Keeping the Smash & Grabbers and the Rioters Out

Century BOB
Jim Wagner
From time-to-time American and foreign companies come to me to test their new products. These companies range from manufacturers of tactical products specifically for military and law enforcement use to products for civilian self-defense or training. They come to me because they know that I’ll test their products under realistic conditions, and that I’ll give them a true and accurate report when I am finished with the testing. If I don’t like a product I won’t recommend it, but if I like a product, then I’ll not only endorse it, putting my name and reputation behind it.

You’ve probably figured it out by now where I’m going with this. However, I’m not here just to introduce you to a new, but I guarantee you’re going to learn something new, which may benefit you or someone you know.

The company Riot Glass, Inc., headquartered in Huntington Beach, California approached me a couple of months ago requesting that I test a new product they had just developed. To be more specific, it was the company’s Vice President, Scott Beerer, who contacted me. He had been one of my firearms students in the past, and he was aware of my tactical background, that I had been a Range Safety Officer (RSO) with the United States Marine Corps, and that I was also a current Chief Range Safety Officer with the National Rifle Association. He told me, “We want to set up a door frame, just like a typical retail storefront, that has our new glass product installed in it, and on a live-fire gun range we want you to fire some pistol rounds at it.”

The moment he asked me, I knew that I was all in. What martial artist, “war artist,” wouldn’t want to see if a product could withstand the destruction of a firearm? I never had the opportunity shoot at a store window before, especially one designed to be shatter resistant. I’ve shot through car windshields and vehicles many times before, building walls and cinder block walls, even into metal and wooden doors over the years, but this would be my first crack at bullet resistant glass.

Before officially agreeing to the proposal, Scott gave me a private tour of one of Riot Glass, Inc.’s manufacturing facilities, the one which is the HQ located in “Surf City.” The first stop of the tour was meeting Brad Campbell, the founder and CEO of Riot Glass, Inc. I knew right away that we had something in common the moment I stepped into his office when I saw a few shooting certificates he had earned from Front Sight® hanging on one of his walls. This firearms training institute is well known throughout the tactical community, and I also happen to be a member. For about 15 minutes Brad gave me a good education on how his company is helping to protect businesses from the constant riots plaguing the United States, along with the latest organized criminal phenomena known as “smash & grab;” that’s where a bunch of hooded and masked thieves, sometimes as many as 80 people at a time, pour into a retail business all at once and loot the place for about 60 seconds, and then they escape in vehicles parked in front of the business before the police arrive. Sadly, in some American cities, those where the politicians have defunded their police departments or won’t allow them to apprehend these such type of criminals, force their police to just stand around and watch the looting happen with no arrests made. The term “smash & grab” refers to the method of this crime where the windows (entry points) are broken, “smashed,” if a business is closed, or the crooks “smash” the glass cases inside the store that contain the expensive merchandise whether the place is opened or closed. To those employees or customers inside the store at the time a smash & grab goes down is not only frightening, but extremely dangers if they get in the way of these thugs.

What surprised me right from the start of my crash course at the factory is when Scott told me that retail stores and businesses that install their new ½” thick AG Series Riot Glass® is cheaper than bordering up doors and windows with sheets of plywood, which is the common practice by most businesses, from mom-and-pop stores all the way up to the big brand name stores, to deal with rioters that want to loot or burn their places down. It’s more cost effective than sheets of plywood, because this new glass goes directly into existing doors and glass frames. That means there is no drilling holes or pounding large nails into the frame of the structures. And, unlike sheets of plywood, it’s not a temporary solution. It’s a permanent fix.

For defending against smash & grabs it can keep the thieves out of the building if the business is closed or perhaps prevent some open businesses from being the next target if they hear the warning, “Lockdown! Lockdown! Lockdown!” soon enough and quickly lock the doors before the swarm gets to them. Therefore, regardless of the threat, be it a riot or a smash & grab, it’s best to permanently install this new technology.

BOB Target Practice

Jim Wagner

On the morning of the test a construction crew and glass technicians set up the mock retail store door inside of FT3 Tactical, a popular indoor shooting range in Stanton, California, and I gave a safety briefing when they had finished.

The test that Riot Glass, Inc. wanted me to do was to fire a few rounds of .38 caliber Special ball ammunition, and 9mm full metal jacket ball ammunition, into the glass. However, to make it more realistic I set up behind the glass a martial arts training tool, that everyone in the martial arts community is familiar with, and that was a Century Martial Arts Body Opponent Bag (B.O.B). I set BOB, that simulated a barricaded clerk in fear of his life, inside “the store,” only a couple feet away from the ½” thick AG Series Riot Glass®. Not only was the purpose of the test to determine that a bullet would be unable to penetrate the glass, but to see if there would be any spalling (shards of glass that would separate from the inside surface of the glass, due to the impact force of the bullets) that would strike B.O.B. two feet away.

When everyone in the room was safely behind the firing line I scanned the room, drew my .38 caliber 5-shot Smith& Wesson Model 642 Airweight revolver from my holster, commonly used as a back-up pistol by law enforcement and counterterrorist teams, and then I yelled out, “The line is hot!”

I then fired two rounds into the door glass panel on the right, and another one on the left. These rounds not only did not penetrate the glass doors, but they literally bounced off them. I collected the completely intact bullets after the test, although the noses of them had been flattened from the high velocity impact. I fired a fifth round at B.O.B. again to see if the integrity of the glass had been compromised, but it had not been.

The second part of the ballistic testing required firing 9mm rounds into the ½” thick AG Series Riot Glass®, and so I pulled B.O.B. out of the “store,” and replaced it with a fashion mannequin that Riot Glass, Inc. had brought with them for testing. Since the glass we were testing was only rated for withstanding .38 caliber bullets, I did not want to take a chance on damaging my B.O.B. since I use it weekly to train security teams and civilian students in hand-to-hand combat.

After I called the firing line “hot” again I fired three 9mm rounds from my Barretta Model 92F, a pistol still used by many militaries around the world, into the glass door while aiming center mass at B.O.B. The rounds did not bounce off the glass like the .38 Special rounds had done, but they lodged inside of the glass completely intact. They essentially “melted” the glass and were encased. They did not penetrate the retail glass door at all, and the test mannequin remained undamaged. No parts of the bullet, nor any spalling, struck the test mannequin, which was a pleasant surprise for Riot Glass, Inc. The engineers had stated prior to the test that they believed that the ½” glass would withstand 9mm rounds, but one can never be sure until the actual testing is conducted.

Target Practice

Jim Wagner

Once I cleared my weapon, and I called out, “The line is cold!” my job was over. However, that was not the end of the testing. A glass technician was selected to “act as a rioter,” and take an aluminum baseball bat to the same doors to try and break the glass. After several attempts at hitting the glass panel at full strength, there were only scuff marks visible. Then the “rioter/smash & grabber” picked up a sledgehammer, and he tried breaking the ½” thick AG Series Riot Glass® with this common burglar tool. Nothing happened. Of course, seeing is believing, and I was convinced that this product did what it was designed to do.

Of course, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but what about if someone tries to shoot the glass with a higher caliber round, such as a .45 ACP from a pistol or a 7.62mm from an AK-47 rifle? Isn’t that going to defeat the ½” AG series glass?” The answer is, of course these rounds will go through it. However, keep in mind that this glass that I tested was designed to stop rioters or smash & grabbers using impact tools from breaking into retail stores, with the added benefit that it can stop .38 Special and 9mm rounds, which are common calibers used by street thugs. Riot Glass, Inc. does indeed have other products that can withstand the higher calibers, but then you’re talking about custom made structures and door frames to hold the additional thickness and weight. I had the opportunity to test these types of glasses also, and they are amazing, but this is a topic for a future article.

Although the ½” AG series Riot Glass® was designed for retail stores, I couldn’t help but think, “This product would also be great for a residential door that has glass in it. A burglar would think that he could easily break the glass, reach in and turn the doorknob from the inside, only to find that he can’t break the glass at all.” Another thought that came to my mind was, “Have a sheet of this protecting a surveillance camera, and someone throwing projectiles at it will not be able to break the camera lens.” The possibilities are endless.

Scott Beer gave me a fresh sample of the ½” thick AG Series Riot Glass® as a souvenir, a sheet of it, which was slightly smaller than the size of a backpack, and I did just that, I put it inside of a nondescript backpack. That sheet is enough to offer some protection against a .38 caliber or 9 mm bullet or fragmentation. Put it into a Kevlar lined backpack, and the glass acts as a ballistic plate. My thought was, “Why let it go to waste sitting on a shelf somewhere?” Think tactically.

Another reason I shared this ballistic test with you, is to give you another martial arts perspective of “thinking outside the box.” All the self-defense or training products that you use were tested by somebody at some time in the past, and that too is a part of the martial arts (war arts) that most practicioners never think about. Even if you are not selected to test a product, as I was, you can still send your comments to the manufacturer about a product you like or dislike. This lets the manufacture know the pros and cons of their product, and that’s what it is all about – having the best products possible.


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