Beefing up home security is always a good idea in this increasingly troubled world we live in. Political strife, cultural division and a general air of craziness can all lead to more violence, and what violence does occur will become more intense. You need to have a plan for dealing with such occasions and just as importantly you also need to equip yourself, and your home.
Considering that guns are extremely common weapons and continue to proliferate even in the hands of the bad guys it would be in your best interest to truly turn your castle into something worthy of the name.
If you’re home cannot even fend off handgun rounds it does not afford you very much protection, except from the weather. What you need is bulletproofing; armor.
In the realm of residential and light commercial bulletproofing windows seem to get the most attention thanks to a variety of glass look-alike materials as well as ballistic appliqués.
But your window will do you no good if bullets will sail straight through the walls and strike you! It’s time to upgrade your walls with the same treatment.
In today’s article we will discuss a variety of methods on how to build a bulletproof wall or upgrade an existing wall with bullet resistant materials.
Bulletproof? Or Just Bullet-Resistant?
Before we start our deep dive on armoring the walls at your home or business, we need to understand precisely what is meant by the term “bulletproof”. Very few things in this world are truly bulletproof.
As it turns out, bullets are very hard on pretty much anything they strike! Material that starts out completely proof against bullet penetration may degrade and fail with repeated impacts, especially impacts clustered in a small area.
On that note, not all bullets and the guns that fire them are created equal. It is a far sight easier to stop handgun fire then rifle fire, and in each category certain cartridges are renowned for their inherent penetrative capability- capability that can be further enhanced using specially designed projectiles.
If your armor is only rated to stop handgun bullets rifle fire is likely to punch through it with very little trouble.
All this must be considered when you set out to bulletproof anything, the walls of your structure included.
Failing to account for things like distance to the threat, threat level, meaning what kind of gunfire you want to stop, multiple impacts and so forth might mean you’re in for a rude awakening at the moment of truth.
And no matter how well you prepare and how much you invest in armor consider that there are always bigger and better guns out there.
Some firearms can make a mockery of even substantial armor, though as armor protection increases the guns that can reliably defeat it are rarer and rarer.
For this reason it is wise to only consider any surface you upgrade with protection “bullet resistant”, not bulletproof, and reliably bullet resistant against certain threats only.
A “bulletproof” wall might be depended on to protect you well for a short, sharp, low-intensity gunfight against home invaders at 3:00 a.m. but may not hold up very well at all in a lengthy gun battle where everyone has rifles.
As you read, have in mind precisely what kind of threat you are preparing for and what sort of scenario you’ll need that protection in.
Understanding Intermediate Barriers
In the ballistics world, an intermediate barrier is anything that a bullet will have to travel through, besides air, on its way to the intended target.
Intermediate barriers are always bad news for bullets because they will deflect them from their intended trajectory and also impede their performance; any barrier will degrade the bullet by forcing it to shed velocity and also deforming it, or even breaking pieces off of it.
The end result of transitioning through an intermediate barrier means that the bullet may miss its intended target and even if it hits it will not be as effective as it would be otherwise. If you are on the far side of this intermediate barrier, that is good news for you because you did not take a direct hit.
Ideally we want to stop the bullet entirely, but we will take what we can get when it comes to getting shot!
All armor serves as intermediate barriers for bullets, and hopefully one sturdy enough to stop them entirely. Without delving too deeply into materials science and the interaction of bullets with those materials there are two basic ways to stop a bullet reliably. The first way is to use a single sheet or layer of a hard, dense material upon which the bullet will expend all of its energy attempting to penetrate it, or else violently destruct upon impact.
The second way is to use many layers of thinner, weaker material that could not stand up against a speeding bullet on their own but together form a barrier that will rapidly and evenly deplete a bullet’s energy as it attempts to pierce those multiple layers.
Both methods work, though the former is largely the domain of hard armor, either metallic or ceramic. The latter is the domain of soft armor, typically, as exemplified by kevlar, dyneema and other ballistic grade fabrics.
These two examples largely inform our own choices that we will share with you below, and depending upon your budget, structure and other specific circumstances one may be more viable than the other.
This is an especially important concept to consider when attempting to DIY a bullet resistant wall or work within strict weight limitations.
It is possible that two, spaced sheets of material may work better at disrupting or even stopping bullets then a single sheet of thicker, “better” material. The business of ballistics is a tricky one, and one that warrants considerable investigation and study.
Build New or Upgrade?
Your solution and ergo your choice of material might be decided by whether or not you are building new to suit or upgrading an existing wall.
Building a new wall can obviously afford you more possibilities but the expense is likely to be correspondingly greater. Your choice of framing, support and actual armor material will be wider and this is obviously the default solution whenever you are building an addition or an entirely new structure.
Contrary to popular belief it is possible to upgrade an existing or prefabricated wall with armor, and this is usually cheaper but you will be more constrained in your choices based on the existing structure, framing and (most importantly) the supports of the wall.
Consider that any solution capable of stopping any bullet reliably is going to add a significant amount of weight to the wall and mostly the structure beneath it. Certain materials will add a dramatic amount of weight and can prove to be too much for floors, joists or even foundations.
If you are upgrading an existing wall, you must choose and install your armor solution carefully, lest you compromise the structures integrity. It wouldn’t do to stop bullets only to fall victim to collapse!
Options: Material Choices for Bulletproofing Your Walls
The following materials are suitable for interior or exterior walls, so long as the existing structure and foundation can handle the corresponding load.
Depending on your locale and the style of the structure you are working on they might be more or less suitable for you. All that matters is that the installation can be performed properly without compromising the safety of the structure.
Masonry- Brick, Concrete, Stone
Conventional exterior materials for homes and businesses like brick, concrete and genuine stone typically exhibit excellent bullet resistant properties, and will usually stop small caliber handgun rounds entirely.
Filled concrete block or poured concrete in particular is excellent for stopping bullets. These materials can also work well indoors whether or not you want them clad in some type of surfacing.
Durable, long lasting and, especially in the case of brick or stone, attractive this can be an all-in-one upgrade for your home or business.
The only downside to these materials is that they degrade comparatively quickly with each hit and the fractures that radiate out from each impact can lessen the resistance of the nearby material.
Even so, these are some of your very best options for bullet resistant-yet-typical home building materials. Be warned, though, they can be spendy depending on the installation and the skill of the installer.
Despite it’s a good qualities and reasonable cost one must be cautious when retrofitting any masonry because of its tremendous weight.
Especially when installed over an interior floor great care must be taken to reinforce where appropriate, and this will likely be substantial if installed over a basement or on a second floor.
Steel is often regarded as one of the better bullet resistant materials available for reinforcing or building a wall.
The incredibly hard, unyielding metal surface inspires confidence and this is thought by many lay people to be innately bullet resistant.
The reality is somewhat different, though steel and some other metals are used for purpose made armor in both vehicular and individual applications.
However, for structural applications steel and other metals must be used intelligently. The single, biggest drawback to steel is that it must be procured from a manufacturer of armor-grade products if its quality is to be assured.
Even thick, heavy slabs of steel that are not inherently armor-grade might have defects, flaws and other faults that could render their overall protective level dodgy or even vulnerable. Steel plate is also extremely heavy and is difficult to fabricate or modify on a work site.
One major advantage about steel, assuming it is proof against a particular threat, is that it typically endures multiple hits quite well with very little degradation. This can make steel a hardy choice against high-volume fire.
The downside is that, like most other metallic armors, steel is highly vulnerable to high-velocity projectiles and extremely vulnerable to high-velocity armor piercing projectiles. One must also be cautious of spalling which occurs on a major hit or near-penetration.
Tiny fragments of the steel delaminate and break off with lethal velocity on the back side of the plate, potentially injuring or even killing people struck by them.
If steel is just too heavy aluminum may be considered, though it must be installed in a far greater thickness to afford even modest bullet defeating capability. Aluminum is best used as a component in composite armor solutions.
Fiberglass paneling, or overlapping baffles of fiberglass, are one of the most popular installations for bulletproofing walls today, and are equally effective when retrofitted to an existing wall or incorporating into a scratch built wall.
Compared to metallics and masonry fiberglass paneling is much lighter, easier to handle, easier to install and less expensive. However, the majority of fiberglass panels are only rated for comparatively minor threats, with large caliber handguns, many rifles and shotgun slugs typically giving them a hard way to go.
Fiberglass is also a popular choice for reducing the threat of spalling when used in conjunction with metallic armor. It is reasonably effective against fragmentation for the same reason.
Despite its airy weight compared to metallics, ceramics and other heavy solutions adding long runs of fiberglass paneling or baffling to a wall will still dramatically increase the load on the structure that supports the wall so take this into account especially when armoring a long wall or an older structure that might not be as well supported as our more modern designs.
Ballistic Fabric/Soft Armor
Ballistic fabrics are the current standard for soft body armor and also typically employed in conjunction with hard body armor.
Soft armors are easy to handle, relatively lightweight and flexible making them a good choice for unusual installations. Hung bats of soft armor fabric can reliably stop pretty much all handguns and certain low velocity rifles, along with usual shotgun loads.
The downside to fabric armor such as kevlar, dyneema and others is that they are expensive and difficult to procure in quantity if you are a DIY person.
Though one of the lighter solutions these fabrics are still heavy when installed in the thicknesses needed to assure protection against given threats.
On the other hand fabric armor does not degrade very much under fire and is generally proof against follow-up shots unless rounds strike very close together or atop one another. This can make it a reasonable choice against repeated strikes or low-caliber but high-intensity threats.
But one must also keep in mind that these fabrics break down and degrade over time, far faster than steel or masonry meaning you might be facing a very expensive refit in just a few short years if you want to maintain protection.
Loose fill materials like sand, soil and even tiny synthetic particulates can work well for stopping bullets so long as a certain density is achieved.
It is easy to comprehend when you consider that sandbags filled with earth or sand have long been a feature of defensive fortifications and giant, earthen berms are a ubiquitous feature at virtually every outdoor shooting ranges serving as safe backstops. The sheer density of the material rapidly bleeds velocity off of bullets and does so reliably.
These same characteristics can make it a great way to up-armor a wall, as well as very inexpensive compared to other solutions.
The major shortcoming, as you have probably guessed, is sheer weight as achieving the needed density to reliably stop gunfire means you’ll be adding a tremendous load to any structure it is placed atop.
For certain structures and installations this will make the installation of sandbags (whatever they might be filled with) an impossibility.
But sandbags or other earthen fill installations are one of the simplest to accomplish in a DIY capacity, as almost anybody can shovel dirt or sand into a bag before tying it off and stacking it.
Believe it or not, these bags are sometimes incorporated into a composite armored structure by pouring concrete over them or between banks of them.
The resulting wall is all but completely proof against small arms fire, though it will more likely resemble a bunker than a typical wall in a residential home!
Improvised Option – Floor/Wall Tile Composite
In various war zones around the world standard ceramic tiles have been scavenged from all kinds of places for incorporation into a “redneck” but reasonably effective tile composite armor.
After all, ceramic plates are a standard for hard body armor, so why can’t you just “roll your own” using common ceramic tile? Nice try, as there is a world of difference between common home tile and ceramic body armor strike faces, but there is a grain of truth to the assertion.
This method involves using an outer layer of ceramic tile, finish side out, attached to an intermediate core of wood, metal, thickly stacked paper, or some other dense material using duct tape, glue or even fabric straps.
The resulting packages are then arranged as large tiles to reinforce a wall on the inside or outside. This “sandwich” will do much to degrade several common calibers, though rifles will be trouble.
The good news is that these materials are available quite commonly and often cheaply, and all sorts of ceramic tiles can be had for pennies on the dollar from overruns, factory second sales and distributor outlets.
With some elbow grease and a little time you can usually harvest as many as you want from abandoned or condemned buildings.
The bad news is that the overall protective level of this armor varies wildly, though it is better than nothing, and it is extremely labor-intensive when it comes to gathering the materials and then assembling it.
Improvised Option – Bookcase
Believe it or not common, bog-standard books can prove quite the obstruction to bullets, especially when they are tightly packed onto a common bookcase.
Recall what we said above about multiple, thin layers of lesser material adding up to form a substantial barrier to bullets? When you think about the way the pages of a book are arranged it starts to look a lot like typical soft armor.
Though nowhere near as effective or reliable as legitimate soft armor, a great deal of anecdotal testing has been performed against bookcases full of books, proving its efficacy as an improvised armor.
Do note that the “strike face” of the book should be the front or back cover for best effect, as a bullet that strikes the book along the spine or opening could “slip” between the pages, reducing effectiveness.
Unless you are a major bookworm or outfitting a library you probably don’t have enough books lying around to completely cover an entire wall with stuffed bookcases.
If this is your situation you have two options, the first being to strategically place bookcases to afford you maximum protection against the likely direction the threat will come from and the second being to hit up libraries, secondhand bookstores, book repositories and so forth for any old stock they are getting rid of cheaply or for free.
Old dictionaries, thick phonebooks and heavy catalogs are gold for this purpose. The subject doesn’t matter so much but girthy books are better in all cases.
You might have quite a workout ahead of you hauling and loading that many books, but for some people this is an ideal solution and one that won’t necessarily look out of place in your home!
Bulletproofing the walls of any structure you frequently inhabit, be it your home or business, is a great idea and worthy undertaking despite the work and expense typically involved.
But in the end fortifying a strategic location against gunfire will give you a massive advantage against ballistic threats in all kinds of situations.
Review this article and use the information within as your guide so that you can determine which material is right for your specific application.