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Breaching the door of a building, car, train or plane is no easy task. Add the elements of urgency and gunfire, and the difficulty magnifies. While breaching is as much art as it is science, without the right tool for the right job, it’s nearly impossible.

In 2006, a sick maniac drove to a one-room Amish schoolhouse in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, and took its students hostage. In addition to weapons, he brought chains and boards, intent on sealing himself in while he conducted his psychotic rampage. In 2007, another deranged psychopath declared war on the campus of Virginia Tech. He walked over to a lecture hall and chained the three main doors, leaving notes that, if the doors were tampered with, bombs would go off. After their arrival on the scene, it took law enforcement six minutes to get into the building—they couldn’t break the chains on the doors. Finally, an officer shot out a lock on a laboratory door. In this world of active shooters, the need to get inside quickly is heightened. Otherwise, a bad situation can become worse.

Breachings occur via one of four methods: mechanical, ballistic, explosive or thermal. Mechanical breaching, the most common form, involves using a handheld or power-driven tool. Ballistic breaching is usually conducted with a shotgun breaching round, and using explosives can be the fastest way to gain entry, but it’s generally reserved for apprehending really bad guys. Thermal breaching involves using an arc welder or similar welding device to penetrate large steel doors or walls.

Most law enforcement officers responding to an active-shooter scene will probably have mechanical breaching tools on hand. Mechanical breaching tools come in various shapes and sizes. These days, many companies have taken tools and tweaked them to make them more versatile and lighter. Regardless of the tool, for law enforcement, weight and reliability are absolutely critical, determining a mission’s safety and success.

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