Posted tagged ‘halligan tool’

Fine Tuning Your Halligan


                           By R. Royal

 The Halligan (Pro Bar)  is hands down the most important and versatile forcible entry tool we carry on the rigs. We have had a few different articles on this website regarding the Halligan, some about the differences between the Pro Bar and its imitations, also understanding the advantages of bevel to the jamb, versus bevel to the door during inward swinging forcible entry operations. This next article is to discuss a few little modifications that can be done that make this tool even more superior.  

The first two improvements just assist you in seeing what you should be feeling when setting the tool. What we have done as seen in the pictures below is scratch a small thin line and add some drops of red paint to show our proper depths when setting the tool. After enough practice with the tool, setting to the proper depth should come  just by feel, but adding these marks just makes it that much easier.

The first mark we have added is on the Adze end. This mark has been scratched in at about 1 3/4. This is the standard width of commonly found doors, by making this mark it will assist us in knowing when the adze is about to hit the jamb on outward swinging doors. This can assist us in navigating the Adze around the back of the door and not tearing into the jamb. It also can prevent us from stopping to shallow and then tearing the skin and seam of the door when we start to make our gap.

The second mark is made on the fork end and is used for inward swinging doors.  This mark has been made to show where the “crotch” of the fork is. As you can see in the picture the crotch is where the two forks come together and meet. We want to make our marks on both sides lining up with the crotch of the fork. This landmark comes from the term “crotch to stop”. Basically our tool is set to the proper depth when this “crotch” or red mark has lined up near the back of the door stop or jamb. This can be very helpful to prevent you from stopping to shallow, or going to deep when the Halligan is being driven in very quickly. If we drive it in to far we lose a large amount of leverage when we go to force. When it is stopped to shallow, it becomes very easy for the forks to slip out when you force the bar. Again this just makes it a little easier to see, and is a very big aid in teaching the concepts of crotch to stop.

The next two pictures below show what should be  necessary maintenance to the tool. The next step is a very slight change but goes a real long way. I think this is the number one improvement you can make to this tool. This may be difficult to explain through writing, but we will give it a shot. When the Halligan comes from the factory the ends of the fork will have a bevel to it. It is a dull bevel and is in the center, on the tip of these forks. What we have done is filed down the ends of these forks slightly, thinning them and giving the tips more of an edge. Instead of having the dull bevel in the middle of the tips, they come to a clean edge on the inside of the bevel.  This makes a huge difference on inward swinging doors that are set very tight to the jamb. It will make enough difference that the clean edge will probably bite and start to navigate around the door whereas the old bevel may tend to bounce off many times.

Lastly we have the squared shoulders of the fork. When the bar comes from the factory it has a small curve from the handle into the forks. What you can do is file down the curve into a nice right angle like you see here. This has created a new striking surface that we can use when alternate techniques are required. Such as tight hallways or cellar entrances, low visibility, or when there is only ne firefighter available to start forcible entry,  this small change allows that to happen. This will enables one guy to effectively get started doing both the striking and the Halligan work on a door (which we will hit on a later date).

You can find numerous different improvements out there that have been done to these tools, we feel these are the most advantageous for what we do and really can make a difference in how they perform. Like many other articles on here, again we say we didn’t invent this stuff, just feel it is worthy information that should be passed on to those who wish to use it.

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.

Check out these old pictures from the original Halligan ads.

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

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