The need for forced entry is obvious to anyone with any patrol experience at all. Although explosive breaching and shotgun breaching are both viable options, the reality is that most municipalities are very slow to accept these options. As such, the vast majority of forced entry scenarios are solved with a hand-held ram.
Being the primary breacher with Omaha, NE Police SWAT, I feel that smashing in a door with a hunk of steel while executing a warrant is highly motivating. But to truly use a ram effectively, one must be trained, and that is the problem. We all know that getting in the door quickly is paramount to a successful operation. However, breaching training is almost non-existent in most departments and is seriously lacking and/or “unfocused” in those that do attempt it. Breaching doors with a ram is not about the biggest strongest guy swinging the ram. Rather it is about properly swinging the ram and letting physics do the work, which is kinetic energy at its best.
Training doors exist on the market, and some of them are good for practicing entry. However, they have serious limitations when it comes to the breach. They are also expensive, heavy, difficult to move to different training locations and frequently in need of replacement parts like retention or shear pins. However, their biggest limitation is that the user does not have the ability to continuously swing the ram and build what people refer to as “muscle memory.”
Training doors are easily breached with one or two good swings. But as all of us know, what really builds skill and/or “muscle memory” is repetition. Martial artists will attest to this philosophy. Training doors and real doors do not offer much repetition. Training doors use some type of “retention pins” to hold the door in place. These pins are broken or knocked out as the user hits the door, and they have to be replaced every time the door is breached. The user can only hit one or two times before he has to stop and wait for the door to be “reset.” This prevents users from getting that much-needed repetition. Real doors are even worse as users have to nail or screw closed the doors to use them again, and splintering is a real safety concern when using real doors.
As a SWAT operator, I have come up with training device that solves this “repetition” problem. Originally, I made the Ram Master simply to allow my team to train with a ram as often and as long as we could swing the ram. But as its popularity has grown with other local SWAT teams, I was encouraged to make it widely available. The Ram Master
has solved this repetition problem because the Ram Master is not a door at all. It’s a ram trainer, which works on a rapid “Spring Return” system that resets itself before you are ready to make your second swing. Therefore, you cannot swing fast enough to get ahead of the device. You could literally hit the Ram Master 10,000 times without stopping. Your entire team could line up, each swing 20 times both right and left handed, and you would be done in 20 minutes. Because users can swing endlessly, coaches can stand next to them and give input as to proper form such as using your hips, breathing, and full extension. This is hard to accomplish with other training doors on the market.
To explain the benefit of the Ram Master, consider the golfers who practice their swing at a driving range. They have a bucket of balls and swing one after another until the bucket of 100 balls is empty. They perform swing after swing, maybe with a coach watching and giving tips on how to do it correctly, like you can do with the Ram Master.
Now, if you had to hit a ball, walk the 200 yards to pick it up and hit that ball for your next swing every time, it would take you hours to get in a bunch of swings, like most training doors. With training doors, users do not get the repetition that is needed to build muscle memory. Waiting for a retention pin to be replaced takes away all the rhythm of the swinging motion. More important, it takes away the focus of the training, i.e., swinging a ram properly.
The unique spring system allows for one small statured officer to hit the device, followed by two big officers on a two-man ram without any down time to reset those darn retention pins. Users can swing as hard as humanly possible without damage to the device. The strike face is 13 inches by 13 inches and made of hardened rubber. This alleviates any shock / pain to the users’ hands and wrists, unlike some steel doors on the market.
The Ram Master also has telescoping legs, which allow it to be raised to “high hinge” height to work on those overhand swings. Only weighing 130 pounds, two people can easily move it around. It can be used both indoors and out, and the Ram Master can be transported in the back of a cruiser. It can be transported to any training location, and your team can train on it during downtime, maximizing valuable training days.
The Ram Master has gone through some serious changes from its original design. Primitive in its initial form made from scrap parts in my workshop, it is now produced by a mechanical engineer to ensure perfection. However, the idea of how it works has not changed, simply allowing officers to train with a ram on their own terms.
We have incorporated the Ram Master into confidence / obstacle courses, tactical shooting competitions and into our next Basic Police Academy, where all new recruits will be taught how to swing a ram properly. There are several local SWAT teams using the Ram Master for their training, and it has been used in some regional training at the Midwest Counter Drug Training Center in Camp Dodge, IA. Thus far, everyone who has used the Ram Master has given positive feedback regarding its usefulness.
“I was part of our SWAT team for 22 years. I have personally made over 400 high-risk entries and have supervised hundreds of others. There has never been an effective way to properly train the use of a ram, until now. The Ram Master is a great training device that no tactical team should be without,” said Lieutenant Tim Conahan (ret.), formerly the Omaha Police Department’s SWAT commander.
Are we going to continue to ignore breaching training? Are we going to waste valuable training time on unfocused devices? Or are we going to practice the part of the breach that actually breaches the door? Consider the Ram Master to incorporate real breaching training into your program. Paul Milone is a 9-year veteran with the Omaha, NE Police and a member of their part-time SWAT team. Milone works on the Gang Suppression Unit and as a team member of the SWAT team, primarily serving as the breacher. Milone has breached more than 150 doors on live operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.