Can You Open a Door by Shooting the Lock?

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Written by Bernie Carr

We’ve all seen action movies or TV shows where the hero (or bad guy) shoots the door knob using a hand gun at close range to gain entry to a locked room. In a typical scene, they break the lock and enter the room, no problem at all.

In an emergency situation, say, you’re trying to get out of a locked building, and you happen to be armed, should you just shoot the lock? Let’s discuss this.

What really happens if you shoot a door knob?

In the movies, they get really close to the lock and shoot it. But in real life, more than likely, if you use a handgun, the bullet will ricochet and you or your companion can get shot. And the door will still be locked.

I’m not going to test this myself, for safety issues, but the guys in the show Mythbusters tested it. Don’t try this at home!

In the Mythbusters episode called MythBusters Special 9: Mega Movie Myths 2-Hour Special, they tested both a 9mm pistol and a .357 Magnum. In both cases, the handgun failed to open the padlocks or deadbolts. So the old Hollywood trope does not work.

What type of firearm will breach a door?

I just saw Demolition Ranch “Special door breach 12 gauge rounds” on Youtube, where they tested different firearms, and found a shotgun with door breaching 12 gauge rounds worked best.

Here’s a link to the episode:

In conclusion…

So in answer to the original question, “Can you open a door by shooting the lock,” the answer is, it depends on what you are shooting with. A handgun will likely not work. If you happen to be trapped in building in a shtf situation, a shotgun is the type of firearm that will breach a door. But there is still always a risk of ricochet, and that is why it is advisable to use special door breaching 12 gauge rounds.

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About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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  1. They always make it look so simple in the movies don’t they?!! I hadn’t considered that even if you did shoot the handle off the door would still be locked but of course it would! 😀

    I’m not likely to try this but it’s fun to read all the same, thanks.

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