Not to be confused with the Halligan hook.

A halligan, or halligan tool, also known as a hooligan tool, is a specialized fire-rescue tool used for forced entry. It consists of a shaft 18 to 54 inches long (typically 30 or 36 inches), featuring a fork (claw) at one end. The other end of the shaft features both an adze and a pick (or pike), set at right angles to each other and the shaft.


Prior to the halligan, firefighters used Kelly tools and claw tools for forcible entry. The claw tool is about 36 inches long, with a claw at one end and a hook at the other, and weighs about 12 pounds. The Kelly tool is about 24 inches long, weighs about ten pounds, and consists of an adze at one end and a chisel at the other. The tools were considered a set, being carried together, and could be difficult to use.[1]

In the 1940s, Chief Hugh Halligan of FDNY (the Fire Department of New York (City)) developed a new tool to take the place of these older tools. One end of his tool featured both the adze of the Kelly tool and a pick, (an improved version of the hook on the claw tool). He placed the claw of the claw tool at the other end of the handle, generating a single tool that contained and improved upon the strengths of both older tools. Halligan's tool weighed a little over eight pounds, far less than the combined 22 pounds of the two tools it replaced.[2]

Though Chief Halligan patented his design, that patent has since run out, and many companies make Halligan-type tools.[3] Some of these are faithful copies of the original design, while others incorporate improvements. Whether these improved tools can properly be called Halligan tools is a matter of debate,[4] and is beyond the scope of this article.


Though the halligan can be used as a striking tool, similar to a sledge hammer,[5] it is more often used as a lever or wedge, being struck by a sledge hammer or flat head axe. The halligan, with an axe or sledge hammer, can be the primary tool used in forced entry, or it may play an assisting role for hydraulic forced-entry tools.[6]

Each of the halligan's three tips, adze, pick, and fork (claw), is designed for a different job set.


The adze consists of a chisel- or wedge-like blade set at 90 degrees from the handle.

Forced entryEdit

The adze is used in the opening steps of forced entry; it can be set between the door and frame and driven in by striking the back of the head with a sledge hammer or the back of an axe head. Alternately, the tool can be swung like an axe to set the adze head. If necessary, the tool can then be twisted to enlarge the gap made by the adze.  Once a gap has been created between the door and frame, the fork end of the tool is used if the lock continues to hold.[7]


The pick (or pike) is a conical spike. It appears at the same end of the tool as the adze, set at 90 degrees to the tool handle and the adze.

Lock breakingEdit

The pick fits into a padlock's hasp. Holding the handle horizontally and striking the back of the pick with a sledge hammer or the back of an axe, force is concentrated on the locking mechanism, overpowering the lock and breaking it open.[8]

Against boltsEdit

Placing the pick against the head of a bolt and striking the back of the pick can force the bolt through its material, freeing whatever the bold had secured.[9]


The fork is a flat or slightly curved, forked wedge, similar to the nail-pulling claw of a roofing hammer.

Forced entryEdit

Once the adze end has been used to force a gap between the door and the door frame, the halligan can be reversed to fit the fork into this gap. Manipulating the handle may force the door. Striking the back of the halligan with a sledge hammer (or the back of an axe) may be necessary.[10]

Against chainsEdit

The prongs of the fork can be slipped on either side of a chain link, and the handle used as a lever to pull a chain free from a fixed object (e.g. a door)[11]

As pry barEdit

The fork can also be used as a pry bar or crow bar[12]

As chiselEdit

Since the fork is essentially a continuation of the handle, the fork can be used as an oversized cold chisel or punch by striking the opposite end of the tool.[13]

Marrying to an axeEdit

The halligan can be "married" to a six-pound axe by laying the two tools parallel to each other and sliding the two prongs of the fork to either side of the axe's head. Alternately, the halligan can be married to an eight-pound axe in the same way if the axe head is notched to accept the halligan's fork. The halligan is often used with an axe, so marrying the tools simplifies the logistics of keeping and transporting the tools together.[14]


  1. Vigiano at 15.
  2. Vigiano at 15 - 16.
  3. Vigiano at 16.
  4. Vigiano at 20 - 21.
  5. Vigiano at 36.
  6. Vigiano at 83.
  7. Vigiano at 62 - 65.
  8. Vigiano at 126 - 127.
  9. Vigiano at 56.
  10. Vigiano at 62 - 65.
  11. Vigiano at 57.
  12. Vigiano at 68.
  13. Vigiano at 72 - 74.
  14. Vigiano at 29 - 30.


  • Vigiano, John, Editor. New York City Fire Department Forcible Entry Reference Guide: Techniques and Procedures. FDNY. 2006. Downloaded from [] June 23, 2012.

See alsoEdit