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Idaho National Laboratory

From the INEEL Archives
Feature Story

When Seconds Count — Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun

Contributed by Stacey Francis

Sometimes, seconds can mean the difference between life and death, between mission success and failure. When facing unknown dangers lurking beyond a locked door, police officers or military personnel may need to get in fast without relinquishing control of the situation or their weapons.

The Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun

INEEL engineers designed the Integrated Breaching Shotgun for use in executing forced entries through doors.

Recently, a federal law enforcement agency approached the laboratory to help solve a problem facing its agents. The agency wanted INEEL engineers to design a better firearm for use in executing forced entries through doors. A traditional entry method requires a shotgun to breach doors. In the standard process, the shooter fires at the door to destroy the hinges or the lock and then either has to switch from the shotgun to an assault rifle or remove himself from the line of fire to allow others to proceed through the door. Either way, the loss of precious seconds could result in undesirable consequences.

A request for a multiple-shot shotgun bolted on to an assault rifle came through the Department of Energy Office of Intelligenceís Applied Technology Program -- a program within DOE that matches technology needs throughout the federal arena to researchers within the national laboratory system. This client hoped to find a design that would allow improved entry times in life-threatening situations and lower risks to its agents.

Steve Frickey, an advisory engineer in National Securityís Nonproliferation organization, had encountered the same problem years earlier when he shot a very cumbersome and awkward weapon system used by the military. Frickey had contemplated how to improve the design of an assault rifle and shotgun used together.

“It seemed obvious to me that there was a better way to do it,” he said. “When I saw the request for such a weapon, it seemed an opportune marriage of an idea with a need.”

Frickey prepared and submitted the original proposal that was accepted.

Thatís when Mike Occhionero, the INEEL contact for the ATP got involved. Once the customer was convinced the INEEL had the experts, ideas and commitment required to solve the problem, Occhionero went to work establishing the requirements and putting together a project team.

David Crandall and Rich Watson from the National Securityís Special Programs group took the requirements and began work on the Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun. Frickey continued in an advisory role.

“Because the customer had more experience than we did in the actual application, we involved them in every step of the design process,” said Occhionero.

The Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun

The Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun.

Crandall, Watson and Frickey accepted the challenge of designing the special compact weapon and integrating it with the operatorís primary weapon. Crandall said the importance of the combined weapon system was critical as repositioning or switching guns wastes too much time in breaching situations.

“Seconds or even parts of seconds can mean all the difference,” said Crandall.

With no firearm existing to do the job, the teamís solution was to redesign the traditional 12-gauge pump shotgun and make it work differently.

Standard shotguns cycle cartridges by moving the bolt to the rear. In the new design, the bolt is held stationary and the receiver and barrel move forward, allowing the receiver to be shortened and the barrel to be lengthened. Keeping the barrel longer provides more time for the powder to burn and more energy to be applied, making the shotgun more effective. The Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun is three inches shorter overall while incorporating an effective barrel twice as long as anything else currently available.

The Idaho Integrated Breaching Shotgun also incorporates a replaceable box magazine making it easier to rapidly reload and select alternate munitions, such as less-than-lethal rounds.

Watson says creating an entirely new firearm in about four months for very little money was extraordinary. Occhionero echoes that feeling.

“Typically, a gun design program is a multiyear, multimillion dollar proposition,” Occhionero said. By using many already existing components in an innovative way, the team was able to design the prototype in a little over two months. Achieving a functional prototype in such a short time was due, in part, to the expertise of machinists Jimmy Johnson and Travis Brown.

The team says the INEELís security force also played a major part in the success of the project.

“You canít just bring a federal agencyís assault rifle to work,” Occhionero said. “We had to address a lot of paper work and policy issues before we could bring the gun onto the INEEL for non-security purposes. Our security force, along with DOE, worked those issues for us and made it possible.”

Occhionero reports that the client was impressed with the gun during the recent demonstration. If the team obtains additional funding, it will pursue ways to decrease the weight and improve other ergonomic factors.

Because of the ingenuity in the design, the developers are applying for five patents and an R&D 100 award, and they are considering further enhancements to the system.

Discussions are already underway with a gun manufacturer interested in producing and marketing the integrated breaching shotgun.

According to Watson, being involved in the project was even more exciting due to one fact, “It was cool to work with guns and get paid for it!”

Mike Occhionero, (208) 526-1472, Send E-mail