Bullet Resistant Cameras Reviewed

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Oct 24, 2012

Shooting cameras is the surest way to disable them, and criminals know this. Most factory housings can endure getting smacked by a ball or even small rocks, but they are no match for bullets. In areas where gunfire is a threat, bullet resistant housings are marketed as the solution for keeping cameras safe. However, is this protection enough? In this note, we examine bullet resistant housings, how they protect cameras, and compare their cost to other enclosures.

Overview

Bullet Resistant housings are frequently specified in high-crime or high-risk areas like military bases and prisons. The basic function of these housings is to preserve camera function even when stuck by bullets. Typically, 'bullet resistant' housings use ballistics rated material like Kevlar, steel, and laminated glass. The video below provides a demonstration of the toughness of these housings - despite the impact of multiple rounds, the housing is not pierced:

As demonstrated in the clip, the Mobotix V12's bullet resistance (with a MSRP of ~$4000) is plainly obvious. However, despite the impressiveness of this video, several questions remain:

  • How many bullet impacts does the rating cover?
  • What happens when a bullet strikes glass - like a lens window or a dome?
  • Is the camera inside the housing still functional?

In the following sections, we examine the criteria for bullet resistance, and what the rating practically means for surveillance equipment.

The Standard

The standard most widely accepted for 'bullet resistance' is UL 752 - The Standard of Safety for Bullet-Resisting Equipment [link no longer available]. Interestingly, this standard does not specifically apply to just camera housings - it is a more general standard used to rate buildings, structures, enclosures, and even vehicles. The standard to broken into nine seperate 'Levels', where each subsequent level is tougher and more durable than previous levels.

The most common rating given to surveillance enclosures is Level 1 - or 3 direct impacts of 9mm handgun bullets. Level 1 is the 'weakest' rating, where the 'strongest' is Level 9 (or 'shotgun') - rated for 3 direct impacts of 1oz, 12 gauge slugs.

Unlike 'vandal resistance' ratings that can be arbitrarily given to cameras, testing for 'bullet resistance' is very tightly defined. In order for a rating to be marketed on a product, it must be submitted to an independent test lab for verification.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

The resilient operation of the camera is assumed, but not addressed, by UL 752. While the likelihood that the camera survives an attack if the housing isn't compromised is high, that particular outcome is not tested.

Not all Bullets are Equal

The key difference in ratings are the maximum calibers they are rated against. In general, handgun bullets have less energy than rifle rounds. The lesser bullet resistant ratings are rated for 'soft lead' core handgun bullets, eventually building to steel core (read: armor piercing) rifle bullets.

The number of impacts is a significant detail. The lesser ratings are rated for one or three impacts, while the highest ratings are tested for five impacts. Considering that most modern firearms allow magazine capacities of more than 7 rounds, it should be noted that a determined attack has the potential to exceed even the strongest ratings quite easily.

Worth the Cost?

Bullet Resistant housings are significantly more expensive than 'non-rated' versions. Not only are ballistic rated housings built with greater quantities of more expensive materials, the manufacture and testing of those housings cost extra money. A bullet resistant housing costs 8 to 10 times what a non-rated version is priced (~$100 vs ~$1,000).

However, is the extra cost worth it? Consider first that handgun shots are difficult on small targets like cameras. As a result, shooting cameras is likely to be taken from distance using rifles. As noted above, most bullet resistant housings aren't rated for rifle calibers, so the extra protection may simply not be enough.

Also, in order to be effectively protected against bullets, the housing's mounting surface also needs to be hardened. Unfilled cinder block walls (or CMUs) - common in commercial construction - are easily pulverized by bullets. If striking the camera with rounds doesn't disable it, simply blasting it off the mounting surface has same effect.

Finally, even when the camera continues to operate, the damage the attack causes is normally sufficient to replace the housing anyway. Even when the camera survives an attack, the housing leaves the protected components vulnerable to weather and insects if not repaired. In the image below, the camera survived a pot shot attack, but the dome is left open to the elements and must be replaced:

bullet hole

Bottom Line

Since the housing typically needs to be replaced or significantly repaired after an attack, the value in using bullet resistant housings comes from preserving the camera's ability to continue operating during the attack. However, since the test criteria does not specifically address the vibration or shock resistance of the impact - only the penetration - there is no universal metric for assessing this.

Cost Comparison

Commonly, bullet resistant housings are sold pre-kitted with cameras. Especially in dome form factors, a bullet resistant housing is only sold prepackaged with a camera in an engineered unit. When sold as a 'housing only', bullet resistant housings are available for box form factors. Take the following list:

  • Moog/Videolarm BMT10C2 Bullet Resistant Box Housing: ~$950 Online
  • Pelco HS4514 Ballistic Box Housing: ~$800 Online
  • Panasonic PBRH10 Bullet Resistant Tube Housing: ~$1500 Online

With pricing ranging between $800 - $1500, the bullet resistant models are significantly more costly than the 'non rated' models in the same box form factor:

  • Moog/Videolarm ACH13WM Box: ~$90 Online
  • Pelco EH2500 Environmental Tube (Box): ~$80 Online
  • Panasonic POH1500 Outdoor Box: ~$135 Online

Conclusion

Given the significant expense compared with limited return on using Bullet Resistant housings, their use is best limited to applications in areas where gun violence is prevalent. However, even with the extra protections, users should expect costly replacement of housings once damaged.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Breaking Into A Facility Using Canned Air Tested on Jan 28, 2020
Access control is supposed to make doors more secure, but a $5 can of compressed air may defeat it. With no special training, intruders can...
Multipoint Door Lock Tutorial on Jan 23, 2020
Despite widespread use, locked doors are notoriously weak at stopping entry, and thousands can be misspent on locks that leave doors quite...
Securing Access Control Installations Tutorial on Oct 17, 2019
The physical security of access control components is critical to ensuring that a facility is truly secure. Otherwise, the entire system can be...
Security Fence Guide on Oct 24, 2018
Fences, while a low tech barricade, are a cornerstone of good security. Few physical security elements are as effective at keeping threats away as...
Forced Entry / Duress Access Tutorial on May 17, 2018
Even though access control normally keeps people safe, tragedies have revealed a significant issue. If users are forced to unlock doors for...
Hikvision VMD And Intrusion Analytics Tested on May 04, 2018
VMD worked poorly on Hikvision cameras, new IPVM testing found. However, Hikvision ships analytics on practically every IP camera, with intrusion...
Door Position Switches (DPS) For Access Control Tutorial on Mar 05, 2018
Door position switches do not get enough respect. They solve a major problem of access control systems yet are frequently ignored or...
Genetec CEO Warns Against Insider Threats on Sep 21, 2017
With Dahua and Hikvision cybersecurity issues becoming indisputable, a new counter has emerged. Just put them behind a firewall, buy cheap...
Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 Tested on Aug 22, 2017
Honeywell [link no longer available] is one of the biggest brands in security, with Total Connect 2.0 [link no longer available] being the...
Camera Vandalism Statistics on Aug 01, 2017
Vandalized cameras are a common concern. And when they happen, they often draw media attention. But how often and how much of a problem is...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...
Hanwha Face Mask Detection Tested on Jul 01, 2020
Face mask detection or, more specifically lack-of-face-mask detection, is an expanding offering in the midst of coronavirus. Hanwha in partnership...
UK Government Says Fever Cameras "Unsuitable" on Jul 01, 2020
The UK government's medical device regulator, MHRA, told IPVM that fever-seeking thermal cameras are "unsuitable for this purpose" and recommends...
Camera Course Summer 2020 on Jun 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training...
Worst Over But Integrators Still Dealing With Coronavirus Problems (June Statistics) on Jun 30, 2020
While numbers of integrators very impacted by Coronavirus continue to drop, most are still moderately dealing with the pandemic's problems, June...
FLIR Screen-EST Screening Software Tested on Jun 30, 2020
In our FLIR A Series Test, the cameras' biggest drawback was their lack of face detection, requiring manual adjustment when screening each...
Dahua Buenos Aires Bus Screening Violates IEC Standards and Dahua's Own Instructions on Jun 30, 2020
Dahua has promoted Buenos Aires bus deployments as "solutions that facilitate community safety". However, they violate IEC standards and,...
UK Firm Markets False Fever Screening, Hikvision Disavows on Jun 30, 2020
A UK security firm falsely claimed its Hikvision-based thermal solution could be used for "accurately detecting fever in any person", even claiming...
Industry Study: 83% of US Temperature Screening Sellers Falsely Say Not Medical Devices on Jun 29, 2020
83% of US companies selling temperature screening devices, aka 'fever' detectors, claim they are not medical devices, contrary to FDA definition,...
Manufacturers on Virtual 'ISC West' 2020 and Potential ISC West 2021 on Jun 29, 2020
With the 2020 ISC West show now officially canceled, attention turns to Reed's new "ISC West 2020 Virtual Event" planned for October and for the...