Bullet Resistant Glass
by Don Hooper
In 1968 we opened the branch office at West Chicago and Schaefer. I was the officer in charge when the office opened in a temporary trailer about 100 yards from the actual site of the new building. We had to demolish a Shell gas station, which stood on the corner.
It was discovered, after the station was removed, that the gasoline tanks under the ground had been leaking, and so a very large excavation was needed to remove all the contaminated soil before construction could begin. This delayed the opening by several months.
One of the new features of the branch was to be the installation of bullet resistant (BR) glass, actually an acrylic material designed to capture a bullet. This would be the very first experiment with this "protective" material in the Midwest. The manufacturer of the BR glass was Cadillac Glass, a customer of the bank.
The large panels were placed on the counter top above the teller windows, and they were about an inch or so in thickness. One of the early problems we found was that the way the panels were constructed and installed made it very difficult for both the teller and the customer to communicate. The only opening was a small one just above the "deal plate" where a transaction was passed between the customer and the teller.
During and after construction of the office, bankers from all over the Midwest came to see the branch, discuss the installation, and get feedback as they prepared to have this new product installed in bank branches. I think we retrofitted many old offices, and installed the BR glass in nearly every new office opened after that.
Jack Steinmetz, who was assigned to the Branch Department, came up with an idea to solve the problem of communicating through the glass. He asked Cadillac Glass to provide a sample panel of the material to test his idea.
He took the panel home, and cut several openings (kerfs) in the panel. This would allow the voices to be heard through the window, and seemed to be a workable solution for future installations of the BR glass in other offices.
Cadillac Glass advised that the process might compromise the integrity of the material. To test this theory, Jack Steinmetz, Larry Hemmen, and Paul Hussey asked the Bank Security Department to take the panel to the Bank¹s gun range at the MBB Building, secure it, and have a guard fire a weapon at the center of the panel.
As they stood at the back of the gun range, the guard stood about 3-4 feet in front of the panel and fired one shot from his pistol at the panel.
The panel immediately shattered and the bullet ricochet several times around the range, hitting Jack very lightly in the left chest and falling to the floor at his feet. The energy had been completely spent during the flight around and off the walls of the range. It was absolute pure luck that nobody was seriously injured.
Paul Hussey's comment was "Did that bullet hit you?" When Jack said "Yes", Paul remarked "That was a dumb idea, let's get out of here!"
Cadillac Glass and other suppliers of BR glass eventually worked out a system to install a speak through device in the panel to overcome the problem without sacrificing the integrity of the material.