Bulletproof and bullet resistant are both common terms used to describe reinforced glazing materials that can be exposed to ballistic impact without immediately shattering and allowing penetration of the round. These terms are often used interchangeably, and they can both describe a huge array of products, from windows to doors to wall panels. However, if you plan on including bullet resistant glazing in your building projects or security upgrades, it’s important to understand the exact level of protection that a product can provide. 

photo of commercial bullet resistant glass

Here’s a guide to bulletproof vs. bullet resistant glass and the various types available.

What’s the Difference Between Bullet Resistant and Bulletproof Glass?

Bulletproof and bullet resistant glass can mean roughly the same thing – a pane of glazing material that is able to withstand ballistic impact. Some people assume that bulletproof glass is stronger than bullet resistant glass. However, no material is truly “bulletproof.” With enough ballistic impact or a more powerful round than the material was tested to, every material may eventually break down. So the term bulletproof is actually not completely accurate. It is simply a popular nomenclature used to describe bullet resistant materials. 

However, bullet resistant glass is still incredibly strong. These materials are laminated and/or reinforced specifically to absorb the impact from ballistic rounds instead of breaking or shattering upon impact and allowing the bullet or glass spall from the bullet to enter the safe side. It is often made of synthetic materials like acrylic or polycarbonate. Or it can consist of multiple layers of glass or the combination of glass and polycarbonate to achieve higher levels of protection while remaining relatively thin and light weight compared to an all-glass makeup.

When you invest in security products from a reputable provider, you can be confident they are tested to ensure compliance with independent industry standards. And these standards are designed to ensure the materials do not fail when impacted by multiple rounds from various weapons. Providing absolute protection with no penetration of the round and no spall from the glazing itself.

Where Is Bullet Resistant Glass Used?

Bullet resistant glazing is used in a wide array of products, including doors, windows, bandit barriers, transaction windows and countertop systems. And the types of products you choose really depends on the layout and security needs of your facility. For example, a data center that houses servers for large enterprises generally needs to keep out anyone who is not authorized to access the facility from the outside. So it may rely on a full array of exterior doors and windows to prevent break-ins or ballistic attack from all potential entry points. However, a bank that is open to the public may be more concerned about visitors already inside the facility breaching sensitive areas once they’re already inside. So a countertop system or bandit barrier over the teller and customer service desks may be more appropriate in this type of setting. 

Depending on your security needs, these products may also be made with a variety of materials. The most common are acrylic, polycarbonate, glass-clad polycarbonate, and laminated glass. The latter two categories contain actual glass, which is easier to clean and more durable against the elements. So these are generally preferred for exterior applications. However, acrylic and polycarbonate offer plenty of strength and customizability for interior security structures. 

The other important consideration to know is the level of bullet resistance. There are several testing standards that can be used, but one of the most commonly referenced and thorough  is UL 752. This standard determines what type and how many ballistic rounds a piece of bullet resistant glass can handle. For example, products that meet Level 1 standards are tested against three shots from a 9mm handgun, while Level 8 provides protection against five shots from a 150-grain 7.62mm rifle. The levels are not completely linear. So complete a thorough threat assessment for your facility to determine the exact type of ballistic protection you may require before looking for products of a particular class or level.  

How Bullet Resistant Is Bulletproof Glass?

Although no material is completely bulletproof, when testing to UL752 standards the materials must provide absolute safety for the level of protection they are being tested to.  In other words, if a material is tested to UL752 Level 3 the material must provide absolute protection from three shots of a 44 magnum.  This means no penetration of any of the 3 rounds but also there can be no glass spall penetrate the cardboard witness panel on the safe side of the glass. It is important to note here that there are a number of products on the market that are claimed to meet a UL752 “low spall” rating.  This is not accurate.  The UL752 standard does not incorporate any kind of low spall rating.  If a product is claimed to be a UL752 low spall product this is not accurate.  Any spall would constitute a failed test and the UL752 rating would not be met.

If you’re looking for industry leading bullet resistant products for your next building project, contact Insulgard for assistance. Our BULLETBLOCK line of products includes bullet resistant glazing, windows, doors, storefronts and transaction windows.  We provide top quality products while our knowledgeable team can help you find the value added services to suit your specific applications. Visit our website to find the bulletproof glass solutions that work best for your needs.

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