Halligan bar
The adze and pick end of a Halligan

A Halligan bar (also known as a Halligan tool or Hooligan tool[1]) is a forcible entry tool used by firefighters.[2]


The Halligan bar was designed by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan in 1948 and was named after him. That same year, blacksmith Peter Clarke made the first prototype of the tool.[3] Despite its popularity among FDNY ladder companies, the department initially refrained from purchasing the tool to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.[4] However, the Boston Fire Department was the first major customer of the Halligan bar, purchasing one for every fire company in the city. This led to widespread adoption of the tool, first in North America and eventually worldwide. The Halligan bar has become the most versatile hand tool for fireground tasks over the past seven decades.[5][4]


A Halligan tool on display at the NYC Fire Museum (middle), next to the earlier Kelly tool (2nd from left) on which it was based

Based on the earlier Kelly tool, the Halligan is a multipurpose tool for prying, twisting, punching, or striking.[6] It consists of a claw (or fork), a blade (wedge or adze), and a tapered pick, which is especially useful in quickly breaching many types of locked doors.

One variant of the Halligan 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 adze 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 — typically 18–54 inches (46–137 cm) — and of various materials, including titanium, beryllium copper or stainless steel. Carrying straps or rings can be found. The 18-inch Halligan is often referred to as an officer's tool.

A Halligan and flat head axe. When joined they are known as "the irons"

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


See also


  1. ^ Dornan, Scott (2008). Industrial Fire Brigade: Principles and Practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 978-0-7637-3502-9. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  2. ^ "DEA vs. Heroin Kingpin". DEA. Season 1. Episode 1. 2008-04-02. 26:03 minutes in. Spike.
  3. ^ Maughan, William F.X. (2007). The Grappling Hook. Scranton and London: University of Scranton Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-58966-179-0. Archived from the original on 2017-09-18. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
  4. ^ a b Fire Department City of New York: The Bravest; An Illustrated History 1865-2002, page 72.
  5. ^ Morelock, Jamie. Upgrading the Halligan Bar's Roof Ring. Fire Engineering. Pennwell Corporation. Volume 163, Issue 3. Page 47. 2010.
  6. ^ "The Halligan Bar – By: Rob Fisher". Brotherhoodinstructors.com. 2011-01-10. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  7. ^ a b White, Billy & Johnson, Fergus. "The Backup Firefighter's Role in the Initial Fire Attack". Fire Engineering. 2011-06-02.
  8. ^ Fisher, Rob. "History of the Halligan Bar". Firefighternation. 2007.
  9. ^ Fritz, Richard. Tools of the Trade: Hand Tools and Their Use. Pennwell Books. 1997.
  10. ^ Smith, Steve. militarygovernmentcareeres.knojji.com. 2013.
  11. ^ Equipment Used by Firefighters. ABCO Fire Protection.
  12. ^ Schottke, David. Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills. Jones and Barlett Publishers. 2014
  13. ^ The Art of the Fire Service. Tips From the Bucket. Vententersarch.com
  14. ^ Thomas Delmar Learning. The Firefighter's Handbook. Thomas and Delmar Learning. Clifton Park, New York. 2000.

Further reading