Ballistic vs. Non-Ballistic Glass: The Differences You Should Care About

By October 12, 2020Blog

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding ballistic vs. non-ballistic glass, so we’re here to help clear some of it up.

What Is Ballistic Glass?

First off, let’s get you acclimated to the proper vernacular. The correct terms to use are “ballistic glass” or “bullet-resistant glass,” NOT “bulletproof glass.”

Why?

Because nothing is guaranteed to produce a particular result. Testing in a laboratory is an indicator of possible, perhaps even probable, outcomes. However, actual attacks can vary greatly, and it is impossible to test for every possible contingency.

That said, it is comforting to know the glass has been tested and has stopped rounds, and these results are there to help guide buyers to a solution that addresses their perceived threat level.

It is easy to find technical data on this topic swirling around on the internet. In fact, we have a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo on our website if you are so inclined to read it. However, we wanted to explain with this blog post with less inner-industry jargon and more “man on the street” language that everyone can easily understand.

Ballistic glass is a term that can refer to a range of security glass products that are resistant to firearm projectile impacts to varying degrees, but that WILL NOT actually stop all bullets in their tracks. In other words, it’s important not to assume that all bullet-resistant glass is created equal as this is not the case.

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So, what exactly does “bullet-resistant” mean?

Ballistic windows are rated to withstand impacts from bullets of different calibers and velocities, but this does not mean that the rounds will just bounce off and fall away harmlessly to the ground.

We often refer to one glass type when we talk about ballistic windows as an “all-glass laminate.” This type of glass consists of several laminated glass layers that can protect against forced entry, rioters, stray bullets, and active shooters, depending on the overall thickness and strength. There are several alternative types of ballistic glass and all-glass laminates, including but not limited to, glass-clad polycarbonate and laminated polycarbonate. Cost, weight, durability requirements, and protection levels are all determining factors in choosing the best materials for your project.

Depending on the rating of a specific glass model, it may be able to stop one or several bullets. Again, this depends on many factors, including the caliber, velocity, and grain (weight) of the projectiles. High-powered ammunition may have no trouble piercing many types of ballistic grade glass.

After the first round impacts a sheet of bullet-resistant glass, it will significantly diminish in strength with each subsequent impact. Eventually, even the most robust glass can become compromised and no longer provide a protective security barrier.

Key facts about bullet-resistant window glass:

  • It is NOT completely bulletproof
  • Can sometimes resist one or more impacts from high-velocity projectiles
  • Does not immediately shatter, even after repeated high-force impacts
  • Provides multiple levels of protection against varying threat types
  • Classified based on how many and what kind of bullets it can resist from a certain caliber of firearm

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How is non-ballistic window glass different?

There are many types of glass that are not bullet resistant, from the standard annealed or plate glass window glass you might find in a home or business to the tempered or laminated safety glass commonly used in areas where added strength is needed for a myriad of reasons. Non-ballistic just means that it offers ZERO protection against firearm projectiles.

In other words, if a non-ballistic window gets hit by one bullet, it will likely shatter and may fall from the framing. Certain safety and security glasses are stronger than standard window glass and are designed to be less dangerous when they break, but they are no match for a bullet of any caliber.

Characteristics of non-ballistic windows:

  • Do not provide any protection against firearm rounds
  • Allow all bullets to pass through and shatter right away after being shot
  • Certain types can protect against different types of impacts, but not bullets
  • Will not have any ballistic rating listed in the product description.

Benefits of Ballistic Glass

Bullet Resistant Glass Can Protect People & Property

Now that you have a better understanding of what bullet-resistant glass is let’s take a look at a couple of ways it can be used to increase day-to-day security.

Top-of-the-Line Protection for Businesses and Commercial Properties

Ballistic windows are one of the best ways businesses or commercial facilities can upgrade their glass to protect against everything from forced-entry and burglary attempts to rioting and looting.

Whereas standard tempered, non-ballistic safety glass that’s so often used in retail and other commercial applications is very easy to shatter, this is not the case for ballistic-rated glass. Business or commercial building owners often choose to install ballistic grade windows to protect their merchandise, equipment, and employees.

For example, retrofitting a retail storefront with ballistic rated glass panels likely means that the windows will be virtually unbreakable using traditional burglary methods. The armored glass will be able to withstand repeated impacts by things like hammers, crowbars, bricks, rocks, and other common break-and-enter tools.

There is an important distinction to make here.

There are many less expensive glass options tested to forced entry standards and that can help reduce the chances a burglar will be successful in forcing their way into your building, but these are not necessarily bullet resistant. If it does not have a ballistic rating or test data listed on the product data sheet, it should not be considered bullet resistant glass.

On the other hand, many ballistic-rated glass make-ups also have forced entry test data, which makes sense when you think about it. If it is robust enough to stop bullets, it is exceptionally tough glass.

Moral of the story: forced entry glass is not always bullet resistant, and not all bullet-resistant glass is forced entry rated. Ask your consultant to clarify and read the datasheets thoroughly before buying.

According to the FBI, burglary accounted for approximately 17% of all property crime in 2018.

Would-be intruders are usually deterred very quickly when they can’t gain entry easily, so they’ll move on to find another target. When used as part of a complete security system, ballistic grade windows are an extremely effective way to prevent property damage, theft, and financial loss.

Effective Active Shooter Protection

Ballistic resistant glass is an ideal way to protect against active shooters. Unfortunately, this type of security is becoming increasingly necessary in our society, even in schools, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated and expensive to secure a facility against active shooters.

Glass windows and doors are a building’s most vulnerable entry points. An active shooter can easily fire a round or two through standard window glass, shattering it and gaining easy entry to a facility or to a specific room, which is bad news for those inside.

In 2019, the FBI designated 28 shootings in the USA as active shooter incidents.

Upgrading a building with bullet resistant windows can stop bullets to a certain degree and keep violent would-be intruders out. Even if an armed attacker is able to penetrate the windows with ballistic rounds, they will have a difficult time shattering them completely to gain entry.

This delayed entry gives people the inside time to react by calling the police, barricading themselves in a safe area, or evacuating another entrance. It also provides the authorities time to arrive and deal with the situation to minimize human lives’ loss.

Ballistic security glass is a good fit for:

  • Retail stores of all types
  • Government facilities
  • Financial institutions
  • Schools
  • Religious centers
  • Reception areas
  • Detention facilities
  • Any other property that requires a high level of security

Final Thoughts

Standard non-ballistic window glass has its place, but bullet-resistant windows offer protection against a wide range of threats and won’t shatter easily.

Contact Riot Glass today to learn about our ballistic glass retrofits or schedule a consultation with one of our security experts.

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