Hardwire LLC has long been in the business of armoring vehicles for the U.S. armed forces abroad, and as a natural revolution has developed armor products for American law enforcement. But it was the Brooklyn ambush of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in their cruiser last year that inspired CEO George Tunis and his partners to develop the company's newest ballistic product, the Transparent Armor Window Insert.
It was important to Tunis and his colleagues that this new armor be as unobtrusive as possible so that it wouldn't hamper officers' ability to do their jobs. "We thought, there has to be a way to retrofit a piece of transparent armor into the spot inside the door, so we started with our own trucks, trying to figure it out," says Tunis. "It turns out you can get a piece of very lightweight transparent armor that will stop handguns and shotguns, NIJ level IIIA protection, in the spot between a vehicle's window and door lock."
This position protects an officer's head and neck, especially in his or her blind spot. But it still leaves an unobstructed opening big enough for the officer to reach out of the window if necessary when the window glass is rolled down. "You can stick your weapon out easily and get a large swing with your arm and be able to aim your weapon while still being well protected," says Tunis.
When the window is rolled down, the opening also allows air in and lets officers listen to what's going on outside the vehicle. It's important to note that the insert does not affect the operation of the window or the door itself.
And because the Transparent Armor Window Insert sits behind the side window and is clear, most people don't even notice it. "That's probably the best feature of any piece of good armor; you can't tell it's there," Tunis says. "It's locked inside the car so it also can't be stolen if the window's rolled up, unless you break the window."
Hardwire's engineers also wanted to devise a solution that wouldn't damage the vehicle in any way or require a major overhaul to install, making it more economical and thus accessible to more officers.
The Transparent Armor Window Insert is made from the same ballistic material used for clear windows in ballistic shields. Because it is so lightweight, it doesn't add significantly to the weight of the vehicle. This means there's no need to add heavy-duty hinges or other hardware. In fact, you can install both the Window Insert and Hardwire's Magnetic Vehicle Armor Shield on a police vehicle door and it will still be under the 30-pound limit that would require retrofitting.
Installation in no way affects or damages the vehicle, and it's so simple that any officer can attach the insert in less than five minutes the first time. Just position the insert inside the window next to the B-pillar, wedge the plastic block under the window corner, and screw the hardware fasteners in place.
"If you have 100 vehicles, with 25 on duty at any one time, you could have 50 Transparent Armor Window Inserts and keep swapping them out," Tunis explains. "If you have three shifts you could have 25 window sets and just cycle them between the cars. They're that easy to pop in and pop out."
Not having to purchase a Window Insert for each vehicle means a cost savings, which can especially benefit smaller agencies with small budgets. Easy installation and removal also means you can easily remove the insert from an older vehicle being retired and place it in a new vehicle of the same model.
Right now the Transparent Armor Window Insert is available for the Chevy Tahoe at the introductory price of $1,399 per window. But Hardwire plans to produce versions for other law enforcement vehicles, especially if an agency places an order to outfit its fleet. The insert was designed and developed to protect any officer in any vehicle.
"The great thing about Hardwire's Transparent Armor Window Insert is the window still goes up and down, the lock still works, it's very easy to install, and it doesn't tear your vehicle up," Tunis says. "It's unfortunate that it was inspired by a tragedy. Our job is to keep that same tragedy from happening again."