Ballistic Glass: 7 Common Install Mistakes

There are only a few top-tier companies doing enough work to hone the skills needed to fabricate ballistic glass systems. This means that the rest of the jobs are being done by local contractors who only occasionally attempt a bullet proofing job. According to Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions, “typically the customer just doesn’t know what to look for. I’ve been into places, and the customer loves the install, but if it had been something that had been installed by us, I would have fired the person that installed it.”

Seven Bullet Proof Tells

So what should you look for in a ballistic glass installation? Jim explains, “the biggest mistakes you see on an install are fit and finish.”

  1. Feel the Seams: Sheets of ballistic glass should come together tightly and smoothly. All channel and glass should butt flush against walls, ceilings, or counters.
  2. Look at the Channel Edges: All exposed cuts in the bullet resistant channel securing the ballistic glass should be rounded and smooth. If the channel is bronze-coated, then a good installer will go the extra mile and paint the exposed, raw aluminum with bronze enamel.
  3. Ballistic Glass Has Clear, Polished Edges: The edges of ballistic acrylic can be polished by running a blowtorch flame over them; it’s tricky to get right, but skilled fabricators make it look good.  Amateur installers will mar the edge when they try to do this, or won’t bother at all, leaving a rough cut.
  4. No Visible Wires: Wires for an intercom or the electric strike plate on a buzz-through door should be tacked up under counters or concealed in runs, not lying on the floor or sloppily pegged to the wall.
  5. Can You Hear Me?: Can you hear the worker during a transaction?  If so, it’s either because the installer has designed a good system that takes into account security, air flow, and sound transmission (like the baffles in a traditional bullet proof barrier), fabricated a good speak hole and backer system, or installed a quality bullet resistance-rated intercom.
  6. How’s the Weather?: Is there a noticeable temperature or humidity difference between the two sides of the ballistic glass?  It takes skill and expensive equipment to fabricate the acrylic slot louver vents that many installations need.  A solid piece of acrylic from counter to ceiling can be just fine, but only if air vents and returns have been modified to accommodate the lack of airflow between the two sections of what was previously a single room.
  7. One Inch or Less Is Bad News: Older cities, like Detroit, still have a lot of “legacy” bullet resistant materials in place. This ballistic glass was suitable when it was installed, but can no longer bear the punch of modern ammunition.  Some newer bullet resistant windows can provide good protection under an inch, but these will be new sheets of modern polycarbonate, not grungy old ballistic glass. Jim recalls, “I’ve been in places that had 1/2″ acrylic; that won’t stop anything.” What’s worse, some less-experienced (or even flat-out dishonest) small-time installers will hang 1″–or even 1/2″–acrylic and give the impression that this offers some level of bullet protection. “I refuse to do it. Maybe the owner knows the truth, but the people standing behind there, that register worker, that teller, they don’t know that’s not bullet resistant.”
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