Set-in-place bullet-resistant transaction windows are the most common ballistic barrier in North America. They are flexible (and cost-effective) solutions that convert any wall into a secure point-of-sale, reception area, checkpoint, or transaction area.
Such transaction windows are a great option for many facilities and a straightforward way for any builder to add enhanced security to their offerings.
For decades, Total Security Solutions has produced a range of ready-to-install transaction windows and supported builders and independent contractors new to ballistic barriers so they can give their clients the best installation possible.
Anatomy of a Transaction Window
True "bullet-resistant" materials are tested and rated by an independent testing laboratory to confirm their ability to stop a specific number of bullets of a specific caliber. This is also called its "UL Level" (or "Level"). A "Level 3" material will stop at least three shots from a .44 Magnum pistol. It may stop more—TSS Level 3 steel doors are notorious for stopping more than 100 shots from a range of pistols and rifles. But it will never fail to stop at least three shots from a .44 Mag.
Any ballistic material supplier will be able to furnish details about components, including its Level and what lab did the testing.
There are three key elements to all bullet-resistant transaction windows:
- Transparency and Framing: This is the window itself: ballistically rated glazing (usually made out of laminated layers of tempered glass, polycarbonate, or acrylic) and the properly rated framing to hold it in place.
- Communications: This is the system that allows for clear communication through the barrier. Although most people assume intercoms are best, they are only one of several options (and rarely the best).
- Passer: This is the system for safe and secure exchange of materials (e.g., documents, packages, files, etc.) In most cases, this means an integrated currency tray. In low-threat/low-traffic security settings, it might be appropriate to simply install a horizontal sliding transaction window, which can be opened to accept documents. A larger package passer can be directly integrated with the transaction window (as shown in the video below). It's less common to pair a pass-thru drawer with a transaction window, but not unheard of (especially in exterior applications).
The Five Types of Transaction Windows
In addition to being made of ballistically rated materials, a good transaction window will itself have been tested and rated by a third-party laboratory. This second round of testing confirms that no aspect of the design or part of the manufacturing process inadvertently weakened any of the materials, compromising their UL Rating.
There are five standard types of transaction windows. While there are some functional differences among them (usually having to do with communications and voice transmission), it is usually aesthetic preferences and budget that govern which style a given customer will prefer.
All standard TSS transaction windows rely on natural voice transmission, as opposed to intercoms. TSS CEO Jim Richards explains:
“I've been doing this for decades, and still don’t like intercoms. Yes, we sell them, because in some situations it’s absolutely what a customer needs. But there is constant tweaking with them, potential issues with crosstalk and static interference. There’s just more to go wrong. In that regard, they are a little less predictable, which can end up being really annoying to the end user.”
The five types of transaction windows are:
1. Hole & Backer
This is the most "traditional" style of transaction window, with a round voice port in the ballistic glazing at mouth level. TSS produces these in Levels 1 through 8. The 6" voice port and oversized 10" backer gives both superior voice transmission and clearer full-face visibility, easing communication. A transparent backer is usually preferable in interior applications, but some users might prefer a steel "talk-thru" port. (Metal backers like these are more common with exterior transaction windows.)
The standard baffle window is one of TSS’s premier products. Available in UL Levels 1 through 8, it offers the best sound transmission available for bullet-resistant barriers with no visual obstructions. The result is an unobtrusive barrier that blends into the decor.
3. Arched or Arched Backer
Something of a hybrid of the Baffle and the standard Hole & Backer window (and likewise available in UL Levels 1 through 8), these offer an economical balance of high visibility (due to the large, arched oblong backer) and good voice transmission.
4. NVR (Natural Voice Rail)
Another TSS original, this transaction window (available in Levels 1 through 8) features a single solid piece of ballistic transparency, with no ports or cuts. It has a secure air passage machined into the frame for natural voice transmission.
These are available as either vertical or horizontal sliding transaction windows, usually with a "hole & backer" style voice port. Sliding transaction windows are ideal for high-traffic facilities (e.g., medical offices, government buildings, law offices, etc.) The window can slide open to easily pass large packages or documents and offers good overall sound transmission. Standard sliding transaction windows are available in UL Levels 1 through 5.
Taking a "Systems" Approach and Creating Custom Transaction Windows
While TSS offers these five standard ballistic transaction windows, they are by no means limited to these five styles. TSS CEO Jim Richards points out, “Because we make each of these individually to order, custom work is not at all an issue.”
For example, TSS created an offset "pass around" passer solution for a city office that needed to handle blueprints. As you can see in this diagram, city staff can safely pass rolled blueprints (shown in red), despite their inconvenient dimensions, without any threat exposure.
“It all just depends on what the application is. We can make something they can slide a clipboard through, pass blueprints around, or use to exchange boxes or packages. We’re always ready to design something that meets the customer’s needs."
That said, sticking with one of TSS's standard offerings means benefiting from TSS’s pre-engineered designs and forms—which translates to faster delivery for your customer.
Regardless of whether they choose a standard or custom transaction window, every customer benefits from TSS's integrated “Systems” approach to ballistic barriers. That means not only being sure that every element of the transaction window is smoothly integrated, but also ensuring that the transaction window itself meshes securely with the building and workflow. That often includes making sure the surrounding walls can withstand an attack (or reinforcing them with fiberglass in order to ensure they do).
Planning Your Secured Transaction Window and More
TSS is eager to help builders and architects integrate total security into any building design. Contact our ballistic security experts if you have questions or want to get started with a specific project.
Still in the very early planning stage? We've put together this definitive guide to help avoid costly errors and set yourself up for success. This guide covers the fundamentals of bullet-resistant barrier systems, with expert tips on determining the right kind of barrier for your project, selecting the right materials, and beginning the planning process for your project.