Archive for the ‘1. Forcible Entry’ category

Overcoming The Wall On Recessed Doors


By B. Brush and R. Royal

Commercial outward swinging doors can be some of the most difficult forcible entry situations due to the locking systems and added fortification but what is often overlooked in training is access challenges.

This outward swinging  door on the back of a commercial building has a half wall on the hinge side and the jamb side is recessed in the masonry block. While few would consider the “confined space FE” it still limits our working area. The half wall may prevent the use of a married hook here and the recessed jamb limits the prying ability of our adze.

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You can see that the Halligan is going to max out before we even use half of our full prying range of this bar, this could easily prevent us from getting enough leverage to force the door.

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The upside to this situation is that end of row bricks and block are very weak points and can be blown out easily with a strike to the corner with the flat head creating ample room for a full force.

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You can now return to your Halligan and properly set the tool all the way behind the door. When you pry outwards you will have the full range of motion and gain the maximum amount of pry and throw from your Halligan.

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This can be difficult to fully explain and see the advantage of this tactic in photos. Below is a quick video showing how effective crushing the block can be.

March 30th 2013 Tri Lakes FD Forcible Entry Class


Here is a small look into the forcible entry class that IRONS and LADDERS put on today at the Tri Lakes Monument Fire Department. The full gallery of photos can be found at was a great day of forcing doors and perfecting our craft. Thank you to all who attended this class. 


March 3rd 2013 Denver Metro Forcible Entry Class


UPDATE: This Class Is Full – Watch for other Denver area classes in the near future.

Here is the first class of the season, it will be on March 3rd 2013 in Littleton Colorado and will be open to any and all firefighters wishing to attend. If you have not attended one of our classes yet we would love to see you there. You will walk away with confidence using a Halligan on most situations you can come across in the field. The amount of hands on practice using real doors and props will change the way you view forcible entry in just a days time. If you have taken our class and thought it was worth your time, please share this with your friends. Thank you.

Click on the flyer for a larger, printable PDF file


Do Not Fear…The Panic Bar Is Here.


Here is a short Public Service Announcement from your friends at IRONS and LADDERS. This discusses and demonstrates forcible entry on the commonly found panic bars. There is a lot of tricks floating around the internet regarding panic hardware on commercial doors. Not all of them are right or wrong, however most are undependable as a Plan A. Watch the video and end the Panic.

Modified Rex Tool Video


Here is a short clip of my modified Rex Tool being used to go through the lock on a storefront door with a mortise cylinder. I have been carrying this modified Rex for almost 5 years now and have to say it is probably the most versatile through the lock tool you can have. I don’t carry it all the time but it goes in my pocket for fires, service calls, investigations, etc. Through the lock is a great Plan A on a good majority of Aluminum Stile Doors with Mortise Cylinders. However, it will never happen if you’re not carrying your Rex, this helps you in that complication. 

Door Size Up Training


Another throwback article. Here is a collection of all the door size up articles we have posted over the years. Each of these work great to sit down with a couple of guys on the computer and practice your size up. You can scroll down and see the outside of the door, give it your best shot, and then scroll down to see the interior and the following write up. If you can go through these without much difficulty it shows that you are pretty dialed in when it comes to understanding doors and locking systems. Door size up matters, its what bases your forcible entry operation off of knowledge instead of luck.  Any questions, comment on this article and we will get back to you.

Door Size Up #1

Door Size Up #2

Door Size Up #3

Door Size Up #4

Door Size Up #5

Door Size Up #6

Door Size Up #7

Door Size Up #8

Door Size Up #9

Door Size Up #10

Door Size Up #11

Door Size Up #12

Door Size Up #13

Revisiting the Past


While I gear up for some new material I thought it was appropriate to revisit some of the most popular articles that have been posted on here over the last couple of years. These all deal with forcible entry, but we do write stuff based on other topics believe it or not, it just seems like the best ones usually come from the technical side of forcible entry, and really breaking down the basics. Thanks for the support. Never did I imagine these articles would get as many views as they did, it is encouraging and what drives me to continue posting more. Thanks

Here is an old one, where we break down the differences in quality made Halligans that are designed for work, and other bars that are sold to make money without function in mind. Make sure you know the difference before your next purchases.
Halligan Bars…They are not the same. 

Here we are breaking down the basics and the noticeable differences between mortise and rim cylinders. The more we know about their function, the easier it is for us to operate them when the time comes to go through the lock. Take the time now, to make this operation only a few seconds when it counts.
Mortise Cylinders V.S Rim Cylinders

Halligans will do the job straight from the factory, but are they at their best? Absolutely not. This will guide you through the steps to take your Halligan from a sloppy high school football player and turn it into a well tuned Super Bowl champion. Make sure your bar is ready for game day.   Fine Tuning Your Halligan

The Truckies version of the great nozzle debate, which way do you prefer to set your Halligan when forcing inward swinging doors? Neither way is wrong, as long as you know the strengths and weaknesses of each.                                                                        Bevel To The Door V.S Bevel To The Jamb

Here is the specs that we have found to create the most spot on set of modified channelocks we can come up with. If your ready to make a pair for yourself, check out this article for a step by step guide to walk you through it.  Thru The Lock Pliers (Modified Channelocks)

This article talks about an experience that backs up everything we have ever spoke about regarding real halligans v.s their cheaper made counter parts. Don’t get caught in the fire service gimmicks! Imitation Halligans, A Setup For Failure.

A short simple article covering a great street proven way to clear your flooded saw. This is basic saw 101 information, but it can make or break your whole operation when it counts. Make sure you know how to field clear your saw.  Clearing A Flooded Saw

I hear over and over again, “Oh, this one has a drops bar, we would  have to wait for the saws”, well we are here to say the Irons are a powerful tool, and we should be taught solid tactics with hands tools and how to overcome everything possible with the Irons before we ever wait for any mechanical tool. The better you are with the Irons, the better you will be with the saws. Are you ready to handle anything with your Irons?  Tonights Matchup…Irons V.S Carriage Bolts.

As you can see by the articles, we Love a good set of Irons!!

Door Size Up # 13


Sometimes in forcible entry what you see is what you get.  Many doors we’ve posted have shown signs of secondary security features from the exterior that turned out to be exactly what we predicted when doing our door size up.  Other times the backside of the door revealed that what we thought may be a difficult door is nothing more than a 20-30 second force with good conventional technique.  The only definitive way to know what we’re up against is to get out in our district and walk the buildings.  Now to the door in question.  This door is found in a one story strip mall on the backside of a medical marijuana shop.  We apologize in advance for the shadows in the picture.  Neither shadow hides anything pertaining to our door size-up.  Run down our size up points and see what you think.


Masonry construction

Metal Frame and jamb

Outward swinging metal door

Primary lock has been covered by a plate and latch guard.  The lack of a keyway on the exterior could indicate that the owners only want traffic through that door from the interior and don’t want anyone using it as an entrance or it could mean that the locking mechanism has been removed and replaced with something else.

The carriage bolt pattern suggests an additional security device has been added. This pattern is unique because we see two vertical rows of deadbolts with three bolts in each row.  The bottom deadbolts in each row appears to have been removed.



When we look at the backside of the door we see what we are up against.  The key-in-knob lock has been removed and replaced with panic hardware.  The latch guard on the exterior of the door leads some people to believe that there is a key-in-knob or deadbolt as the primary locking mechanism.  In this case it turns out to be a false indicator and most likely was left on the door after the panic hardware was installed.  As we predicted, the carriage bolt pattern seen from the exterior holds the brackets for the drop bar in place.  The bottom of each vertical row is not a factor in the drop bar assembly.  It was originally the bottom bolts for an old drop bar assembly and was removed when the panic hardware was installed.

There are several interesting points about this drop bar assembly that are worth mentioning.  First and foremost this drop bar is incredibly stout.  A 4×4 that extends 6”-8”  beyond the frame against the wall will add resistance to our forcible entry operation.  Secondly, the brackets used to hold the drop bar are 1/4” steel.  Very strong mounts like these will increase the resistance during conventional forcible entry operations.  It’s worth noting the padlock on the bracket closest to the lock side of the door.  This is in place to prevent someone from cutting a hole in the door, reaching in and lifting the drop bar out of the brackets.  This shouldn’t be a factor in our forcible entry operation on this door.  Lastly we look at the carriage bolts that attach the bracket to the door. These are 3/8” carriage bolts that are bolted to the brackets on the backside of the door.  We’ve stated many times that the most advantageous part of using the probar is that it will expose the weakest part of the locking mechanism.  Even though this is a solidly built drop bar assembly, the weak point is going to be the carriage bolts.  Try conventional first.  If you meet resistance from the drop bar, drive the carriage bolts through closest to the lock side.  Many times this will cause the drop bar and mount to fall out of place and we can force the rest of the door conventionally.  A second option would be to attack this door with a power saw also defeating the bolts which will cause the mount to be defeated. Either way, attack the lock side bolts first for the sake of efficiency, many times this will cause the bar to become ineffective allowing us to go back to conventional and finish the job, if not we will work the hinge side bolts.

March 16 2012 Hands On Forcible Entry Class


Announcing our first class of the year. March 16th, 2012 at the Stratmoor Hills Fire Station just south of Colorado Springs. This class is open enrollment and firefighters from any department are welcome. Spots are limited, please click the flyer below. Register now to secure your spot. We have numerous other classes in the works, please contact us if you would like to host a class in 2012.

All registration information and ways to contact can be found in the flyer.

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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