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Alan Brosnan (President of TEES): It is amazing to see the positive transformation that has occurred in tactical breaching over the last four decades.

About the author

Alan Brosnan: Former member of the New Zealand Special Air Service and presently owner of Tactical Energetic Entry Systems (TEES).

Alan Brosnan has been involved in breacher training and operations since 1980. He was a member of the New Zealand Special Air Service prior to moving to the United States. 

Alan is the founder and owner of Tactical Energetic Entry Systems based in North Mississippi. For 31 years, TEES has been an industry leader is training domestic and foreign law enforcement and military teams in skills associated with breaching and high-risk operations. 

Alan also spent 20 years on the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team and as a contract instructor and course designer for the US Department of State’s Anti-terrorism Assistance Program.

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Methods of Entry “If The Breacher Can’t Gain Access, You Can’t Do Your Job!”

The Article

I completed my first Methods of Entry (MOE) Course in 1980.

As a new member of the New Zealand SAS, I found the Counter-Terrorist (CT) training intriguing, challenging, and extremely rewarding.

It had a sense of purpose due to the threat of global terrorism, so every day was meaningful.

Most Special Force soldiers of that era were well versed and “at home” conducting the more conventional warfare roles and tasks in jungle, desert, or open country environments, so the implementation of the black role made going to work extremely motivating.

The sharp end of the CT Team consisted of snipers and assaulters.

The assaulters were divided into four-man assault teams.

All Troopers were trained to a competent level in rams, pry’s, shotgun, thermal, and explosive breaching techniques for external and internal targets.

It would be very fair to say that back then, MOE skill sets in general and explosive breaching specifically were crude, aggressive, and often somewhat dangerous.

We never had the PPE that is provided today; there were no calculations used to establish minimum safe distances or over pressure readings.

It was mainly “trial and error,” and we typically had three charges – “big, bigger and biggest,” no secret as to which one was used most often!

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MOE is divided into numerous disciplines that present the breacher with options based on the specific mission

It is amazing to see the positive transformation that has occurred over the last four decades.

We can attribute this to the constant criminal and terrorist threat, continual realistic training, research and development, the abundance of law enforcement and military operations, input from the medical and scientific professionals, and companies who are producing some amazing products to assist in gaining access, the safety of operators and reduction of the overall net explosive weight of the charges.

Today’s breacher needs to possess the necessary skills that allow him/her to be all-encompassing and have a solid knowledge of every facet of breaching.

To achieve that will take years of dedicated work commitment and support from the upper echelon.

MOE is divided into numerous disciplines that present the breacher with options based on the specific mission (hostage rescue, search or arrest warrant, barricaded suspect, direct action,) target description, method of infiltration, occupants inside the stronghold, and of course, the threat level.

Examples of those options are:

  • Surreptitious (lock picking / bypassing)
  • Mechanical (rams, halligans, pry bars, breaking bars, sledgehammers, bolt cutters)
  • Ballistic (shotgun)
  • Exothermic Torch
  • Power Tool (quickie saw, chainsaw, grinders)
  • Electro-Hydraulic
  • Energetic (explosive)

We differentiate between a law enforcement and military special operation breacher

A competent breacher should be able to conduct a target analysis on the stronghold and ascertain which method may be the most appropriate based on a myriad of administrative and operational parameters.

Prior to continuing, I think it appropriate that we differentiate between a law enforcement and military special operation breacher.

It is fair to say that the core skills or fundamentals of breaching are probably very similar; however, the operating environment is what may define how that mission will be executed or how aggressive the MOE option may be!

Law enforcement in the western world typically operates in a permissive environment, and targets are often known based on building codes and mandates.

On the other hand, the military SOF community tends to operate in semi or non-permissive environments, often in 3rd world countries where building codes are non-existent.

In essence, they may not have solid info on their target description, which means they must be more flexible in order to cover the unknowns.

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A law enforcement SWAT or military assault team needs to be self-sufficient, and the above-listed tools/items would normally be dispersed among the team members during an operation.

We are not talking about a one-bedroom crack house here but rather an urban target, large commercial structure, or stronghold that requires all MOE items to be carried throughout the target.

Since the inception of close quarter tactical breaching in the mid-’70s, huge progress has been made to make the operators’ job safer and more efficient.

Expandable Mechanical Tools

Most 35lb (15kg) rams or fixed handle Halligan tools are always left at the initial breach point, which means the assaulter has basically lost that option if it were required later on during the assault.

The inclusion of expandable sledgehammers, pry bars, and bolt cutters have certainly enhanced the ability of the breacher to possess this mechanical option deeper inside the stronghold.

Bushido Tactical, BCM/Double Tap Tools, Kodiak Tactical, and Ruhl Tech produce extremely portable and functionable sledge and Halligan/pry tools that are popular within the global breaching community.

Exothermic Breaching

This discipline is one facet of breaching that has most definitely improved over the decades, thanks to companies like Broco Rankin and Special Projects Operations.

Utilizing this option during a mission may be slim; however, the same can be said for most methods of entry.

We often think of this option as extremely heavy and cumbersome with too many moving parts and safety concerns.

That statement cannot be further from the truth, with mission-specific systems now available for the tactical community.

Extremely small and user-friendly tanks that can be carried with ease, 12-18” (30-45cm) rods, and enhanced rod lighting capabilities make this option extremely popular when metal targets are required to be breached.

Two new and innovative products that have intrigued the breaching community are the Breachpen and Tec Torch.

CTS Tec Torch punching through half inch (12mm) steel plate

The Tec Torch, obtained through Combined Tactical Systems (CTS), is an extremely aggressive short duration (2 seconds) unit that is designed to breach or destroy a multitude of targets. The standard unit will easily penetrate a half-inch (12mm) steel plate.

The Breach Pen produced by Defco is a thermite rod with a burn time of 24-40 seconds that is designed to effectively cut targets such as locks, chains, rebar, and cables.

Ballistic Breaching

Shotgun breaching is not new to the industry.

It is fair to say that both LE and military breachers have fully transitioned to the safer frangible ammunition offered by the likes of Royal Arms, CTS, ALS, and the multiple purpose military M1030 round.

Methods of carriage are important, so the weapon is not unstable and interfering with your movement and weapon handling.

Current techniques include earth magnets, U-shaped shotgun retainers which can be attached to a duty belt or MOLLE system, and the swivel retainer offered by Bushido Tactical.

Power Tool Breaching

This method of entry has shown huge progression over recent years with the introduction of electric cut-off quickie and chain saws.

The gas-operated saws have served their purpose for many years, albeit with the frustrating aspect associated with starting the saw!

The arrival of the lithium battery-powered 9” disc version (Stihl, Milwaukee, and DeWalt) has proved very popular and worthy against metal doors, chain link and metal fencing, rebar, chain, locks, and exposed hinges.

Depth of the cut cannot be disputed when you compare a 9” disc against the 14-16” discs; however, the most common targets can easily be handled with the 9” disc.

Milwaukee have recently come out with their own version of the full size 14” disc battery operated saw.

The reduced size and weight of the 9” disc battery saws, combined with their power (especially the Milwaukee and DeWalt), make them extremely popular.

Hydraulic Breaching

Recent studies conducted by the Department of Homeland Security at the TEES facility have proven that the Hydraulic Breaching option is alive and well.

Rapid Assault Tools, Broco Rankin, Kodiak Tactical, Mistral, and San Ltd., are just some of the companies that represent this method of entry with worthy tools that can push, pull, cut, and spread targets with ease.

The tonnage of power generated by these tools is immense and, coupled with the reduction in noise and speed of effecting the breach, makes this option extremely impressive.

There is no doubt that the electrohydraulic system is the way to go versus the more physically demanding manual system.

Energetic (Explosive) Breaching

The greatest advancement since the inception of methods of entry has, without a doubt, been in the explosive breaching arena.

How more military and law enforcement personnel back in the 70s and 80s were not seriously injured or killed is a miracle!

This option is currently used daily within the law enforcement community and, of course, during military operations. One of the main reasons for its deployment is for operator safety.

Gaining immediate un-interrupted access into the stronghold is inherently safer for the assaulters versus them being stalled at the entry point manually clearing the target material.

Additionally, hostages and innocent personnel who are at risk of harm from the suspect/terrorist will benefit from the speed gained by an energetic breach.

Several companies, including Cherry Engineering, Esoteric, Tactical Electronics (Alford Products), 21st Century, and P3D Solutions, have done amazing work in producing breaching charges that can reduce the overall net explosive weight by up to two-thirds.

That is a massive reduction that makes the job safer for personnel on both sides of the door!

For the Military and Government units around the world, there is no greater friend and provider than Ensign Bickford Aerospace and Defense.

They must be considered the plank owners of energetic products for not just special operation units but also conventional demolition tasks.

Their non-electric firing systems, which include the single and dual Skin Packs, are legendary and sought after globally.

The same can be said for their array of premade charges designed to defeat door and wall targets.

Breaching Tool Retainer Systems

Over the years, one of the most frustrating aspects of breaching has been coming up with systems to effectively carry the variety of tools available to us.

Expandable mechanical tools were typically hand-carried, tucked inside the vest cummerbund/side panel, or housed inside a PVC pipe on the back.

The chainsaw/quickie saw was hand-carried, worn on a rucksack frame, or slung with tubular nylon and a carabiner.

Small thermal tanks were hand-carried or slung, and so forth.

The point is that as an assaulter, you need to be able to transport your tools hands-free in order to maintain control of your weapon, negotiate obstacles, conduct a fast rope insertion, climb a ladder during V.B.S.S operation or conduct an elevated platform breach.

Bushido Tactical, out of Orlando, FL, have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in designing and producing an array of breacher retaining systems that have certainly changed the way we conduct our business.

Expandable tool retainers can now be worn on your back or side with ease. The shotgun retainer is a solid rotating housing worn on your duty belt or side panel.

The chainsaw or quickie saw is now comfortably carried on a back board and clear and free from interfering with your movement and weapon handling abilities.

There is also a backboard for the SPO thermal tank and spare rods.

Because of Bushido Tactical’s innovative and creative vision, other companies will follow with realistic and reliable options, but credit must go to them for taking the lead and initiative on this much-needed topic.

Logistical Support

Kiwi Breaching Products is a US-based company specializing in providing products to support the breaching community.

Their products cover the full spectrum of breaching options currently utilized by law enforcement and military breachers.

Click logo to learn more…

International Breachers Symposium

The International Breachers Symposium is held annually in the United States as it is truly a global event.

The last symposium was attended by 19 countries representing North and South America, Southeast Asia, The Middle East, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

This event has been instrumental in assisting with the health and safety of breachers, particularly as it pertains to exposure to blast pressure and TBI issues.

The event consists of presentations on breaching and safety topics, operational debriefs, a trade show with mission-specific vendors, and a full day on the range with hands on workshops and demonstrations on all methods of entry techniques.

The 20th International Breachers Symposium will be held in Southaven, MS Oct 31-Nov 3, 2022.

In summary, breaching has been transformed from a basic and often unwanted skill set into a science that requires immense administrative support, continued funding, regular training, ongoing research and development, and companies who are there to promote safety and continue to provide cutting edge products.

Every special operation team consists of three key operational components:

– Assaulters/entry personnel tasked to clear and dominate the stronghold.
– Snipers tasked to provide overwatch, covering fire and intelligence.
– Breachers tasked to effect entry into the stronghold.

Without the breacher doing his job effectively, we will not be able to make entry to achieve the mission.

That is an immense amount of responsibility placed on the breacher.

The breacher MUST BE ABLE TO PERFORM ON DEMAND and be the best he has ever been right now!

“It is better to possess a capability and never use it rather than wish you had it when a serious incident occurs!”

This article was published first in:

The Operator

Special Edition February 2022: Tactical Training

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