Consumer-grade bullet proof panels have long benefited from military research. Admittedly, some past military innovations–like cost-effective sawdust-and-ice “pykrete” armor–turned out to have limited applications for your average American business. But battlefield experiments continue to hint at future bullet proof panel innovations.
MILITARY ADVANCES IN BULLET RESISTANT PANELS
Cutting edge research into magnetorheological fluid armor, single-walled carbon nanotubes, and multiblock copolymer polyurethane offer a glimpse of the sorts of bullet resistant panels that could be commonplace in just a few decades. After all, just a few years ago plate steel was the best an average citizen could hope for when it came to protecting his business or home. Today, thanks to advances in military research and industrial production processes, light and inexpensive Kevlar-based bullet resistant panels are regularly used to protect even the humblest 24/7 gas station or convenience store. As armed criminals continue to gravitate toward larger calibers and more powerful ammunition, we look to battlefield innovations when imagining tomorrows ballistic security installations.
ELECTRIC ARMOR BULLET PROOF PANELS
Look at ongoing experiments with electric and electromagnetic armor. These systems use pairs of electrically charged plates to, in essence, transform an entire bullet proof panel into a giant supercapacitor. When struck by a projectile, the charged panel releases a sudden burst of high voltage to create a powerful electromagnetic field that can slow, stop, and even vaporize military kinetic rounds and shaped charges (the bane of armored vehicles).
Traditionally, this would have had limited applications in the consumer world: Most guns are chambered for rounds with lead bullets or shot–which are neither magnetic nor good conductors. Thankfully, lead projectiles are relatively soft, and easily stopped by conventional fiberglass-based bullet resistant panels.
But there is growing concern about the increased penetration of so-called “armor piercing” rounds. For small arms, armor-piercing bullets are almost invariably made from either hardened steel or a cupronickel alloy–both of which are magnetic. Even the commonplace 12-gauge shotgun shell–which traditionally fires lead shot–has gotten a make-over: Owing to environmental regulations, traditional lead shot is increasingly replaced by steel shot, iron-alloys, or tungsten-nickel-tin concoctions, all of which would be susceptible to the power “force field” generated by electric armor.
EVEN MORE BATTLEFIELD BULLET PROOF PANEL INNOVATIONS
What else does military research have to offer the Kwik-E-Mart graveyard shift? Well, it’s a little tough to imagine the civilian application, but there’s still the possibility of developing bullet resistant panels using the principals of explosive-reactive armor!