Imitation Halligans…A Setup For Failure.

This is a problem, a big problem. We have been spreading the word for quite a while now, about the downfalls of the different types of Halligans. The picture above happened yesterday, adding more credibility to the argument. This is not the first one on my FD that has broken, but it is the first one I have been around. These imitation tools breaking is not that rare of an event. My email has been filling up with guys from all over the country sending me pictures and stories regarding these tools breaking in similar fashions.

Here was the situation, the squad guys from my firehouse responded to an alarm and found that they needed to force entry into a house to access the person inside. They decided the need to get in did not require conventional forcible entry right away, so they went with the Rex Tool and did a great job going through-the-lock on both a key in the knob and a typical deadbolt. Their technique was great and was low impact enough that both locks were manipulated, but were still in working condition. This is a common practice for us to gain entry on medical or service call type situation on houses or apartments, most of the time we can lock everything back up (along with the homeowners keys still working) and you can barely tell we were inside.

The problem came after both locks had been tripped, the door still had resistance.  After recognizing that the door had a secondary device they moved to conventional Irons work and discovered that they had a 2×4 drop bar with fairly weak steel mounts on the backside of the inward swinging door. Not a big deal for them to overcome, but one of the variables that you don’t find on most single family homes. As they drove the tool in trying to set the forks to the proper depth, one of the axe blows broke the entire adze end of the tool off. They now had a little more challenging situation, they were still going to get the job done with what they had, this required them to strike the now exposed shaft of the tool to drive the bar rest of the way in. That takes a lot more trust of your striking guy when he’s swinging at a 1 inch piece of steel rod that you are holding! They overcame and forced the door with little difficulty after that.  Well done fellas.

Where the real problem lies is that a hand tool, made for the fire service, could be constructed and accepted at this level of quality. These bars are made of three different pieces, attached with a pin on each end to hold the working heads on or in the picture above circular welds all the way around the bar. It is a widespread problem across the country that these types of Halligans are put on front line rigs. What is the worst part? Its not for financial reasons, it usually a lack of attention to detail when ordering tools. You can buy a high quality bar that is made out of ONE PIECE FORGED STEEL for basically the same price as these imitations.  This is the meat and potatoes of our tool compliments, they should be made to work, work hard, and work with a very small likelihood of failure. They are pry bars!!! Who designs a pry bar that has the working end made out of separate pieces? The exact spot on the tool that has hundreds of pounds of leverage being applied to it!! It shouldn’t take a mechanical engineer to figure that one out.

The fire service is full of gimmicks, go to any fire equipment related web sites and you will see that a good portion of the tools and equipment that are marketed to us these days are only made to make money. Trust me, they would not continue to make all of these gimmicks if they were not being purchased by a large majority of us across the nation. You have to evaluate every tool and ask yourself “Is it a gimmick or not”? Most hand tools that come with 14 features and can turn off gas, turn on O2 bottles, pull a nail, cut drywall, then open sheet metal like a can opener, all while being a rope anchor should raise some red flags to us. I am not for one-second trying to say there has not been some amazing developments in our hand tools over the years, I am saying that the tools that have been around before all the gimmicks are still doing the job better than any multi-tool.  Axes, Halligans, Hooks, Hose, Rope and Wooden Chocks, it is hard to put something up against those time tested tools.

I use Pro-Bar Halligans plain and simple. Are they the only good bar out there? I highly doubt it, in fact I know of a couple others that I would love to test out and some guys would vouch for 100% (Aazel Tool Co. is one of the good Halligans in particular that I think would compete). That’s not what my experience has been with, so I will not speak to those. 30 inchPro Bars have superior construction, have a great amount of thought into the thicknesses, curves and designs of its working ends and have been proven on the fire ground for many years. I have already wrote an entire article on the differences of the Halligans found on the market. Please take a look at it here, it gives you all the information you need to compare the 3 Piece Bars v.s One Piece Pro Bars.  Here is the article Halligan Bars, They Are Not The Same

We have made the change in my FD and are now purchasing 30″ Pro Bar Halligans, it is encouraging progress and they have successfully been phasing out these other bars. Our work does not end there, we have to spread the knowledge and information about the differences in these tools, its the only way to make an impact. The proper information has to reach enough people on your own departments to create awareness on this topic. I do not represent Pro Bar or Fire Hooks Unlimited in any way, I will not make any money off of this next part, nor am I trying to pull some type of stunt to get more web traffic to our site. I am simply asking you, whoever is reading this today, to pass this on and let others see the differences in these tools. Last night when I posted that picture it went to over 5000 people in a matter of an hour or two. That didn’t happen because of my post, that happened because many of you thought it was worth talking about. It is the only way we will ever make a difference with what we will accept as properly made tools. Most of the comments reflected on how widespread this problem is. I am asking those guys out there that read this website and have very large blogs, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc, to please give me a hand on this one.  You are the ones that can make a difference, not me on this small website in my own little corner of the Fire Service world. So if you believe in the message of this post, and want to help spread this information please share it with others.

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11 Comments on “Imitation Halligans…A Setup For Failure.”

  1. Rhett Fleitz Says:

    Great article! We have two imitation bars on our rig…unfortunate at best.


    • It is all too common Rhett, I would make a guess and say that there are more of those 3 piece bars on rigs across the country than there are 1 piece bars.

  2. Steve Says:

    Ryan, We were out on an automatic water flow alarm last night and the RP info and the keys in the Knox were not up to date. In order to get into the sprinkler room we forced the door with the Pro Bar and did little to no damage to the door or the frame. We were able to ease the latch past the Strike plate and open the door to shut off the water. It only took a couple of seconds to do and we were able to secure the door when we were done. The Halligan is versatile prying tool that works.


  3. Thanks to your article you wrote way back, we got our logistics chief to stop buying anything by the 30″ Pro Bars. Thanks for passing this on as well!

  4. Dean Street Says:

    Fellas,
    Great Work!!! Proud to say I had the opportunity to work with you in the Springs!!!Keep up the GREAT WORK and BE SAFE!!!!!!!


  5. Good content, I enjoyed reading it. Thank you!

  6. Zeke Slavik DCFD Says:

    This word needs to get out more. In fact, if I were a member of any of the surviving decendants of Chief Halligan I would be offended by anyone labeling them anything other than hooligans.

    We were given a large, pre civil war era constructed building in the summer of 2010 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (John Hinckley) to sharpen our skills. Most of our hooligans have been phased out but a company brought one in and set the adze in a tight sealed steel door that opended towards them. They performed a crush manuever and it failed to remain in one piece. Many people in the fire service have no clue what they’re holding is not a Halligan in
    many ways.

  7. Frank B Says:

    I passed my Halligan(with Hugh A Halligan forged into the tool) to my son-in-law….Capt. in a Rescue squad in Md…..Rescued from a home demolition in Island Park ,New York


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