Updated: Jul 16
In Law Enforcement especially in a tactical setting, the first task in successfully accomplishing the mission is entering the objective quickly and safely. Breaching tools and techniques are often an overlooked aspect of the job for the typical patrol officer. However, a breacher executing the correct technique and knowing his equipment is imperative. The officer will not do any good if they cannot get to the problem, or in doing so take on even more risk. A quick and positive breach sets the tone for the operation and avoids unnecessary delays.
The main tools that are applied in a tactical (or non-tactical) breach setting are rams, pry’s, and window devices. Each tool has a different specified purpose to defeat typical construction, however, multiple tools also have a crossover uses. This article serves to identify tools, their application, and considerations in deploying them.
Rams are a “pushing” device which are known by multiple other names, battering ram, moby, or sledge. Their function is to concentrate generated energy from a “swinging motion” into a smaller striking area which is then delivered to the area of the door typically just above the locking mechanisms on inward opening doors. The goal is for the concentrated energy to
destroy either the locking mechanisms itself or the material holding the locking mechanisms secure i.e., the wood door frame. In some instances, the door may be reinforced or barricaded to where strikes must be delivered to the hinges to defeat the door. While weight of the ram assists in the transferring (potentially) of significantly more energy, they are large, cumbersome, and difficult to carry about large objectives. (RAM)
Additionally, consideration needs to be made for the environment in which the breacher will be working. Residential homes typically have adequate room on a porch or landing for a full swinging motion. If the objective is an apartment or hotel room, the area in which the breacher will be confined may not allow for a ram to be utilized at all.
Sledgehammers are also used in this application as the head allows the concentrated energy to be delivered to a smaller surface area. Sledges are typically much more cost efficient than purchasing specialized breaching equipment, however the distance the hands
are from the striking surface makes it more difficult to strike the desired area accurately
and repeatedly. Sledges also require even more working
area as the swinging motion requires more of an arc than the ram swing. Individuals that regularly utilize a sledge in breaching application are known to cut the handle down on the sledge to allow for it to be used it tighter quarters.
Prys also go by multiple different names within the profession; halligan, hooligan, pry bar, wedge, to name a few. Different companies have cashed in on the tactical title of their equipment, but the general construction of a pry is the same. It consists of a wedge of some sort which is attached to a bar which allows for a fulcrum to be achieved by applying leverage
on the end of the bar away from the wedge. Prys are utilized to defeat outward opening or
“pull” doors which are typically seen in commercial settings or with burglar bars in residential settings. The pry technique is usually only able to be achieved with two team members. One member is responsible for setting the wedge and leveraging it once it is behind the locking mechanism, the other is responsible for driving the wedge with a ram.
Considerations for selecting a pry should be the width of the wedge you are using. The narrower the wedge and the longer, the better as it will allow it to easily navigate the area between the door and frame and ultimately behind the door. Additionally, the longer the bar of the pry the better as it allows maximum leverage with minimum physical output. The Ram and pry technique absolutely requires training, likely to be successful at all.
Window tools are the final mainstay in a breacher’s arsenal. There are several different designs and ideas behind the design which may or may not be beneficial to your application or intended use. One of the most popular window tools is the fireman’s pike or pole. Usually, the fireman’s pole consists of a 6-8 foot wooden or metal pole with a hardened steel tip with a pointed end a hook slightly below it. The reason this is one of the most popular window tools is since the length allows not only for the breacher to be able to utilize it from a distance and typically from behind either a cover man or shield. The hook also allows for quickly pulling down blinds and curtains. Additionally, the length is appreciated due to the occurrence of over penetration where the force of the strike pushes the pole further into the window that intended.
With shorter window tools, this can lead to serious laceration. With that in mind, individuals who are going to be breaching windows or acting as a cover man for the breacher, should always wear sleeves, cut resistant gloves, and eye protection. Sleeves and gloves can sometimes protect against overpenetration as well as residual glass left in the window frame. Eye protection helps to mitigate any glass particulates from entering they eyes. Another design of window tool consists of a 4-foot pole on a shovel handle which comes to a hardened point and has four flat edges towards the end where the tip is located. The length of this tool means the breacher often times has to become more exposed to effectively utilize the tool, however the weight towards the end of the tool allows it to easily break even double paned glass and the flat edges are superior to the fireman’s pole in using for a “break and rake” deployment as they easily clear the glass out of the frame where the rounded pole of the fireman’s pole will often times bounce along the jagged edges of the glass.
Window tools are also used to breach car windows in certain operations. Most tools in this instance can be multi-purposed, for example a fireman’s pole would be adequate in creating standoff to breach a window and a Halligan would also easily handle the job. The biggest consideration when deploying these tools against car windows is understanding where the weak spots are and attacking them. The center of car windows is designed to flex which allows them to withstand considerable shock without breaking. The breacher should target strikes to the corners of the window as they have less surface area to dissipate the shock or flex against the strike. In most current automobile production, the side windows contain at least a minimal amount of tint which will hold the glass together once it’s been broken.
This means that the breacher will need to rake the window after the breach to allow vision into that window. Commercial “window breakers” also do an effective job at defeating car windows, however they are handheld which means the breacher deploying them will have no standoff distance. The one and absolutely necessary thing you need when breaching is a cover man. You almost never see a cover man covering the breacher in a patrol setting, especially when an officer is attempting to break a car window.
Often you see officers (typically patrol) trying to accomplish similar tasks with things like a flashlight, baton, or even their own gun. Unless an emergency rescue is being conducted this is highly discouraged. Those “tools” are not meant for that task. Using these devices will cause you to spend tremendously way too much time overexposing yourself to the breach point which extremely dangerous. Patrol officers often attempt to breach windows when they likely haven’t trained to do it, in potentially dangerous situations, with items that do not even come close to accomplish the same results. Officers should purchase the correct tools and receive the adequate training to meet the same objective.