SWAT units have always had a need to open doors that other people want to keep closed. So they have developed a wide variety of tools for opening-breaching-those doors. By far one of the most sophisticated and effective breaching methods used by SWAT teams is the application of explosives. Unfortunately, it's also the most problematic breaching method both for SWAT and for police administrators who worry about liability.
But retired Houston SWAT officer Sandy Wall believes he has a safer and easier to use alternative to conventional explosive breaching methods. Wall is the inventor of the WallBanger DoorKey, a device distributed by Safariland that uses the explosive element of a flash-bang grenade to breach even some of the toughest doors.
The WallBanger DoorKey is a combination of a metal pole assembly and a one-quarter-inch-thick carbon steel blast chamber. The blast chamber is placed over the doorknob and dead bolt of a door, then the explosive charge from one or two flash-bang grenades is positioned inside and connected to an initiating system. Once the charge is set and the DoorKey is in position, the operator uses a pin gun to initiate the charge, and the blast chamber focuses the overpressure of the flash-bang(s) against the door.
Wall says he devised the WallBanger DoorKey using his own design for a bang pole after watching video of a corrections team using flash-bang grenades in a training scenario. "They were in a hallway and they had sealed off a little room with a metal door after delivering a flash-bang grenade inside," he recalls. "When that grenade was initiated, there was no place for the overpressure to go so the door blew open. So I thought if it would blow the door out, maybe it would blow the door in."
The WallBanger DoorKey blows doors in with great effect. But Wall is quick to say that it's not intended to replace all other breaching methods. "This doesn't replace manual breaching, shotgun breaching, or even high explosive breaching," he explains. "This is just another form of breaching."
Whether the WallBanger DoorKey is the right tool for breaching a specific door comes down to the composition of the door and what is behind it, according to Wall. For example, he says he would never use it on a hollow core door unless exigent circumstance made flying debris less of a concern. It's that powerful. "What it's really great for is metal veneer doors, which you see on the exteriors of most residences. It does an excellent job," says Wall.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to the WallBanger is its versatility. It can be used as a bang pole, as an OC delivery system, and as the DoorKey breaching tool.
The explosive breaching capabilities of the WallBanger are particularly suited for teams that otherwise do not have this tool in their bag and want to add it without incurring the training expense of learning how to work with high explosives. "Some teams never have access to high explosive breaching either because they have a limited amount of training or because their administrators just won't allow it.
"But With the WallBanger DoorKey, you are not dealing with high explosives," explains Wall. "The certifications are easier to get. SWAT teams get certified in flash-bangs all the time and that's all this is: just a flash-bang."