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Doors. The entry point to a home, they are potentially the weakest parts of most structures, but it doesn’t always feel that way when they’re locked. But with the right approach, you can break down a door that’s in your way, whether you’re on the run and trying to escape whoever is following you, or you’re scavenging for supplies after the SHTF.

Once you know how to break down a door, the right way, you’ll never look at a locked door the same again. But be warned, this information is for use in emergencies only, if you bust down the door to someone’s home and they’re still inside, you can bet they’re not going to be very impressed with you, so be careful. And only use this as a last resort.

The first step is to create your attack plan, so take a look at the door, because the best way to break down a particular door is going to vary, depending on what’s in front of you.

There’re a few key questions to ask, as this will determine what you need to do next.

Which way does the door swing?

First, you need to look at how the door opens, whether it’s towards you or away from you.

If it swings away from you, you’re in luck, because these are some of the easiest doors to break. Often, applying enough force, through a strong kick to the area around the doorknob is enough to damage the lock, splintering the door frame so the lock breaks free.

If it opens towards you, it’s unfortunately not as simple to break it down. Because you’re not fighting just the doorknob or the locks, but the entire structure of the frame the door is sitting in. It’s almost impossible to kick down a door that opens outwards (i.e. towards you), so my advice would be to look for another entry point, or to start knocking the pins out of the hinges to remove the door that way.

What’s the door frame made out of?

Forgetting the door for a sec, take a look at the material that’s surrounding the locking mechanism. Because this is what you’re trying to break. Wooden doorjambs are notoriously easy to kick and destroy, often it only takes one solid kick and it’ll crumble.

You may find though if you’re trying to break into a store, a commercial building, or a home that’s had their external doorjambs hardened against entry, a kick won’t be enough. Because the metal reinforcements are far stronger than your kicking.

What kind of locks are you attacking?

Most doors are going to have one, or perhaps two if they’ve got a chain or another secondary safety lock on the door, which means you’re going to have to break through both of these. The locks aren’t usually the hardest part of this, but it will require you take the time to destroy the latching mechanism of each lock before you can successfully break down the door.

Right, so now we know which way the door moves, what kind of frame you’re up against and what locks you’re targeting. All that’s left is to attack the door.

Actually kicking in a door

In the vast majority of homes, you will be able to kick in the door rather easily. That’s because the doors normally swing inwards, the frames are rarely heavily reinforced, and there is perhaps one door lock and a chain. Both which can be easily broken with a strong and powerful kick. Remember what happened in the movie 300 when the king kicked the messenger in the well, that’s what you’re about to do on the door.

Target the area just to the side of the lock, with each kick. When you can deliver enough force the door jamb will crack and the lock will break free, allowing the door to swing open.

I do want to make two things clear here.

First, most doors (these days) are cheaply made, and are actually hollow in the middle. If you kick the center of the door with a large amount of force, not only are you not going to accomplish anything, you’re probably going to end up stuck with your foot through the door. Make sure you’re kicking close to the lock.

Second, charging the door like a battering ram is more likely to damage you than the door. It spreads out the kinetic energy too much, and even if you try to barge through with your shoulder, this isn’t a particularly strong joint and you may even seriously injure yourself. Do not try to ram the door to break it down. Only ever kick.

Breaking through a reinforced door

But not all doors can be broken down by kicking alone. If you’re trying to get into a warehouse, factory or any commercial space for that matter, it’s very likely you’re up against a metal door and frame, which will not budge no matter how hard you kick it.

You need to attack everything else.

If the hinges are showing (though in many cases they won’t be), you can simply pop out the pins, or if these aren’t removable at all, use a hacksaw or a crowbar to destroy the hinges completely. Trouble is, this is going to take time.

If you can’t get at the hinges, using your crowbar in the space between the door and the jamb is another option, working it in until you’ve got enough purchase to start levering the door open. It’s easier than tackling the hinges, but it’s also a tough approach.

Personally, I’d either switch targets at this point, or if I really needed to get in look for an alternative entry (busting through the roof may be quicker than working on the door), or if you’re in a real hurry you could always crash a car through the door, and make your own entry point. Smash and grab is a popular technique for many criminals, and it works because it’s fast.

Of course, breaking down a locked door is a skill that could just save your life in a crisis, but now you’ve got a better idea of how to do it, hopefully you’ll remember should the situation ever call for it. And if not, perhaps you can use this knowledge to better fortify your home against those who want to kick your down and take what you have.

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