Chuck O’Connor: When you detonate an explosive charge in an active urban environment, the consequences resulting from your release of energy could negatively impact the remainder of your life.

About the author

Chuck O’Connor is a retired Navy SEAL with 44 years of tactical explosive experience, 38 years dedicated to explosive entry operations performed in active urban environments, not range facilities.

Chuck has developed multiple counter terrorism training and advisement programs for LE, military special duty assignments and bomb squads throughout the world.

His explosive entry course is DHS/FEMA approved and funding for hosting of the course is eligible through the Homeland Security Grant Program.

Chuck is looking forward to get your feedback or actively discuss the topic of this article with active operators and/or industry SME. Do not hesitate to reach out:

Contact Chuck at:


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Discussion One – Traditional Explosive Education and Application Culture has Never been Appropriate for Tactical Explosive Entry

The Article

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When you detonate an explosive charge in an active urban environment, the consequences resulting from your release of energy could negatively impact the remainder of your life.

The purpose of these discussion topics is to enhance operator urban detonation subject matter expertise (SME) knowledge to perform an assessment of your current experiences.

Explosive entry is the first explosive application requiring mission essential personnel to position close to the detonation point in active urban environments.

The traditional use of any other explosive discipline references, procedures, and the limitations of artificial environment experiences has proven inefficient to prevent injuries and reduce liabilities. Why?

For over 140 years, energetic materials have been used for a wide variety of industrial, commercial, law enforcement, military applications, and criminal use.

To understand detonation, deflagration, work potential, various hazard effects, and safety, using artificial environments with controlled conditions were protocol.

This entire research, testing, education, and application culture is a “linear system.” Linear system’s features include:

• Standardized controlled conditions isolating the different hazards effects and performance potential of the explosive material or explosive weapon for detailed study.

• Identifying explosive materials’ performance requires a standardized process using industry-recognized methodology for data collection, evaluation of data, and validation of the testing results.

• These linear system methodologies and validation protocols use various principles of physics, chemistry, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, other sciences, and related mathematics to define solutions and practical application processes.

• Safety procedures for linear system’s study, research, education, and practical application require personnel to be completely separated from all hazards created by the detonations.


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Tactical explosive entry is an anomaly

Evolving threat conditions required a new explosive discipline for high-threat tactical response: tactical explosive entry performed in active urban environments.

The use of linear system’s education and practical applications in artificial environments appeared logical.

However, tactical explosive entry is an anomaly that linear system’s methods and technologies have never efficiently applied because this explosive discipline’s abstract realities are “non-linear systems.”

The tactical explosive entry discipline has two distinct non-linear systems that negate the relevance of linear system’s applications.

The first non-linear system is the operational urban environment.

• There is no control or the ability to isolate the many threat, hazard, and environmental conditions realities during high-threat tactical response.

• Many conditions exist that can never be replicated in sterile, controlled arrangements (ranges) or with any type of computer model’s simulation of urban environments.

• The operator is never exposed to an effective process to identify the numerous conditions that create injuries, mission disasters, and subsequent liabilities.

• Isolated study of individual hazards (example: overpressure) is irrelevant whether study is performed on a range or structure. These types of isolated studies are too narrowly focused.

• This is the first explosive discipline that requires mission essential personnel to position close to all hazards created by the detonation. These multiple hazards’ exposures are intimate, not standoff, clinical or academic.

• The explosive entry training and research culture using linear system methodologies on sterile ranges have never developed urban detonation SMEs.

Explosive entry education cultural realities

The second non-linear system is the various legal proceedings that occur after the operation.

• By operational or tactical standards, an operation can be considered successful, but conditions could still be in place for legal proceedings to be disastrous for the agency and individual officers.

• The multiple conditions that induce liabilities during legal proceedings are also applicable for military operations because many of these conditions also create post-detonation response disasters.

Since each urban detonation is abstract and has its own separate reality, it requires non-linear system protocols to identify the significance of the interactions between the numerous hazards produced by the different charge configurations and breach point location in changing environmental conditions.

This discussion series will address these listed explosive entry education cultural realities that will allow operators to use their experiences to preserve efficient protocols with the ability to immediately implement any corrective actions:

• Operators have the intimate experiences from detonation exposures, but training in artificial environments does not provide the ability to identify all hazards or requirements to design efficient TTPs, reduce injuries and post-detonation liabilities unique to each urban detonation. Traditional range training is not designed to develop urban detonation SMEs.

• Academic achievement titles earned by research professionals indicate authoritative knowledge of specific professional fields but do not provide required firsthand, intimate experiences to understand risks to operators unique for each urban detonation. Academic requirements to achieve titled degrees do not develop urban detonation SMEs.

• Traditional explosive application procedures, safety procedures, and use of overpressure recording instrumentation or flow technologies (2D or 3D computer modeling, shock tube blast simulators) for all other explosive disciplines do not apply for explosive entry.

• Many explosive references’ explanations of overpressure behavior and damage to infrastructure items developed for UXO disposal, render safe, or structure design to protect from detonation effects are inaccurate for explosive entry.

• For decades, these inaccuracies have supported the misuse of explosive equations for safe positioning guidance.

• These inaccuracies have recently supported the misuse of overpressure recording instrumentation and flow technologies to replace explosive equations for safety procedures but are equally dangerous.

• Commercial and industrial research competition is vicious. This further complicates validating effective improvements while protecting known dangerous practices. Competition does not always produce unbiased conclusions or results. No business in any competitive market, including the research industry, will gracefully acknowledge when a competitor has an improved product, concept application, or service.

Improvements from the research industry has been flawed

For over 30 years, these conditions have developed a linear system intellectual trap that operators unintentionally created.

Because of this trap, operator tasking for improvements from the research industry has been flawed. Consequently, flawed tasking produces flawed results.

Research professionals do not have the firsthand experiences to understand the taskings are flawed and are not provided the ability to succeed.

This trap continues to recycle.

Make no mistake, there are operators using effective and safe protocols that have been self-developed from their experiences.

The problem for operators to ensure confirmation of efficient safety procedures and TTPs is being overshadowed by proven dangerous procedures that never terminate.

Therefore, operators have been suffering the consequences post-detonation.

The next discussion topic will review urban detonation SME development and applications within non-linear systems realities.

Chuck is looking forward to get your feedback or actively discuss the topic of this article with active operators and/or industry SME. Do not hesitate to reach out:

Contact Chuck at:


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Photos by Chuck O‘Connor

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