Reaction Time…In A Bear Attack!

Written by Outdoor Beasts Staff on April 1, 2016


Do you have the right response time?

“The way I see it, the officer didn’t have to shoot him?” his lawyer told me. “My client was ten feet away. He couldn’t stab anyone from that distance.”

“You’re wrong,” I said. “At ten feet your client could have closed the distance and stabbed the officer before the cop had a chance to launch a meaningful defence.” The scoffing noise on the other end of the phone indicated that she disagreed. In my work as a forensic firearms consultant, this was a conversation I’d had before, so I explained. “It’s called the reaction gap. The officer has to react to someone else’s action, which under lab conditions takes about 0.25 seconds. It’s reasonable to expect it to be longer in the real world. I’m old enough to be retired and from a standing start, I can cross that distance in one second. Your younger client, who is lucky to have survived, could have done it faster. Which means that even with his gun out, the officer still has to react, make a decision to shoot, aim his gun and fire a shot. That all takes time and I’d expect him to get his shot off just as the knife gets buried into his neck. It’s effectively a tie. And in a tie, the officer loses.”


The line went quiet. “It’s a good thing the officer had his gun out,” I added. “An officer with his gun still in the holster, is so far behind the reaction curve that a sudden charging attack by a knife wielding maniac can kill him from as far away as 20 or 30 feet. Which is how long it takes to react, draw a handgun and fire effectively.”

“But it was only a knife,” she said, trying a different angle.

It was my turn to scoff. “At close range, knives are as deadly as guns. They don’t jam, rarely break and never run out of ammo.” She had a few more questions and I answered those too, even suggesting that I recreate the scenario and test reaction times to demonstrate what could have happened. She declined.

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