Halligan bars….they are not the same.
The Halligan Bar
By Ryan Royal
In any profession, how well you know your tools directly reflects in the way you use them. A well made tool has obvious design and durability advantages in comparison to the cheaply made imitations. This is true with anything from channel locks to Halligan bars. A well made tool is typically easy to identify if you pay attention to the details. Sometimes the fire service will sacrifice quality for price. This seems insignificant at the time, until we call upon the tool to perform. Very rarely will a good mechanic settle for a cheap set of sockets, or a seasoned electrician use a set of discount lineman pliers. It is our responsibility as the grunts, the ones who will have the most hands on time with the tools to educate ourselves in the quality that they are made. If we are carrying sub standard forcible entry tools, the only way we can effect change is to be educated in their differences.
What we call the “Halligan Bar” has transformed through the years into many different variations. The original tool was made by Hugh Halligan in the 1940’s. This tool was an in-house invention and maybe the most widely used tool in the fire service. Hugh Halligan also invented the Halligan hook (also commonly known as the roof hook). The whole history of these tools can be an entire article in itself, but a major point to take from this is two of the most durable and useful tools still used today were developed by some creative firehouse ingenuity. Developed by problems that were identified on the fireground, taken back to the firehouse, and solved by a man who designed every specification for a reason. The problem with many of today’s different types of bars is they have varied from the specs of the original design in a negative way.
The tool that has stayed most true to the original specs and has actually improved on them is the Pro Bar. The Pro Bar has numerous advantages over its competition which are poor imitations of a Halligan. We will discuss some of the key points that make the Pro Bar superior as they relate with the following pictures.
The picture above shows you an overview of three types of “Halligans”. The Pro Bar (the upper most) is one piece drop forged steel, no parts to fail and at 30 inches is the perfect length. The other two are longer and are made by three pieces attached together. The details can be seen better in these close-ups. Many people buy a 36″ bar because they want extra leverage, however the 30 ” bar has plenty of leverage to defeat very fortified doors but will also fit inside of most standard door frames, something that the 36″ bar may not be able to do, but instead will hit the wall when you apply the leverage.
PICTURE 1 – (The Pro Bar fork is on the right)
(PICTURE 1) This picture of the forks shows you the big differences between the fork end of the bar. You can see the one piece construction of the Pro Bar on the right and the two imitations on the left. As you can see, the three piece bars have been attached by a pin, and/or a weld. You can also see the tapered V shape of the space in between the forks of the Pro Bar. This angle of the fork gives you a good design to slide over hinges and take a solid bite to keep the bar in place.
PICTURE 2 – (Pro Bar fork is on the right)
(PICTURE 2) The side view of the forks shows one of the most critical differences in the bars, the difference that makes the Pro Bar the well designed tool. You can see the Pro Bar has a nice gradual curve of the forks to give you the leverage you need once the tool is set. The key advantage is how much thinner the forks are, this allows you to set the tool on those tight inward swinging doors/jambs. The other two bars have an obvious thickness to them that adds to the problem of what we are trying to defeat. Why would we want our tool to work against us? If the door we are trying to defeat is worth its weight, then we are going to want the thinnest possible fork to drive in between the door and the jamb. The well designed curve is what gives us the leverage not the thickness of the fork. If the fork is too thick we will not be able to set the tool deep enough to even apply the leverage.
PICTURE 3 – ( Pro Bar adze on the Left )
(PICTURE 3) The last picture shows you the adze end of the tool. The adze end could be the most useful part of the tool, especially if you are using one-man techniques. The Pro Bar adze is longer than the imitation bars and has a gradual curve to it. The curve gives us a high point on the adze that creates more leverage then its flat competitors. The length of the adze also gives you an added reach when you begin to pass it by the jamb of outward swinging doors.
The other part of the adze end of the tool is the pike. The pike is difficult to see in this picture but the differences are obvious if you have a chance to look at them in your own firehouse. The pike of the Pro Bar has a gradual curve to it, and is also much thinner then the imitation bars. The thickness of the other pikes is a disadvantage because of the resistance they cause when you need to drive them into material. The Pro Bars thin pike makes easy work of driving it through a metal door. This becomes very important if you are attempting to defeat carriage bolt heads with your irons. The less resistance the better and that is what the Pro Bar provides.
Nothing in this is new, like many things in the fire service, it is tried and true knowledge that has been passed down to us. It is important that this information is passed along so you can develop your own opinions, with that said this is an easy and obvious opinion to form for anyone that has been using Pro Bar Halligans.
EDIT: Right after posting this I was talking to Andrew Brassard from Brotherhood instructors. He also just wrote an informative article on this topic. We must have been thinking the same thing for a holiday article, both of these echo each other. Please take a look at his to reinforce what was said in this article. They also have a great picture of a three piece bar that has failed.Here is the link……Thanks Andrew for the heads up.
Next Up: Modifications and Alternate uses of the Halligan