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200403-21 FT Rule

200403-21 FT Rule

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Published by damchilbert
Magazine article on bringing a gun to a knife fight.
Magazine article on bringing a gun to a knife fight.

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Published by: damchilbert on Aug 13, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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MARCH 2004 
t is imperative to understand that with-in the American psyche lies a deeplyimbued sense of fair play, rooting forthe underdog, and a compassion forthose perceived as, “not fairly matched.”In testifying on behalf of officers in bothFederal and Superior court, I find that juries both want and need to know whyan officer resorted to deadly force utiliz-ing a firearm towards a suspect armedwith “just a knife”— even if the suspect’sviolent act could be stopped in no othermanner. If you are casually dismissingthe foregoing you are delusional as to therole of the judicial system in such mat-ters.In any application of deadly force youwill be questioned, challenged and heldaccountable over an extended period oftime for actions carried out in mere sec-onds, and it will be these actions anddecisions upon which you are judged.Laws differ from state to state so, toavoid extensive deliberation, let’s agreethat deadly force may be used to preventimminent great bodily injury or death toone’s self or others based upon the “rea-sonable man” standard and the totalityof the circumstances. With this in mind,it would be prudent to understand, indepth, the dangers and limitationsimposed when confronting a suspectarmed with an edged weapon.What are the dangers of edgedweapons? Having seen the results first-hand on many occasions in the field I canhonestly relate that it can be nothingshort of catastrophic. Aseeminglyinsignificant puncture wound can resultin significant internal blood loss thatanyone short of a full surgical staff onsite would be powerless to abate. Slash-ing wounds not only cripple and eviscer-ate tissue, but the attendant blood losscan result in death in short order.Firearms have been employed by manfor a very short time in the scheme ofthings. Edged weapons, however, have been utilized since the dawn of man.Modern society has distanced most of usfrom the offensive use of such tools tothe extent that their effectiveness anddestructive potential is far from appreci-ated by the vast majority of the populaceresulting in the, “He’s only got a knife”frame of mind.The twenty-one foot rule is fairly stan-dard throughout law enforcement andmany of us have taught around thismodel for years. However, recently atInternational Tactical Training Seminarsin Los Angeles, California we construct-ed the real-world, knife attack target sys-tem seen in the accompanying photos.Training many hundreds of military, lawenforcement and civilian personnel onthis system over the last year has beeneye opening. This system has also beenused by I.T.T.S. to defend officers incourt.First, this is a training tool and as suchis subject to certain limitations, thoughthe benefits far outweigh the deficits.When officers train on this they realizethis is a training evolution. They haveeye and ear protection. They haveevolved through earlier firing courses inthe day to the level that allows them tosafely engage the mover. They have beeninstructed throughout these evolutionswhat to expect, the speed with which thetargets will be encountered, how lag timewill come into play and yet they are stillastounded at the speed at which the tar-gets close the distance from a standingstop to a nose-on position mere inchesaway from their muzzles. The one over-
kniFe Attac
14 Feet10 Fee21 Feet 
MARCH 2004 
whelming comment seems to be, “Noway is he going to be that fast.” Wrong.We always place randomly selected stu-dents side by side to the targets to, “racethe rail” and they will either tie or slight-ly pass it in the final inches.Timing numerous runs, we find theaverage time to be around 1.2 to 1.6 sec-onds from standing stop to final closure.In this time the officer must either comeup from a low ready position and press asingular or perhaps multiple shots or (adecidedly more difficult phase) mustexecute a flawless draw and accomplishthe same within the same time parame-ter. Most skilled tacticians can draw andfire in about a second and a half on astatic target at a reasonable distance onan auditory cue, but in this scenario youare going off a visual cue—and there is adifference.This is what will transpire in the fieldwith visual cueing: by the time yourhand even begins to move towards thepistol, the target has already moved sixto eight feet towards the officer (lagtime). By the time the pistol has beengrasped, the retention device releasedand the pistol started towards count“two,” the target is about ten to eight feetfrom the shooter. When the shooter actu-ally fires the weapon the target is, onaverage, only three to four feet from themuzzle, a most decidedly uncomfortabledistance.Remember that in training the officeris waiting for the target to aggress him,he expects it, he has been instructed inwhat will transpire and in fact it has beendemonstrated in real time and he knowsit is a live-fire drill. Put an individualinto the field—into an unexpected andunrehearsed real world scenario wherehe may or may not have to discharge hisweapon, may have to resort to alternatemethods to control the situation—andthe twenty-one foot rule may very wellprove fatalistic.All street officers must, by the verynature of their assignment, close the dis-tance to a suspect in order to control thesituation. I have done it, my partnershave done it and in retrospect I felt safeat fifteen feet if the suspect was armedwith an edged weapon. (This drill hasaltered that misconception.) However,officers must concern themselves notonly with the suspect’s level of threat, but with the background of the target,the use of force continuum, shot place-ment, communications and control of thesuspect’s action on what will in all prob-ability be a high-speed, moving targetthat rapidly alters its configuration as itforces the issue. This is now a multi-task-ing evolution and improperly trainedofficers may find themselves reactingwith inappropriate responses, which willalways be subjected to intense scrutiny.There is as well, a definite and veryreal psychological factor that computesinto all shootings. No matter how muchone trains or prepares there is always thefleeting thought of, “I can’t believe this ishappening” or “My gosh! This is it!”Most well trained officers get past this ina nanosecond, but some do not and thatcritical lapse in response is all that ittakes for a controllable situation to berendered chaotic.For every violent confrontation in thestreet there are literally hundreds (if notthousands) of stops made in the same sit-uations that do not escalate to such alevel. The officer makes perhaps a dozenor so potential felony stops week afterweek, year after year and just as many
Rethinking the 21 Foot Rule
this sequence:
As the target advances, the shooter’s hands come together in a two-hand grip and the pistol is brought to bear center mass of the target, which is now a mere four feet from the shooter. Shots are usually discharged at a distance ofthree feet and in, leaving no margin for error for the shooter through the entire evolution. The entire run was at a distanceof twenty-one feet with an accomplished shooter.
7 Feet4 Feet3 Fee
MARCH 2004 
observational arrests without muchproblem. Now we have the ex-con, witha five-year tail or third striker who,unbeknownst to the officer, has no inten-tion of going back. He is stopped at thir-ty feet, complies and calmly closes thedistance to twenty or fifteen feet—andthen charges nose on. The officer is nowpressed into a real world criticalresponse and the judgments, physicalactions and appropriate threat responsemust be dealt in fractions of a second.How then does he deal with this effec-tively and within the constraints of thelaw?Let us first predicate that in this partic-ular scenario it is one where the use ofdeadly force is warranted and justified.Whether the officer is at the low readywith his handgun, at position two justabove the holster, or is in a holstered con-dition, he must act decisively in bringinghis weapon to bear on the target. If he isat low ready then he must bring the pis-tol straight up mid-line on the largestportion of the target which is afforded tohim. If he over or under travels in this orhe is off center laterally there may well be little, if any time to correct the error. Ifhe is holstered, then the pistol must bepresented in the cleanest manner possi- ble so that it comes to bear center on thelargest portion of the target presented. Ifthe pistol is to be discharged from theweapon retention position (just abovethe holster, but well below eye level), theangle of the muzzle to center mass of thetarget must again be fairly precise. Itshould be an effective straightforwardprocess that is neither fanciful nor embel-lished with superfluous motion or exces-sive rounds. It must be clean.The question arises, “Do I use sightedor unsighted fire?” In such a rapid sce-nario getting the sights aligned perfectly before pressing off a shot may not be fea-sible. Aflash sight picture wherein thesights are there—on the target somewhatcentered and somewhat aligned—ismore the norm than not. Completelyunsighted fire has resulted in completemisses by some and at distances of lessthan five feet on more than one occasionin this training. So yes, you do utilize thesights, but in a much more compressedtime frame and in a much coarser man-ner than is allotted when one is affordedthe time to do otherwise.One factor which is clearly evident isthat the individuals who have workedon their draw stroke again and again sothat the pistol is where they want itwhen they want it perform demonstra- bly better than those that do not. (Muchof life is like this I suppose.) In otherwords when the attack is commencedthey have brought the pistol to bear onthe target so cleanly and effectively thatthey are simply simultaneously verifyingthe sights as they press off the shot(s).The target may be crouched low in alunging configuration or perhaps in amore upright fashion. If the assailant uti-lizes a downward thrusting motion, thetarget may be angled towards the shoot-er and if a fencing motion (such as astraight thrust) is utilized then the veryarm that thrusts the edged weapon may block the most effective area of the tar-get. These are all mitigating factors thatmay come into play and in theory havinga game plan for each configurationsounds great—but in the world of realitythe straightest line to center of the largesttarget mass will most probably be theonly viable method of effectively stop-ping the threat within the small timeconstraints. If the target were to chargeforward head down, this may very wellmean a shot placed in the center of the back.One effective technique in conjunctionwith live-fire is to step ninety degreesfrom the line of the attacker as he closesthe distance. This forces the assailant to bleed off speed as he makes a mid-coursecorrection. Continuing to do this further bleeds speed and if deadly force is neces-sitated then the assailant continues toincur hits throughout the attack. Step-ping rearward, however, may not be the best option as it places the shooter off balance and his rearward momentumworks to the attacker’s advantage. Witha number of shooters, if their feet remainstationary while engaging the target sys-tem illustrated in this article, their upper body leans rearward as the target rapidlycloses the distance. While this seems to be a natural response, it places the shoot-er in an unbalanced and untenable posi-tion. Shuffling to the rear, however (nei-ther crossing nor bringing the feettogether), in a rapid fashion while main-taining a stable firing platform may infact prove to be a very viable option.The defender may find himself utiliz-ing his support arm to ward off theassailant or trap and control the attackerwhile simultaneously engaging the sus-pect. The real possibility exists in thisconfiguration that one may strike oneselfwith his own fire in a particularly violentand closely tied up affair. Utilizing a for-ward thrust kick in conjunction withlive-fire to momentarily thwart anaggressor’s attack may prove to be aneffective technique as well. Again, how-ever, the real possibility exists that onecould be struck by one’s own gunfire inthe maneuver. Other scenarios run on theknife attack system include an onrushingattack from either side to one that initi-ates directly from the rear. Each of thesesimply places the officer at a greater dis-advantage with less response time. Piv-oting and sidestepping the attacker isonce more the better response asopposed to remaining static.One question that arises from time totime is whether or not it is feasible tostrike the suspect in the legs, hips, armsetc. If you were off the scales in ability Isuppose one could, but I have never seenanyone so skilled. Highly skilled shoot-ers have their hands full just hitting cen-ter mass at a distance of twenty feet.
Here, as a “suspect” initiates his attack, the shooter begins his draw stroke and simultane-ously breaks ninety degrees off the line of attack. This buys a little time, as the suspectmust change his direction and speed.

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