One tool perfect for patrol; one tool perfect for SWAT
Jersey Tactical CLAW and Boot
By Don Munson
The holy grail of breaching tools is one tool that does every task. Jersey Tactical Corp. (JTC) has either done it, or come closer than anyone else. They have the world of mechanical breaching tools down to just two tools. The JTC CLAW is the perfect multi-purpose tool for the patrol response to the active shooter. The Jersey Boot is the perfect multi-purpose breaching tool for tactical team operations.
Mechanical breaching has changed over the past 10 years. One tactical operator had a heavy ram, while another may have had a sledge and some kind of pry bar. Somebody somewhere in the stack may have had the break and rake tool. And bolt-cutters? Probably not.
Over the past few years, this mix-match of entry tools was consolidated into breaching packs containing a wide variety of commonly used tools. All the breaching tools you need for the job, all in one place, all carried by the same guy was—and still is—a good practice for SWAT teams. These heavy and expensive breaching packs aren’t the only answer for SWAT teams. They are not an answer at all for the Active Shooter needs of the average patrol officer.
As a result, some teams have come full circle back to individual tools with slings carried by a number of operators. According to Jersey Tactical, the NYPD Emergency Services Unit uses the CLAW. As a full-time SWAT team / Rescue team, the ESU has many different kinds of entry tools. However, once entry is made, they use the CLAW on most of their hits inside.
Halligan and Claw Tool
The JTC CLAW is the best thing to happen to forced entry tools in 50 years. In 1948, the FDNY First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan designed a tool with a forked claw at one end and a wedged blade and tapered pick at the other end. What has become the most misspelled, mispronounced, misnamed device in all of law enforcement, the Halligan Tool has achieved legend status. Every fire company and every SWAT team in the country has at least one.
However, don’t get confused on names or the fire department legacy of most entry tools. The JTC CLAW is not a firefighter’s “claw tool.” The age-old claw tool had a hook on one end and a fork on the other. The generic claw tool is approximately 30 inches long, weighs about 12 pounds, and is still being made. While similar in size and weight, the CLAW has a totally different working end from a claw tool. The police-oriented CLAW is definitely not a fire-oriented claw tool.
Even though many police breaching tools came from firefighters, a quick glance at the CLAW shows the tool is something like a squared-off, 10-pound sledge that has morphed into a three-finger claw. Introduced in mid-2011, the CLAW is available in lengths of 24 inches, 30 inches, 48 inches and 60 inches. Custom lengths are available. The CLAW is available with either a Tactical Black or Safety Yellow handle.
We tested the 30-inch version. According to Jersey Tactical, this is the best length for patrol officers not trained in tactical breaching. It produces more leverage than the 24-inch version, and swings more like a traditional sledge. Yet, it is not too long to breach a 32-inch to 36-inch wide door. This is familiarity important. The CLAW is intended to be used by someone who has never breached a door, and now must do so in an emergency.
Patrol-Oriented Entry Tool
The CLAW was designed as the one and only breaching tool needed by patrol officers. It is intended to be used by officers NOT familiar with breaching. The odds are slim that the first officer responding to a school or workplace Active Shooter will have formal breaching training.
The CLAW was specifically designed with novices to breaching in mind. It was designed to be completely functional and effective in the hands of someone with little or no training. At just 10 pounds, again, the CLAW is intended to be used by the average police officer of both genders. Any adult can easily handle the CLAW, using it to ram, pry in, pry out, and break glass and padlocks.
A hybrid, forcible entry tool, the CLAW combines the functions of a Halligan Tool, sledgehammer, pry or crowbar, window rake, lock and hinge remover, axe and importantly, a setting tool for another CLAW.
Basic outward prying with the CLAW is obvious. Set the teeth of the CLAW in the seam of the door just as you would a crowbar or Halligan Tool. Since the teeth of the CLAW are fairly thick, or where the gap between door and jamb is small, you may need to hammer or ram the CLAW to set the teeth.
The CLAW can also be used to pry inward. Set the teeth near the locks and simply pry. This works even against doors where a steel door stop covers the seam. Properly setting the teeth is the key to success. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Properly set, we opened some very strong doors with the CLAW.
The CLAW can also be used in very close quarters where other walls or objects may prevent a traditional pry. After the teeth are set, the CQB Pry involves pushing down or pulling up on the handle instead of prying in or out. The effect on the door is nearly the same, i.e., the door is cammed or pried away from the jamb.
Against heavy-duty doors, doors with multiple locks or where the gap between the door and jamb is very tight, use the CLAW as a ram or sledge a couple of times against the center of the door. That should bow it enough to make the gap you need to start the set.
The CLAW has a slight inward curvature of the teeth, a pronounced chisel (primary) grind on the teeth and a forward bevel on the tooth edge (secondary) grind. All of that means the CLAW grips like an eagle’s talon. It also means the angle of the entry edge of the rather thick teeth is at a different angle than the strike to the head from the setting tool.
For best results, the handle of the CLAW needs to be in contact with the door while the teeth are being set. That puts the tooth edge at the best angle to enter small door jamb gaps. With the handle placed against the door, instead of held parallel to the door, all of the impact energy goes into the tool head and none into the hands of the operator holding the CLAW.
Importantly, you should set the teeth as deep as possible before the inward or outward pry. Especially against a strong, outward opening metal door, you need to engage the metal skin on the far side. Prying with shallow set teeth may just peel back the sheet metal on the near side of the door. By grabbing the far side metal, even a strong door with the jambs set in concrete should be able to be pried open. We did.
Breaking Locks & Hinges
The CLAW comes into its own when it comes to simply breaking things. This is something the CLAW does that a ram, sledge, crowbar and Halligan Tool either cannot do, or cannot do well. First, locks. Think brute force.
The Virginia Tech incident gave a new importance to bolt-lock cutters for the response to an Active Shooter. But bolt cutters are a single, stand-alone tool. They really don’t serve any other breaching function. Enter the CLAW.
Put the center spike of the CLAW right into the shackle (loop) of the padlock. Strike the rear of the CLAW’s head with a second CLAW, ram or sledge. The side teeth can be used to do the same thing as the center spike on padlocks with longer shackles.
An option to breaking the shackle loop free of the padlock body is to simply pry the hasp or hinge from the wall or door, leaving the padlock intact. Engage the padlock loop with the center spike or teeth and pry. If prying is not enough, a strike to the CLAW head with a similar heavy tool will be.
Along the same line, a deadbolt can be pried off the door or wall with the CLAW. Just set the teeth behind the deadbolt and pry. However, in most cases, striking the deadbolt with a teeth-down, sledge-like swing will do it. Try to hit the deadbolt and not the door. Try to strike the deadbolt with the CLAW angled with the center spike and one side tooth making the impact. The rest of the deadbolt can be removed by a stroke with the CLAW head.
Same thing for removing a door knob, if that will help the entry. With the teeth upward, place the door knob shaft between the center spike and one of the side teeth. With just body weight, push down a bit on the handle and pry the knob off.
Break & Rake
The CLAW is an impressive break and rake tool. It has the weight and the sharp striking points needed to break the glass and has the teeth to engage the glass and pull it down or out, clearing the window. The effectiveness is limited only by the handle length.
The CLAW can also be used to punch and clear drywall and plaster. It will definitely tear a hole in the metal siding of an out building or mobile home. Using the teeth of the CLAW as an axe blade, baseball swings will cut through plywood and pressboard walls.
The CLAW can also be used as an axe to deflate tires. Swing the CLAW like an axe with the edge of the outside teeth striking into the sidewall. Don’t hit the rim. Do expect the CLAW to bounce back or deflect off the sidewall.
The teeth of the CLAW can easily defeat laminated windshield glass and tempered side and rear glass. Use the side teeth as a window punch to perforate a pattern in the windshield, and then use the flat striking surface to punch that section out. Or use the teeth to pull it out. Or set the teeth between the windshield and the A-pillar and pry.
Along this same line, an option against commercial grade or hurricane glass is to attack the metal window frame and weather stripping around the window. Set the teeth in the track and pry.
Apart from just glass, the CLAW can be a formidable anti-car pry tool. Set the teeth between the door and the pillar, between the trunk and the lid, between the hood and the grille, and pry. The trick, again, is to deeply seat the teeth by slamming the CLAW with another CLAW, sledge or ram.
Sledge and Ram
The CLAW can obviously be used as a sledgehammer. Simply rotate the head so the strike plate hits the object. As in any hammer action, the head has to hit the object, not the handle. Since the strike plate of the CLAW does not stick out as far as the hammer end of a sledge, swing accurately!
Of course, the top of the CLAW can also be used to ram a door, just like you would use the top of a sledge. The trick here is to orient the teeth either up or down to compensate for the height difference of teeth to handle. The CLAW is as effective as a small ram on light to moderate strength doors. Heavier doors that cannot be opened by simply ramming with the CLAW can probably still be pried open by the CLAW. We did.
Is there a drawback to the CLAW? Yes. For the vast majority of entry functions, the CLAW needs to be firmly set. The side teeth and center spike are thick enough to never break during any kind of human effort during entry use. That means setting the CLAW requires a tool with sledge-like weight. Neither a Halligan Tool nor a crowbar will do it. Nor will bolt-cutters.
A ram or sledge will work to set the CLAW. So, why not use a setting tool that does what a ram and sledge do, except does even more? Another CLAW. This is not a marketing ploy. In many cases, the CLAW must be set, so another tool must be carried to set it. It makes the most sense to have that other tool do as many other entry functions along the way as possible. Two patrol officers, each with their own CLAW, are pretty much an unstoppable team.
For a demo of the CLAW in action, go to www.youtube.com and search for JTC CLAW. Yes, this is a promo piece, but it is also very informative. Also read the instruction manual available from the Jersey Tactical website. The 24-inch and 30-inch CLAW has an MSRP of $275, while the 48-inch and 60-inch versions have an MSRP of $299.
All told, the CLAW is one of the most simple, versatile, capable and rugged of all the available entry tools. In the CLAW, John Dapkins and the Jersey Tactical team have developed the one must-have tool for patrol vehicles. A vehicle mount is available from Jersey Tactical for the CLAW.
Without any exaggeration, two patrol officers, each with a CLAW, can enter just about anywhere patrol needs to go. This certainly includes any patrol response to an Active Shooter in a school or workplace. One officer with a CLAW can make a lot of headway. That second CLAW to do the proper tooth setting of the first CLAW greatly expands the entry capability…from outside almost any building to inside almost any room. Grab the patrol rifle. Grab the patrol CLAW. Go.
If the CLAW is the only entry tool the patrol officer will ever need, the more famous Jersey Boot may be the only mechanical breaching tool the tactical team will ever need. So much has been written about the Jersey Boot, it has won so many innovation awards, and has so many YouTube hits that just a brief honorable mention will cover it.
The Jersey Boot is a combination of a traditional, 25-pound ram and a heavy-toothed pry tool. While the CLAW is oriented to general patrol use, the Jersey Boot is oriented to the better trained, beefier SWAT team breacher.
Like the CLAW, the Jersey Boot can be used as a ram, pry tool, break and rake tool, sledge, lock-hinge buster, and demo bar. The Jersey Boot can be used as a step, door chock, entrenching tool and axe. It can also flatten tires, shatter glass and pry hoods, trunks and doors. Without exaggeration, two stout tactical operators could literally demolish virtually any dwelling with two Jersey Boots, let alone simply making entry.
Don Munson is a deputy with the Benton County, Ind. Sheriff's Department, and he is point man with his multi-agency response team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org