Breaching is simply forcing a door that is locked and/or closed, and when using a firearm to do so is called ballistic breaching. You may need to gain entry to a building or you may need an egress to escape a building, regardless of the reasons however, you do need a way to do it, quickly, effectively and safely.
In a military situation, rules of engagement may come into play so simply shooting up the door with high-powered rounds simply will not do, because of possible collateral damage. You as a private citizen may have to rescue a family member from a structure, so you cannot just start blasting away either for fear of injuring a loved one on the other side.
There are ways of doing it that reduce the chance of injury to those breaching the door and to those that may be on the other side, and there are certain rounds that are better suited for this than others.
Obviously, you want to breach the door without firing more rounds than needed. A shotgun is the recommended firearm for ballistic breaches. The objective is to destroy the latch, lock and possibly even the hinges with limited recoil, reduced ricochets and to avoid round penetration through the door.
Birdshot, slugs and buckshot can be used but with slugs and buckshot, you will have greater round penetration that could cause injury to those inside.
The military uses specialized rounds and weapons for door breaching that reduce the chance of injury to others. Once such round is filled with powder, and it is described as a metal cup, or as a door-breaching cup. The cup strikes the door at the latch, hinge or lock and the impact dissipates the energy, kinetic energy in other words. The shell is 12-gauage and the shotgun is typically “un-choked”.
The round is called a Hatton round and it contains a mixture of compressed powders, which is zinc and gunpowder along with wax. The muzzle must be pressed to the lock or hinge for best results.
There are shotguns specially manufactured for breaching for example, the Remington 870™Breacher. The shotgun fires 2 ¾ and 3″ rounds. The muzzle is adapted to allow the propellant gases to escape. The barrel is 11.5 inches long and has what is called a “standoff” that is threaded so it can be removed.
Keep in mind when breaching a door the muzzle is close, and in some cases, is touching the door so you must have a muzzle adapter that allows the gases to escape or otherwise the recoil would not be manageable.
You obviously will not likely have access to military or law enforcement rounds or shotguns so you will have to make do with what you have. However, you can use a muzzle adapter, so the gasses do escape without causing blowback, such as the one shown to the left.
What to Look For In a Breaching Adapter
- Flash suppression for working in low or no light so you can maintain night vision
- Recoil reduction so you can get the muzzle back on target faster
- Reduce smoke and flying dust/debris
- Tighter shot pattern to enhance impact
If you have an adapter on your shotgun, you would place the adapter solidly against the component you want to destroy. The shot pattern when using buckshot or birdshot is concentrated and this helps reduce the chance of injury from flying fragments as well.
Remember it is more about the impact or the force against the door and not necessarily the round itself. The force can literally rip the hinges from the frame and force the locking mechanism to fail. Shooting a padlock in two with a round from a pistol only happens in the movies. You have to have enough force to cause the components to fail and allow the door to open or essentially be removed from its hinges.
Keep in mind you will be operating in close quarters so a pistol grip is ideal in certain situations. Keep the muzzle angled down if there is fear of injuries to others inside the structure. Typically you target the handle/locking mechanism first, because if the lock fails you may be able to simply kick in the door from this point without using any more rounds.
However, some doors are hardened against breaching so this means the hinges may have to be targeted as well and in some cases, the hinges are on the inside to prevent damage to them. Target the hinges, and allow the firearm to do its job. You have to be precise. You simply cannot just blast the door. You have to target each component in succession to be successful.
Remember unless you are using rounds designed specifically for door breaching ricochets are a real possibility as well as injuries to those in the structure. Ballistic breaching should only be used as a last resort when the lives of those inside the structure are in danger.