Choosing the Right Ballistic Protection for Your Windows and Doors

This guide can help you figure out your needs and options for bullet-resistant windows and doors.

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1. Determine the threat level that will be encountered

In deciding what calibers of weapons (threat level) to protect against, the most common path is to equate the expected threat to one of the major certification standards and then look for materials that meet that standard.

The two most common ballistic standards are put forth by UL and NIJ.

  • UL 752 is written solely for barrier certification.  
  • NIJ 0108/0101 is focused on testing body armor and materials.
  • EN 1063/1522 are the most common standards used in Europe. 1063 applies to transparent materials like window glass, 1522 applies to opaque materials such as doors, shutters, and blinds.
  • EN1063/1522 ratings have rough equivalents to the UL standard but differ at several levels for grain weight, velocity, and shot quantity required.

For this reason, most ballistic barrier providers focus on applying the UL standard, of which has a wide array of levels that cover the most common ammunition types that would likely be encountered.

2. Choose the right bullet-resistant material

A variety of options exist: fabric, glass, plastic, metal, or fiberglass.  Looking at the application holistically can help determine the best choice.

Some questions to ask about your application:

  • Is rifle fire a concern?
  • Is the surrounding wall already structurally engineered for product weight and ballistic impact?
  • Could this be installed quickly to minimize disruption (for schools, during a weekend)?
  • Is the window/door on the ground floor where much heavier materials can be more easily supported?
  • Does the window need to act as emergency egress?
  • Is finger-pinch safety for doors a concern?

3. Choose between Compliant, Certified, or UL Listed ballistic solutions

Ballistic materials will often show three different tiers of product verification, each with a different confidence level for you to have trust in:

Compliant: self-tested, analyzed, or evaluated by the manufacturer to meet a standard. This is a very low- confidence level and should be avoided.

Certified: an independent test facility with proper authority to certify to a given standard is used to verify product performance

UL Security Listed: Underwriters Lab (a certified lab with renowned expertise) conducts the test.  This is the highest confidence level product.

  • Ongoing auditing of production processes to ensure compliance with the original certification.
  • The product receives a specific UL logo and file number and must be marked with it (such as the BBP UL mark, shown to the right).
  • Contrary to what some suppliers claim:
    UL certification is NOT overly complicated nor expensive to obtain.
    It is THE most highly regarded "seal of approval" in the industry.
    Any materials supplier that chooses not to seek UL approval has reasons to avoid doing so other than cost, so the lack of certification should be scrutinized.

4. Achieving full ballistic integrity

Unless the product and the installation have BOTH been certified, it is unusual for an existing window frame or door jamb to support ballistic impact. Structural reinforcement of these elements is normally required for bullet-resistant door and window installations.

Security film can be laminated to glass and may significantly deter an intruder from getting through the glass itself, but the entire window may break free if the framing has not also been properly reinforced.

A window with security film, a pane of bullet-resistant glass, or a certified ballistic door panel must be supported by a wall, frame, and jamb that are also engineered to withstand a ballistic event in order to achieve full ballistic integrity.

Adding a ballistic window shade or door cover requires no reinforcement due to the nature of the material - it catches the bullet rather than simply withstanding it.