View All Articles

We sat down with Chip Johnson, HURST Jaws of Life national law enforcement specialist and former law enforcement officer, to talk about forcible entry and HURST Jaws of Life StrongArm® as a multitool solution. 

Tell us about the concept of a multitool.

Many times, law enforcement officers are going into a situation where they haven’t had a chance to preplan. They will need to react immediately to whatever they encounter, and they could need any one of a variety of tools -- crowbars, Halligan bars, wire cutters, axes and more. That’s a heck of a tool box to carry, especially in covert situations. Having one multitool whose versatility addresses a lot of the factors they’re going to come up against – the lifting and spreading and cutting and forcible entry – gives law enforcement the ability to do their jobs quickly and effectively without putting them in harm’s way. StrongArm is that solution.

The tools needed for door breaches and tactical rescue situations can add up in pounds. What does StrongArm weigh?

StrongArm weighs 26.5 pounds. With other tools, you’d probably have a sledge hammer and Halligan bar for spreading and forcing, and then to cut you’d have a bolt cutter or K-12 saw or some type of heavy saw. The weight of all those tools would exceed the weight of the single StrongArm.

When you factor all the other equipment a law enforcement has to carry – between the vest and belt and uniform, they can be carrying anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds. StrongArm lightens the load.

We watched your demonstration on YouTube. What can StrongArm cut, and what kind of power does it have for breaching doors?

YouTube and Facebook are great for demonstrating HURST Jaws of Life rescue and forcible entry tools. In terms of the numbers, the spreading force of StrongArm is 6,744 pounds and the cutting rating is A5/B3/C5/D6/E6. It can do both jobs with easy tip change out.

One set of tips is a multifunctional tip that can be used for spreading, peeling, and squeezing. The 8.5-inch spreading distance gives the team ample access to any door reinforcements. The second set of tips are made from cast high-strength steel with a straight serrated edge that can cut 3/8” rebar, Grade 43 chain, 2”x 4” wood.

When you factor all the other equipment law enforcement has to carry – between the vest and belt and uniform, they can be carrying anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds - StrongArm lightens the load.

What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned door kick?

Some people say they just kick the door in, or hit it with a ram. My answer to that is, “What happens when that doesn’t work?” I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are breachers in full-time teams who have shoulder injuries from using their body as a ram. StrongArm eliminates fatigue and injury because the battery-powered hydraulic tool quickly, safely and effectively opens the door.

One time we were serving a search warrant and had someone inside a building behind a steel reinforced door. We didn’t have tools, so we tried to kick it in; it wouldn’t move. The largest guy flung himself into the door several times and it finally opened, but that poses a huge safety risk. We didn’t know who or what was on the other side of the door and whether they had weapons; the force of our partner’s weight propelled him into the room when the door gave, and he was completely exposed. It put us all at risk. Plus, the guys inside the building knew what we were doing. We had to give up the element of surprise by constantly kicking at the door. It worked out for us – we were lucky.

So it’s a tool for forcible entry?

It’s a tool for forcible entry but also for everyday situations you can’t predict. Because it’s a hydraulic tool that can move slowly, it’s effective for freeing people who are entangled.

For example, when a kid gets a body part stuck in a piece of playground equipment. Or if the situation is man vs. machine in an industrial or farming incident. You can work slowly but with massive amount of forces to move things without hurting the victim or the operator.

Is it a good extrication tool for vehicle incidents?

As far as vehicles go, this tool has the capability to do quick door pops, so it’s ideal for rescues as well as searches.

Let’s say there’s a car fire with someone trapped inside. If law enforcement is first on the scene, they have to get the patient out. They wouldn’t respond from the fire suppression angle, but from the life safety angle they’d have easier and faster access to the patient with StrongArm. It fits easily in the patrol officer’s trunk, and because it’s battery powered it turns on in an instant.

StrongArm also can help law enforcement officers dismantle a vehicle looking for hidden compartments in narcotics or human trafficking situations, or give them access to Conex boxes or the trailer of a truck. It suits the general police officer, narcotics unit, SWAT teams, counter terrorism teams or search and rescue.

Law enforcement officers need to be able to asses a critical situation quickly, make snap decisions and have all their tools within reach.

Tell us about the accessory rail.

The built-in Picatinny accessory rail gives law enforcement officers the ability to mount basically any tool they want to the Strongarm. You can put a flashlight on there, infrared light, GoPro or another camera. It’s completely customizable.

StrongArm also has a carrying strap, or you can use a more tactical type sling. You can carry the tool with you over distances to your location, drop it off with quick release, and go to work.

What’s the most challenging part of rapid interventions?

The unknown. We constantly respond to calls for which we have very little information. Sometimes, even if we have a lot of information we still don’t know what we’re going to find. Law enforcement officers need to be able to asses a critical situation quickly, make snap decisions and have all their tools within reach.

Where can we see StrongArm?

We’ll be at FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) in Nashville at the end of August and then NTOA (National Tactical Officers Association/Expo) in late September in Phoenix. If you can’t get to a show, ask one of our dealers to set up a demo.

Any big takeaway that you’d like to offer to law enforcement thinking about tactical entry tools?

The most important thing in tactical entry is officer safety. StrongArm increases officer safety, and it increases the effectiveness in completing the task.

Chip Johnson is national law enforcement specialist and mid-Atlantic regional sales manager for HURST Jaws of Life. A former first responder, he served as a police officer in Hillsborough, N.C. and as lieutenant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs police before working in the interactive simulation training products industry for the law enforcement and military markets. Early in his career, he was a volunteer firefighter and federal firefighter for the U.S. Coast Guard.