A Halligan bar (also known as a Halligan tool), is a forced entry device used by firefighters (as well as law enforcement). If you like to hit stuff and bend things to your will, this multipurpose tool is for you. It’s built for prying, twisting, punching, or striking and has a basic purpose to help firefighters do their work faster and more efficiently.

The Halligan has become the most versatile hand-tool used by firefighters, since its introduction in the mid-twentieth century.

The device consists of a claw (or fork), a blade, and a tapered pick, which is especially useful in quickly breaching many types of locked doors. Either the blade end or fork end can be used to break through the latch of a swinging door by forcing the tool between the door and doorjamb and prying the two apart.

A firefighter can swing the Halligan like a baseball bat to sink the pick into a door frame near the door handle and then force the door open by applying pressure to the blade (or adze).


This is not a complete list of Halligan applications, but it does highlight its versatility.

  • The Halligan can be used to knock down a wall in a house to get to another area.
  • It can be used pry a door off its hinges.
  • The tool can be used to pry open the hood of a car when it is jammed from an accident, to then cut the battery.
  • The point can be used to break glass on a car or on a building for access or ventilation.
  • The pick can be placed into the shackle (or eye) of a padlock or hasp and twisted or pried to break it free.
  • It can also be driven into a roof to provide a foothold for firefighters engaged in vertical ventilation.
  • Using the blade end, a lock cylinder can be pulled.
  • The fork end is routinely used to shut off gas meter valves.
  • The Halligan can also be used for vehicle extrication.
  • The Halligan can be used as a step to get up on a window that is at head level.
  • The Halligan can be tied to a rope and act as an anchor in the window frame, for improvised bailout.

The pick and blade (only when properly used) provide protection to the arms, hands, and body of the holder during forcible entry operation.


One variant of the Halligan tool has a heavy sliding collar on the shaft. Once the prying end of the tool is wedged into position, the sliding ‘hammer’ is used to force the wedge, allowing for proper seating before prying. The blade end is also assisted by using the sliding hammer to generate forced traction on a hooked cylinder.

Another variant has an end that resembles a lever-type can opener, used for making large holes for access or ventilation in sheet metal.

The Halligan is available in a number of lengths and they are typically made of different types of metal.

A Halligan bar and a flathead axe can be joined together (and partially interlocked, head-to-toe) to form what is known as a married set, a set of irons or simply The Irons. This combination of tools is most common within the fire service. However, the Halligan may also be married with a Halligan hook or sledgehammer as an alternative.

If you’re going to become a firefighter, you’re going to use a Halligan.

What is a Halligan Bar?
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