Specifying Ballistic Resistance: The difference between tested and certified

This images shows the ballistics test results of this specially formed glass.
This images shows the ballistics test results of this specially formed glass.
Photo courtesy UL

By Louis Chavez

When specifying, designing, or building with ballistic-resistant products and/or assemblies, it is important to use safe, high-quality products that have not only been tested to accepted industry standards, but also certified. There is some confusion in the marketplace about testing and certification. Contrary to what some may believe, one does not necessarily mean the other.

There are many organizations offering testing services for ballistic-resistant equipment, but very few offer certification services. When a product is certified by UL, it has not only undergone testing to determine compliance to the appropriate standards (as shown below), but it is also covered by a rigorous follow-up program to determine continued compliance. UL’s testing and certification program, includes periodic retesting and regular followup visits to the manufacturing place. During the followup service visits, UL staff will inspect random samples to verify the manufacturer has the ability to produce products in compliance with the testing standards used during the original product investigation. Only after this is completed is the product authorized to bear the UL mark.

If a ballistic-resistant product is tested to UL standards, but is not certified, there is a risk it may fail to perform as it did during original testing. For example, a ballistic-resistant product is tested at a lab and passes the UL 752, Standard for Bullet-resisting Equipment examinations. Subsequently, one of the raw materials used in the product is substituted for another believed to be equivalent. Under UL’s certification program, this substitution would be flagged and the appropriate steps taken to assess the impact of the change. Often, this can only be determined through reevaluation or retesting.

Some may try to encourage sales of their products by using terms such as “meets,” “evaluated to,” “tested to,” or “complies with.” These statements signify the ballistic-resistant product may have only been tested once and is not subject to UL’s ongoing followup services. It leads to the question: “Will the product still pass testing today?” Without the UL mark, one can never be certain whether it still passes or not.

On the other hand, when a company chooses UL certification and its ballistic-resistant product bears the UL Mark, the end user can trust it to continue to meet exacting standards.

For the purposes of rating assignment, the ammunition specifications given in the following table apply to UL-certified bullet-resisting materials.

Ratings of bullet-resisting materials and test parameters

Rating  Ammunition  Grain  (g)  Minimum velocity,  Number of shots  UL 752 Paragraph reference 
fps  (m/s) 
Level 1 9 mm full metal copper jacket with lead core 124 8.0 1,175 358 3 4.3
Level 2 .357 Magnum jacketed lead soft point 158 10.2 1,250 381 3 4.4
Level 3 .44 Magnum lead semi-wadcutter gas checked 240 15.6 1,350 411 3 4.5
Level 4 .30 caliber rifle lead-core soft point 180 11.7 2,540 774 1 4.6
Level 5 7.62 mm rifle lead-core full-metal copper jacket, military ball 150 9.7 2,750 838 1 4.7
Level 6 9-mm full-metal copper jacket with lead core 124 8.0 1,400 427 5 4.8
Level 7 5.56 mm Rifle full-metal copper jacket with lead core 55 3.56 3,080 939 5 4.9
Level 8 7.62-mm rifle lead-core full-metal copper jacket, military ball 150 9.7 2,750 838 5 4.10
Level 9 Armor piercing .30 caliber rifle steel-core lead-point filler full-metal jacket 166 10.8 2715 828 1 4.11
Level 10 .50 caliber rifle lead-core full-metal copper jacket military ball 709.5 45.9 2810 856 1 4.12
Supplementary shotgun 12-gauge rifled lead slug and 437 28.3 1,585 483 3 4.11
12-gauge 00 lead buckshot (12 pellets) 650 42 1,200 366
NOTE – Maximum velocity is 110 percent of the minimum velocity.

2Lou Chavez is UL principal engineer, responsible for the technical oversight of physical and electronic security categories and the technical relevance of UL’s related security standards. He has 30 years of experience with national and international standards development, regulatory, code development, and conformity assessment areas. Chavez can be reached at louis.chavez@ul.com.

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8 comments on “Specifying Ballistic Resistance: The difference between tested and certified”

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