Disclaimer: Neither myself nor Shut Up And Train will receive any money or advertising of any kind from this company. We reached out to the owner and he agreed to let us review his product as accurately and truthfully as possible. In no way are we trying to sugar coat this review, but we are giving an ABSOLUTELY 100% truthful testimony.
I'm not going to lie...
One day I was perusing Facebook and, like many, I found an ad for a company that I have never heard of. All it showed was a piece of white plastic being shoved into a door jam like the old 'credit card in the latch' trick. Initially, I thought it was spam, and then I took a quick second look at it. When I did, I said to myself, "I can't believe someone actually made a product like this!"
Now to some, it may sound like I was excited. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I was slightly annoyed that someone could "make money" off a piece of plastic. I shared it with two of my friends who had the same feeling I did about the product. I sat there for a second and thought I might be judging a book by it's cover. I felt like I needed to take a step back and not judge based on the first photograph I saw. I needed to look a little further into this product and what it was designed to do.
I lost the ad. Like most Facebook ads, I spent the better half of an hour trying to find it and had no luck. The only thing I remembered were the words "Swipe Tool." After a quick Google search, I located the associated Facebook page, along with multiple eBay and Amazon links.
OK, a piece of white plastic used to slide into a door jam and into/behind the latch to gain entry into a locked door. Hmmm...
I was skeptical, so I felt the need to contact the owner of the Firefighter Swipe Tool and try to get my hands on one to try to see what it's all about.
And that's where this all began...
After initially contacting the owner (Bill Walters) I decided this was definitely going to be something worth trying.
To my dismay!
The product arrived as a 3-pack, with each Swipe Tool rolled nicely and rubber-banded in a little white box. Along with the 3-pack was a 1.5"x1.5" index card with instructions. On first impression, the product is literally a white piece of plastic, measuring about 2.5" x 8" (I didn't actually measure it).
It's purpose? Defeat residential doors by sliding into the door jam, throwing the latch and gaining entry into an occupancy. It works for interior and exterior doors. I even used it on some commercial doors.
To my dismay, this product actually works! Like the rest of this review, I can't lie; It took me a while to figure out. One of my first recommendations to Bill was that I needed a video. I needed something to show me this product in action. He agreed, and I was able to watch his first video just a week later. Not only was I confident after watching it, I also felt challenged, as it was a video of his seven year old gaining entry into doors that are making me look like a moron. I quickly said to myself, "I got this!"
I couldn't wait to get back to work next shift. I got into the firehouse early, grabbed my Swipe Tool from my bunker coat pocket and went right for the outward swinging door into the Engine Room.
Nope....not today...5 minutes and I got out. But that's not the product's fault! I simply used it incorrectly.
After that, I reviewed the video once more and was even more eager to make this happen.
Now we're cooking!
Now I have the hang of it. Finally, it has become as useful as I can imagine it was designed to have been. I can safely say this is absolutely a good tool for the toolbox. I carry this in my bunker coat pocket, and have used it to gain access to several residential doors for lift assists and welfare checks. It has it's time and place, but as long as you are attempting to enter a door with only the latch locked, you are in business! I can safely say that I can get this tool to work successfully approximately 85% of the time. The other 15% is for doors/jams that will not cooperate with the parameters that are needed for this tool.
How it works..
First off, you need to assess the door. If it is a door with a simple door knob latch, you are good to go. No dead bolts. I say that now, but if the dead bolt isn't locked, you are able to gain entry. Since we don't always know if they're locked, I like to start off by getting the tool into the door jam with the curved side bending around behind the door. Lower the Swipe Tool down to the dead bolt. If it's thrown, try another method of entry. If you slide down passing the dead bolt, then lower it all the way to the door latch. Inward swinging doors require you to bring the tool to a 60-75 degree downward angle. I remembered it as about the climbing angle of a ladder. The idea is to get the Swipe Tool's forcing edge in front of the latch more then on top of it. By gently pulling the door towards you, simultaneously push the Swipe Tool directly forward to push the latch into the door knob, and then push the door open. For outward swinging doors, you will simply create an opposite 60-75 degree angle, trying to place the forcing edge of the tool behind the latch instead of on top of it. Gently push the door tight with the jam, pull the tool directly back towards you, and pull the door open as the latch clears the frame. Outward swinging doors are a little more challenging, as the body mechanics generally want you to pull the tool up and not directly backwards towards your body. I promise, practice definitely makes perfect.
For videos to see how it works, visit the Firefighter Swipe Tool YouTube Page.
What I've learned...
Well, like most forcible entry tools, this one takes practice to get good at. Once the skill and knowledge is figured out, it is a VERY useful tool to add to your cache. By taking the time and using it everywhere I went, I was soon able to gain entry in most doors. It is a strong tool. After several successful doors forced, I figured out that the moment you mess up a force, the edge of the plastic tool will become wavy. Once your tool is wavy, it will not work. A simple knife cut of the edge and we're back in business with a straight, smooth edge that will get into the tightest of latches. Now onto the door; once the Swipe Tool is in position on top of the latch, a quick push or pull to tighten the gap in the door, and the Swipe Tool will easily slide the latch to the side, allowing the throw to pass the jam and the door will swing open. Once these few simple steps were learned, I became a Swipe Tooling machine!
A second set of eyes (and third, and fourth):
You've seen my testimony, now hear from the friends I recruited to help me make this possible.
Jon Marr - Station-Pride.com Editor-in-Chief:
The firefighter swipe tool was effective once the art of using it was learned. There are some definite limitations which were already self-identified; such as deadbolts, and any locks other than a standard doorknob and lock. I utilized it multiple times on a wide range of standard doors and it worked as advertised. It did take some initial learning, but with a flick of the wrist, it became very easy to use. Definitely a zero damage way to gain entry on a common door.
Robert Woodhead (Shut Up And Train - The "OVM" - suatfire.com)
We had the pleasure to do a review for an alternative to the traditional Shove Knife, The Firefighter Swipe Tool.
This tool is used by First Responders to gain access to a Residential Dwelling such as a house or apartment while also preventing damage to the doors. It is composited of high strength Mylar enabling it to wrap around the door perfectly while allowing you to push the lock from the door knob to the side.
This tool like any other has pros and cons which I've listed below.
Small, Compact, Small size allows for no additional weight to your gear.Prevents unwanted damage to the citizen's property. Affordable - Price range $5.99 for 1 or $9.99 for 3!!Works on a majority of residential doors. Easy to use
Does not work when deadbolts are activated Will not work on commercial panic bar doorsWill melt and deform in high heat exposure. Will not work on tight doors (unless you use a wedge to get a gap)
One great option for this tool is it's use for medical calls. First Aid, Paramedics and even Police Officers can benefit from the use of this tool for access to homes where the resident is unable to open the door. Police Officers could also benefit from using this tool for welfare checks.
My final opinion is that this tool is a great option in certain scenarios, but would not be ideal while at an active fire.