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Multiple Breach Point Strategies

The 7th Annual Indiana SWAT Officer Association (ISOA) Conference had a mix of classroom sessions, hands-on classroom sessions and hands-on range courses. The classes were at the Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana. The live-fire training took place at the Allen County Sheriff’s Training Facility Range in Ft. Wayne, Ind. The conference included 31 blocks of training over a three-day period, kicked off by the “Junkyard Shootout” Memorial Match.

One of the blocks of instruction at the 2010 ISOA Conference was “Multiple Breach Point Strategies.” This eight-hour training block was taught by Sergeant Kevin Barrett with the Terre Haute, Ind., Police and Constable Matt Sekela with the Abbotsford, British Columbia, Police.

The class size was limited to that of a typical SWAT team as half the day was to be hands-on building entry. The “required equipment” gave a clue as to the seriousness of the training: ballistic vest; ballistic helmet; tactical thigh rig; department-issued rifle, shotgun, subgun or “red gun” equivalent; department-issued handgun or “red gun” equivalent; knee pads; gloves and eye protection.

Tactical Incest

The class began by emphasizing the importance of an open mind in learning new or different techniques. Avoid “tactical incest.” This happens when the same in-house training takes place with no outside influence or reality check. It also happens when the same few departments cross-train but never extend beyond those same departments. Be open to outside ideas. Take tidbits from everyone. Weigh the pros and cons, and then keep what works for your particular department.

This was an appropriate opening because so many different perceptions exist with regard to multiple breach points and multiple entry location tactics. Some perceptions are negative, perhaps more from lack of information than any realistic objection. In many regards, the speed and distraction of multiple breach points actually make this technique safer than a single entry point. Distraction is the key.

The classroom also included an exhaustive debriefing of three famous hostage-taking building entries: the Good Guys Store in Sacramento, Calif., (April 1991); the Cobb County, Ga., shooting (July 1999); and the Baltimore County building entry (March 2000).

Assessment and Timeline

On any callout, the team commander has the responsibility to give the incident commander an assessment of the situation. This assessment must include an honest and realistic timeline for entry. The upstairs bathroom where the evidence will be flushed? The basement where the guns are stored? The rear bedroom where the hostage is held?

What drives the need for multiple breach points is the timeline of the entry. If the scenario will allow perhaps 40 seconds to clear a typical two-story, 1,500 to 2,000 sq. ft. residence, then a single entry point may be the best tactic. If the need is more like 10 seconds to clear the whole house, multiple entry points should be considered.

Hick’s Law

Most tactical operators have been exposed to Hick’s Law, which is basically a divided attention drill. One operator entering a doorway is a pretty easy target. Two operators entering, one right after the other, one going right, one going left, is a different story! The divided attention achieved with just that second officer slows the reaction of the bad guy by 60 percent.

The more things the bad guy has to think about, the longer his reaction time. And that is one core advantage of multiple entry points—lots of distractions and lots of confusion from seemingly everywhere. The multiple entry point tactic is a built-in distraction. Each team distracts the bad guy’s attention away from the other teams.

Use Flash-Bangs

Because the distraction of multiple entry locations is one of the keys to success, it is obvious that the use of flash-bangs is another key. The very name of Noise-Flash Diversion Device (NFDD) says it all. Use bangs on multiple breach location entries unless a really good reason exists not to use them.

Instead of tossing them into the room, just drop them at the door frame. It saves the risk and delay of taking a quick peek to see where the bang may land. Tactically, however, a bang dropped at the door will only produce smoke at the door, not in the center of the room. ?e team will step through the smoke into a clear room, rather than step through the clear doorway into a smoke-filled room.


Blue-on-blue crossfire issues can be addressed in many ways. First, they can be addressed by using a limited penetration in which one team enters and clears to a specific do-not-cross point in the house. Team Red enters the rear door, clears the kitchen and dining room, and then stops. Team Blue enters the front door, clears the living room and other front rooms, and then stops.

The second solution is having clearly divided tasks. Team Red enters and immediately goes to the second story. Team Blue enters and clears only the first floor.

The third solution to accidental blue-on-blue injuries is to shoot accurately enough to hit your target. That is more important than many operators think! If you hit the target, the .40 S&W handgun bullet and the .223 Rem rifle bullet alike will dump their penetration energy into the target. They will not over-penetrate or, if they do, will pose almost zero downrange threat.

If you miss, both the handgun and rifle bullet will penetrate wall after wall and exit the dwelling. If you miss, the high energy bullet may very well find the other team that is stacked at the do-not-cross point. Don’t miss.

Ammo Selection

You can further reduce this blue-on-blue risk by selecting ammo that has less soft tissue penetration and less tactical barrier (secondary obstacle) penetration. Bonded bullets are the best overall choice for tactical operations. They perform the best against glass, sheet metal and building materials. That means they are not the best choice for a building entry calling for multiple breach points.

Lighter weight, non-bonded JHPs produce less soft and hard penetration. In .223 Rem, consider a 55 grain JHP instead of a 62 grain “tactical” bullet. In .40 S&W, consider a 155 grain JHP instead of a 180 grain “bonded” bullet. Of course, hitting the target remains much more important than the crutch of ammo selection.

Avoid Crossfire

The most obvious tactic to avoid crossfire is to enter the dwelling from 90-degree angles. That is exactly how bus assaults are routinely practiced. A dwelling is no different. Enter from quartering angles, and catch the bad guy by two separate fields of fire.

Put it this way: Contrary to negative perception, the single entry point may be more dangerous than multiple points, not less dangerous. With multiple entry points, half the team avoids the most carefully constructed fatal funnel.

Even the approach to the dwelling of a single stack is a problem. Consider the difference between 12 operators going to one entry point versus six operators going to the plate window on Side 1 and six operators going to the door on the corner of Side 2-3. For every tactical advantage, there is a tactical disadvantage.

Of course, the two-officer cell that “runs the walls” on a room entry also has the potential for crossfire. One officer goes deep; the other stops short. The bad guy is right between them. Most teams are moving away from “running the walls.”

The solution to intentional crossfire, in which good guys see good guys with guns and shoot them, is stress inoculation. Learn to deal with high stress situations by training in high stress situations. The solution to accidental crossfire, in which good guys don’t see the good guys behind the wall and hit them with over-penetrating bullets, is marksmanship. All pistol and rifle bullets will penetrate a house through and through. Learn to hit your target, and the bullet will stop there.

10 Seconds

Time is especially key to hostage safety. The goal is to reach the hostage, regardless of the location in the dwelling, in under 10 seconds. It is virtually impossible to clear a typical two-story residence in less than 10 seconds with a single breach point. Again, consider 12 operators going through one door versus six operators going through two breach points.

The success rate with hostage negotiations is 96.4 percent. The other 3.6 percent of the time, you have less than 10 seconds to solve the problem.


The first thing the bad guys do is barricade the doors with locks, furniture and whatever else they can push behind the door. Window drapes will be closed, and perhaps a mattress will be leaned against a large living room window. However, windows are seldom barricaded with real obstacles.

Definitely consider a break and rake, and then entry with windows, like the big window next to the door. Everything in the room is probably pushed behind the door, leaving the area around the window free of obstacles. Don’t work on a door if a big window is nearby! If the window is big enough to enter, then port the window and enter. There may be no tactical advantage not to enter.

If you encounter a mattress, just push it over. It is almost certainly a visual (or tear gas projectile) obstruction instead of a real physical barrier. What about those pesky window bars? Have a J-hook and cable ready ahead of time. Place it outside the window until it is ready to be used.

Port and Cover

Porting a window and clearing most of the room without making entry is a valuable option. A port and cover provides some of the advantages of multiple breach entry points while reducing some of the blue-on-blue risk.

In most cases, a port and cover will allow you to clear 70 percent of the room from outside the dwelling. Obviously, this is safer with two operators, each slicing his piece of the pie with minimal exposure in front of the window. Either way, the most common error with the port and cover tactic is allowing yourself to become a silhouette in the window. After porting the window and partially clearing the room, take cover (or concealment) behind the window frame.

Along the same line, if a ladder is used, even a small one, place it off-center from the window.

Whether it is a port and cover, or a break and rake for an entry, the slightly off-set ladder helps to limit the problem of silhouette. Speaking of ladders, does your team have them? Although ladders for second-story entry are still a good idea, make sure you have smaller 3-foot or 6-foot ladders to get into first floor windows.

Failed Breach

The other major advantage to having multiple breach points is that it provides a second entry if the primary breach fails. You’re not giving the bad guys time to prepare or, even worse, take action. Plan A entry and Plan B entry happen at the same time. Nothing is more important than a quick and successful breach. Multiple breach points increase the chance of having at least one successful breach.

So, what if the other team doesn’t get in? Then the team that does get in must immediately take responsibility for the entire dwelling. Sure, Team Blue may radio “failed breach.” But frankly, too much is going on with Team Red for them to be able to do much about it. And yes, this means Team Red will have to cross the predetermined do-not-cross point. Verbalize—big time.

Pop Quiz: What is the easiest portal for entry in most residential buildings? Answer: The sliding glass doors. These are typically secured with simply a dowel rod dropped in the door track. It is as easy as breaking the glass and stepping in. No ladder required. Glass is easy to break. Strongly consider sliders as the primary entry point.

Already Doing Multiple Entries

The issue of blue-on-blue crossfire can be handled in ways that actually make multiple entry points safer than a single entry point. Actually, most police departments already use multiple entry points and are comfortable doing it at the patrol level. Where? The active shooter response. Small groups of officers enter from all kinds of different locations in an attempt to quickly find the shooter.

Surely, the SWAT team that trains 16 hours a month doing exactly this can safely perform a more controlled multiple location entry. Multiple entry points obviously split the tactical team in two or three. For smaller teams, this raises the question, “How many is the minimum to enter at any one location?” The answer is three.

Another advantage of multiple entry points is the obvious counter-ambush tactics. The bad guy is holed up in a perfect ambush position for the primary (expected) entry point. The team enters and gets picked off. This is not a hypothetical situation. It has been famously documented. A second team, entering from an entirely different angle, will be able to either confuse the ambush attempt or outright stop it.

1019 Monroe Street

After a few hours in the classroom, the training moved to an abandoned house in the city. Just like any raid planning, the first step was a 360-degree eyes-on. The need for this kind of walk-around or surveillance is obvious for multiple entry point planning. What standard breach entry options are available on sides 1, 2, 3 and 4? Where are the doors? Where are the windows, how large are they and how high off the ground are they?

For the first entry, the plan was to breach the large window next to the front door on Side 1, breach the door on Side 2, and port and cover the elevated window on Side 4. Remember that the link-up point where the two teams come together presents the highest probability of crossfire, however small that risk may be.

Breaking Glass

The hands-on portion included a bit of glass breaking. Many tools can be used, and many glass breaking and glass clearing techniques exist. The secret is to hit the glass in a corner, where it is held the most rigidly. Then just muscle a big “O” pattern. It may take two or three rotations of the tool to get most of the glass frame. The bottom is the most likely location of possible serious injury as team members step through the window.

This task requires real muscle. Get a tool with enough length to give you leverage, say 4 feet long. Get a tool with teeth to grab glass edges and window dividers. The action is not a home run hit with a baseball bat. A hole in the middle of the glass isn’t much help. Instead, the action is more of a hard push at the corner.

One lesson taken away from the repeated building entries: Go slower than you think. Yes, the goal is still to clear a two-story dwelling in less than 10 seconds. However, take (literally) half a second longer than you first think so you don’t run right by an obvious threat.

Inside Looking Out

One of the more revealing building entry drills involved dividing the class in two. One half positioned themselves inside various rooms. The other half made the entries. Can the bad guys get a shot on the good guys?

All afternoon, the class made different entries following different scenarios against bad guys in different locations. Some were threatbased entries, while some were zone-based entries. Of course, tactics vary by the scenario. The team needs to constantly reassess the scenario.

Button-hook? Criss-cross? Perhaps the best tactic is the “read” method. The second operator in the room entry cell “reads” the movement of the first operator in the cell and simply goes a different direction. The only concern with this otherwise simple method is that the first operator must be obvious in the direction he is taking. He cannot wander around more or less straight ahead or in an indecisive manner. The first operator chooses one way, and the second operator chooses the other way. This leaves straight to the center as a frequently used option for the third operator.

Building entry, regardless of the number of points of entry, involves team movements and weapon positioning. The emphasis in movement was to keep the two or three operators in a cell as close as possible to one another, virtually overlapping fields of fire on room entry. With weapon positioning, keep the weapons up on entry. For handguns, the SUL method was taught as the best compromise between speed and safety.

Timeframe is everything. Speed. Surprise. Distraction. Consider the advantages of multiple entry points on your next raid or callout.

INDIANA SWAT Officer’s Association

From a humble start, the annual conference of the Indiana SWAT Officer’s Association (ISOA) has grown to become one of the nation’s premier SWAT conferences. Indiana now stands shoulder to shoulder with the more established state conferences put on by the California Association of Tactical Officers (CATO), the Texas Tactical Peace Officers Association (TTPOA) and the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA).

The ISOA quality of training now rivals the best national conferences like the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI).

Consider the presenters at this year’s ISOA conference: Kyle Lamb, Paul Howe, Phil Singleton, Jeff Chudwin, Ken Good, John Mayer, Clint Smith, Sam Todd and the tag team of Indiana’s own Scott Oldham and Mick Williams. Each of these presenters should be familiar to Tactical Response


The tactical equipment companies also sent their best for instructor certification or armorer certification courses: Larkin Fourkiller (Safariland – impact munitions), Alex Cobb (Glock), Pete Calenda (CTS) and Chuck Martin (Safariland – flash/bang).

The upcoming 8th Annual ISOA Conference will take place May 1-3, 2011, and will again be held in Ft. Wayne at the Northeast Public Safety Academy and the Allen County Sheriff’s Training Facility Range. Check the ISOA Web site for updated information.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2010

Rating : 6.5

Comments 3 Comments

SUL Position

Posted on : Nov 29 at 7:38 PM By Jeff T.

I just wanted to point out that both officers in the photo demonstrating the SUL method are not holding the gun properly. They both have their support hand covering the gun, which is not how I have ever been taught or trained others.

Excellent article

Posted on : Nov 11 at 9:04 PM By John Converse

I found the article very informative. While we do multiple breach points in active shooter response, they seem to have fallen out of favor in other circumstances. The article offers some excellent suggestions for safely incorporating this useful tactic. Good point by Andre on the helmets, however.

Practice as You Play

Posted on : Oct 25 at 4:32 PM By A. Belotto

I read the article with interest, since my unit does entries often. One thing I found substandard when it comes to training is that on all the photos, I didnt see the use of ballistic helmets. Why would an entry team NOT use ballistic helmets? Very curious to find out.

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