If your only experience with forced entry comes from Hollywood, you can be forgiven for thinking that any door will yield to a good solid kick, and windows can be easily knocked out with an elbow or a fist wrapped in a handkerchief. However, if you’ve spent any time in law enforcement or military MOUT operations, you’ll know that reality is quite a bit different.
Modern interior doors are lightweight and easily forced, but try to kick a quality front door open – never mind the doors most business premises have – and the chances are you’re going to bounce off. In training that can be amusing. On operations it can be deadly. As for windows, they’re easy enough to break, but unless you spend some time clearing away the broken glass, there’s a real risk of serious injuries as you try to climb through. Movie-style solutions just don’t cut it in the real world; to force entry you need proper breaching tools.
Breaching tools let you carry out a variety of attacks quickly, effectively and safely. Doors might stand up to a kick, but unless they’re seriously heavy duty, they’re not going to shrug off a sledgehammer so easily. A standard 12-pound sledge can apply a lot of force very quickly, and most locks or hinges will give in to that kind of power. For added safety, there are specialist dynamic breaching tools like the Blackhawk Thor’s Hammer, a combination sledge and battering ram that lets assaulters take down doors without placing themselves in the Fatal Funnel where the defender’s first shots are likely to go.
Where doors can’t be knocked open – for example if they open outwards – leverage offers another attack route. A simple pry bar can quickly open most doors, but they can be hard to use in a confined space. Specialist entry tools with slant and right-angled heads give you more levering options and many – like the 5.11 Multibreacher – also double as a ram when required. A useful tool borrowed from firefighters is the Hallagan tool, often known as a “hooligan bar.” This is a pry bar with a pick and adze at one end; it’s ideal for ripping open doors in tight spaces or smashing windows and rapidly raking the broken glass from the frame. The pick spike also makes an ideal tool for quickly snapping padlocks.
Don’t forget bolt cutters either. Chains, heavy wire fences, padlocks and much more can be sheared through with the leverage provided by these amazing tools.
In some situations, standard tools from the hardware store could work for breaching, but specialist versions have some refinements that are well worth the extra cost. Non-conductive handle materials reduce the risk from electricity, which could be used as a defense or encountered when cables are accidentally damaged. It’s an excellent idea to look for non-sparking tools as well; whether you’re a high-risk search team checking out a suspected IED factory, or a law enforcement officer entering a meth lab, unwanted sparks from metal obstacles are a serious fire and explosion hazard.
Look for compact size – clever design has made many breaching tools a lot more compact than standard models, which is a major boost to your mobility. Also, save money by buying a complete breaching kit instead of individual tools.
It’s worth taking some time to make sure your entry tools are the best you can get; when seconds count your life will depend on them just as much as on your weapons.