Police officers and deputy sheriffs are rarely firefighters, and yet in our lifesaving capacity we need some of the same skills. A mastery of the fire rescue Halligan bar is essential in today’s specialized law enforcement work.
FDNY Deputy Chief Hugh A. Halligan invented the Halligan bar in 1948, and it still bears his name. Halligan’s original bar was a single piece of drop forged 4140 steel, about 30” long, and approximately 8 ½ lbs.
A cross between the FDNY’s Kelly tool and Claw tool, the Halligan bar was lighter and much more versatile. The Halligan bar has become universal in fire rescue service and can be found on fire trucks all around the world.
Law enforcement began using the Halligan tool in SWAT operations decades ago, although, lacking a historical perspective, we have mistakenly called it a “halogen” tool or a “hooligan” tool (this name being derogatory in fire departments).
The Halligan bar’s working parts consist of a fork on one end and a pick and adz at right angles on the other end. The adz is the curved blade that is derived from a woodworking shaper.
While a 30 pound door ram can solve most police problems with an inward swinging residential or commercial door, the Halligan bar and sledgehammer are needed to work an outward opening door.
Typically, to work an outward opening door, the Halligan tool operator places the adz in the doorjamb just above or below the lock(s). The hammer operator drives the adz into the frame. At this point, the Halligan tool is rotated slightly downward to spread the door and frame and the tool is then pulled away to open the door.
This entire operation is unfortunately done right in front of the door. If not accomplished with Speed, Aggression, and Surprise, the result may be unfriendly fire toward the operators. Officer safety demands this maneuver be practiced endlessly. By everyone on the Team.
In other uses, the adz can be used to shear off door handles and deadlocks, the fork can be used for general prying, and the pick can either punch out a deadlock or lever open a padlock. The Halligan is great for a window break-and-rake.
There are more uses and nuances to this tool than I can possibly describe here. This vast versatility has led the Halligan bar design to be basically unchanged in its sixty years of carry.
We have found it invaluable to have our SWAT medics, who are certified firefighter/paramedics, perform as instructors on SWAT training days involving forcible entry. Prior to this practice, we did not fully appreciate the subtleties of using any of the entry tools or techniques.
Original Halligan Signature bars are no longer manufactured, but rumor has it that some are still in use at the FDNY. A similar bar, the K-Tool Company Pro-Bar 30, has been used by both the FDNY and NYPD for the last 30 years.
If you do not have a Halligan bar for entries, consult with your local fire department guys before you purchase one (there are differences), obtain the proper training, and perform repetitions.
Randall is a twenty-four year veteran officer of a mid-size Florida police department. He served as a SWAT team officer for over 21 years, to include 12 years as a Team Leader. He is currently the K9 Unit Sergeant and department SWAT Coordinator.