Posted tagged ‘drop bars’

Drop Bar Weak Points


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Drop bars are by far the most common secondary security device we find on doors. Most setups take very little skill to build and they provide good protection from most criminals. This makes it appealing to most business owners, it can be done with their skill level and common materials. If the business owner wants to spend a little more money they can have a wide variety of styles fabricated. I have too many pictures of drop bars to count, the designs are endless and limited only to the citizens imagination. I have been fortunate enough to force drops bars that were very weak all the way up to some designs that were extremely strong. Over and over again we find that solid techniques with a good order of operations will defeat almost everything they can come up with. I know we have the extremes out there, that will cause a curveball no matter what type of tactic you use. However a large majority will always show there weak points with our standard tactics.

Here is how we approach a door that is showing signs of a drop bar.

A. Gap-Set-Force. So many doors are defeated before you move on to anything other than standard prying with the Irons. This is our Plan A and I like to try it every time. It either defeats it or gives you a real good feel of the door.

B. Add a 6′ Hook cheater bar (or a second firefighter on the Halligan) It is quick and it adds a ton of leverage. We have found it extremely effective and again saves you a ton of time when it works.

C. Defeat the bolts closest to the lock side of the door. Doesn’t matter if you use saws or you drive the bolts through. The key is to attack the bolts on the lock side. Then go back to prying.

D. Anytime you get enough spread in the door during this process you can insert this move. When the door spreads even a few inches. Stick the NY hook or the axe head into the gap and pound the bar up and out of the mounts.

E. Worst case scenario, you take out the last set of carriage bolts on the hinge side of the door. This is rare you have to go that far, but every once in a while if it is really holding on.

Look at the picture below and we will hit a couple of the weak points that reinforces the tactics we listed above and why we do them in that order.

Bar #1 – A very standard looking bolt pattern with standard drop bar mounts. All of that is secured with an old broom stick. Gap-Set-Force defeats this before you ever have to move past Plan A.

Bar #2 – Strong looking bolt pattern, strong mounts, 1/2 steel bar, all good materials used in this setup. The weak point is they made the bar go behind the 1/2 jamb instead of making it go behind the wall. With good prying you will defeat this bar because of the lack of bite it has on the metal frame. I’ll bet GSF defeats this, but worse case you add the 6′ hook and this is a goner.

Bar # 3 – Commercially made drop bar. Usually these tend to be weaker than most homemade versions. A couple weak points on this one. A single bolt is used for each mount, and again like the last bar it is only mounted behind the jamb instead of the frame. GSF should win again, but driving a single bolt if not will take this bar out without question.

Bar# 4- Standard bolt pattern followed up by a substantial 4×4 that goes all the way behind the wall. The mounts are also made of good steel and have a padlock to prevent us from sticking a tool in and knocking it out. It still has a weak point. Prying may not get you as far on this door, but you have two carriage bolts exposed on the outside that will easily disable the strength of this system.

Bar# 5- Three mounts showing from the outside instead of two, they are also reinforced with washers which can make driving them with a Halligan a little more difficult. However, this door reinforces why we always try GSF with our Irons first because I can’t tell you how many times we have seen them removed like you see here.

Bar#6 – Very impressive setup from the outside of the door. Large bolts that have been welded to a thick plate. This makes driving bolts through a poor choice and even makes saw work difficult. But if we stick to our plan we will expose the weak point during our prying operation. Don’t let the plate distract you. The mounts have a flaw, they are very short, so even though the bar is well made from steel the height and thickness of that mount has proven to us over and over again that we will usually defeat this with GSF and adding in our 6′ hook for leverage.

Long winded I know, but just a couple of thoughts of why we do what we do. We really go in depth on how to defeat drop bars in our hands on forcible entry classes. If you are not in our area we also have a large collection of YouTube videos defeating many of the drop bars that you see in this picture. Check it out.
Ryan Royal

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.

Door Size Up #12


Door #12, Take a look and give it a shot.

Here we are looking at the backside of a commercial retail building. We have a 1 story masonry block building with a metal frame/jamb and a set of outward swinging metal double doors.  With it being outward swinging on the backside of a commercial it is fairly safe to assume that our primary lock is a panic bar or at least was at some point and may have been removed. We won’t know until we start to force it. You can ignore what appears to be two sets of black bolts both high and low on the middle of the two doors. These are holes from previous bolts that you would have been able to see.

We have an obvious bolt pattern showing that we have a secondary security feature to this door. This is a fairly run of the mill drop bar bolt pattern when we are looking from the outside. It may be a little more significant due to the three mounts per door instead of two, but it is still fairly common.

Once we see the inside it is apparent that this door is a little more secure than it appears from the outside. We can see that the stock panic bar is still in place and would be considered our primary lock. We have multiple secondary locks. If you look above the panic bar you can see we have a slide bolt that was blind from the outside. We also see our drop bar mount setup, which in this picture does not have the bar in place.


When we look closer at the drop bar mounts you can see they are designed much better than our typical setups. The mounts are one piece of steel instead of each set of bolts having its own mount. It is also welded to the skin of the door on both ends of the mount.

This presents a couple of problems that you wouldn’t normally find with individual mounts. The solid mount all the way across will make it very difficult if not impossible to drive these bolts through with a set of irons. As you attack one set of bolts, the other bolts will hold that steel mount in place preventing the heads from being driven through. The welds also add to these problems. If you attacked the bolts with a saw allowing the heads to fall off, you still have the welds holding the bar to the door. This is why it is important for us to move back and forth from conventional irons work and saw techniques. If we cut these bolts attempting to drop the mounts off, we may not realize that the welds are present until we go back to conventional techniques and try to pry the door open. Welds can be intimidating and when done right can add significant strength to a homemade security system, however when not done properly (especially when welded to the thin door skin) it can actually weaken the holding metal for the mounts. Either way after these bolts have been defeated we should attack this door conventionally again.

Lastly you can see the 3/8 inch steel drop bar that is put in place and goes all the way across both doors. This again stresses the importance of getting out into our buildings and recognizing the variables in these drop bar systems. It may just take away some of the surprise when we go to bat against them on the real thing. It is a decent set of doors, but with a solid Plan A, B and C  I am confident we can defeat them.

Door Size Up #10


This door is on the backside of a single story “L” shaped strip mall.  The store is used as an army surplus outlet.  Run down the key size up points and see what you think. The double doors are set in masonry construction.  What else do we see?

  1. Metal frame and metal jamb
  2. Outward swinging double metal doors
  3. Primary lock is key in knob
  4. Carriage bolt pattern on both doors indicative of a drop bar
  5. Carriage bolt pattern 18” above the lock suggestive of a hasp or possible slide bolt

The interior view of this door shows us what we are up against.  As we predicted we have a key in knob lock and a drop bar with a hasp that is padlocked.  There are several interesting points about this door.  As we could tell by the exterior picture, the seam where the doors come together has a wide gap (approximately 1/2”).  The occupant has attached a 1/8” piece of steel that runs the length of the doors to prevent anyone from trying to lift the drop bar out of place or manipulate the primary lock. These strips on the back of the door come standard on many double door setups, but many times occupants will fabricate their own to increase the security. This is the main reason you should force the lock side door when doing double doors. You want to force the one that closes last because that metal strip acts as a stop for the main door. If your pry on the secondary door you will be working against that strip.   Secondly, the drop bar is 1/4” steel that rests on two brackets on either door.  The weight and placement of the drop bar will be beneficial to us when we start to force entry.  The weight of this bar could be an advantage as we drive the carriage bolts through because it may cause the brackets to fail even quicker. Another thing to remember on double doors is to force the bolts on the primary door first, don’t waste your time taking all the bolts out across the whole door because it is not needed.  Also, note where the drop bar ends.  It only extends the width of the frame, greatly decreasing the degree of difficulty.  Lastly we have the hasp that is padlocked together.  This may offer a little more resistance because the lock is elevated slightly and will cause us to lose a little leverage when we force the door.  It should not be anything that we can’t overcome using the irons.

Door Size Up #9


Here is door size up number 9, Thanks to B. Lynch for putting this one together.

This door is found on the backside of an old single story convenience store.  The store has since been renovated and is now used as a Korean beauty supply shop.  We’ll give you a little information why this size up is unique.  The first is the issue of adequate space on the exterior of the building.  The store backs up to a strip mall and a bar.  There is a wooden fence and gate that is padlocked that accesses the rear of the beauty shop and bar.  There is approximately four feet of space between both buildings hence the exterior pictures had to be taken at an angle.  Run down our key size-up points and see what you think.

We gave you the construction and occupancy but what else do we see?

  1. Metal Frame and metal jamb
  2. Metal door
  3. Primary lock is key in knob with a latch guard
  4. Secondary lock is a commercial deadbolt
  5. The carriage bolt pattern suggests an additional locking device has been added.  The likelihood is small that this is a drop bar because of the unusual pattern of the carriage bolts.  However, in our haste to access this door we may mistake this for a drop bar.  Another note about the carriage bolts is the size of the washers behind them.  This will add difficulty in driving the carriage bolts through the door should we choose to employ that tactic.
  6. We also see slide bolt patterns in the door in three different places.  On the hinge side directly below the top hinge and on the jamb side about a foot below the deadbolt and about three feet above the key in knob lock.

 The only real unknown we see is the unusual pattern of the carriage bolts on the exterior of the door.  Like we said before this could indicate the presence of a traditional drop bar with the two vertical bolts securing a bracket and the other bracket either welded to the door or the frame.  This doesn’t account for the carriage bolt mounted dead center of the door.  Taking a look at the back of the door reveals what we are up against.  As suspected we have a key in knob lock, deadbolt, and three separate slide bolts.  The unusual carriage bolt pattern on the front of the door is a modified drop bar.  The circular pattern on the door reveals how it functions.  The arm swivels and rests in the bracket.  It sits against the frame in an “L” shape and prevents the door from being opened.  

At first glance this door appears to be a formidable task.  Taking a closer look at the locking mechanisms reveals several things.  The slide bolts mounted near the top of the door do not match up with the holes drilled in the frame.  In other words they are not functioning locks.  The bottom slide bolt throws less than 2” into the frame and is held on by only two small screws.  This slide bolt will fail very easily with a little leverage applied via the Irons.  The latch guard, key in the knob, and deadbolt will be fairly easily and quickly defeated by the irons with basic techniques. If the slide bolt is not defeated by way of the conventional techniques on the jamb, we have numerous ways of defeating the carriage bolts either by irons or the saw.  The swiveling drop bar may be defeated be either attacking the lone carriage bolt in the center of the door or attacking the two vertical bolts next to the key in knob lock.  Either way this door will be defeated with by tried and true techniques and the Irons.

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.

Door Size Up #2


The second door we have is an interesting one. It is very obvious upon size up that we have multiple security features to this door (which is not always this obvious). Take a look and a guess…..then scroll down and see if you were in the ballpark.

Remember the key points to look at sizing up before you plan your attack.

  •  Building Occupancy (which we will give you) 
  • Construction type
  • Which way it swings
  • Type of door/material
  • Type of jamb/frame material
  • Locking devices and bolt patterns (primary, secondary and so on)

This door was found on the backside of a L-shaped 2 story wood frame commercial. The building has multiple storefronts, and many business on the second floor also. This specific unit was a large rental center and the tenant had multiple previous break ins.

And here is the first step of the interior.

Just as you begin to think you’re getting a handle on the door you find this next.

What was the outside telling us??

Just walking up to this door we can see pretty obvious signs of heavy fortification. The numbers above go along with the following descriptions:

  1. We have a typical  door handle and rim cylinder combination. This type of hardware showing, along with knowing the occupancy, will tell you this has panic hardware on the backside. This lock setup is not very substantial alone, and may be all that is holding this door shut if it is daytime hours.
  2. Next we have two sets of carriage bolts mounted right above the panic hardware setup. These bolts should tip us off to some kind of drop bar mounts installed on the inside.
  3. Third we have two sets of 4 pattern carriage bolts. One set up high and one down low. These more than likely tell us that we have either slide bolts into the jamb, or padlock hasps installed. The location of the bolts near the edge of the door and the pattern of the four bolts are what is unique to these types of setups.
  4. The fourth characteristic basically tells us they have fabricated something inside that requires heavy-duty anchors through the entire exterior wall. Untill you see the inside, you could be thinking a number of things.

How do we defeat this?

Many people give this door much more credit than it deserves. The doors looks impressive from the outside and has some great points for talking about size up, however this door can be handled with a set of irons and some assistance from the saw. It is going to take longer than some but is still very reasonable to make as an option on the fire ground. Don’t let the internet fool you, C4, trucks with chains, find another door or this is impossible are not viable answers.

  1. Start conventional, Gap Set Force. During daytime hours this door was regularly locked with just the panic door. If that’s the case we are in with ease. If it is all buttoned up the halligan will still expose the weak points and we can conventionally pry open every lock you see on the outside door.
  2. Pry near the primary lock and the drop bar bolts, this is a great starting point and will be defeated with a set of irons and a hook if needed. This will also tell us what else is locked on the door.
  3. Next pry near either the upper or lower set of bolts that is the slide bolt. These offer some decent resistance if they are mounted correctly but can be overcome with irons. If one is ever holding on a little better than normal, the 6′ hook as a cheater will destroy these.
  4. After that this door is open to the roll down gate. Remember if you have a running saw you can always cut the shafts of these carriage bolts to assist you with loosening everything up. I am not anti saw and would absolutely do this also, just know irons can get you in these basic locks. When using the saw make smart cuts, start with the bolts on the lock side, ignore everything on the hinge side unless it is needed.
  5. While we are working on the outside door, hopefully someone has sent for the saw by the time we get to the roll down door behind it. This is going to be forced by the saw much quicker at this point.

Check out our commercial forcible entry videos on you tube for detailed instructions on forcing this exact type of door.

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