Through the Lock

CarolinaFireJournal - Ed Henry
Ed Henry
04/29/2011 -
In a previous issue we discussed the use of the irons for conventional forcible entry. This article will talk about the very under used and very misunderstood technique of “Through the Lock.”

Through the lock is a type of forcible entry, that instead of attacking the door and area around the lock, we will learn to attack just the lock. This is used most often for your commercial style door, which is usually made up of some type of glass and aluminum. Many will just say to smash the glass out like a normal thug would do and add water to put the fire out. This is truly very unprofessional in all terms, by just walking up and smashing the glass you are creating a recipe for a disaster to happen. We will come back to this caveman thought in a few minutes. 

Let’s just say that there is no fire and we are there in the middle of the night and checking an alarm. Your key holder is at least an hour away, does your department have the resources to hold a company in stand by for the next hour? Now let’s talk about the ways to defeat this door with no or little damage. We must break the door down into a system, after that, look for the weakest link, in most cases it will be the lock

The Atrium lock is the type found on most commercial doors.


If we use the “Through the Lock” technique it will do a few things for us. First off this will create less damage to the door and lock. Second, it will, in many cases, not damage the door or lock if done correctly. This technique will require the proper tools along with some training and continued practice.

The tools needed for this would be the K Tool, or the updated version called the Rex Tool. Each comes in a type of kit. The K Tool kit will contain a leather tool holder, the K Tool, shove knife, Kerry Tool and a 5/32 square stock steel rod. The Rex Tool contains the following; the Rex Tool, Kerry tool and the 5/32 square stock key and shove knife. Many proactive firefighters will add a medium sized set of needle nose pliers to this kit as well. The use of the 5/32 square stock will be discussed in a future issue.

 The steps to use each follows. First confirm the door is locked. Pick the right tool for the right job.

The K Tool will have a right side and left side. We will need to understand the reasons for this. If the lock is close to the frame, we need a close area to “grip” the lock with. If the lock is located on the ground — which is sometimes the case for doors that are designed with aesthetics and security in mind, the KTool is needed.

Again, from the previous article we will utilize the steps of “Gap, Set, Force” to make this task work to its fullest. We will tap the K Tool on the lock with the halligan, thus gapping the lock from the frame, further tapping with the halligan on the K Tool will make the tool “bite” into the lock, “setting” the tool on the lock and then we place the halligan into the K Tool, for “forcing” the lock out (really pulling the lock out). The steps of “gap, set, force” will work. Remember we have a seven pound halligan and a three pound K Tool. And we are pulling out a lock that weighs less than one pound. While pulling the lock out beware! As, this is where a lot of people will start to bad mouth the “Through the Lock.” When they pull down on the halligan, they end up bending the locks mechanisms on the inside, and this binds the bolt of the lock into the door frame and the Kerry Tool will not unlock the doors bolt.



This business is ideal for the use of “Through the Lock” as the door and the entire store front window has burglar bars bolted on the inside.

The proper way is to pull a little down, a little up, and then a little side to side. What we are doing is moving the lock out. Think of it this way, the lock is a circle, the lock is in a circle, so in essence what we are doing is pulling a circle from within a circle. This way we do not create a fulcrum inside the lock and bend the other parts down. Now that we have pulled the lock out, there are two ways to find out what part of the Kerry Tool to use. One way is to look into where the lock just was, the other is to turn the lock cylinder around and look at the back, when you see the “little light bulb” this will tell you to use the 90 degree end of the Kerry Tool. Place the Kerry Tool with the 90 degree perpendicular to the door, lower it into the lock and the turn the tool to the right or left depending on what way the door swings.

This is sometimes referred to as the 9 to 5 or the 5 to 9, again depending on how the door swings. After “throwing” the dead bolt, this will unlock the door. Now the door is opened, go in and check things out. Afterwards reverse the process and lock the door, have the police respond to baby sit the building while the key holder is still on their way there.

Now back to our caveman-firefighter who wants to just smash the glass.

How many different types of glass do you think there are? Three or four? Well, to name just a few; plate glass, safety glass, lexan, hurricane, high security glass with wire frames, bullet proof and many more. Think of it this way, if you can break in, make your way in and put the fire out you will be pulling your hose, which in a fire is your life line, over and through glass. Last I knew; fire hose could be cut by glass. Is that the smartest and safest way to conduct business as a professional?

Through the lock is a professional way to enter the building with little or no damage to the door and lock. This technique helps with public relations and is the best way to act like the professionals we all strive to be.

Advanced Technique

An advanced way to conduct “Through the Lock” is to use a set of channel locks to bite the lock cylinder and turn the tool counter clock wise. The channel locks adjusted to the right size and then “clamped” to the lock cylinder and spun, will act like the reverse process that was used by the Locksmith to install the lock. By turning the tool counter clockwise, it will spin the lock out of the threads on the cylinder and then allow for the use of the Kerry Tool to unlock the latch/deadbolt.

Your storefront could be all glass (figures 3 and 4) — known as a frameless door. But what type of glass? I’m not sure, but I don’t think you will throw a brick through it and break in. Also note during your size up, the locks are on the bottom of the doors and lock into the floor/door sill plate.

Ed Henry has been with Charleston FD since 2004. He is an instructor for both the South Carolina Fire Academy and Connecticut Fire Academy. He is a H.O.T. instructor at F.D.I.C. and Firehouse Expo teaching engine and truck operations. He also instructs at the Charleston F.D. Recruit School and has taught H.O.T. class at the S.C. Firefighters Conference in Myrtle Beach on Forcible Entry. Henry has a B.S. in fire service administration and is certified as a Fire Officer IV. He has been awarded the nation’s high honor, The Presidential Medal of Valor by President G.W. Bush, along with several other state accommodations.
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