DISCUSSION: Limited Penetration vs. Points of Domination

DEBATE TOPIC: In preparation for the release of our new Law Enforcement Close Quarters Battle manual, this debate compares the traditional points of domination room entry technique with limited penetration techniques. This debate is important to the new manual, since the manual takes a balanced approach that is designed to be flexible enough to be useful for any department and modified to fit existing tactical preferences and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). IMPORTANT: Remember to keep the discussion general and avoid revealing specific details of LE or military tactics.

DEFINITION OF LIMITED PENETRATION: Limited penetration techniques call for the tactical team to clear a room and engage targets from the doorway or remaining very close to the door, without penetrating deeper into the room.

This is one example of a limited penetration technique. There are several other variations of limited penetration techniques but they all share the basic trend of remaining close to the door.


1.     The limited penetration technique prevents team members from being drawn too deep into the room where they can be surprised by adversaries from unexpected angles.

2.     Keeping team members closer together makes it is less likely that they will shoot each other. If a team member penetrates deeper into the room, it is possible for him/her to accidentally walk into the line of fire of another teammate.

3.     By stopping quickly near the door after entering the room, team members can assume a stationary, stable firing platform sooner. Continuing to move deeper into the room forces team members to shoot on the move which is less accurate.

4.     Clearing the room and engaging targets from the doorway allows team members to use the wall for protection prior to entering the room. COUNTER-ARGUMENT: In most structures (particularly in the United States) walls are generally made out of weak materials that will not stop a bullet. Therefore, the wall does not actually provide any protection and should not be used as cover.

5.     Limited penetration is particularly useful for one-person operations. When you are fighting alone, many of the disadvantages of limited penetration described in the next section will not apply. For a detailed discussion of single-person limited penetration (or shallow entry) tactics click here to see our Single-Person CQB Manual.


1.     By remaining very close to the door, the team presents a single, massed target for the adversary. This is particularly problematic if the adversaries have fully automatic weapons or explosives. With team members so closely spaced, a single burst or explosion can incapacitate the entire team. Furthermore, peeking out into the doorway does not reduce the team’s vulnerability in most cases, since most walls are not bulletproof.

2.     By not penetrating deeper into the room, the team will not have good angles of observation behind obstacles and furniture in the room. This becomes more problematic when combined with the team’s lack of dispersion. A single adversary hiding behind an obstacle deeper in the room can either toss a grenade or spray automatic fire blindly over the obstacle and have a very high chance of hitting the team. It is likely that no team member will have a clear shot to engage the target.

DEFINITION OF POINTS OF DOMINATION: The points of domination technique calls for the tactical team to rapidly penetrate deep into a room and assume points of domination with interlocking fields of fire from 2-3 of the room’s corners.

One example of the points of domination approach to room entry as depicted in several open-source military publications and presentations.


1.     By spreading out in the room, team members capitalize on the tactical advantages of dispersion. Adversaries will not be able to engage the entire team with one burst of fire and if one team member is shot, there is a higher chance that the other team members will be able to return fire safely.

2.     By entering the room and peeling off in different directions, the team creates a visual effect that confuses the adversary and makes it more difficult for the adversary to acquire and engage targets. As the adversary sees the first team member peel off in one direction and begins to track the target, the second team member peeling off in the other direction will momentarily distract the adversary’s aim, pulling his/her attention in the opposite direction. It is much harder to hit these moving targets than it is to hit a stationary target.

3.     By penetrating deep into the room, the team is immediately able to clear behind obstacles and furniture deep in the room, preventing a concealed adversary from popping up to throw a grenade or spray automatic fire.


1.     Quickly penetrating deep into the room is dangerous since it exposes a team member to many angles from which an adversary can engage unexpectedly.

2.     Because team members are moving deep into the room, it is easier for team members to accidentally shoot each other, should adversaries pop up between two team members.

3.     By demanding that team members keep moving, rather than stay close to the door, it takes longer for each team member to adopt a stationary, stable firing platform. Team members must shoot on the move which is less accurate.

SPECIAL TACTICS’ BALANCED, FREE-FLOW TECHNIQUE: Because both techniques have advantages and disadvantages, we suggests not sticking rigidly to either technique. How far a team penetrates into a room should depend on the situation and it is ideal for tactical teams to have some flexibility in their SOPs to be able to adjust on the fly. This ties in with the “free-flow” mindset that we preach for CQB tactics. Therefore, we suggest a balanced approach that calls for the team to assume a “shallow horseshoe” configuration in the room. This strikes a balance between limited penetration and points of domination, while giving the team flexibility to adjust the depth of their entry as needed, based on the situation.

The “free-flow” approach allows team-members to adjust the depth of their penetration as needed and the “shallow horseshoe” configuration strikes a balance between the limited penetration and the traditional points of domination techniques.


1.     By adopting an SOP that does not rigidly dictate how far a team penetrates into the room, the team can adjust the depth of penetration according to the situation. In some cases the team might choose to remain closer to the door. In other cases, the team might want to penetrate deeper to clear behind furniture and obstacles.

2.     A flexible SOP can adjust on the fly. The team might initially execute a shallow penetration but can always choose to penetrate deeper as needed.

3.     By adopting the “shallow horseshoe” configuration, the team still takes advantage of the dispersion and distraction effects from the traditional points of domination technique. However, by keeping the penetration shallow, they avoid the dangers of getting drawn too deep into the room.

4.     By not penetrating too far into the room, the team reduces the chances of friendly fire.

5.     The shallow horseshoe gives team members better angles of observation to clear behind obstacles and furniture deeper in the room.

6.     Having the third and fourth team members stop right next to the door allows them to get their guns into the fight from a stationary, stable firing platform earlier than in the traditional points of domination technique.

7.     NOTE: This discussion focuses only on entering the room. There are also situations where the team might want to minimize exposure by not entering the room. In these situations, the team will want to use the “sweep” technique (slice the pie) or other “delayed entry” techniques. For discussion of the sweep technique see our previous article The Best Way to “Slice the Pie.”

All tactical graphics and diagrams are taken from published, copyrighted materials. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Law, no images or graphics may be reprinted, reproduced, transmitted, or utilized in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying, microfilming, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from Special Tactics, LLC.

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