Heavy Irons

Sometimes the axe and halligan just won’t do. The time may come that you need a bigger hammer. One of the issues with carrying a sledge with a halligian is the fact that they don’t marry as well as the traditional irons. Here are two similar approaches to fixing the issue. The first one was sent in by Firefighter Angus Burns from Lexington Fire EC-3. The second one was sent in by Driver/Operator Chad Berg from Snohomish County, Washington Ladder Co. 72.

Angus points out that the Lexington creation was a group effort. Firefighter Jack Trautwein wanted the ability to carry the sledge/halligan combo, Angus found the material at a local fire apparatus shop, and Firefighter David Gumm did the machining and welding. This particular method has the added feature that allows the set of “heavy irons” to stand upright without falling over.

Chad took the more familiar approach. He used a more traditional loop welded onto the top of the sledge. He points out he likes to carry the heavy irons when working in concrete tilt up and re-enforced masonry structures that normally offer little flex when forcing. The heavier sledge allows for a bigger punch when setting the halligan. Since the welder was already out and warmed up, they added a little company pride to the tool.

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Be careful to watch the temperature of the sledge head while making these modifications, you could weaken the epoxy bonding the handle and head, and we would not want to be around the first time you figure it out. Check out the Tips from the Bucket Page for additional photos on this, and many other great tips.


40 Comments so far

  1. B January 21st, 2008 9:55 am

    Great idea. One of the truck companys around me has made some of these “modifications”. They have some very medieval looking equipment, but it works and sometimes better than the original. Carrying a sledge around like this could help you get into things you wouldn’t normally get into. Other than the added weight, it would be great to have. Make up a carrying strap and you could take it anywhere. Great idea once again!

  2. Chris - Concord Engine 1 January 21st, 2008 11:16 am

    We’ve got a similar set-up on our engine and truck… Both companies carry a 12 lb. sledge with a halligan block welded on for the tough jobs, and the tower also runs with an 8 lb short-handled sledge married to the halligan as their primary set of irons. I’ve got a buddy who is a top-notch machinist who made the blocks for us and he really did a nice job. They are “streamlined” to prevent them becoming hung up inside a block or sheetrock wall and probably add about 3/4 lb. to the weight of the tool, which just equals more driving force!

    We’ve found this to be alot more efficient with a 3-member company. One FF can effectively position the halligan and strike it himself with the short sledge with alot more force than he could develop with a long-handled axe. The only disadgantage we’ve encountered in forcible entry is not being able to use the axe head as a wedge to hold a gap while repositioning the fork or adz of the halligan, but a standard door wedge does the same job.

    Of course the axes are available too if the member desires to carry one, but we haven’t found much in the residential or commercial worlds that will stand up to a few shots from the sledge-o-matic!

    Be safe Brothers!

  3. Chris - Concord Engine 1 January 21st, 2008 11:20 am

    P.S. – To give credit where due, I think this idea was originated, or at least popularized, by FDNY Lt. Mike Ciampo, who teaches Truck Co. back to basics across the country… Check out his stuff in Fire Engineering & on their website if you’ve never heard of him. He’s even been known to post on here occasionally.

    Be safe Brothers.

  4. mike Walker January 21st, 2008 11:42 am

    Whoever’s idea it is, it’s a great idea. I’m doing it! Thanks for sharing the pics.

  5. Jon January 21st, 2008 11:59 am

    Its the only way to go! Axe’s are for nancy’s that cant handle the extra weight!

  6. B January 21st, 2008 1:00 pm

    That’s right!

  7. T2 January 21st, 2008 5:40 pm

    Another option for the sledge that I carry as well as others in my department is a maul. It gives you the wedge if needed and the weight and large striking surface of a sledge. It also has the bridge across the top to marry it with a halligan.

  8. Evan Swartz January 21st, 2008 10:06 pm

    Goes back to the old saying “bigger is better”, and in the truck company we are bigger then the engines and better!

  9. canman January 21st, 2008 10:08 pm

    Hey there brothers,

    Just would like to know if anyone is using a 16lb sledge or is the 12lb enough for the job. Thinking about stepping up.

    stay safe

  10. acklan January 22nd, 2008 6:42 am

    canman, this may be what you want…


  11. MJB January 22nd, 2008 9:56 am

    I saw that method for the first time over 10 years ago in Brooklyn.

  12. Ray January 22nd, 2008 11:00 am

    this is great stuff guys. I went to a fire on our marine unit the other day. The fire was reportedly on a Coast Guard cutter. I went to the tool locker and grabbed a halligan and a 12 lb sledge. I thought;”gee , i wish these were easier to carry!”

  13. canman January 22nd, 2008 11:04 am


    Thanks looks a little better then a reg. splitting maul. May have to give it a try.

  14. JJ January 22nd, 2008 3:04 pm

    Great idea, I’m with T2. On our Ladder, the primary set is the maul and halligan, you can notch the halligan forks and the maul will slide on in.

  15. James Kiser January 22nd, 2008 3:59 pm

    We use this on our truck in DC. It works very well. We cut the handle down to the size of the bar when married. And also because the hallways are not that big in apartment buildings you can get a better swing.

  16. MJB January 22nd, 2008 8:36 pm

    Another simular old method used here is to weld a piece of pipe on the underside of the maul,then the pike end can then be inserted into it for easy carrying. I would point out though, many FDNY companies do not carry the maul….In my experience in a Brooklyn Truck Company, with alot of secure doors in the area,the extra few pounds with the maul will not make or break your ability to force a door….proper technique….knowing what you are doing,with an 8 lbs. flathead axe (which the Halligan was built to be used with) will usually suffice.

  17. B. Bradley January 23rd, 2008 10:20 am

    We run something like this on my dept. i think we bought the sledge from a company that welds on a bracket that tapers down on the ends so it wont get hung up on stuff as easily in walls and what not..works great!

  18. Jon January 23rd, 2008 2:31 pm

    I personally have to say I like the axe. As stated above its more technique than weight. If you cant get the force behind an axe to hit in a halligan into even the tightest of jambs I think its time for you to move on. Your Irons man should be able to position the Halligan properly to have you drive it in. The axe is lighter and better to chock doors with if needed. If its really tight and you need to work your way down from the top or up from the bottom the axe can be used to hold your purchase in the door while the Maul cannot be used for this technique. Plus in smokey conditions the axe offers a lot more surface area to strike the halligan with while the Maul does not. Just my opinion but everyone had their own Method. And do the guy who stated putting a strap on the married tools…COME ON…Do you really need a strap? Carry them Like a Man….

  19. CFD-Roughneck January 23rd, 2008 3:05 pm

    Personally, I agree with the guys who prefer using an Axe. A good 8lb axe is going to be a lot easier to work with in forcing a door. And if you have an issue forcing the door with the axe and the halligan, and you KNOW what you are doing and doing it properly, than it’s time to move on, either to a rabbit tool or another means of entry. Some might think mauls or sledges are better because they are heavier, some might even say axes are for “Nancy’s”, but when it comes to forcing a door, it’s not about the weight your using to hit the halligan, it’s about the technique. Instead of spending the time to “marry” the sledge to the halligan, take that extra time to perfect your forcing technique with an axe.

    One other thing I wanted to throw in that gets under my skin is the habit of using an axe or any other tool as your door chock. Personally I don’t think you should be doing this. You never know when you might need that tool, and if it’s chocking a door open, and your a couple rooms in, your screwed. If your worried about being able to keep the doors chocked open, carry more door chocks or use some furniture from the room, not your tools. Especially if your on a truck company, those tools are your lifeline like the hoseline is the lifeline of the engine company.

  20. Champ January 23rd, 2008 3:42 pm

    Hey Chris….thanks for the plug but I didn’t come up with the original idea on this but I do pass it on to guys who prefer the maul. A lot of companies liked to carry the maul when they were faced with cinder/concrete blocked up vacant buildings.

    One construction comment: before you weld the cap onto the top of the maul, you may want to grind down some of the side of the maul, so the halligan sits more flush when they are married together.

    Also while at my old hometown department, I showed Scott Fisher this and before I knew it his mind was working. He took square stock (1″x 1″) and welded it to the top of the head that is flat. At the ends he grinded them down so they sit flush with the end of the sledge. It almost looks like an axe or larger wedge at the ends. Then he connected them with another piece of steel to form the bracket. The best thing about the renovation was that when the maul is swung downward, it only uses a 1/4 of its face when it strikes an object at this angle. With the new bracket it makes the head now act like an axe and gives more area to the striking surface.
    I’ll email a photo of this renovation to the web site for all to look at.

  21. acklan January 23rd, 2008 5:52 pm

    I guess I fall into the “Nancy” category. I have been carrying the TNT tool since it was the Colorado tool (God only knows how many years back that has been)some wheres in the early 90’s or late 80’s. I perfer the weight of it over the standard axe. I am on my 3rd tool. The last one was lost in a building collaspe about a year ago.
    The hook on the TNT cradles the fork of a Halligan very well. 6 1\2 lb, 35″ model.
    I make 28 year on feb 1. It is the best general use tool I have ever owned. Hopefully it will be the last one I have to buy.

  22. Brass January 24th, 2008 7:38 pm

    I do not want to hijack this thread but as long as we are talking about tool modifications, how about one of are FDNY brothers posting a pic (or email me) of the extra wide adz that a lot of Bronx companies are using now. I would like to see some pics and get the particulars.

  23. canman January 24th, 2008 8:36 pm


    Hey there man check out Kentland33.com. Go under about us and hit the tool history. They are calling it the Melisi Bar. Hope that helps you out.

  24. Chris - Concord Engine 1 January 24th, 2008 10:04 pm

    Brass –

    Took me a minute to find it, but I knew I’d seen a thread on the modified adz somewhere before… Here’s a link to the nycfire.net forums, and links to a couple pics.




    Basically, they just build up the width of the first 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the adz to provide additional leverage when gapping the door. I’ve seen tools with one or both sides widened, adding between 3/4 and 2 inches to the total width of the tip of the adz. I’m sure some of the FDNY brothers could provide more details, but it’s my understanding that the idea is to give the roof man a better shot at popping the bulkhead door without assistance.

    Be safe Brothers.

  25. Nate DeMarse January 25th, 2008 1:15 pm

    Yeah, those photos should do the trick when discussing the “widening” of the adze.

    In MG_5701, that Halligan is the one their “irons” firefighter carries. Kevin (the guy holding it in the photo) is the one that does all of the modifications in their firehouse. This one in my opinion is the nicest variation because it is squared off a bit more and you can get a wider gap and in many cases force the door using the adze end only.

    In MG_3104, that is what their “Roof” or “Saw” firefighter carries. That was an early modification and the the Halligan in MG_5701 is the newer version. While the one in 3104 still works great, it tends to slip out of the door jamb easier when forcing doors.

    How about that photographer? Pretty good huh? 🙂

  26. Brass January 25th, 2008 11:44 pm

    Thanks for the info, much appreciated!
    And ya the photos are pretty good!! LOL
    Thanks Brothers,

  27. Jimm January 28th, 2008 6:47 am

    We added the pictures Champ sent in about the heavy irons he was describing. Look back at his comment on January 23rd. -Jimm-

  28. greg wyant January 29th, 2008 6:09 pm

    One do the departments in my area has started useing a 12 lb wood splitting mall with the halligan. They say it woorks great on the door or the roof. They said they saw the idea on a fire engineering video .


  29. Jack February 1st, 2008 12:41 am

    12 LB is no joke! We use a 8lb splitting maul for our second set of Irons on our truck and it has worked well for rear commercials and even taken to the roof on occasion. Some guys even prefer this to the axe when riding Irons also, since it seems to focus the striking point….nice to have that additional option.

    Hey CHAMP, better get the probie to put those tools on the wheel!! They’re hurting my eyes!

    Stay safe all!

  30. HooknLadda14 February 1st, 2008 3:42 pm

    The weight of a maul or sledge can present with a false sense of security. One aspect that has not been brought up in this thread is the hardness factor between a maul/sledge and a flathead axe. The maul/sledge is as hard or harder than a halligan. I know you’re thinking (like any fireman does) harder must be better. The truth of it is that being as hard as the halligan makes it easier for the blow to glance off of the striking surface of the halligan. The axe is softer than the halligan’s striking point making each blow a more effective transfer of energy. This is the same principal that works when being hit in the chest by a baseball versus a softball. The softball actually does more damage because as it strikes another surface it almost pauses for a fraction of a second longer and has that much more time to transfer the force. Additionally the axe’s metal will conform more than the maul/sledge if you hit slightly off center or on an angle. I’d heard this all before but it was talked about again this past weekend by Capt Morris of FDNY R1 at a training seminar. Just my 2 cents . . .

  31. Scott February 1st, 2008 3:58 pm

    We used the same set up. It was a maul and haligan pair together. We used papertape to set the maul on the adze end and used a marrying strap to hold the handles together as a traditional married set. Using the tape allowed for faster seperation and no modifications to the maul. Use of a maul as part of a married set is almost essential. Go big!
    Don’t leave it at the front door after you force it, take it with you!

  32. Rick February 15th, 2008 10:18 am

    I encourage my guys to take the maul and halligan when we are going to commercial structures or structures we know have heavy metal doors for security reasons. I do however have always fought a double edge sword. I like having the 8lb flathead axe to wedge under a door while searching a room in a PD or MD. I like the modifications on the maul.

    Stay safe Brothers

  33. acklan February 28th, 2008 2:43 pm

    For those of you who do not weld or just do not want the fuss to create one of these beauties. FireHooksUnlimited now offers a factory version.


  34. S. Roth February 28th, 2008 10:05 pm

    I know that down in MD, Kentland Co. 33 has a similar model. They refer to it as the Melisi Bar. However, as a modification, the Adz end of the halligan bar is the entire length, not just the first several inches.

  35. acklan February 29th, 2008 12:43 am

    I just realized what you were referring to. I was pointing out the strap welded to the top of the sledge hammer or splitting maul, to craddle the adz of the Halligan

  36. Bull March 1st, 2008 2:11 am


    You mentioned above that you carry the TNT tool. I got a hold of one to try out from a local dealer and was impressed. Have you used the 8 lb? Or a longer handle? Plus, will the head of the tool along with the hook end take shine if polished? Or does the tool require paint. I have tried contacting the manuf. of the tool with some of these questions but have not heard back. If you have the answers, it would be appreciated. -Bull.

  37. acklan March 1st, 2008 4:17 am

    Hey Bull.
    I have been using the 6 lb 35″ version since the late 80’s. No I have not used the longer version, or the more recent 8 lb model.
    No, the head will not shine. I use bed liner to keep the metal maintained. I use the 20oz spray on cans from AutoZone. I fine it hold up better than anything else, but power coating. I use Plasti Dip to coat the handle. It is a paint on rubber.
    I have a 30″ ProBar Halligan that I carry also. I slide the fork of the Halligan over the hook on the TNT and bind them with a double loop bungie cord. Slip one loop over the adz and pull the second loop till the first loop hooks over the pick. Make the second loop large enough to be pulled with a gloves hand. This double to cord open a door. Simply slip each loop over the door knobs and the door cannot be closed. I’ll try to post some pictures.
    Good luck with the factory. I bought mine at http://www.eDarley.com
    This pair make quite a beast but it is well worth the extra weight.
    It almost 30 years these are the best hand tools I have used. Like them so much I actually bough my own, and like I stated it the other post I am on my third TNT Tool.
    If you have more question feel free to email me at acklan@acklan.com

  38. Rick March 1st, 2008 4:01 pm

    We made a set of extrication irons using the TNT tool. Works much better than normal flathead to set pins of rescue struts.

  39. Mike Emmons March 11th, 2008 11:00 pm

    I had purchase one of your splitting malls and was really impressed with the quality. It stood up to many cords of wood.
    I have finally broke the mall, which I bought at Fred Meyer store two years ago, it did have a lifetime warranty which I would like to take advantage of. Could you please let me know how to go about this?

    Thank you


  40. Jeremy October 16th, 2013 2:52 pm

    an excellent idea, however this modification can be very dangerous since welding on the heat treated steel can cause it become extremely brittle. I have seen sledge heads shatter as a result of being welded on. This problem can be mitigated if the welder re tempers the steel after welding on the sledge.
    stay safe!

Leave a reply