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Bringing a knife to a gun fight, part one: the Tueller Drill

The US may have had its first mass-stabbing incident two days ago when a madman armed with a box cutter went on a rampage at Lone Star College near Houston, Texas, injuring 14 people. The typical outcries were heard from both sides of the aisle: liberals calling for zero-tolerance zones and conservatives calling for "campus carry" to allow students and teachers to carry their lawful CCW handguns on campus. Radio Talk Show hosts parroted the same line, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a knife is a good guy with a gun."

Or does it?

Over a decade ago, while taking an NRA Instructor course, I ran into an old friend who was taking the course as well and during a break I showed him the custom knife that I was carrying. While he admired it another student/instructor said something derisive about "bringing a knife to a gun fight". The Training Counselor hosting the course spoke up and said, "Of all the people who could get away with bringing a knife to a gun fight, Mike is the only one I would bet on."

Most people incorrectly think that "a gun beats a knife" in a fight. In some cases they are correct; a Police Sniper at 300 yards can take down a knife wielding assailant as fast as that round travels down range. That however is the exception to the rule. When you are on the receiving end of a knife attack and your sidearm is holstered, and the knife-wielder is within 30 feet, he can cut you before you draw your firearm with a charge.

This was put to the test by Sergeant Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City Police Department in Utah. Tueller's test consisted of using a timer to time his shots at a target that was 7 yards away (21 feet). His shot time was 1.5 seconds. He had some volunteers run to the target and timed them. Their average time was 1.4 seconds.

There is an easy way to implement the Tueller drill into your own training. Start by practicing: draw and shoot (or dry fire) for a week until you think you have your optimal speed down. Have your slowest running friend meet you at a shooting range with a large open area to the rear of the firing line. Have the runner stand beside you while you face downrange and he faces away from it. When he is ready have him tap you on the shoulder and run from the firing line through the open area. As he taps you, draw your weapon and fire downrange. He is to stop running when he hears the shot.

Using a long tape measure, measure the distance from the firing line to where he stopped. Chances are it will be between 15 feet and 30 feet. This is an average score. A fast-draw artist and a marathon runner will change the dynamic. The draw and fire segment can be done as quick as 1 second and the runner can make it as far as 50 feet. This is in a controlled, stress free environment. How much slower will reaction time be when adrenaline is pumping and you can smell your assailant’s bad breath?

In part two, we will look at ways to improve your chances of survival when facing a blade threat.

About Mike S.

Mike has worked around firearms his entire adult life starting as a Marine Rifleman at 17 and continuing as a gunsmith, ballistician, instructor, consultant and writer. An avid shooter and martial artist, he has written over 1000 articles about Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, knives and firearms for online media and print magazines such as RECOIL, Gun Digest's Tactical Gear, Blade, and SWAT. 

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