The Twenty-One Foot Rule

This post was originally published on 26 January 2014 on The Arms Guide.

I was in my apartment, practicing my draw from concealment (because practice makes proficient), and my brain—being the random tangent machine that it is—immediately leapt to the twenty-one foot rule. Not familiar with it? Allow me to explain.

The twenty-one foot rule is not a law, but rather a rule of thumb. When within twenty-one feet, an assailant armed with a melee weapon—such as a knife or a baseball bat—will be able to close with and attack the victim, more often than not. I took a concealed carry course in Texas when I was on active duty, and our instructor demonstrated this by giving one of the students a ruler, placing him at twenty-one feet, and instructing the student to rush him. The student was able to sprint across the room and “stab” the instructor by the time his weapon cleared the holster. If the instructor was lucky, he might have gotten a shot off.

Why is this important? Many contacts will take place within that twenty-one foot space. It is important for the responsible armed citizen to be cognizant of this and mentally and physically prepare for it. Here are a few suggestions to practice.

Firing from the Hip

As mentioned above, the instructor was able to clear his holster and fire a shot from the hip. If you train for this, it is a possible course of action. Rather than bring your weapon to chest level and drive it out, draw the weapon and as soon as it clears the holster, point it at the attacker and fire. With enough practice, this method can be utilized to stop an attacker, or at least delay them to allow for more accurate follow-up shots.

Combatives

The charge, a common technique in street fighting. Image courtesy of WikiHow.

An armed citizen should not solely rely on their firearm for self-defense. It is highly recommended they also train in other disciplines. In this scenario, it may be better to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the attacker until you can gain an upper hand and draw your firearm. I won’t get into which disciplines you should study, as it’s largely particular to the individual (and discussion of the “best” discipline often erupts into a pissing match).

Instead, I offer one general self-defense tip: when somebody is rushing you at full speed, their upper body tends to lean forward, placing them off balance. A simple, effective technique would be simply to use their own momentum against them. Side-step as the attacker draws close, attempt to control an arm and a shoulder, and help them forward with a solid shove. This places them at a disadvantage as now you are at their six o’clock, and it gives you time to draw your own weapon.

A disclaimer to that: do not fire on them if their back is turned to you. Most jurisdictions will consider that an inappropriate use of force and you will be charged with manslaughter. However, from this position, you can effect a citizen’s arrest, or if they are foolish enough to turn around and charge you again, you are now at the ready and capable of servicing the target.

Break Contact

My father always told me that discretion was the better part of valor. Pick and choose your battles. There are some times where standing your ground may not be advantageous. In that case, breaking contact may be your best option. This could be breaking contact to seek a more suitable battle ground, or breaking contact with the hopes of evasion. In the former case, if you can outrun your adversary, running buys you time and space to draw your weapon. Once you reach a hard point, you will be better equipped to engage the enemy.

Something to keep in mind: certain jurisdictions do not have “stand your ground” statutes and insist that when attacked, you have a duty to retreat. Breaking contact honors that statute. This may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is upon you, the armed citizen, to ensure that you are informed as to the self-defense laws in your jurisdiction before you carry.

Conclusion

The twenty-one foot rule is a key concept in self-defense. However you prepare for it, it would behoove you to actually put some effort into it. Remember that you will not rise to the occasion, but you will fall to the level of your training. Practice makes proficient, and this is no different.

What suggestions do you have for preparing for the twenty-one foot rule?

DISCLAIMER:

THE AUTHOR OF THE PIECE IS NOT CERTIFIED TO PRACTICE LAW, NOR IS THE ARMS GUIDE A CERTIFIED SOURCE OF LEGAL COUNSEL. NOTHING SAID WITHIN THE CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLE SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SELF DEFENSE LAWS, “STAND YOUR GROUND,” OR THE USE OF LETHAL FORCE IN YOUR JURISDICTION, CONTACT A LEGAL PROFESSIONAL.

Featured image courtesy of contributor OJO_Images via istockphoto.com

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