View Full Version : "It's All About Timing"

3rd June 2009, 00:29
This is a great piece from a friend - a California SWAT cop with observations on timing decisions in deploying firearms.

Considering that some figures have as much as 70% of police shootings occuring from 0-7 feet (touching distance), in addition to timing decisions, empty hand fighting skills can mean the difference between effectively deploying a firearm when its "for real" or simply making a bad problem...worse.

A nod is also given to the vital importance of grappling practice of an antagonistic nature (because the word "competitive" is a dirty one in some "combatives" circles):

It’s All About Timing

By: Ryan Mayfield

In a world where firearms, Tasers, gas, impact rounds and other “at-distance” tools exist for the LEO, it can—on the surface at least—appear as though we’re losing the need to rely on empty-hand skills to get the job done. Most officers can see that we’ll still need some basic handcuffing skills, but a great majority feel that they can rely on their tools to carry the day and if for some reason they start to lose control of a situation, their firearm is always there to lend the ultimate, decisive resolution.

Representing a smaller segment of officers, there are those that also realize they may need some empty-hand weapon-retention skills in the event that someone tries to rob them of their duty-weapon. But what about the empty-hand skills needed to access our tools in the first place?

Introducing a tool into the fray of a violent struggle is above all else, about timing. It is about creating and capitalizing upon Timing Windows that allow us an unobstructed presentation-path of our selected tool; coupled with the means to deliver its payload on-target.

Decisions made by an officer with regards to drawing a tool are almost always made based on the officer’s perception of danger and his or her reflexive-response to that stimulus. In other words, if the officer perceives a potentially lethal threat, he will most likely respond with lethal force options of his own and do so as quickly as possible. In a ranged affair, this is almost always the proper response; however when the officer is within a certain distance envelope to his threat, his instincts can prove fatal in some cases.

The problem arises when we use that perception as our trigger to immediately draw and have no training basis from which to temper it. At first, this seems counterintuitive: “Well, OK…I sense danger, when else would I draw a tool to up my chances for success or survival?” Again, it is range-dependent. To further complicate matters, it becomes increasingly more dangerous as the range collapses into Contact Distance.

If the average officer requires +/- 2 seconds to draw his weapon and fire accurately at close-range, then we need to know how much ground we can cover in that amount of time (it may be a better option to close the distance and engage empty-handed than it would be to attempt to draw and fire, for instance). This is an example of how training can affect our response to a given threat. If we have a general guideline of how long it takes us to close on a threat, then we can train to make that decision under stress instead of always defaulting to the “draw and shoot” response that is all we know. It of course goes without saying that the ability for us to make a good decision here in the first place is dependent upon our having trained to do so. But this is only Phase One of how timing decisions can—and should—affect our tactics and strategies.

Equally important is the realization that our ability to draw is directly proportionate to our ability to ensure an unobstructed path of presentation for a specific tool. Once we do this, we can look to capitalize on that moment by making proper timing decisions to ensure that the “moment” has not passed or was never “opened” in the first place. We accomplish this goal by practicing and establishing dominant position over our opponents in training. Hand and wrist control, under-hooks, over-hooks, arm-drags, duck-unders—these are all critical empty-hand combatives techniques that help us to control our opponent’s limbs and prevent him from fouling our draw or producing a tool of his own. The skill it takes to pull this off against a resisting opponent is directly dependent upon and relative to the amount of time we spend on the mats working such things out. It is also in this training and skill-enhancement phase that we will learn to identify and anticipate where we stand in terms of going ahead with a draw-stroke. If we’ve trained a given tie-up dozens of times and learn to anticipate when it will “lock in” or equally important, when we’re starting to lose it, we will know when the timing is right or wrong for us to make our move to access a tool.

Without knowing the difference between a “good” timing decision and a “bad” one, we are destined to introduce a tool into the equation at a time that may result in a complete backfire of our original intent. At best we may end up fighting over our own tool; at worst, our enemy can use it against us because we offered it up as a resource for him.

Knowing how to fight is not all about going “dukes up” with an opponent. It isn’t always about protecting your gun or handcuffing someone. Sometimes it’s about ensuring that we have the ability to use the tools that we rely on to manage threats. Sometimes it’s about regaining or maintaining the initiative. Sometimes it’s standing, sometimes it’s on the ground. Sometimes it’s about all of these factors and much more, as they all come crashing down upon us at once.

Knowing how to fight is not about segmenting and compartmentalizing our skills, but about how well we can assimilate our skills into a given segment or context. Developing the timing to do so and ability to recognize opportunities for capitalizing on those openings is perhaps the most critical attribute we can develop. There’s only one place where these skills can be garnered: On the mat!

12th June 2009, 21:41
Very good article Hissho. I think i heard somewhere that a knife wielding opponent can close the distance of 20 feet in the time it takes for a trained person to realize, draw, aquire target and fire. Thats a big distance. I have believed for a long time that some hand to hand informayion if not training should be sought by any one training to carry a firearm whether professionally or just for self defense. Your friend is right on the money.
A gun in your pocket does not mean the upper hand in a fight for your life.

13th June 2009, 00:19
Hi 1stdan, the concept you're talking about is commonly called the "21 ft rule" or in practice the "tueller drill" (after the guy who staged it to make the point). In truth, the distance can be more than 21 ft, but the main point of the exercise is to demonstrate that an aggressor with a knife can be considered a lethal threat far outside of contact range, thus warranting the deployment of firearms in some instances.

Kit: very cool article. I hope this gets circulated in the CCW crowd, too. Positional dominance->weapon deployment is a critical skill for anyone who's armed.

13th June 2009, 16:06

Welcome to E-Budo!

Aric covered Tueller nicely, including that 21' may not be enough with some offender/officer combinations.

The layer that the article addresses, though, is that all things considered, 21 feet would be a luxury!!

Some 70% of police shootings occur within 0-7 feet. Standard range training does not address this at all, typically starting at 3 yards.

Standard range training also completely removes the most fundamental combative dynamics: dealing with an adversary's opposing energy (physical and mental) and will, or the natural efforts to counter, as it is done in a controlled and static manner.

Additionally, as something like 2/3 of police shootings occur during or immediately after a physical confrontation, we can further see the limitations of focussing primarily in a training modality that assumes unfettered access to the firearm, makes no differentiation between timining decisions for when to draw the gun (indeed, with the typical range command to fire being "gun!" it is almost instituting what can be poor timing decisions), and has the luxury of distance.

The reason for this, in my view, is our distances in everyday social intercourse. Our interactions occur at conversational distances; i.e. within arms reach. Even the "dueling" distance that most defensive tactics, martial arts and combat sports train is outside of social interaction distance - but real life confrontations, whether police or citizen - the ambushes, sucker punches, resisting arrests, or challenges - start at conversational distances. People that really want to get you wait until the distance is closed.

The same holds true for citizen confrontations as well, not just police.

20th July 2009, 01:23
I think that people who carry for personal protection need to filter some of the data out there about "police shootings" for personal application. We cops "have to" do things that others do not as part of the job. Many situations I have been in professionally would have been done drastically different if I was off-duty. We also cant do most of our job from 30' at gunpoint from behind cover.

While physical facts behind armed confrontations apply to everybody, I believe that the mindset between LE and non-LE (or even off-duty LE) encounters are significantly different.

20th July 2009, 05:30
It depends on the confrontation and factors leading up to it. Certainly officers place themselves in situations that tend toward violence more often than the average citizen should, but the vast, vast majority of those don't involve the suspects trying to harm/kill the officer.

The dynamics of those (ambush) encounters that do involve the latter, once they have gone physical, will be much the same as an aggravated assault on any citizen. The "rules" as far as use of force at that point are exactly the same, police officers use of force expectation when threatened with serious bodily injury or death is no different from that of a non-sworn citizen threatened with same.

21st July 2009, 10:45
True..my point is only that as a "civillian" the ability to avoid situations is the best defense. The LEO doesnt have that option..hence my "mindsets are different" comment. Some dude walking up to me on the street while Im working will be dealt with differently from a suspicious person walking towards me and the kids while at the park, resulting in different range issues if things go bad. One will have to be allowed up close (cant draw on everybody) while Im working. In the park I have no reason to allow someone up close and could just gather up the kids and walk away.

I guess Im saying, look at the studies and learn from the dynamics, but know that "what" the cop did isnt necessarily going to present the same dynamics as what you will face. I would also like to see a study comparing the average range of a CCW/home defense confrontation vs. LE studies. I tend to look at the issue like this:


For many years, we have been taught that armed confrontations occur at very close distances (often times at arm's length), that few shots are fired and the person involved usually misses. These statistics were compiled from the FBI's Officer Killed Summary, which are released on an annual basis. Note that the operative word here is killed; these are officers that lost their confrontation. Have you ever wondered what happened with the officers that won? Did they do anything different to help ensure they would prevail?

In 1992, veteran police officer Dick Fairburn, now a trainer for the Illinois State Police, was commissioned by the Police Marksmen Association to answer this very question. Mr. Fairburn's original quest was to try and answer the stopping power debate of the time, in which he failed because the database of 241 shooting incidents was too small. However, what he did develop were some interesting trends that showed what officers did when they won the confrontation. One of the most interesting was the distances involved. While the FBI statistics show distances as being around ten feet, the PMA study showed the average distance being more like twenty. This makes sense, as distance will favor the person with the most training. This relates directly back to awareness as the sooner you see trouble coming, the more time you have to prepare for war. The PMA study also shows that the hit ratio per encounter was closer to 62 percent instead of the often-reported 18 percent. The history of gun fighting for more than a century has shown that the person that lands the first solid hit will usually win the confrontation. Hitting is hard to do without preparation and relying on luck is an invitation to disaster.

Is it really a fact that "gunfights happen close" and thats just a fact that cant be changed? Or is it "letting an opponent in close results in more misses and fatalities" and the solution is in awareness and range control? Clint Smith has said, "When you get up close you don't have to be good, you just have to be lucky," which is certainly true. I think that the "solution" is in concentrating on awareness and range control.

One is more difficult (but not impossible for the LEO) than it is for the non-LEO.

Just my .02

22nd July 2009, 06:51
I think that in encounters in which officers are forewarned and prepared to meet resistance, this is probably true. It is what most police training, and most "square range" training prepares police for. As you suggest, these are the very situations the police run to, and the citizen should be successful at avoiding.

But the kinds of encounters that will mimic citizen encounters will be the sudden eruption of violence (ambush, physical attack/gun grab/bad guy gun deployed), often during "routine" encounters in which the officer is alone, at close quarters with a subject (can't draw a gun on everybody, and can't treat most calls with high profile tactics), and often either happens immediately, happens as the officer goes hands on, or slowly develops with multiple cues that the officer missed.

Some of it is training - and an officer trusting and acting on his intuition, going in tactically, breaking range or not closing distance. Some of this is simply unavoidable, regardless of training, because you simply can't treat all situations as "tactical," even those that are statistically higher risk, but do not on their face call for higher profile tactics. These will more closely mimic citizen encounters.

The method of training is also an issue - is it treated as a "gun" problem, divorced from realistic proximity and physical dynamics and responding with standard square range training, which is applicable in many shootings in which there is initiative and stand off distance on the part of the officer, not so much when those advantages are lacking.

To draw a budo analogy, kenjutsu and iai both use the same weapon and similar tactics, but are used in very different circumstances. You are either in a "sword fight," you are avoiding the sword fight to begin with by cutting your guy down on the draw, or desperately trying to get your sword into the fray before you are cut down by the ambushing adversary. ALL are applicable, but they are applicable in different situations and circumstances. We have to be prepared for all of them.

Most police training is "kenjutsu," its preparing officers for a shooting in which they have forewarning, weapon out or unobstructed draw, and they are prepared to deal with the threat as the threat emerges.

More police training needs to be "Iai," getting the gun out while forestalling/beating the suspect to the draw, or getting the gun out and engaging a suspect already engaging them, either hand-to-hand or with a weapon. The latter occurs at far closer distances than typical range training which begins at 3-5 yards, well outside the standard range of social intercourse, and the contact distance range at which arrests are made.

20th August 2009, 08:55
Touche Kit.

Philip Hinshelwood

21st August 2009, 03:46
Hmmm..I really don't see where we disagree. I have always espoused close quarters combatives training for LEO's. What I am trying to say is dont drink the "ALL gunfights are going to happen at 7'" kool-aid and ignore range and distance control. Sure some/many encounters have to take place at "social distance" but it's been my experience that MANY cops (and probably civillians too) close the distance and ignore threat indicators and go "hands on" when the wise thing to do was stay at range. Most recently a Fla. officer was shot and killed when responding to a suspicious person call. The man had a shopping cart with an AK47 and 3 handguns in it allong with ammo. The officer chased and TACKLED this guy. The BG then pistol whipped and shot the officer...

So yes..train for the upclose fight but strive for awareness and range control.

21st August 2009, 05:25
I equate it to the idea "don't get in a ground fight in an actual combative situation." Its good advice, and the preferred situation.

But a significant enough number of encounters do go there despite best efforts to prevent it, and as the danger is that much higher when they do, having practiced skill if not an actual comfort there is that much more of an edge.

21st August 2009, 11:05
I equate it to the idea "don't get in a ground fight in an actual combative situation." Its good advice, and the preferred situation.

But a significant enough number of encounters do go there despite best efforts to prevent it, and as the danger is that much higher when they do, having practiced skill if not an actual comfort there is that much more of an edge.

Absolutely :smilejapa

Richard Scardina
17th November 2009, 05:15
I think the 20-21ft knife against the gun rule is too hyped and dramatic. It is situational on what I call "the drop". Surely, anyone who has a weapon drawn first, be it a gun, kide, cudgel, rope dog's chew toy, will have "the drop" on someone who doesn't have a weapon drawn.

17th November 2009, 06:16
While distance is a factor, 21 feet is often not enough.

The originator of the concept is also not very happy with the fact that it has been so hyped, it was a drill meant to be a basic illustration, and never intended as a "Rule" or an over-arching principle.

Richard Scardina
17th November 2009, 06:30
Illustration of what? Whoever gets the first drop is the victor? This has been a concept from the dawn of time.

Surely it isnt like a match up in the Wild West or Japan's Feudal Times

17th November 2009, 14:45
Well, yes, in a way. However it includes distance and the time it takes to traverse that distance as well as to draw a weapon, in this case from a security holster.

Believe it or not, some police officers cannot smoothly draw from their security holsters, and when under the stress of a simple drill their skill goes out the window.

This said, officers are often better able to understand that a subject standing within 10 yards or so can be a threat and they should address it appropriately for the situation - which includes having the weapon already out.

The "drop," as it were.

I am sure there were plenty of non "match" combats occurring in both the Old West and Japan's Feudal period that involved exactly these concepts - from what I have seen the entire art of (combative) Iai is based upon it.

But I'll bet the cavemen were using the exact same idea as well.

Richard Scardina
13th December 2009, 05:32
If we are on the same page as to say that a firearm does not insure superior victory at all times, then we are in agreement.

24th January 2010, 21:08
Hmmm .... Sorry I arrived so late into this thread. I am new to this forum but have a bit of martial arts (42 years) and firearms (46 years) experience. I am also retired from one cop job (27+ years) and have begun another as the Chief of a small department.

Anyway ... I have read through most of the replys here and there is a lot of good information. Dennis Tuller has been a mentor/instructor of mine. The comment about him not being happy about the '21 foot rule' is an understantment. Although it is a great 'point maker' it was never designed to be a 'rule'. Dennis has said that many times. The last article I remember was the 'rule' was going to be changed to the '32 foot rule'.

At any rate ... Since most of the information we have is on Police gunfights, we have to make certian assumtions regarding what happens in civilian gunfights. Quite often a civilian may not have the luxury of knowing a situation is going bad. LEO's are sent into bad situations and have to have their head on a swivel and have to use their 'tactics' daily. Until we start keep records of civilian shooting incidents, this information will be sketchy at best.

Great forum!:wave:

25th January 2010, 23:02

Disregard my question in the other thread re: your background, thanks for adding your perspective. Once again, welcome!

I would add that while LEOs often know they are going into bad situations, those tend to be the ones LE does well in.

Its the routine traffic stops and unwanteds that can go bad and sometimes leave officers behind the curve response/tactics wise. The latter often result in very close quarters (hands on) gunfights.

Let alone things like what happened at Lakewood.

13th February 2010, 23:40
I absolutely agree. As a LEO trainer for some time, my blood pressure still goes up about ten points when I see some of the stunts officers pull. The attitude of many oficers is that, "I am bulletproof" or "I can handle anything". We had one officer who was invloved in an incident where he was sent to check on a suspicious person. Instead of waiting for his back-up, he approached the subject even after the officer had seen him disappear around the back of the house as he pulled up.The officer - 6-4+, 250 lbs - began a cursory pat-down when the much smaller subject spun striking the officer in the nose breaking it and knocking him unconsious and stealing his gun. There was a sceond gun found at the rear of the house were the subject had come from. The same officer was not repremanded for ANYTHING and had previously been in one of my OFFICER SURVIVAL classes reading a newspaper! I could proably relate several more. Some people ...

Todd Lambert
6th May 2010, 10:53
I would add that while LEOs often know they are going into bad situations, those tend to be the ones LE does well in.

Its the routine traffic stops and unwanteds that can go bad and sometimes leave officers behind the curve response/tactics wise. The latter often result in very close quarters (hands on) gunfights.

This reminds me of a video of a traffic stop I recently read about.

Coroner’s jury rules officer’s shooting of driver was justified (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_13b074ce-47cb-11df-a0a4-001cc4c002e0.html)

A coroner’s jury ruled Tuesday that Hamilton Police Officer Ross Jessop was justified in shooting Raymond Thane Davis to death after the Hamilton man opened fire during a late night traffic stop in January.

It took the six-woman jury one hour to make its ruling following nearly five hours of testimony, which included a videotape that showed Davis pointing a pistol inches from Jessop’s face and pulling the trigger.

The click of the revolver’s hammer hitting a previously fired round was audible on the tape.

Davis fired a second time as the officer fell back and drew his own weapon.

Jessop fired his pistol 14 times into Davis’ vehicle as it sped away. One round hit the man in the back. Davis, 36, died on the scene.

His .41 caliber revolver was recovered on the floorboard. Its hammer was cocked and ready to fire.

Witnesses testified Tuesday Davis’ taste for whiskey and a bad case of jealousy were to blame for the fatal confron-tation.
Video (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_13b074ce-47cb-11df-a0a4-001cc4c002e0.html?mode=video)