21 Foot Rule – A Swordsman’s Perspective

Stopping by the Cold Steel booth at the NRAAM, I ran into a cat donning what looked like a motocross outfit. Armored breastplate, shin and forearm protectors, armored elbows, he looked like he was gearing up for a futuristic round of Kenpo. Since I had the 21 foot rule on my mind, I took the opportunity to a man who is an expert on bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Jason Heck is Division 1 rated in Olympic fencing. He is getting ready to take a beating from his boss, the owner of Cold Steel.

“I used to be in law enforcement, and for us the “21 foot” rule was a training aid. Somehow it made its way into the courts as some kind of standard for where a reasonable act of self defense happend” Jason explained.

“Yeah” I reply “I interpret it that if I shoot someone further out that 21 feet, I am looking at a murder charge, not a pass on self defense.” God forbid I should ever have to shoot someone.

Shaking his head, Jason continued “That’s how it has become to be understood, but it’s really intended to be a way to explain the bubble of awareness you should maintain.”

Jason points to two bearded men, staring at their smart phones. “If I wanted to attack those guys, I could be 100 feet away and it would not matter. They are not paying attention.”

“So the idea is to mentally prepare yourself to manage a 21 foot radius of awareness around you, so you can be aware of potential threats.”

Jason agreed. “We were instructing two new police recruits, and sent them in looking for a 6 foot tall suspect who is ‘drunk and disorderly’. We dressed the suspect in a bright red shirt.”

“The recruits walked into the area, and approached the guy in the red shirt ‘Sir, can we speak with you please’ and all that. Well, I was in the room, and I am over 6 foot tall. I ran up to them and screamed at them, getting close enough to hurt them. On the street, you really have to be aware – I would even say your threat radius should be 28 feet, nearly 10 yards, just to be safe.”

comments

  1. avatar LC Judas says:

    The 7 yard rule of thumb is one designed to dumb down the self defense concept. It relies in hoping that if your target is outside 21 feet that his weaponry or his person cannot close the gap to create a credible threat.

    The problem is that such an idea is flawed. A little practice at the range, or a lot for some, is all you need to hit a man sized Target at 7 yards with a handgun. In a reasonable time frame you can get rounds on paper at 50 feet without brain surgery accuracy so someone is a credible threat when they decide to be.

    Thing is that most people don’t know when to shoot or not. Or use lethal reactions against a Target in other fashions unless you talk distances. Some people actually debate on whether he’s armed, with what, gender, how many and try to act as though a single rule can hold fast for engaging any myriad of situations. The truth is it doesn’t but few people want to think about it long enough to realize it.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      If you think people were in doubt before, just look at the Zimmerman situation. Getting your head popped into the sidewalk apparently isn’t a reason to defend yourself any longer.

  2. avatar Scott says:

    So the guy is about to take a beating from his boss. Thus the armor. So where did he get the armor? Is it just motor-cross gear? Is it super-duper Cold Steel anti oversized useless knife clothing? Does it come in Zombie green with a quarantine symbol on the front? Seriously, where can I get some?

  3. avatar Don says:

    How do you beat a fencer in a fight?

    Move sideways. 😉

    ::rimshot::

  4. avatar David says:

    Maybe some LE types can correct me if I am wrong but . . . Isn’t the 21 ft. rule supposed to be the distance that the average person needs in order to draw a pistol from a holster and fire a charging attacker? Meaning if a guy charges at full speed with a melee weapon you need at minimum a 21 ft. distance to recognize the threat, draw, and fire BEFORE he gets to you. Isn’t the underlying point that most people under estimate the speed at which an attacker can close a gap. 21 feet sounds far but is not. Am I missing something?

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