Tonights Matchup….Irons v.s. Carriage Bolts

As you know we are fans of the Irons. We believe in the Irons as our “Plan A” until a door shows us to move on to Plan B (Which still probably involves the Irons). Our opinion is typically the minority when it comes to this thought process, it seems most of the time people lean towards saws as Plan A.  Not that saws shouldn’t be in your compliment of forcible entry options, because they absolutely are a necessary tool. However an Irons team that is polished and have a game plan can defeat a wide variety of doors quicker and more reliably than saws on many occasions. Some other big advantages is that Irons will not have mechanical problems, they always start, you will not run out of blade, and almost every rig in the nation carry them. The following technique is great for engine companies and truck companies alike.

Drops bars are a very common secondary security device added to commercial doors. We have shown many different types of drops bars in our door size up posts over the last few months. While there are some limitations depending on the construction of the drop bar mount, a large portion of carriage bolt setups can be defeated with this tactic. This primarily applies to outward swinging metal doors. The mounts are defeated by using a set of Irons to drive the bolts through the door disabling the holding power of the drop bar. The series of pictures below will cover this technique in detail. This combined with conventional forcible entry techniques for the primary locks is a powerful combination.

Sizing up the drop bar is key to determine if this tactic may be successful or not. We have tried this tactic on a wide variety of doors and drop bar setups. By doing this we have found many doors it works well on, and other setups that it may not be your best option. The most common carriage bolts used for drop bars are usually 3/8 inch, which are fairly easy to defeat this way. We have also used this on 1/2 and 3/4 inch carriage bolts with only a little added difficulty. The three doors below are good examples of bolts that can be quickly defeated. If you look closer at the door on the right you can see washers installed, this is one of the best things a business owner can install to prevent his carriage bolts from being defeated. The bolts on the right can still be defeated but they will take longer, the larger the washers the more difficult it will be.

Click the thumbnails below for a bigger picture.

Below are some examples of setups that will slow us down or completely prevent us from using this technique. When you look at the first door you can see the washers are very large, these have so much surface area that it becomes more difficult to drive through the metal. This is not impossible just slower. The next two doors however should tell you to try a different technique. These have steel plates mounted on the outside that are under both of the bolts. You cannot drive these through in an efficient manner. The last photo is an interior look of a drop bar. This bar will look like a good candidate from the outside but as you can see the inside is welded to the door. The list goes on, it is just important to recognize that if the operation is not progressing like it would on most bolts, move on to Plan B.

Enough rambling about the size up part of this operation, here are the steps of actually doing it. We are assigned to a door that needs forced, it has a normal key in the knob lock, a deadbolt and a carriage bolt pattern that is indicating a drop bar. Always start with conventional forcible entry, you never know when the bar has not been put in place and all this door may be is the primary locks. After we attempt our Irons work on the lock side and we determine the drop bar is also part of the resistance, we move on to attacking the bolts. You should start with the bolts on the lock side of the door, not the hinge side. Many times you will only have to defeat those first two bolts and one of two things happen. Either the mount will fall causing the drop bar to fall out, or it may stay in place but you gain enough give in the door to leverage it open. Regardless starting on the lock side is important, and then work your way to the hinge side only if it is needed. After the first set of bolts is defeated go back to conventional forcible entry to see if this was all you needed.

Place the pike of the Halligan either right above or below the bolt head. Try to aim the curve of the pike so it will follow the length of the bolt.

Drive the Halligan in until it is flush with the door, this is the relief hole and it will significantly weaken the metal that holds this bolt, if not completely free it up. While the pike is set, twist the Halligan back and forth once to weaken the material further.

Next center the adze on top of the bolt head and drive it through. This will have a little bit more resistance but should still only take a few hits. If it is not moving through easily, stop and take a look at whats holding it up and reposition.

This should defeat the first bolt. The important thing is to be creative, the doors will not always react and tear the same. But as a rule of thumb this is a great way to start. If the mounts on the back are of solid construction, one variable may arise. The mounting may be too ridgid to be able to drive a bolt completely through while the other one is still in place. If this happens drive the bolt through the outside skin of the door, then move to the other bolt on the same mount and drive it through the outside skin. Once both bolts are in between the two skins of the door you can resume driving them the remaining distance.

The only way to get a feel of this is to try it. Mount an old metal door and put a bunch of bolts on it. Get different sizes, add washers, and add drop bar mounts to the back side. Practicing this technique makes for an effective attack with you Irons. Below is a video demonstrating a full speed drill of us driving some bolts through a commercial metal door. We have some other videos of an interior and exterior footage of an actual drop bar being defeated. We will add that in a second post at a later date. This is already long winded enough for the day.

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5 Comments on “Tonights Matchup….Irons v.s. Carriage Bolts”

  1. bv Says:

    a fast and effective method. great post and keep up the good work.

  2. Ryan Says:

    nice! I’ve never taken a formal FE class, now I know how to do that. Awesome. one of these days I’ll take a FE class at FDIC or something.

  3. J Martin Says:

    Informative and detailed. Thanks again, I&L.

  4. Lynch Says:

    This reinforces using the irons as “plan A” regardless of how formidable a door appears. I think it’s important that when attacking the carriage bolts, the ones closest to the lock side of the door should be attacked first. If the drop bar fails and drops after the first two bolts are driven through it will mean less work for the entry team.

  5. Brett Pickford Says:

    Nice detail.


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