Breaching for the common man part III (Barriers, Soft entry, & Tools)

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Breaching for the common man part III (Barriers, Soft entry, & Tools).

In this third part of the series on breaching we will address some techniques for bypassing common perimeter barriers such as fences and walls, as well as a few “soft” or covert entry considerations and then discuss various breaching tools and how to carry them.

Perimeter barriers are unique in that some level of stealth is often desired when breaching them, so as not to provide early warning to an adversary that an assault is taking place prior to the main assault breach kicking off. This again brings us into a discussion of tactics and will vary from target to target.


Fences are among the most common perimeter barriers that we encounter due to their relative low cost and ease of construction. Naturally fences come in many forms, from simple wood and cattle fences that are only a couple meters tall to full on wire topped security fences.  Among the considerations when looking for a perimeter breach point is to look for areas that are at least partially obscured from observation; also look for any natural weak points such as breaks, washouts, low ground, over hanging branches etc. Universal to nearly all types of perimeter barriers is that we generally have three choices for breaching Over, Under, or Thru; keep these in mind as we look at a few of the common types of perimeter fences.

However before we delve any deeper I’d like to address the topic of tamper sensors. Yes these do exist, however in my experience are also pretty rare accept on very high security areas.  To disscuss bypassing them would be beyond the scope of this article.

Chain link – Cheap, easy to install, minimally obscures fields of observation, and it severs as an effective barrier to at least slow someone down.

Chainlink 1

Over – Climbing over a simple chain-link fence is really a very easy endeavor for anyone with even the most basic level of physical ability.  Many chain link fences erected for security purposes will have the twisted ends oriented up these can snag on clothing or equipment and cause minor cuts/scrapes but never the less climbing over a chain link fence is really just a matter of grabbing on with the fingers and placing the tips or treads of your boot into the links and climbing over.  If the fence does not have the twisted ends oriented up and speed is the intent, then upon arriving at the top of the fence, reaching all the way over and grabbing the other side as a hand hold to lever your body over as a single unit is very fast.  The key is keeping your body (core) ridged as you perform this action.

Under – While going over a fence is pretty fast and easy it also totally exposes you to observation. So in some cases going under is the best route. There are several ways to accomplish this, the first is to locate an area where the terrain prevents the fence from coming fully into contact with the ground and simply crawl under. The second is to burro a shallow scrape beneath the fence and crawl under. With this option there are some additional factors to consider.  1. Noise – digging is a rather noisy endeavor. 2.  Time – depending on the type and condition of the ground this can be far from fast. However there are times when digging is an option.

The other possibility for going under chain-link is to raise the lower portion of the fence creating a gap to crawl under. In some instances this is advantageous in that it is both relatively quick, and doesn’t leave obvious telltale signs of passage.

  1. Cut or bend the clips or wires securing the fence to the base wire (if present).
  2. Utilizing a piece of tubular nylon tie one end mid-way up the fence and the other end to the very bottom.
  3. Halfway between the top and bottom of the webbing secure a “windless” of some fashion, either a stick, or a rod etc. just ensure that it is strong enough to withstand heavy twisting and long enough to give a leverage advantage, 18” is about perfect.
  4. Rotate the stick on a clockwise motion this will cause the bottom of the fence to raise as the length of the webbing gets shorter.
  5. Crawl under ……to release the fence simply cut the knots and pull the device thru the fence.

**Another variation is the use of a small ratchet strap to accomplish the same effect.

Chainlink 2

Chainlink 3

Chainlink 4

Thru – Cutting thru a chain-link fence is very fast and easy provided the correct tools are employed, and here is a free tip…. a multi-tool is not the right tool for this job.  Small bolt/wire cutters wake short work of chain link, and take up very little space; however the larger 18-24” bolt cutters that are standard breaching equipment work just as well.  When cutting a chain-link fence it is advisable to focus on a single stand of wire, as this will require the fewest cuts. Additionally we want to ensure that we cut a large enough hole to get thru quickly with all of our equipment.  Once the fence is cut I like to secure the lower ends with zip ties to prevent tripping, rattling, and snagging.



Top-wire (inverted/double inverted) – Common with “security” is the practice of topping the chain-link fence with barbwire of some sort to deter people from climbing over.  This is accomplished by a variety of means, although 3-4 strands of barbwire is most common.  However in some cases concertina wire is also used.  Top wire is often inverted outwards to keep people out, or inwards to keep people in, or double inverted to address both.

Wire top

Thru – The easiest way is to just cut the top-wire and be done with it…But if we can cut the top wire, then why the hell not just cut the fence and save the climb???

Over – Climbing over standard barbed wire toppers is not particularly difficult, but when heavily laden it can be somewhat challenging as the wire likes to snag on clothing and equipment. I find that climbing at a corner were the top wires often go from inverted back to vertical is helpful.

Over w/ Protection – Placing a protective barrier over the top wire, specifically if the fence is topped with concertina wire can make going over much less difficult or hazardous. A heavy blanket or piece of carpet or even jackets are carried over the shoulder and then thrown over the top-wire to protect against the sharp points. The technique to climb over the wire is very much the same as a wall and we will discuss the “heel hook” in more detail later.

Concertina wire – is a type of barbed wire or razor wire that is formed in large coils which can be expanded like a concertina. This type of wire is commonly employed by military and security forces for hasty / temporary barriers around installations, camps, check points, etc. because of the speed and ease by which it can be emplaced.

Cwire 1

Over – going over concertina wire can be accomplished by throwing a ladder on top of it and running across the latter, I have seen the same accomplished with other items such as doors or pieces of lumber.

Thru – Cutting is yet another option and a set of wire or bolt cutters will make quick work of a c-wire emplacement. As previously stated one drawback being that cutting a hole in a barrier leaves a pretty definitive tell tail that someone has breached; depending on the mission this may or may not matter.

Cwire 2

Under – Going under can be a very viable option when stealth is required and speed isn’t, or when tools or equipment needed to cut or climb over the wire aren’t available. For this we steal a technique from the Viet-Cong “sapper’s” play book and utilize forked sticks to prop the wire up as the breacher craws thru.

A couple of points to keep in mind when breaching C-wire

–  Just like in a knife fight, expect to get cut…


–  Once tangled or snagged the more you fight the worse the entanglement gets. Be deliberate and methodical while unsnagging.


Depending on the geographic location walls are sometimes more common than fences. Although most are made of brick or block, some are constructed of poured concrete sections such as T-barriers. Particularly OCONUS it is also not uncommon to find walls with various improvised “upgrades” set into the tops such as broken glass, bits of sharp metal, or even spikes.

Over – Depending on the height of the wall this can be simple or not so simple. There are several options for going over.

  1. Use the environment – if a tree, adjoining fence or some other easily scaled feature is present consider using it.
  2. Latters – A latter is a very useful breaching tool as it allows for many options.
  3. Buddy boost – Having one team member plant his back to the wall and then make a step with his interlocked hands, can be used as an improvised latter.
  4. Jump & climb

There are many techniques for climbing over walls however in this context whenever we are going over a barrier we need to try to keep our silhouette as low as possible.  The other factor is that climbing over a barrier with weapon, ammunition, armor and other equipment is no easy task. This requires a fair amount of athleticism and strength however use of a good technique goes a long way.

Wall climb 1

Wall climb 2

Wall climb 3

Wall climb 4

Wall climb 5

  1.  Sling your weapon tightly across your back and check the top of the wall for obstacles.
  2. Approach the wall and JUMP grabbing the top with both hands, then hang.
  3. Do a half pull-up while swinging your body as a pendulum your.
  4. Bring one leg up hooking your heel onto the top of the wall.
  5. Pull your body up using your leg and arm, keeping low while sliding over the apex of the wall.
  6. Come to a free hang on the other side and drop to the ground.

Under – Going under a wall can sometimes be accomplished by exploiting poorly designed drainage areas. Or even digging a shallow scrape under, however this takes time, tools, and makes noise.Wall hammer

Thru – Unfortunately the scientific community has yet to construct a device that will allow me to walk thru walls, but with the right application of a sledge hammer, brute force and ignorance it is possible to break a breach point thru a block or brick wall….This is far from fast, very LOUD, and dear God a lot of work!!!



Hasps, chains, and padlocks

These are often used to secure the gates on perimeter barriers.

Padlocks – These come in countless varieties, some are jokingly cheap and easy to break, pick, or cut; while others are damn near impossible to defeat.  There are generally three ways to defeat a pad lock.

Cutting is often the first thing that guys think of when they see a padlock. But the reality is that most quality pad locks are made of hardened steel and require a great deal of force to cut. This translates into the need to use a very large set of bolt cutters, typically much larger and heavier than the ones carried for general breaching.

Padlock 3Picking locks is a very valuable skill set and some pad locks are so simple to pick it’s ridiculous.  Additionally there are some simple and inexpensive tools such as “Quick sticks” that will easily open many padlocks without any skill required.



Padlock 1Breaking a pad lock is often easier then we think. Due to the shackle portion being made of hardened steel, same trait that makes them difficult to cut also makes them susceptible to the shock forces delivered from striking.  Placing the claw portion of a FUBAR tool or other similar item inside the shackle then striking with a hammer will often break the lock open.



Hasps – You would be amazed at how many people will place a heavy high security lock onto a hasp that is attached with short light duty hardware. So attacking the hasp is often a much easier proposition. This can be done by placing the notched portion of the breacher bar onto the hasp hinge and striking with the sledge. Or rather than cutting the lock, cut the shackle of the hasp or other attachment point this is almost always made of a thinner and or softer metal then a quality lock.

Hasp 2Hasp 1








Padlock 2

Chains – Pretty much the universal gate locking system is a length of chain and a padlock….well good news most chains are well within the capabilities of the 18” bolt cutters that are considered man portable. So just cut the chain….

Soft (covert) MOE Methods Of Entry

Certainly there are times when going full Viking on a door with a shotgun or a sledge hammer doesn’t support the mission intent no matter how fun it could be. But rather it may be required to gain entry and then exit again without leaving obvious signs that we were there. We’ll refer to these as “soft” entrys vs. the “hard” entry of an assault.

Naturally there are a lot of ways to skin this can and just like the subject of tactics this has countless variables and could fill volumes. However that is not the intent of this article but we will highlight a couple skills, tricks, and principles within this genre of methods.

Look for the unlocked point of entry. I know this sounds obvious, but honestly places get left unlocked all the time even when they shouldn’t; although we should never count on this but if we recall the principle of progressive breaching this is #1….

Bluff or ruse – Remember from part one of this series where we mentioned the employment of “Trojan Whores”; for soft MOEs this is even more viable. Coming up with a good story and viable reason for being there can gain access to areas that would be very challenging to enter by other means.

Bogotas 2

Picking – The use of lock picks to open a lock has the advantage of being very quiet and if you are good at it pretty fast as well, however this is a skill that requires significant time to be dedicated to practice before one truly owns it.  I would say that picking a lock is the “gold standard” for soft entry, however it requires tools and skill so is not applicable for all situations.   To actually get into the specifics of how to pick locks would take more time then this article has to dedicate to a single skill. I will comment briefly on a few points. I have found that the technique of “raking” to be the easiest to learn and works on most simple to mid-level locks. When it comes to picks, “Bogota” picks are fantastic. The curved body doubles as a tension wrench and also makes raking very ergonomic which increases the effectiveness of the technique.  They are also very small and light weight allowing them to be hidden on your person in many many ways.



Latch bypass – There are several techniques that can be employed to “bypass” a latch, they all pretty much work on the same principle as the old credit card technique we all used to use to search our parent’s locked bedroom for Christmas presents. The basic principle is to use something to move the spring latch enough to allow the door to open. This doesn’t work on all doors or all locks dependent on the type and how the door is installed.

Shove knife

Shove knife – A shove knife is a tool made of thin flexible metal with various notches in it for use on different types of doors.  The tool is slid between the door and the door jamb if the door opens inward then the front end (a) is pushed straight against sloped side of the spring latch. If the door opens outward, then the tool is inserted above the spring latch and then pulled “down and out” thereby hooking the sloped portion with the (b) notch of the tool. Modern locks have a tamper pin, the tamper pin is the small semi-circle pin located adjacent to the spring latch (see photo above). The tamper pin works by staying outside the latch keeper causing it to be depressed when the door is closed. When the tamper pin is engaged it is intended to prevent the ability to manipulate the lock with items like shove knives. When the door and lock are properly installed the tamper pin works very well, however since doors are installed by people and since most people are lazy, lack attention to detail, don’t know what they don’t know. Most doors have enough play in them that the tamper pin is able to be defeated by applying force to the door, this will cause the tamper pin to enter the latch way thereby releasing the spring latch.


Weed eater string – Many commercial doors have a guard plate installed over the lock to prevent anyone from inserting a tool into the gap near the latch. This can often be defeated with a simple 24” piece of weed eater string. The string is slid into the gap and behind the spring latch then grasped with both hands and pulled towards you in a sawing motion.


Windows – Don’t forget the windows! Windows are commonly left unsecured or even wide open to allow for ventilation, especially windows located above ground level, so again LOOK UP!




Breaching tools

In this series we have discussed many different tools, some are common while others are specialized, but they all have to be carried.


As with any other piece of equipment we need to let the mission dictate what we bring and how we get it there. Breaching tools are commonly both heavy and bulky so we need to be smart about how we carry them.


Sledge hammer – This is a staple tool, that is used as a standalone tool to beat a door or wall into submission or to complement other tools such as setting a pry bar. As useful as the sledge is it is also a pain to carry. At around 13 pounds and 27” long it is like carrying a second rifle; and since I can’t shoot a bad guy in the face with it, hand carriage it is not my first choice. So that leaves a couple of options.

Hammer armor

Sling- A simple sing much like a 2-point rifle sling can be used to effectively carry the sledge hammer. This is very easy to rig and also quite economical, but if any sort of climbing or dynamic movement is performed a simple sling is less than optimal.    Strapped to armor – Since hard body armor is pretty much standard for offensive CQB operations, this provides an option for carrying not just the sledge hammer but virtually all of our breaching tools.  For the sledge it like to use a dump pouch attached to the lower portion on the back of my plate carrier, the head of the hammer goes in the pouch and the handle is secured with Velcro straps farther up.

Tools armor

Double sided Velcro tape works well for attaching the handles of breaching tools to the back of someone’s armor. With the bulk of the tool’s weight held by a pouch (for example open topped 7.62 pouch for bolt cutters).



Raid pack

Inside of an assault pack – A 3-day pack works well for transporting tools as well, provided that it has a double zipper you can route the handle out the top and tie a quick release to the zipper pulls for added security.








As stated at the beginning of part one of this article series. This is but a glimpse at the very complex skill set of breaching. I would like to share just a few parting words on the topic.

BE CREATIVE – We often hear people talk about “thinking outside the box”, well that is often what needs to be done to gain entry. Look at is as a puzzle and just like every puzzle, there is a solution to every breaching problem; you need only find it.

TAKE ADVATAGE – Seize the moment, and capitalize on the fact that man is a creature of habit and also a lazy creature. Take advantage of these traits when it’s time to breach.

SPEED & POWER – These two go hand in hand. With speed there is power, and in breaching you need power to breach with speed.  So when you kick that door or swing that hammer, do so with all the strength and power that you can muster.

Stay dangerous my friends….


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 Source Tactical

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Posted in Home Defense

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