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Basic Breaching for the common man Part 1 (Doors)

Breaching cover

Breaching is the term used within “Tactical” circles to describe the forced entry of a building or other obstacle. In simplest terms let’s just call it what it is, Breaking & Entering. I like to break reasons for breaching down into four categories Dynamic entry (raids), Exit/Escape, Rescue, and Access (soft entry).

It should be understood that breaching is in and of itself a very specialized skill set, in fact we have guys on teams for whom breaching is their primary focus. So understand that my intent here is to only give an overview of some basic tools and techniques that the ordinary man may one day find useful should he find himself in extraordinary circumstances. Now you should be asking yourself what kind of circumstance would cause me to need to breach a target? Well broaden your mind a little and consider that you may need to perform a rescue breach in order to gain access to a family member during an emergency such as a fire, structural collapse or imagine being in the middle of an active shooter, or Mumbai style attack along with your children. In that case you need to GET THE HELL OUT!! And last but certainly not least is because knowledge is power so, knowing some basic breaching skills makes you a more powerful warrior. Once you understand the basic principles the application is up to you.

Just as there are several reason for breaching there are several types as well. In this series we will focus on Mechanical (tools) and Ballistic (shotgun) types of breaching. Whereas explosive breaching is an advanced skill set (and not one I am willing to discuss online), or Thermal Breaching (Torch) is also a pretty specialized type of breach used for “hardened targets”

 Along with breaching comes tactics, and the tactics that complement breaching skills could fill encyclopedia volumes and are best learned in a class such as HRO CQB (Close Quarters Battle) so I am only going to very briefly brush on some tactics here and there but primarily focus on the skills.

 In this first part in the series we will discuss dynamic breaching of doors using mechanical methods. There are a couple of points that should be highlighted before we get into the tools and techniques of breaching.

 1)      First ask yourself DO I REALLY NEED TO BREACH? Or can I /we gain access by other means...i.e. Just walk right in, or bluff; in some instances cultivating an inside asset to just let you in might be the best course of action. You would be surprised at how deeply you can penetrate into a target if you look and act like you have a reason for being there. Additionally men in particular, even those on stag will often open a door for an attractive female, so don’t underestimate the power of “Trojan Whores”. So I counsel you to get creative before you go full retard…The ATF learned this lesson hard at Waco.

2)      Planning, Planning, Planning……Planning is everything, and poor planning becomes painfully clear real quick when you have humped the wrong tools to a target and are now paying hell to get in. So take whatever time is available and conduct a CTR (close target recce) to get the answers to questions like; What sort of material is the door and frame made of? Does is open in or out? What kind of locks does it have? Where are the windows? Etc. etc. etc.…..Then use this information to decide where is best to target, and what type of breach to attempt. Select primary and alternate breach points, for example the backdoor and ground floor window. Then be prepared to execute either one, so that should the primary be fouled you need simply transition immediately to the alternate.

 3)      Progressive breaching is something to keep in the forefront of your mind…..Start simple and work your way thru your tools until you gain access…..this isn’t a hardline rule, because certainly there are times when a ballistic breach has some "shock" or diversionary effect that is desirable. But generally speaking why ram a door if it is unlocked, or worse yet attempt a complex “unsuccessful” breach; this can seriously slow the momentum of an assault and shift the fight in the favor of the enemy. So soft check a door first…and keep it simple. Our friends in the fire service like to say “Try before you Pry!”

4)      The principles of CQB are Speed, Surprise, and Violence of action. And this all begins with the breach; if the breach fails or takes too long then the first two principles of Speed and Surprise are blown, at that point it is only Extreme violence of action that will win the fight. This isn’t the sort of even match that I want when facing well-armed bad guys. So what this means is that THE BREACH HAS TO WORK!! And it has to be fast. As a general rule we want to be thru the breach in 12 seconds or less. That may not sound like a lot of time but in this situation 12 seconds is an eternity.

 5)      Last and certainly not least is SECURITY. As with all combat operations security plays a key role in success of tactical breaching operations. In reality this is a minimum 2 man endeavor; as the breacher is fully focused on gaining entry and in many cases must sling his weapon out of the way in order to properly employ the tools. This means that we must have somebody or better still several bodies providing security for him.


Let’s look at some of the tools that are easily available to just about everyone. The first tools are the ones we always have with us. I’m talking about our feet and legs. This is yet another reason not to wear slip-on enviro-friendly hippy shoes. Where I come from men wear boots, the kind of boots that you can use to kick in a door or stomp a bad guys head to pieces. In this case we will be talking about the door kicking part.

Everyone has seen the movies where our hero quite easily front kicks the door and it flies open in a maelstrom of furry. Well I hate to break it to ya….But that is Hollywood and it almost never actually works out like that. Here in the real world the door that looks like it is going to be simple to just kick in…ISN”T it will turn out to be a reinforced behemoth.

 Now this is not to say that we shouldn’t know how to kick in a door, sometimes that is all we have and other times a good solid kick is needed as a follow-up to another breach technique. So let’s look at two of the ways to kick a door.

The front kick This is the classic “doorkicker” snapshot. You stand parallel to the door with enough standoff that you can kick forcefully into the door with your dominant leg, impacting with the entire sole of your boot. Your target is just below the door knob. This isn’t the strongest kick technique and can be pretty hard on your knees. But it is very fast and for residential interior doors works well. 

Front kick

The Back (Mule) kick The mule kick is a much stronger kick, however it tends to focus the force lower on the door. Face away from the door and look over your shoulder to watch your target. Then raise your dominant leg and kick forcefully straight backwards. Again you want to target just below the lock or as high as you can. This technique has a lot going for it in that it is much easier in your knees, and doesn’t expose as much of your body directly in front of the door. I prefer a mule kick after I do a ballistic breach as it points me in the direction I will be traveling into the back of the stack.

Back kick

Sledge Hammer When it comes to conventional tools I always like to start out by highlighting the universal home wrecker “The Sledge Hammer”. I haven’t come across many wood framed doors that can withstand a focused assault from a meat eating, weight lifting Viking armed with a 10 pound sledge hammer. And this is probably the easiest of all tools to acquire; you can literally get them at every big box, or hardware store in the world for $20 or less. The other thing that the sledge hammer has going for it is that its use is pretty self-evident “HULK SMASH!!” There is a bit more to it than that but not much.

Hammer before Hammer after

1)    The sledge hammer is best employed on inward opening doors. Depending on the depth of the door jam, if it is shallow I like for the breacher to be on the handle side of the door with the entry team stacked on the hinge side. Again this gets into tactics and there are many many variables to consider.

2)    The hammer is swung with full force and targeted directly above the lock/handle. It is important not to strike directly onto the lock as this can sometimes cause the throw mechanism to get stuck in the door jam. (If the door has 2 locks such as a knob and deadbolt then try to target between the two)

Breach hammer 1

3)    In the close confined spaces of some buildings it isn’t possible to get a full swing with the hammer in this case, the hammer can be employed as somewhat of a ram. Whereas the handle is held horizontally and the impact is with the top of the head. This technique also gives more control to those weaker physical build.

Hammer ram

 The Irons That is what the fire service calls an axe and Haligan tool, however a Haligan tool is a purpose built forced entry tool and is typically only available thru specialized outlets. But in the end it is just a really nice prybar.

In this context I recommend a 24” “wrecker bar” basically this is a crowbar with a T-top head. These can also found at most hardware stores for about $10 and are easily modified for breaching duty within minutes using an angle grinder or (god forbid) even a hacksaw to create a sticking surface so that the tool can be “set” into a door jam with a hammer. Speaking of a hammer while the 10 pound sledge would most certainly do the deed, sometimes it isn’t necessary to hump an additional 13 pounds of steel and wood along with the other 60 pounds of “lightweight” kit. To this end I often like to pair the breacher bar with a smaller 4 pound sledge hammer, being less than half the weight and with a much shorter 14” handle it is easily wielded with one hand allowing what would traditionally be a 2-man job to be performed alone. Although these tool seem very simple and basic a skilled breacher can gain entry to areas that would appear quite secure with these simple tools.

Breacher bar before Breacher bar after

To employ the breacher bar on an inward opening door, using the hammer you want to “set” the head of the bar into the gap between the door and the jam.

Breacher bar 1

Once the head is set as deeply as possible into the gap; rotate the bar upwards creating a wider gap by bending or breaking the door and frame.

Breacher bar 2

If the door doesn’t open then it may be necessary to insert the other end of the tool on the gap and continue to leverage it open

Breacher bar 3

The use of the breacher bar on an outward opening door is very much the same as for an inward door except that after the head is set into the gap the bar is levered laterally rather than rotated vertically.

Breacher bar 5


Sometimes it if you are facing a very tough door with badass locks that is set into a solid frame it is best to attack the hinges. There are two ways to do this. The first way is to simply remove the center pin from the hinge. If the hinge is a standard hinge then the pin can often be pryed out with the notch in the head of the breacher bar and then pulled out with plyers.

However I have found that most doors that have been reinforced in the lock department have also had anti-tamper hinges installed. If the hinge pins can’t be removed then another option is to remove the hinge from the door. By placing the V-notch of the head over the hinge and then striking it forcefully with the sledge hammer will often cause the mounting hardware to fracture and the hinge can be removed. This isn’t fast but may be the only way thru.

Breacher bar hinge

This was a brief overview of some tools principles and techniques for manual dynamic breaching of doors.

 Stay tuned for parts II & III of this series where we will discuss Ballistic breaching, windows, fences, soft (covert) entry and more…..



Sua Sponte is the nom de guerre of an active US Military serviceman who has spent many years in various assignents within the Special Operations comunity. And is the author of two titles availble from One Sourse Tactical