The 21 Foot Rule

In many of the threads here, I often see the “21 Foot Rule” brought up, almost as if it were some law not to be questioned.
The friend who conducted my CCL class even stressed it as if it were gospel.
I went so far as to get out a tape measure and make mental notes of distances around my house, in the yard, at work, etc. I taught myself to guesstimate 21 feet on the ground to within 1 foot. Uphill. Downhill. In deep grass.
It was fun and I don’t regret it.

Then in the July 2020 issue of Concealed Carry magazine, I came across the article Rule Breaker.
It goes quite in-depth as to why this is a fallacy and provides references. I highly recommend this reading.

I wonder if @Dawn might persuade USCCA to consider making this article available to non-members as an example of the great content that is published in our magazine each month? Personally, I have grown to look forward to CC magazine above all others that I subscribe to and feel it is the largest value of my membership.

If any of you have read Rule Breaker, I would like to hear your comments.
I shared it with the above mentioned friend and he has since altered his course curriculum due to the story.


I always took the ‘rule’ to be a general rule and an average…with some able to draw quicker and some slower, and some able to run and advance on you faster and some slower, but the 21 foot mark was a serious threat threshold… .but did not preclude firing on a threat at 25 feet, or even 30 feet.

I had to pull the article back out and reread it, and in it, the fact the officers fired at 55 ft, and the attacker did not fall and succumb to his wounds until 18 feet away… a distance of 37 feet… which would mean the 21 foot rule would NOT apply at all.

Good point and good comment.

I wonder, if any states have established a ‘law’ or legal precedence that the 21 foot rule is the standard and if you fire beyond that range, you may not be able to claim self defense.


Kevin, my thoughts exactly.
Being in my mid-50’s, having been around firearms all my life, living where I do and having carried concealed long before obtaining my CCL, I guess I sometimes take things for granted.
Before obtaining my CCL, I had never even heard of the ‘rule’.

I suppose what worries me the most is that a new user may take to heart that it is a rule to not be broken, thus not responding in time and wind up hurt or worse.


I’m checking on our copyright to see if I can post it here, @Robert401.

I’ve always taught it as a guideline with the history included. So if a police officer with countless hours of training cannot get his firearm out and on target in the time it takes an assailant to cross 21 feet, how much longer will it take a new carrier to draw and get on target?

Will let you know when I hear back about posting the article.


This is directly from “the horse’s mouth” an article by Dennis Tueller from the March 1983 issue of SWAT magazine.

The article addressed Tueller’s own experimentation, which determined that “the average healthy adult male can cover a distance of seven yards (21 feet) in about 1.5 seconds.”

And this from The Tueller Drill Myth that also explains it is just an average, as @Kevin29 also pointed out.

The significance of the time factor is based on the reasonable standard that a person who’s trained in proper pistolcraft should be able to draw a handgun and place two centered hits on a life-size silhouette at seven yards in about 1.5 seconds. Before I go any further, I want to point out that both the distance of 21 feet and the time factor as addressed in Tueller’s original article, were both approximations based on training experience; nothing more.

The other point to understand is that this is the average distance/time in which it is a tie, wherein the attacker is upon you and you are able to put a shot on target. Not a situation anyone would want to be in. Both articles I cited also mention what we always address - awareness and avoidance, do not wait to be assaulted to move. As Kevin Michalowski says, “get off the X”.


A good video testing the 21 ft. Rule and some alternatives to standing there and getting stabbed. :thinking:


I first heard of it back in the 80s, and have carried off and on open and concealed ever since (some periods while overseas I did not carry or will not say…) and during some travel in the US, with all the various mixed up laws…

Even then, it was understood to be a guideline and not a hard and fast rule… but, over time, I guess it is something that might have become ‘morphed’ into a rule… that is taught.

Each trainer, or most trainers, have their own idiocentricities or variations of what they were taught or how they were taught… and may over time pushed an idea that it is a rule.

New people should not lock into a 21 foot limit, and we should never allow a court or a legislature to establish 21 foot as the rule, because 25 or 30 feet might very well be too close for many, especially those who are older and slowing down some… :slight_smile: me.



I had forgotten to mention that. I do remember that being one of the things…


The article was written by our friend Tom Grieve! Here’s a PDF of the article. You’ll have to download it to read it.
Tueller Drill July 2020 Concealed Carry Magazine.pdf (429.4 KB)


I just read the article. Wow!!! Very good and informative. It is amazing how we (well, me anyway) don’t think of these things until brought to our (my) attention.


When I used to use this drill as an example I didn’t even know it had a name. The people being trained were all top shelf military and the “drill” was conducted on the final day as sort of a “reality check”. The shooter stood at 10 yards and his nemesis was at his elbow. At the command or beep or whistle the nemesis would take off running and the shooter had to draw and hit the plate twice where us range guys would mark the location where the last plate hit occurred. Granted all was subjective but the Nemesis and the shooter would turn and face each other there were many surprised looks at how far some had gotten. Students would muff the draw or miss the target and the Nemesis might actually make it to the back of the range (50 yards) similarly the Nemesis might slip out of the starting gate and get three feet. Good natured ribbing would occur for both events. All that said it was a valuable tool to show folks just how far you can get in a second or two. I didn’t know until much later that it had become a “rule”.

As noted 21 feet is the “standard” but I would submit someone at a full charge is a threat no matter what the distance. If you have the chance to get your weapon on target long before the 21’ threshold is achieved it will be up to YOU to decide when to pull the trigger or for that matter enter into your “hit confidence zone”. 21 feet is only SEVEN yards, I’m good with lining the sights up at twice that distance or more.




Yes, it is amazing how fast a person can cover 21’(7uards). Frightening!
Yet as stated before the 21’ is guidance, as per FBI stats for officers. When studied almost 90% of civilian encounters happen between 9’(3yards) and 15’ (five yards) so train hard and don’t forget to use your lateral movement.
The study was done by Tom Givens he has been studying this longer then some of our members have been alive​:thinking::wink:


The “rule” operates on the assumption that ONLY the attacker is moving towards their subject.
I remember reading it and first thing that came to mind, what if the subject moved to create extra feet of distance while drawing his weapon?


Great point @Robert401 That was a really good article.

I do agree that maybe it should be renamed from Tueller Drill or 21ft “rule” to something different. Maybe the 21ft Principle. Whenever I’ve explained it to anyone who hadn’t heard about it, I always make sure to include the context. Standing start, from retention, and everyone knows the objective. It does serve as a good way to illustrate that you don’t have as much time as you think you do.


After reading many of the comments about Tueller, it seems as though many are missing the point of the article, which by using the term rule that was just research that was used to further develop LE training, could have Placed further burdens on officers defending themselves.
Take USCCA’s Defensive Shooting Fundamentals Level 1, and you won’t hear the Tueller Rule or a Tueller Drill. What you will be exposed to is sighted vs unsighted Fire, the balance of speed and precision, presentation from the holster and movement, along with realistic training drills.


I generally don’t watch youtube clips, but did watch a few these past few days where pro-trump supporters were peacefully walking down a road when they were sporadically bushwhacked (struck on the head) from behind.

I used this as a learning tool by looking at the assailants actions just prior to the attack(s). Looking for patterns, gestures, tells, etc. Then watching the victims just prior to the attack, each and everyone of them was living in Condition White, even in the midst of danger, when they should have been in a state between Yellow and Orange.


If I read Tueller’s report correctly, he said the average time for a draw and to place 1 shot on target for an experienced officer was about 1.5 seconds. The officers were practicing in regulation holsters, which I believe were level II open, not concealed. They were also facing the assailant. He also said that the average person can cross 21 feet in 1.5 seconds from a standing start. This would indicate that if a person was 21 feet away, with a contact weapon (knife or club) and made a move, with good reaction time you would get stabbed or get your head split open about the same time you got a shot off. That is a tie at best, in which case both people could lose.

I do not believe based on the writing of Mr. Tueller and interviews he has given, he had any intention of his study and thesis becoming a “21 foot Rule”, I believe he meant it to be a minimum. A point at which you may have just experienced grave bodily harm.

While it would be foolish to have your weapon out anytime someone encroached within 35 or 40 feet of you, you should definitely be practicing situational awareness at that distance. Not everyone who approaches you wants to harm, rob or car jack you, but the sooner you identify someone approaching you, who you don’t know, the sooner you can change the circumstances of how you meet. The sooner they know you have seen them approaching. That could be enough for them to question if you are easy prey or is there are easier pickings elsewhere. You could always do something subtle like, at a gas station, move to the opposite side of the gas hose. It give them an obstacle to need to cross. It gives you an extra weapon, the gas. Being between the filler and driver’s door also gives you an opportunity to re-enter your vehicle to avoid or delay the conflict.

Or something as simple as reaching back inside you coat and rubbing that sore muscle which happens to be right next to the handgun you carry. You haven’t declared intent, or brandished, but you may have made an attacker think better of it and sped up the drawing time if you need to.

Situational awareness and preparation beats draw speed every time. Avoiding the fight, by letting someone know you are not an easy target is always better than winning a fight. Just my thoughts.


Thanks to all who have replied.
A lot of good insight in this thread.

My main concern was that a person new to CC not get all wrapped up in the ‘rule’ as it is sometimes presented in a course, and let it become a hindrance to their protection. :+1:


And apparently some not so new.

It has been around a long time, and like a rumor that goes from person to person, it slowly morphs over time… and it seems there are those who have experience that have fallen for the morphed 21 foot rule.


In his article, that is what he was saying, being aware and moving to avoid contact because someone seeking harm can cross a large distance quicker than most would imagine. In my earlier post I addressed that and the fact that it was a “tie”. The point of the “drill” was not to “stand your ground”, but be aware and do what is necessary to protect yourself, including moving, again, aware of how quickly a person can cross a long distance.