Posted tagged ‘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.

Bevel to the Door vs. Bevel to the Jamb


Bevel to the door or bevel to the jamb?…..that is the question. The main intention of this article is to compare the differences in the two ways the fork end of the Halligan can be used on inward swinging doors. Both ways can be used  with very effective results, but knowing why we choose to use one way or the other is important. They both have advantages and disadvantages, but as long as we recognize these advantages and use them in conjunction with each other it makes for a great combination. For clarification we refer to the bevel as the outside of the curve, it will be much clearer when looking at the pictures. This comparison applies to Pro Bar Halligans, although some of the info will pertain to other bars, it is written based of the use of the Pro Bars.

After we obtain a proper gap of the door(  based on wood or metal jambs) we must move to our fork and choose to either place the bevel to the jamb (as seen below) or bevel to the door. First we will cover bevel to the jamb. Bevel to the jamb allows us a few advantages when setting the tool to the proper depth. As you can see below the angle of the fork wants to naturally guide itself around the door. Because of this angle it leaves us with much less resistence on a metal frame, and it also helps prevent us from sinking the teeth into a wood jamb. While guiding our bar away from the door while it is being struck we keep the fork moving smoothly around the door. Our disadvantages come after we have the tool set and we are ready to force. This will be discussed below. The next two pictures show the fork being set with the bevel to the jamb.

Next we have Halligan being set with the bevel towards the door. This is probably the most common way setting a Halligan is taught, which is fine as long as we know the potential problems we have to overcome. You can see the curve of the tool is wanting to guide the forks into the frame. This can cause us to feel more resistence when it is hitting a metal frame, or creates much more of an oppurtunity to drive the forks into the jamb if it is wood. The Halligan firefighter has to pay complete attention to guiding the forks in to prevent us from hanging up on the frame. Solid pressure on the tool away from the door as it is being driven is a must to allow it to sink easily to the proper depth.  This is the disadvantage of setting the tool with the bevel to the door but the advantages come later. The next two pictures show the halligan being set with the bevel to the door.


If we haven’t lost you to boredom yet, we can now see the remaining advantages and disadvantages. As you see below we are back on the bevel to the jamb. As stated above the bevel to the jamb is easier to set and guide around the door to the proper depth. Where the disadvantage comes in is when we apply the force. The picture below is showing the Halligan applying full force. You can see that the gap it has created is relatively minimal. This is because we are not using the designed leverage point of the Halligan and we have also gone against the design of the forks. This still does not mean this way is wrong because many times this is all the leverage we are going to need, however we need to remember that the Halligan provides more leverage in other ways if it is needed.

The last picture(above) shows us bevel to the door being used. If you scroll back and forth between this picture and the one above it you can see the difference in the gap. We stated earlier that the bevel to the door can be more difficult to set if the door is tight, but as you can see when the bar is set it applies much more leverage. When the bevel is placed to the door it uses the characteristics of the tool to their full potential leverage. The forks grab hold of the backside of the frame and the high point of the bevel is being pushed against the door.

In summary neither way is right or wrong as long as you know why you are placing the bevel the way you choose. Different doors, jambs, and lock setups will call for different ways to put the bevel. A metal frame and metal door that is secured very tightly may call for the bevel to the jamb so that you can set it easier. However if we choose bevel to the jamb and don’t get the leverage we need, we can put a chock in the door or an axe and hold the gap we made. We can then pull the Halligan out and reverse the bevel and continue applying force with the bevel to the door.

This can go on and on, but it is only intended to illustrate the major differences in how you place the bevel. We know this is getting technical, but practicing the different ways regularly makes it become second nature on which way to place it. Again this is just another back to the basics post, nothing new, nothing that we invented. Just passing on great technique tips that has been passed on to us.  After this long-winded writeup there is really a simple way to sum it all up:

Bevel To the Jamb= Easier to set, Less leverage to force

Bevel To The Door= Harder to set, More leverage to force


Door Size Up #3


Door #3 is found on the backside of a 2 story commercial building. The front side consists of storefronts on the first floor with offices on the second floor accessed by a common stairwell. Attention to detail while sizing up this door may just make the difference in how we would attack it. Hit our key size up points, take a guess on the exterior picture and then scroll down to see if you were right.

Key points to identify for door size up:                                           

–          Building Occupancy

–          Construction Type (mainly the wall around door)

–          Which way the door swings

–          Type of door material 

–          Type of frame and jamb

–          Locking devices and Bolt patterns (additional security devices)

Exterior of Door # 3


Interior of Door #3

The interior picture makes it clear why the offset bolts are mounted as seen. This homemade multi-lock has a single handle in the center that slides the flat throws into place on each side of the frame. The throws sit  into the jamb and are then pinned behind the mount. This would prevent someone from reaching through a cut hole in the door and activating the handle. Another option found on this type of lock uses padlocks in place of pins.

The most common type of multi-lock in this area are the homemade ones as seen above. The commercially sold Fox Locks that activate in the same manner are uncommon in this part of the country. A big difference in these homemade multi-locks and the commercially sold ones is the access from the outside. Most multi-locks that are commercially made have the option of a key cylinder on the outside that allows you to activate the lock (which gives us the option of thru-the-lock), very rarely does a homemade multi-lock have this option.

Here is the breakdown of our size up:

1. The common door knob showing (key in the knob) tells us that we have very little resistence in our primary lock and that this door does not have panic hardware.

2. The offset carriage bolts should alert us of a possible multi-lock instead of a drop bar that is found so commonly on the backside of buildings. This is where the attention to detail comes into play because it would be very easy to assume a drop bar setup.

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

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.

Door Size Up #1


We have a series of doors (over the next few weeks) that can be used for size up practice. The exterior is shown first on the top of the page, then we placed the interiors lower down the page so that you can scroll down to see if your size up was correct. Solid practice in sizing up doors now can make a big difference in how quickly you identify characteristics of a door at a fire. Before a walk through, our crew will park at the back of a building and size up each door. Then we will go inside and see how close we were. You can become very comfortable at identifying bolt patterns and locks by doing this every time you go to a building.

The fire and training ground is where we should gain the experience in forcible entry. The knowledge should come from the constant study of doors and techniques before the alarm goes off.

Key points to identify every time you size up a door:                                           

–          Building Occupancy

–          Construction Type (mainly the wall around door)

–          Which way the door swings

–          Type of door material 

–          Type of frame and jamb

–          Locking devices and Bolt patterns (additional security)                  

Here is door number  #1-  This door is found on the backside of a strip mall. Located on a busy corridor  in a high crime area.

Doorstorefront 011

Here is the interior of door #1.

DoorBar 031

Here is a breakdown of what the outside is telling us.


You can see we have a typical door knob telling us that we do not have a panic bar setup. We also have a commercial deadbolt with a shackle guard which can slow us down getting a proper gap close to the bolt. In addition we have carriage bolts indicating drop bar mounts. These appear from the outside to be significant having four 3/8 inch carriage bolts for each mount. Fairly significant security, but nothing that an aggressive set of irons can’t defeat.

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