Ballistic Glass Myths and Misconceptions

An endless supply of high-adrenaline summer blockbusters and dramatic prime-time cop shows has firmly established “bullet proof” as a synonym for “indestructible.” This might seem like great free publicity for ballistic glass companies and installers, but the public’s false sense that they know a lot about guns and bullet-resistant security is much more of a headache than a help.

Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards finds that these misconceptions fall into three categories: weight, cost, and durability.


Jim points out, “People really have no idea about the weight, and how significant it is.” Hearing that bulletproof glass is actually plastic (usually acrylic, polycarbonate, or a laminated combination of these and glass), folks tend to imagine something light, like a salad-bar sneeze guard. True ballistic glass is a dense high-quality thermoplastic at least eight times thicker than window glass; it starts at around 8 pounds per square foot–meaning that a smallish window will weigh more than 30 pounds by itself. Higher level ballistic glass–capable of stopping several shots from an assault rifle–can be more than 25 pounds per square foot. That can quickly become a very real structural concern, and is especially troublesome to companies that specializes in bullet-proof conversion for vehicles.


“And people have no idea about the cost,” Jim adds. Again, we associate “plastic” with something that’s cheap and common; most people are shocked to learn that a small, prefabricated ballistic glass transaction window costs around $900, and that custom ballistic systems for commercial banks or government buildings can easily top hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Finally, it’s common to think of “bullet proof” as being indestructibly durable in all situations–and thus suitable for any stressful environment, from robbery-prone liquor stores to extreme weather shelters. But that’s not the case; as mentioned before improper cleaning can badly mar an otherwise beautiful installation, and not all bullet resistant products are suitable for preventing forced entry (which exerts very different stresses on a material than a speeding bullet).

People even fundamentally misunderstand what a “bullet proof” rating means: “They see movies and think this material can stop hundreds of shots,” Jim sighs, “nothing can withstand that.” A UL rating of Level 3, for example, doesn’t mean a piece of plastic will stop an infinite number of shots from a .44 Magnum; it means that a third-party laboratory has independently verified that ballistic glass will stop a tight cluster of three shots form a .44 Magnum pistol (and, in practical terms, will probably stop as many as five or six shots, since few armed robbers enjoy the ideal shooting conditions of a materials testing laboratory).

Despite the occasional frustrations, Jim still finds that “it’s a good conversation starter at parties; you tell people you do bullet resistant glass work, and they clearly have all sorts of questions and ideas.”

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