How to Break Down a Door

If you ever find yourself needing to get through a locked door, you’d better be prepared with the right techniques.

There could come a day when you need to escape imminent danger and encounter a locked door. Or you could find yourself at some point scavenging far from civilization and locksmiths. You may even just need to get inside a building in the midst of deadly weather conditions and have no alternate means of access. Should your looks, charm and engaging eye contact fall short of opening the doors you had hoped they would, this article will give you the scoop on forcing fate’s hand.

Assessment

The first step is to assess the door’s structure. The best way to break the locks will vary depending on what kind of door you are facing. Questions to ask yourself are:

Which way does the door swing? Towards me or away from me?

If the door swings away from you, (which is normally the case when encountering the locked side of a door), plan to attack the locking hardware by targeting the area around the doorknob. If the door swings toward you, then you are going to be facing more of a challenge. Plan on removing the hinges or finding a different entrance.

What material is the doorjamb made from? Is it wood or metal?

The most important factor is actually not the door itself, but the jam surrounding the locking hardware. This is the part that you will need to break. If the doorjamb is wood, then it can be destroyed with nothing other than the boots on your feet. If it is metal, as in the case of most storefront doors or hardened exterior doors, or heavy duty commercial interior thresholds designed to be hardened against forcible entry, then you will need some tools to get through.

Where are the locks situated? Is there a circular lock and/or chain? Or is it just the knob lock alone?

Additional locks need not discourage you. However, you may need to adjust your approach to destroy each lock individually.

Asking these questions to yourself will only take a few seconds and will save a considerable amount of time that otherwise could be wasted by applying an ineffective strategy.

Attacking the Hardware

If you have determined that the doorjamb is made of wood and it swings away from you, then you should be able to get through the door without the need for additional tools. Your approach will consist of kicking the face of the door in the area surrounding the locks. This will have the effect of putting pressure on the inner portion of the jamb. With enough force, the jamb will crumble and allow the locking mechanism to swing through, leaving your progress unimpeded.

Old Door

Most modern doors are hollow on the inside, with the bulk of the reinforcement consisting of the rails and stiles around the edge of the doors. For you, this means two things:

  1. Do not kick a hollow door towards the middle. It will buckle on you and accomplish nothing other than perhaps getting your foot stuck on the other side.
  2. The reinforcement towards the edge will actually help transfer more kinetic energy to the locking mechanism which is where you want it to go.

Ramming the door with your shoulder is not recommended. This ineffectively focuses the force away from the locks. This means kinetic energy must transfer all the way from the height of your shoulder, down the stile of the door and finally into the locking mechanism and against the jamb. Your shoulder is also not a particularly durable joint. The only time this might work is if you’ve already breached the locks around the handle and there is a chain that remains as the sole barrier.

Your legs, on the other hand, are already accustomed to lugging your portly rump around town and so how much worse can busting a door really be in comparison? Aim near the locks and slam away. Target with your heel using either a front kick or, alternatively, stand to the side of the door facing it with your back and utilize a mule kick directed just under the door’s handle.

It may take multiple tries. Take note of how the door begins to buckle and adjust your aim accordingly.

Breaching Tougher Doors

If you are dealing with tougher doors, like storefront or hollow metal exterior doors, you are going to need some tools to assist you in getting through.

If a door swings towards you, then you won’t be attacking the locking hardware. Instead, look to remove the hinges. In some cases, this could be as simple as popping out the pins. However, any quality exterior door is going to have non-removable hinge pins (precisely because of scuzz like you, mister). This means you’ll have to remove the hinges all together.

The only practical way to do this is with a crowbar. Wedge the fork over the hinges and then hammer on the other end of the bar to shear them off the door. This is going to take some time. If you are in a hurry, you may want to look elsewhere for an entry as there is no way around this arduous process unless you happen to have the back of a SWAT team van handy.

You can also use a crowbar to work through a tougher exterior door that refuses to be kicked in. Wedge the curved end of the bar into the gap between the door and jamb and begin widening the gap. If there isn’t enough space to get the bar wedged to begin with, you can tap the crowbar in by hammering with a brick or rock to acquire sufficient purchase to get started. If you gain enough space without the door breaking free, you’ll eventually lose leverage on the crowbar. At this point it can be finished off with a solid kick.

Hopefully this guide gives you a good idea as to how to navigate different scenarios where you may need to break down a locked door. You never know when it could come in handy and should be a part of one’s general preparedness mindset. And even if you never use it, you’ll at least have a better idea of the vulnerability of your own premises so that you can look to take steps to prevent these tactics from being used against yourself.

About the Author:

Ryan McHenry is a writer based in Nashville, TN who specializes in tactical and survival topics. When he isn’t writing, you can find him training at the gym or playing chess with an imperial stout in hand.

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