Now, I have a temporary permit to protect me from my own government.

    Hey, I guess it could be worse. I could live in the United Kingdom, where you can only defend yourself if you don’t harm your assailant in the process.

    • You know your State government is tyrannical when it works so hard to disarm honest citizens while, simultaneously, working just as hard to release hardened criminals from prison.

      Quote of the Day:

      “There never was a new prince who has disarmed his subjects; rather when he has found them disarmed he has always armed them, because, by arming them, those arms become yours, those men who were distrusted become faithful, and those who were faithful are kept so, and your subjects become your adherents. And whereas all subjects cannot be armed, yet when those whom you do arm are benefited, the others can be handled more freely, and this difference in their treatment, which they quite understand, makes the former your dependents, and the latter, considering it to be necessary that those who have the most danger and service should have the most reward, excuse you. But when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these opinions breeds hatred against you.”

      Nicolo Machavelli from The Prince – Chapter XX

    • @Roger Willco,

      Well done! Congratulations and celebration are in order! Your mentioning hockey reminds me of that most unlikely and amazing upset of the USSR hockey team by our youngsters in 1980, although I just might rank your accomplishment over theirs. Tough call!

      (Through no fault of my own whatsoever, I was born and spent the first three years of my life in the Garden State but have had the good fortune of flourishing every year since as a resident of the free South. I still have family members who live in NJ, although I can’t understand why–and neither can many of them.)

      Best wishes!

  7. A long time friend from Idaho contacted me to discuss the ongoing search for the killer of the four college students. He is operating on the cautious assumption that there is a psychopath walking around in public with a large fixed blade knife concealed upon his person. There is no assumption among local residents that the killer of the four students has left the State of Idaho.

    Understandably, CCW is the current modus vivendi among sensible adults in Idaho. I forwarded this blog to my friend to help him understand how fast an assailant can draw a concealed knife and pounce upon him in mere seconds.

    There is certainly nothing humorous at all about an absolutely horrific quadruple homicide. However, what is laughably stunning to my friend is the staggering number of hand wringing, sweaty palmed, high ranking educators, public officials and private administrators who are advising Idahoans to BE VIGILANT, but who dare not utter not one word of wise counsel to carry a concealed firearm at all times until the perpetrator of the four murders is taken into custody. Go figure.

    In contrast, some elected rural lawmen are reportedly calmly and discreetly advising their constituents to arm themselves well and to stand ready to protect themselves and innocents from a brutal blitz attack launched by a knife wielding murderer. Sound advice!

    These are tension filled times in the great State of Idaho. Prayers for the fantastic people who call Idaho home are definitely in order.

    I will link two interesting, relevant New York Post articles about this quadruple homicide separately below so that the text does not extend beyond the right edge of the page, compromising the reader’s ability to see it.

    (Mas, you are likely well aware of this unique formatting phenomenon when a link is dropped directly below text within a posted message.)

  8. @Strategic Steve and TN_Man (again):

    The exchange between you two anticipated the question that immediately popped into my mind upon reading @TN_Man’s helpful response to my statement (RE: difficulty believing the “21-Foot-Rule”).

    When you literally don’t have a second to spare, how would one adequately and legally defend against an attacker employing that tactic? It becomes more complicated if you don’t actually see a weapon–a plausible scenario. (Pulling a weapon but not firing crossed my mind, following by so many reasons that doing so could turn out very bad, especially considering the time constraints involved. “What could possibly go wrong?” Everything.)

    I imagined Mas Ayoob testifying in the courtroom, my fate depending his ability to convince those “impartial jury” members that it was indeed reasonable to assume the attacker was armed, that a quick movement could be taken as a reasonable provocation justifying deadly force, and that 21 feet can indeed disappear within 1.5 seconds or less. All this assuming the bad guy was indeed armed, both with weapon and ill intent. Whew!

    Thanks to you both. Best wishes!

  9. I didn’t remember his name but I definitely remember the story from MAG40. Thanks for the update, wish there were more like him in America.

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