Hugh Halligan served the Fire Department of New York from 1916 until 1959. In those years of service, he had developed the most versatile and functional forcible entry tool ever conceived…The Halligan tool.
Although nearly 50 years old and no longer manufactured, the original Halligan tool has changed little in design. Today’s Pro Bar design closely models the original design, but does contain some slight improvements. The Halligan family can stand proud of the fact that this tool remains the tool of choice for any fire department that is serious about forcible entry.
Even though the basic design has changed very little over the years, some “in-house” modifications have surfaced in recent history to allow the Halligan to become even more versatile and user friendly. One such improvement is to simply square-off the shoulder of the fork. This allows an axe to be slid down the shaft of the tool and strike the back of the fork in zero or limited visibility environments. Another simple modification involves simply welding a chain link to the fork end. The chain link modification allows a firefighter on a roof of a fire building to ventilate top floor windows by attaching either a rope or a tool to the chain link. The modifications mentioned above are just two examples of how “simple improvements” have kept the Halligan tools innovative and versatile, even fifty years after it was created.
One of the most recent Halligan tool modifications is the “widened-adz”. The widened adz is accomplished adding nearly an inch of material to both sides of the adz. As legend has it, this modification evolved in the quarters of FDNY Rescue #2. A firefighter and talented welder, Sam Melisi would use the adz end of old Halligan tools and weld them onto the side of the adz on a new Halligan tool. This clever modification nearly doubled the width of the adz, which allowed the tool to supply a tremendous amount of force and leverage when “gapping” the door.
Not long after Melisi’s modification, several versions of the “widened adz” concept were born throughout the FDNY.
After years of forcing countless doors, the Halligan tool’s thickness would start to wear down near the chisel end. In some cases the tool would wear so thin, that the weld would either dimple, crack or even break. To defeat the wear issues, Firefighter Kevin LeGacy (FDNY Squad 61) came up with his own solution. Utilizing a MIG welder, Kevin would repeatedly lay down a weld on either side of the Halligan tool’s adz until the width of the adz was approximately doubled. After widening, he would smooth out the additional material with a file. A chiseled end is finally added to the adz to finish the job.
The impact of the wide adz is tremendous. On an inward swinging door, by simply placing the adz end between the door and the stop and prying up or down, (depending on which way the door opens) will allow members to defeat most doors in the “gap” stage of our forcible entry procedures.