The 21 Foot Rule is something that we have studied extensively in Krav-Maga. This rule says that if an attacker with an edged weapon is within twenty-one feet of you, that you will not have time to draw your firearm before they can stab you. We have simulated this thousands of times when training in Krav-Maga. Every instance that we have an attacker within 21 feet or less of the person with a holstered weapon – the attacker can reach and stab the person before they can draw their firearm and get it on target.

On the other hand, it seems that those with a concealed-handgun license have never heard of it, much less studied it. And that my friends is a very dangerous situation. Moreover, the lack of understanding the 21 Foot Rule can create a false-sense of security for those with a concealed-handgun license when facing an attacker with an edged weapon. Particularly when the attacker with the edged weapon, typically a knife, or machete is within a 21 foot radius of them.

Here is the background on how the rule was formulated and the timing involved courtesy of

The 21-Foot Rule was formulated by timing subjects beginning their headlong run from a dead stop on a flat surface offering good traction and officers standing stationary on the same plane, sidearm holstered and snapped in. The FSRC has extensively measured action and reaction times under these same conditions. Among other things, the Center has documented the time it takes officers to make 20 different actions that are common in deadly force encounters. Here are some of the relevant findings that the FSRC applied in reevaluating the 21-Foot Rule.

Once he perceives a signal to do so, the AVERAGE officer requires 1.5 seconds to draw from a snapped Level II holster and fire one unsighted round at center mass. Meanwhile, the AVERAGE suspect with an edged weapon raised in the traditional “ice-pick” position can go from a dead stop to level, unobstructed surface offering good traction in 1.5-1.7 seconds.

The above doesn’t even account for the time it takes the person with the gun to realize or visualize the attacker which even if milliseconds gives the advantage even more so to the attacker. This is the essence of the 21 Foot Rule.

The burden of proof is overwhelming that those carrying a concealed handgun are in a definite if not fatal disadvantage against an attacker with an edged-weapon if they are within 21 feet of them.

The moral of the story here is not to be lulled into a false-sense of security that if you are carrying a concealed handgun that you have the upper-hand against an attacker with an edged-weapon – at least if they are within 21 feet of you and you haven’t drawn your weapon.

Cary Michael Cox