How to Break Down a Door: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 26, 2011 · 76 Comments

in Manly Skills, Survival, Tactical Skills, Visual Guides

Don’t use your shoulder. Don’t use a jump kick.  Kick near lock, not lock itself. Lean into kick. Drive heel into door. Drive heel of standing foot into ground.

See Also: How to Break Down a Door

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mikael October 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Did this when I was drunk a year ago. It took me 2 kicks but it worked :)

2 Dan October 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

As a Firefighter/EMT, I’ve got to use this method a few times with great results. Dont forget about the good ol’ mule kick too. Sometimes, you just cant wait for the tools…

3 Beat Attitude - Failed Remixer October 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I advocate the shoulder charge, and here’s why…

It’s especially useful to try and make sure that the door is not tightly abutting the jamb. What I mean is: if there is any “play” in the door, and it can be pulled even a mm or two towards you, this prevents the shock from the strike being too quickly transferred to the door frame. You may be able to wedge something under it to pull it towards you slightly…trust me, this will work wonders. I’ve opened a few locked exterior doors in this way. Turned out there was nothing worth stealing in there. What a wasted effort :-)

I’ve found that shoulder charging a door which has a little give in it like this will work better than a targeted kick at the lock area, because it uses the whole door as a lever/hammer, and more of your bodyweight gets behind it. But if the door is solidly abutting the frame, a series of carefully placed kicks is best. But you’re extremely likely to damage your foot, so best to remember your keys.

Also, if you’re trying to lock out velociraptors, remember that they can use door handles, will try to headbutt through the door panelling, and always hunt in threes. The female is likely already inside your house.

4 Hal October 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I’ve always liked an 8-pound sledgehammer for such things. It’s an important part of my locksmithing kit, because sometimes what’s on the other side of the door is more important than professionalism.

5 George Franke October 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

32 years ago when I first joined the Fire Service, I got my first shoulder charge at a door at a General Alarm Fire. Yep, I crashed right through it….Later that night in a critique, the Capt. congratulated me on my ability to open doors without tools, but cautioned me as to what might be on the other side. Perhaps a fire? Duh? And I charged right into it, perhaps. But what about other things? A Staircase to the basement? Hmmmm, then I’d be 10 feet below in a hurry. With the leg kick, you stand your ground. So…while I’d advocate the leg kick, I guess knowledge of the situation would warrant one or the other. Albeit now after being retired for 12 years, I’d opt for letting one of the young bucks hit the door with their shoulder and I’ll save on the physical therapy treatments.

6 Kevin October 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I prefer the mule kick rather that facing the door. A well placed mule kick will work wonders. A running shoulder hit will have you on your butt as the door gives way, if your breaking down a door at a fire, ending up on your butt could be deadly.

7 Geoff October 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Kicking in doors, got real good at this on a daily basis in Iraq. Fun.

8 Neal October 26, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Kicking is OK, however, I prefer a breeching round fired from about six inches.

9 Daren Redekopp October 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Bruce Lee would one-inch punch this door open.

10 Michael October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

This advice is extremely correct. A forward kick is easy to execute and lets you put a lot of power into the door while keeping your balance. If you’ve trained to do a mule (back) kick, then of course feel free to substitute your training to create more power. But this will get the job done and keep you safe.

11 the muskrat October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

This is what all the young thugs in my old inner-city neighborhood do just before they make off with our TVs and laptops!

12 Max October 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Judo kick!

13 William October 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

The DO NOT Jump Kick had me cracking up for some reason.

14 Brian October 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Never had to break down a door but I now have this quiet confidence that I’d be able to should the need arise. Thanks.

15 October 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm

The key is definitely to drive that back heel into the ground. That’s where the strength comes in. Sweet post.

16 Jerrad October 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm

All things being equal I would rather have the bolt gun that Anton Chigurh carried in No Country for old men. It’s just so ruthlessly efficient.

17 Scott Ezell October 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm

A friend of mine (we call him Brewtus) saw a house on fire yesterday and a lady inside (on the second floor) was yelling for help. He broke down the door but the smoke was too think to go inside.

He looked around the property and found an extension ladder and quickly propped it up to her window. She was able to climb down and was safe. He left after he was sure she was safe and the firefighters were nearby. He did not give his name and did not want any credit for doing what he said any man should and would do.

He gets my man of the week award.

18 Patrick October 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I am in the Army, and we are taught to not use the kick method when breaching because the last thing you want to do is find out that the door is not really solid and wind up with your leg stuck on the side of the bad guys and you stuck on the other. Doesn’t really apply to this post, but the most effective breaching method I have ever used and which I teach all of my Soldiers is what I call the manual method where you try opening the door with the door handle first, believe it or not, it works almost all of the time. I also carried a Mossberg 500 with breaching rounds, and I have never met an Afghan or Iraqi door/lock it wouldn’t open

19 Cole October 27, 2011 at 1:34 am

“Also, if you’re trying to lock out velociraptors, remember that they can use door handles, will try to headbutt through the door paneling, and always hunt in threes. The female is likely already inside your house.”

I laughed. Tip of the hat to you sir.

20 Gary V October 27, 2011 at 2:08 am

Yeah, same deal as Mikael…. accept it didn’t work for me. And then the cops came. Good thing I lived there.

21 Christian Hollingsworth October 27, 2011 at 6:23 am

Maybe I’m not a manly man, but I’ve never had to break down a door as of yet. Loved this post though. Excited for the day when it will be needed.

22 Jakor the Magnificent October 27, 2011 at 7:30 am

“ October 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm
The key is definitely to drive that back heel into the ground. . . . ”

Actually, the key is to remember the key. Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

Great post, great ideas, but always remember, as the soldier above said, try the handle first.

23 Steve M October 27, 2011 at 8:04 am

Ted Slampyak, this is another one of your great guides. Thank you. I have enjoyed everyone of your contributions to AoM

24 Dan October 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

@Patrick…that’s what’s known as “Try before you pry”….or in this case, kick lol

25 USMCREGOR October 27, 2011 at 8:59 am

All else fails, including patrick getting his boot stuck up the door’s ass, try this AA12. Epic win.

26 Robert October 27, 2011 at 9:11 am

This is how I’m going to open all of my doors from now on. I hope my girlfriend doesn’t mind.

27 IAgreeBut... October 27, 2011 at 9:34 am

Right, but how far away from the door are you supposed to stand? Too close and you don’t get the proper leverage, the door doesn’t open, and you wind up screwing up your knee, hip, or ankle. Too far away, you barely touch the door, and you don’t get enough force behind it the kick. Where’s that sweet spot? I imagine it depends on your height.

28 Brandon October 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

This method for gaining entry into a house is unsafe. If you are going to use your body to gain entry you should face away from the door and use a mule kick. The kick illustrated here will cause you to have a forward momentum into the structure. If you cannot find any other safe means of entering the structure I would advise just use the mule kick, but as for in the fire service, my department does not resort to this type of forcible entry. We use our tools that we ALWAYS have with us when leaving the truck. Remember there could be someone on the other side of that door, especially if there may be a fire at the structure. What if you kick the door in and it breaks a victims neck on the other side of the door? Your gonna have some explaining to do in court!! I understand the military uses this type of kick, but they don’t care about who its going to hurt on the other side of the door. They have weapons ready to muck them up when they do get through the door, they also have special cameras that allow them to see if there is an obstruction on the other side as well. My advice is to look into alternative ways before you use this method.

FF/Instructor from Georgia

29 John Phung October 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

This looks like the teep/push kick using the heel from Muay Thai.

30 Eli October 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

As many of the other firefighters have already commented, the mule/donkey kick is almost always a better way to do this as:

1)You’re less likely to end up falling once through.
2)You’re able to deliver the force of the blow directly through your heel rather than having some of it absorbed by the arch of your foot.
3)You’re much less likely to sustain an injury, and
4)It’s much easier to perform when wearing bulky bunker pants/jacket.

This technique can also easily be preformed from a crawl position to kick through interior walls and dislodge 2X4 studs.

Front facing probably looks cooler though ;-)

31 Roughneck October 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

A mule kick is the way to go. Gives you a lot more power. If you have already decided that you can’t wait for a tool (which should always be the preference unless you enjoy living your life with knee and back pain) then you want to generate as much force as possible on the first (and hopefully only) kick. All that energy has to go somewhere. If you don’t knock the door down you may just injure yourself.

32 Skeptical October 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

The mule kick sounds more effective in theory, but has anyone ACTUALLY used it successfully to break down a door? I say there’s no way you can generate enough power kicking behind you to break down a locked door. Unless you’ve been practicing like those ladies in aerobics class.

33 John Atkinson October 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

I usually just use a key. Knocking works too some times. My wife would be pretty pissed if I came home tonight and kicked the door in… What? This is for other situations? ….Nevermind.

34 Usmc October 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

In the Marine Corps we use a mule kick, that way we fall out of the way if someone is in the room…

35 Will October 27, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I was watching One Man Army on Discovery and one of their challenges was getting through a series of doors. One of the guys couldn’t get through the first door which was the one you kicked through and the moderator of the show said he should have focused his kicks on the corners of the door and not where the lock is. I wonder which one is right.

36 Ian Connel October 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Use your hips! The character Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5 demonstrates this nicely.

37 Charlie October 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

Would have prefered Dim & Dash showing us how to Kick Open a Door.

38 Dan October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

@Brandon: You’re right, should always have tools with you when you hop off the rig (two hands, two tools), but you should also make good use of door control too (webbing, rope). You have to look at it from the perspective of small town volunteers…don’t always have the manpower and sometimes you’re the first and only one there. Not to say that there wont be someone on the other side, but you’d get in just as much trouble by NOT doing anything right? There are several ways to force doors (like busting the small window panes and reaching through to trip the deadbolt, through the lock, etc), just have to pick the right one for the situation.

@Skeptical: I have used the mule kick method and it is VERY effective.

39 Dan October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

@Brandon: You’re right, should always have tools with you when you hop off the rig (two hands, two tools), but you should also make good use of door control too (webbing, rope). You have to look at it from the perspective of small town volunteers…don’t always have the manpower and sometimes you’re the first and only one there. Not to say that there wont be someone on the other side, but you’d get in just as much trouble by NOT doing anything right? There are several ways to force doors (like busting the small window panes and reaching through to trip the deadbolt, through the lock, etc), just have to pick the right one for the situation.
@Skeptical: I have used the mule kick method and it is VERY effective.

40 Dan October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

@Brandon: You’re right, should always have tools with you when you hop off the rig (two hands, two tools), but you should also make good use of door control too (webbing, rope). You have to look at it from the perspective of small town volunteers…don’t always have the manpower and sometimes you’re the first and only one there. Not to say that there wont be someone on the other side, but you’d get in just as much trouble by NOT doing anything right? There are several ways to force doors (like busting the small window panes and reaching through to trip the deadbolt, through the lock, etc), just have to pick the right one for the situation.

41 Jon October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Question… What if the door opens towards you? Kicking it does nothing, correct?

42 John October 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm

The mule kick is a better way to kick down doors if you have to. If you try to kick it like in the picture and the door doesn’t give all that force you attempted to put into the door gets reflected right back into your leg, knee, hip, etc. If you use a mule kick and the door doesn’t break the energy still comes back into your leg, but you leg will bounce back and dissipate most of the energy.

43 Logan October 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

optimally i’ll either shoot out the important parts with my rifle/use my muzzle break as an improvised breeching devise. all else fails, kick that bitch open.

44 Brian October 30, 2011 at 12:45 am

Shotgun with breeching rounds: Good
Explosives: Better
M203 loaded with HE: For when you really dislike the people on the other side.

That said for a non-explosive entry the mule kick works well.

We figured that out after one of my troops trapped his foot in a door, luckily in training…

45 Justin October 31, 2011 at 1:14 am

Don’t forget to try to turn the doorknob first. People can be forgetful at times.

46 Christian October 31, 2011 at 9:45 am

As much as I would love to try this, it’s quite an expensive activity.

47 Sgt. Neil Ferguson November 1, 2011 at 10:21 am

@ Skeptical

I learned the mule kick method in SWAT and it has worked for me countless times over the years. Its deceptive in its power. I was skeptical at first too until I tried it. The mule kick is sooo much easier on the knee, hip and back as well.

48 Skip November 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

Alright gents, like any skill you should practice this before the need arises. Both this forward kick or the mule kick are martial arts skills that should be practiced on the heavy bag until you can do both with good balance. The illustration above is good, but you should try to keep both of your hands in front of you while doing this, like a boxer. You will be able to catch yourself with your hands if you do loose your balance or kick through the door. Bring your knee up toward your shoulder and then kick slightly downward and put your body weight into it 100% without completely locking your knee. A slight bend in your knee will prevent injury to yourself.
Also a few light taps with your knuckles will let you know where the door is solid and where it is hollow. Aim for a solid area near the lock. Testing with a light shoulder charge will also let you know how solid the door is. Some exterior doors (when installed correctly and reinforced with multiple dead bolts) will not be easily kicked down. This method is mostly useful for weaker/cheaper residential doors. I have used this when I locked myself out of my house and if anyone is interested in security of their house you should try to kick in your own door to make sure that you can’t easily do it. Get a better door, better locks, 2″ + screws on the lock plates, at least one dead bolt, etc. Kicking in a door maybe manly, but burying a spare key in your backyard is smarter.

49 Mark Petersen November 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I love these little cartoons. Publish them in a book some day.

50 Miro November 4, 2011 at 1:48 am

The mule kick is deffinitly working. I used it to break down a door when I was 8 years old. I got locked on the balkony and didnt felt like jumping from the seckond flor and entering thru the front door, so I broke down the door with a mule kick. I was prety short back then so I kicked the door pretty low, but it oly took like 3 kicks to open it.

51 Miro November 4, 2011 at 2:25 am

It’s true that that doo was not very strong, but it’s allso true that I was not even tying to break it. I was trying to make some noise so that someone will come and unlock it from the inside. Supprisingly for me the door just gave way.
The mule kick is easy, powerfull and safe.

52 Keith Anderson November 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm

This is a solid way to go through a door. One person made a good point about practicing this movement. Especially since a good Teep kick is a great way to deal with someone with a bat or pool cue as well. If you know what you’re doing balance won’t be an issue like many have claimed, even if you blow the door completely off it’s hinges. I’m not sure about the Marine’s comment but I think the concept of facing your fighter is important. If I’m going through a door that may have an enemy on the other side I want to be facing that enemy, not have my ass pointed up at him. Obviously breaching rounds are ideal. My stance, learn to Teep. It’s effective in multiple situations. And the power comes from driving the hip through, not straightening the leg. A solid Teep can be done with zero knee flexion or extension.

53 cfiehler November 6, 2011 at 1:12 am

I have never kicked in a door but my firefighter has done it plenty of times. Sometimes when the door swings towards you (hinges on the outside) firefighters will use the above technique to kick through the drywall (or chop through it with an axe) and then reach in and unlock the door. Either way you are going to cause some damage. And you need to be mindful of where the studs are…

54 Michael November 13, 2011 at 1:19 am

I have kicked in many a door in a job requiring a uniform, but last month I kicked in my mom’s door when she was being abused by a homeless man. Use your legs and body-weight, not your shoulder. The best part was having the leg strength left and warmed up to break the dirt-bag’s femur when he challenged me. My mom was both scared and grateful for the skills the Marines taught me.

55 Joseph November 16, 2011 at 7:21 am

I did this at a student party when the occupant of a toilet was feared to have passed out or worse. Stupidly I used my shoulder, and woke up in unbelievable pain and a large bruise. I guess I was lucky not to dislocate it!


56 James Assalone November 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

I’ve been a Firefighter for 30 years and the proper way to kick a door in is to turn completely opposite of picture shown and kick accordingly. The way shown can easily damage knee and will not produce as much force as turning away from door and kicking backward.

57 Christoph Zügler November 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

This might work in the US, where everything is made either of cardboard or plastic. But in Europe, doors are made of wood. They would ve difficult to open even with an axe. European firefighters have passepartout keys that will open most doors. That is the high-quality solution.

58 Linios November 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

What if the door opens outwards? ;)

59 Wes November 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Having forward momentum will help, and after going through uncounted doors during my thirty-ywo years as a fire fighter, I have some experience in this. Well constructed doorscannot be kicked in, and some should be bypassed, but most can be kicked in with extra kicks sometimes being needed. ne point, expect recoil rom the door bouncing back at you!

60 Tac September 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

The way you take down a door is wholly dependent on what you intend to do, and what’s likely on the other side. For general purpose and fire, the mule kick is effective.

However, those that use the mule kick in a military setting need to remember 2 things: 1) Your gear (my rig was ~85 pounds) counterweights your kick rather than adding to power, and could put you flat on your face if you don’t break through. 2) when your foot makes contact, that singular moment when the tango on the other side is learning exactly where you are, your body position has just made around 80% of your armor ineffective. You’re stretched out, and rounds or shrapnel will hit you in the arse and shoot right up through your pelvic floor, which is about as bad as it sounds.

In the LE field, I tend to prefer a front kick on the door, mostly because I don’t have a fire team with me all the time, and I have to be ready for that oh crap moment when it’s just me because the situation is that bad. I want to be able to put my weapon on target instantly after kicking and advance into the room with the most information I can get in that moment. I tend to aim just below the lock rather than beside it, as a lot of doors have a frame with panelling, and hitting below the lock still puts you on the frame.

Of course you should always try the doorknob. And a sledgehammer, ram, primacord, block of C4, Cannon-barrel off an M1A2, or a D10 Dozer are the best ways, in that order, to make violent and unforteggable entry through a door….the latter two either shoving the door in with an object no one is soon to forget, or just obliterating the whole fracking wall in a swipe!

61 Michael October 28, 2012 at 12:27 am

Did nobody else notice the door in this graphic opens out?

62 No previous forcible entry experience. November 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Ok, we agree that forward kick or mule kick are better methods. But I am a novice at this. Can someone clearly describe how to perform a mule kick?

63 Erickson November 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I agree with Christoph, this is not suitable for high quality doors, I don’t believe someone without proper tools would be able to break my door. Even cut through it with an axe would take some time, it’s solid, heavy wood.

64 burt November 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm


65 thomas January 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

A good followup would be how a carpenter might replace the side of a door casing and mortise in a new strike plate. That’s what I had to do after I locked my keys inside last year. Carpentry is very manly. As an aside, both wooden frame doors I’ve kicked in have broken the casing out, with a steel door casing the strike plate or lock bolt would have to break or bend.

66 Leslie January 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm

If the best method is to kick near the lock, why does the police force teach to hit between the hinges?

67 noah April 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm

im 12 and i have kicked a door in it took just a little rage and i was back in my house.

68 Ron Swanson April 8, 2013 at 4:50 am

As every man knows, tools are an extension of who you are. Although firearms are my tool of choice, a chainsaw is also an effective method of door entry.

But, this article is about taking quick action without tools being available (yes, I suppose there are some who violate this MANdate), and it appears you can kick your way through a door.

69 Richard Speights August 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Yikes…I hate to disagree with the diagram, but kicking a door open this way often results in a hyper extended knee when the door does not immediately fly open. Instead, turn around and kick (like a horse kicks) the lower corner of the door, below the handle/latch. Kicking the corner of the door puts leveraged pressure against the latch. Kicking horse style prevents crippling yourself.

70 Byron Wilson August 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Wing Chun front stomp kick!!!!

71 Nevada October 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Before you go to all the trouble of kicking in a door, you might save yourself a lot of trouble (and a possible broken bone) by simply grasping the doorknob and giving it a turn. A lot of people don’t remember to lock their doors. This method is called, “try before you pry”. Never try this no my door, though. It is reinforced and there will be a guy with a bad attitude and a shotgun behind it.

72 Alaska Paul October 12, 2013 at 10:57 pm

If you are in a hostile situation, and for some reason, having to breach a door, remember standing in the door frame area is not called the Fatal Funnel for nothing.

73 Jon October 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

As a firefighter I wouldn’t recommend a straight kick like this. Unless you’re breaking the door down to get some ice for your knees. Donkey kick the door and save your ice for a glass of whiskey.

74 Kevin October 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Just have Chuck Norris stare at the door. The door with open on its own from fright.

75 Rick October 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Just a word of advice NEVER, and I say NEVER use this at work…. See you guys in 30 days…

76 G November 2, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I had read this guide a couple of months ago and I just used it to kick open my girlfriend’s door after she locked her keys in her room. It worked like a charm! Thanks for sharing.

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