The Tueller Drill and Self-Defense

Here’s an interesting interview: Lieutenant Dennis Tueller, famous for giving us the Tueller Drill gives an interview on the background and real meaning of his drill.

Take a look at the video with Mr. Tueller first, I’ll comment on it below.


Some thoughts on this excellent interview:

  • Lieutenant Tueller makes it very clear that 21-foot rule is not a rule at all. If anything, it’s a rule of thumb. As he explains, the distance at which you can effectively deploy a firearm will be greater or even smaller than 21 feet, depending on a host of circumstances. This is something that is routinely overlooked by people using the Tueller drill to promote their agenda, sell books and videos, etc. I think it’s one of the most important things Lt. Tueller says in this video.
  • It’s not an either/or choice. Just because the average LEO needs 21 feet to draw and shoot a knife or club-wielding attacker before he can close the gap, doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. The experiment Lt. Tueller did was just that, an experiment. It is not use of force doctrine. He never said you have to stand there and try to duel the attacker. On the contrary, he explicitly says you should use cover and obstacles to gain more time. If you only win a second, that may be enough to clear your firearm and shoot and stop the attacker. So your conclusion should perhaps be that movement, footwork and the like are just as important as training to clear leather as fast as you can. This is my biggest complaint against those instructors who use (or misuse) what Lt. Tueller showed with his drill.
  • There’s more than long range. The Lt. makes another crucial point: at close range, you try to block or disarm somebody going for a weapon. You do not try to draw from that distance because you can’t win; the attacker is already ahead of you. Especially in a civilian self-defense situation, this matters a great deal. As a good rule of thumb, you might want to train for this: whenever somebody close to you makes a sudden movement to grab something (in his pocket, behind his back, etc.) stop him right away from deploying it. Personally, I consider a hand disappearing slowly just as much a threat, it doesn’t even have to move fast. If you’ve practiced sneaking a weapon into your hand while talking to somebody, you know exactly what I mean.
  • Self-defense for law enforcement is not the same thing as self defense for civilians. As a civilian, you do not have the same authority a LEO has. Nor can you react the same way. Even more, the threats you face will also be different. The prime example is this: Of all the incidents I know of where civilians were attacked by an aggressor wielding a knife or club, not one of them started at 21 feet or beyond. Every single one of these started from either touching range or from a handful of feet away.  Bad guys and criminals like to come close before they stab or hit you. Your training should reflect this reality.


Over the years, I’ve heard some of the most ludicrous theories from people who heard about the Tueller drill or experimented with the concept. They invariably came to conclusions that fit their own view of how violence should be while ignoring the realities of what happens in a real self-defense situation. It’s great to see Dennis Tueller himself set the record straight about where the drill came from and give some extra information on what it doesn’t mean.

Become a Patron and get access to unique content: my newsletter, instructional videos, violence analysis and much more!


  1. Bee Landrum says

    Awesome!!! Thanks Sir , very nice indeed!!!

Speak Your Mind