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
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 Feet