In the last article we talked about ensuring that the striking firefighter has their top hand at least 6" down from the head of the axe. This is to ensure that any missed strikes don't crush the striking firefighters fingers.
Now we are going to talk about where to place your bottom hand and how to position your body for optimal striking during conventional forcible entry operations.
Just like the placement of your top hand, your bottom hand placement can be critical to a smooth forcible entry operation. For some reason, lots of firefighters want to choke their bottom hand up to around the middle of the axe. This grip can lead to problems during forcible entry operations. What tends to happen when using this type of grip is that as the striking firefighter swings the axe, the butt end of the handle digs into the firefighter holding the halligans leg. The momentum of the axe being swung usually doesn't stop once the butt end of the axe handle bumps the firefighters leg. The momentum tends to carry the axe through the swing but drastically off target. This obviously can lead to missed hits and the potential of injuring a member. Instead, place your bottom hand down at the bottom of the axe just above the fawns foot. This will allow you to be more aware of where the butt end of the axe handle is.
Don't be a Fool…. Cross your Tools
Another very common striking mistake is not crossing your tools. The optimal striking position for the axe is to have it crossing the adz of the halligan and not in line with it. The reason for crossing the tools is that it increases your striking surface to allow for small inaccuracies. With the axe in line with the adz it leaves very little margin for error for the striking firefighter, if he is off the mark by only 1" this could cause a glancing hit on the adz and cause the halligan firefighter to be struck. If the axe and the adz of halligan are crossed it will increase your margin of error by giving you 2" up and down and 3" left to right leeway in your swing.
Keep your Eye on the Ball
When I was a young kid my father was teaching me how to catch a baseball and the first thing he said was "keep your eye on the ball", this principle applies the same to forcing a door. You should always try to make yourself eye level with the adz, this will make your swing much more accurate. Depending on the location of the lock being forced, you may have to take a knee, crouch, or you may be standing straight up, but for the majority of locks that are located in the middle of the door the striking firefighter should take position on their knees.
These small tips will help you be more proficient during you forcible entry operations.
Until next time, stay safe.