The Anatomy of a Bullet Proof Glass System

Bullet Proof Glass BarrierThe days when bolting a thick sheet of glass over a teller window made it “bullet proof” are long gone.  Modern systems secure the entire transaction area with bullet proof glass, fiberglass, aluminum, and steel. These materials are seamlessly integrated with new construction, or retrofitted to existing structures in banks, government offices, corner stores, or gas stations.

A bulletproof system has four components:

  • The Bullet Resistant Barrier
  • Framing
  • The Pass Through
  • The Door

A Bullet Resistant System In Four Parts

  1. The Bullet Resistant Barrier: Today’s “bullet proof glass” is almost never actual glass.  By far the most common material for a bullet resistant window is solid 1 1/4″ clear acrylic. In rooms with higher ceilings, installers often opt to replace the top few feet of ballistic glass with slot louvers. This thinner acrylic is slotted like a vent, allowing for better airflow while reducing installation costs. There’s little value in mounting a bullet resistant acrylic barrier over a not-at-all-bulletproof plywood counter. Any modern installation will also include bullet resistant fiberglass (similar to DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber) backing the counters and walls in the transaction area.

    According to Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions, “it’s rare to have robberies that are violent.  People don’t typically want to come in and start shooting the place up, and so some customers might be on the fence about fiberglass. I’ve even had some financial institutions over the years that haven’t initially wanted to add fiberglass.  But in this day and age, people are going with fiberglass below as well; we just have to educate the customer that there is a product out there, and it can even be retrofitted.”

  2. Framing:  Bullet resistant glass does little good if it’s badly bolted to the wall with cheap hardware. A truly bullet proof installation is secured with lengths of precision-cut high-grade 6061 aluminum channel, or even a ballistically-rated framing system. These run the entire length of the bullet resistant acrylic, from countertop to ceiling and wall to wall.
  3. The Pass-Through: A simple steel currency tray is sufficient if workers and customers only need to exchange papers or small items.  If larger packages need to pass through the bullet proof glass, then installers may opt for a pre-fabricated sheet-steel cash drawer or rotating bulletproof passer. A company like TSS can even custom craft large package passers from bullet resistant acrylic.
  4. The Door: Good bullet resistant manufacturers will custom-build an attractive bullet resistant door and frame from wood, acrylic, aluminum, or any combination of these.  Such doors can be fitted with any hardware, from conventional Schlage locksets to biometric systems. Doors are often equipped with electric strike plates, making it possible for staff to remotely buzz people in.

Bullet Proof Installation

All of this is useless if the system is poorly built and installed. A secure system has a tight fit and smooth finish, with all channel and acrylic precision cut or notched so that the bullet proof glass is within 1/8″ to 1/16″ of walls, moldings, and other contours of the transaction space.  Jim says that in a good system “the notches in the bullet-resistant acrylic are all done on automated equipment. A lot of times we take all of our own field dimensions because we’re looking for that tight fit.” TSS has the staff and skill to guide a customer through gathering these dimensions, so a custom fit can be fabricated for even the most remote site.

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