What do you get when you combine the functional attributes of a sledgehammer with those of flat- and pick-head axes? You get “the Pig,” a tool that’s advertised as “8 lbs. of total fireground domination.” Recently, I took this tool, which is produced by Lonestar Axe (www.lonestaraxellc.com), and put it through a number of tests to see if it lived up to the manufacturer’s claims.
The Pig’s claim to fame is that it can be used for forcible entry, ventilation and overhaul. It weighs 8 lbs., and can be purchased in handle lengths of 28, 32 or 36 inches. Each handle is made of fiberglass, and Lonestar offers customers the option of adding glow-in-the-dark technology, made by Fire Axe Inc., to the handle. The Pig also features a 4.5" pick on one end with grooves to hold a Halligan, and a flat portion on the opposite side that’s similar to the striking end of a flat-head axe.
First impressions are everything, and right away I could tell that the Pig is, simply put, a solid tool. The handle was mounted securely into the head, and the tool had a great feel to it; you could definitely tell that it was made to get down to business. The Pig is also well balanced, providing good momentum and a comfortable swing.
The first functional test involved taking the Pig to a roof to see if its functionality when completing vertical ventilation ops matched its good looks. We started by performing typical cutting operations. One common practice when cutting a roof is to use the striking side of a flat-head axe to avoid getting the cutting edge wedged into the cut. The Pig easily cut (read: bashed) through half-inch and three-quarter-inch OSB and plywood with asphalt shingles on top. The Pig’s blunt end, with a width of 1½ inches, kept the tool from getting caught, and the sheer weight of the head made the most of each swing.
Using the pick portion of the Pig, I was also able to easily penetrate a wood roof with built-up asphalt shingles. The 4½" pick portion is definitely thick enough to penetrate the decking and would be ideal in a residential setting where foam and/or insulation is attached to the roofing material.
Often on residential roofs, steep pitches require a footing device to be used to prevent the sawyer from losing traction on the roof. When it came to using the Pig for footing, the mass of the tool penetrated the OSB with ease, and the pick portion was long enough to offer a stable spot for the sawyer to place their foot without worrying about it coming loose.
For our next test, we wanted to see how the Pig performed on forcible entry tasks. I used obstacles commonly found on the fireground that could be forced using conventional forcible entry methods. The result: When married up with the Halligan, I found the Pig offers a smooth swing that carries enough force to drive the Halligan between the door and the jam.
When it comes to any tool designed to break things, one of the ultimate tests (and most fun) is putting it up against masonry walls commonly found in commercial and residential applications. I tested the Pig against masonry blocks and double-stacked bricks, and the Pig performed as expected, with the same breaching characteristics of an 8-lb. sledgehammer.
One nice feature of the Pig that isn’t offered on a sledgehammer is the ability to use the pick end to force open padlocks. The narrow pick on the Pig allows it to fit easily between the shackle and the case of the lock. In most tests, after finding the right fulcrum point, the lock broke just by using leverage on the Pig. When using locks built with more integrity, I was able to break the hasp with 1–2 strikes on the flat side of the Pig using another striking tool.
Another material we forced our way through (aka, smashed): drywall. When it comes to overhaul, firefighters are often faced with removing simple things, such as drywall, as well as more stubborn materials, such as lathe and plaster. To perform the overhaul test, I found some buildings that offered both modern and traditional materials to see how the Pig would function.
Needless to say, drywall wasn’t even close to being an obstacle for the Pig; it was like bringing a gun to a knife fight. In structures where drywall needs to be pulled for extensive overhaul, the Pig’s only downfall is that it may be just too much muscle and lead to early fatigue due to its weight.
Anyone who’s ever dealt with lathe and plaster knows that there’s absolutely nothing fun about it. Using the Pig for breaking plaster and pulling lathe made life a lot easier. The 32" handle made it compact enough to get good upward thrusts, and the heavy-duty weight of the head broke apart the plaster and fairly easily penetrated the lathe. Once I made a hole big enough to get the Pig’s head through, I was able to use the tool’s weight and momentum to my advantage, and, using the bottom part of the pick end, I pulled the remaining lathe and plaster downward. Once I created an even larger hole, I used a short, overhead, downward swing and the remaining ceiling dropped with ease.
Some of the most effective tools that have been around the longest in the fire service are simple, well-built and effective. The Pig meets all these criteria and I was really impressed with the tool.
And although I like more traditional coloring on a hand tool, the Fire Axe glow-in-the-dark technology worked exceptionally well; I was amazed at how quickly it recharged and how long it held a glow.
In short, the Pig is a low-maintenance, highly functional and practical tool that definitely has its place on the truck and purpose on the fireground.
Sidebar 1: The Pig Hand Tool
- Sturdy, secure construction
- Sledgehammer strength
- Functionality of a flat- or pick-head axe
- Well balanced
- Good swing, momentum
- Various handle lengths
- Too much muscle for pulling drywall, which can lead to early fatigue.
Lonestar Axe LLC