Understanding the distancing and reaction time continuum
Brian LaMaster, president and chief instructor at Innovative Tactical Concepts, LLC (www.right2defend.com) is offering an Advanced Pistol Fighting Level II class at a discounted price as a fundraiser for Buckeye Firearms Association on November 3 - 4, 2007. The class is limited to the first 15 paid participants! Get complete details here.
By Brian K. LaMaster
For the most part, we would all like to believe that we will act or react in
an appropriate amount of time in a situation. Truth of the matter is, will
really react the way you think you will?!
Many of us have heard that we are
most likely to be confronted within twenty-one feet. My understanding that
of the reasons this saying started was due to the distances at which law
enforcement encounters occur. Truth of the matter is that we are most likely
to be attacked within ten feet. If I am attacked by someone who is
feet away, I believe that it is a good day for me!
The purpose of this article is to hopefully get you to understand just how
much time you do or do not have to react. Personally, I do not feel this has
been put into proper perspective by a lot of instructor's. This information
in my opinion, critical to your survival because you need to know how much
you do or do not have to react in a situation and that your current firearms
training (if any) may not be enough to keep you alive in a situation.
Click 'Read More' for the entire commentary.
Now, if you have been around for very long in the gun community you have
probably heard of the Tueller drill. This drill may also be somewhat
responsible for the saying of you are likely to be attacked within
feet. Okay, it is safe to say based upon the Tueller drill findings that
people can cover twenty-one feet of ground in about one and a half seconds
two seconds. And that you can probably successfully react by drawing and
the attacker who is twenty-one feet away and is advancing towards you. So,
you are ten feet away from an attacker who is holding a knife, how much time
do you have to react to the threat if they make the first move? Well, first
all you must understand the reaction time continuum. On the average,
times can vary from .4 seconds to .8 seconds. This means you have very
time to perceive their movement and react to it. Alright, you have about
fourths of a second to react to someone who is moving towards you at ten
away. If your reaction time is one half to three-fourths of a second, that
leaves you with little or no time to react!
More distance equals more reaction time. When you are close to an attacker
you move laterally, how much more distance are you really creating? Not as
much as you might think! How much distance you create depends upon the
of footwork you are using to move. If an attacker makes the first move and
are able to react and you move laterally, more than likely you are not
creating much distance away from the attacker in order to survive! In our
training and research we have experienced some not-so-good news.
First of all, our numbers are from our training exercises and are only being
presented for you to begin the process of researching things yourself. In
research we used people who have not trained in drawing and firing their gun
from concealment. The purpose of this is because a large percentage of
who have CCW or CHL permits do not train as often as they should. One of the
advantages our participants had was that they knew the other person was
to move. We did our best at not trying to anticipate their movement. We
conducted each test several times to see if we got similar results. I will
to summarize the results.
We started with the attacker at twenty-one feet away and the person who was
the defender was able to respond by drawing and firing shots at the
This was of no surprise to us. However, the defender still got cut and even
knocked down because they did not move off the line of attack. From there we
started the knife wielding attacker out at ten feet. The attacker made the
first move and within one second the attacker was on the victim and had cut
him at least once. After that, we had the defender move laterally by
sidestepping. About one-half second into the attacker's movement the
started his lateral movement. On the average, the defender was only able to
cover about four feet of ground. Moving laterally does not created distance
away from the attacker fast enough in order to survive especially when using
the sidestepping method of footwork. In some instances the defender drew
gun only after being cut multiple times by the attacker. Now, when we placed
someone who has trained extensively in drawing and firing from concealment
combined with unarmed combat tactics, we found that one is more likely to
more positive results.
Starting at the ten foot mark while remaining still, the more experienced
person was able to successfully draw their gun and get at least one shot
Again, they experienced multiple cuts and were knocked down as a result of
moving. When moving laterally the defender used cross-stepping method of
footwork which kept the defender ahead of the attacker and out of reach for
the most part. The defender was able to create about ten feet of ground
finally getting cut. I might ad that for the most part the defender only
received cuts on his free side arm since he was drawing and shooting one
handed! All of this happened in just a little over one and one-half seconds
and it took that long only because the defender was able to create so much
distance by cross-stepping.
Moving the threat even closer, we started the attacker at five feet out.
Needless to say, the inexperienced defender didn't have a chance to even go
for his gun. Not once did the defender get his gun out! You might want to
that again. He didn't have a chance to move laterally either. At this close
distance you are pretty much toast if you think that you are going to get
gun out and use it when the attacker makes the first move. So, after several
attempts failed by the rookie, we placed the experienced individual in the
same situation. Well, at times he was successful at getting the gun out of
holster, but did not get to fire any shots. Again, he knew the attack was
coming. One of the things that gave him the advantage was the attacker's
This is where knowing the attacker's rituals comes in handy. We never did
him that defender was picking up on them and what they were. However,
does them! So, you had better learn them! The experienced defender really
didn't have any time to move laterally either without being cut several
One thing that a lot of people tend to forget is that you are most likely to
be attacked in low-light conditions. So, for that very reason we conducted
several exercises in the dark just after sunset when your eyes are adjusting
to the lighting conditions. Let me tell you that things change greatly and
you do not train in these conditions, then you are fooling yourself that you
have even the slightest chance to survive. Not to mention, that you are
probably not going to be able to hit your target if you are able to draw and
Alright, as you can imagine, the results were not good. Keep in mind that
participants were previously "focusing on drawing their gun." With that in
mind, we switched things up a little and told the experienced person to
respond with unarmed combatives first and then draw his gun if he was able.
Even in the low lighting conditions the experienced person in unarmed
combatives was able to successfully respond against the attacker who was
holding a knife and was five feet away. We found that you need to move first
and react to the knife attack with an unarmed move and then draw your gun if
that is the thing to do. After several exercises our results were more
pleasing when responding with unarmed combatives than going straight for
gun. Very few times did the defender get cut where he may not have be able
draw and shoot, or remain in the fight. If you are able to deliver a counter
strike to the knife attack that slows the attacker down even for one second,
that will buy you more time to attempt to draw your gun or create more
distance in order to do so.
In short, responding with unarmed combatives will keep you in the fight
than by going straight for your gun. Going straight for your gun most of the
time is not going to be a wise idea. And, if you move laterally or other
directions with a step-n-drag method of footwork, you will not create enough
distance to survive!
There are directions of movement you can utilize that will take you away
the danger allowing you more time to react, draw and fire. In addition,
are other methods of footwork that will allow you to traverse ground much
quicker! We will discuss both of those topics at a later time.
When facing an attacker that has you at gunpoint at close distances, things
don't really look any better! In fact, at close distances you are simply
to be exchanging bullets if you use the sidestepping method of footwork and
two handed shooting stances such as the Isosceles and Weaver. Exchanging
bullets is not a good idea in my book! In order to survive a situation where
an attacker has a gun drawn on you, you need to do one of two things. Become
small fast moving target creating as much distance as you can. Or, move in
the attacker past the muzzle of his gun and disarm him or draw your gun as
move in. And of course, there are good and bad ways to do this. If you want
some ideas of good ways to do this, you might be interested in this
Train hard, train often, and train realistically!
Brian K. LaMaster is a blackbelt in Kobudo and trains in firearms on a daily
basis. Brian is a certified NRA instructor and teaches Ohio CCW courses,
Advanced Pistol Fighting courses, and much more.
Mr. LaMaster is offering an Advanced Pistol Fighting Level II class at a discounted price as a fundraiser for Buckeye Firearms Association on November 3 - 4, 2007. The class is limited to the first 15 paid participants! Get complete details here.