Understanding Small Missile and Large Missile Impact Resistance: A Comprehensive Guide


In the world of impact-resistant windows and doors, understanding the terminology and testing standards is crucial for both homeowners and contractors. In South Florida, where hurricanes and severe weather conditions are common, having the right knowledge can make a significant difference in ensuring safety and compliance with local building codes. This article delves into the terminology of small missile and large missile impact resistance, their origins, and their importance in the industry.

What is Impact Resistance?

Impact resistance refers to the ability of windows and doors to withstand the force of flying debris during a hurricane or severe storm. This capability is critical in preventing damage to the building structure and ensuring the safety of its occupants. Impact-resistant products are tested and rated based on their performance against two types of impact: small missile and large missile.

Small Missile Impact Resistance

Small missile impact resistance refers to the ability of a window or door to withstand impacts from smaller debris, typically associated with high-speed winds. This test involves shooting 10 pieces of steel ball bearings or similar small projectiles at the glass at a speed of 50 feet per second. These projectiles simulate the effects of flying roof gravel, tree branches, or other small debris during a storm.

Testing Standards: The standard for small missile impact resistance is defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E1996 and E1886.

Applications: Small missile-resistant windows and doors are generally used in higher elevations of buildings where the impact of larger debris is less likely but still offers significant protection.

Large Missile Impact Resistance

Large missile impact resistance is a more rigorous test designed to simulate the impact of larger debris, such as a piece of lumber or a heavy branch. In this test, a 9-pound 2x4 piece of lumber is shot at the window or door at a speed of 34 miles per hour (50 feet per second).

Testing Standards: Similar to small missile resistance, the standards for large missile impact resistance are set by ASTM E1996 and E1886.

Applications: Large missile impact-resistant products are essential for lower elevations of buildings where the risk of larger debris impacts is higher. These products are crucial for homes and businesses in hurricane-prone areas like South Florida.

When to Choose Small Missile vs. Large Missile Impact Resistance

Choosing between small missile and large missile impact-resistant products depends on several factors, including the building’s location, height, and potential exposure to flying debris during a storm.

1. Building Height and Location:

Small Missile: Ideal for windows and doors located on higher floors of buildings. The likelihood of larger debris reaching these heights is minimal, making small missile impact resistance sufficient.

Large Missile: Essential for windows and doors on the lower floors of buildings, especially those in direct line of fire from ground-level debris. This includes homes, commercial properties, and any structure situated in open areas prone to heavy winds.

2. Risk Assessment:

Small Missile: Suitable for areas where the primary threat is high-speed winds carrying smaller debris like gravel, small branches, or roof shingles.

Large Missile: Necessary in regions with a high risk of encountering large debris such as tree limbs, fence posts, or construction materials during a storm.

3. Building Code Requirements:

• Compliance with local building codes is paramount. In South Florida, stringent regulations often require large missile impact resistance for lower elevations to ensure maximum protection.

The Evolution of Impact Resistance Standards

The development of impact resistance standards dates back to the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The devastation caused by this Category 5 hurricane highlighted the need for more stringent building codes and better protection for windows and doors. In response, the state of Florida established new building codes, which included rigorous testing requirements for impact-resistant products.

The standards set by ASTM and adopted by Florida and other hurricane-prone states ensure that windows and doors can provide the necessary protection against flying debris. These standards have evolved over the years, incorporating advancements in materials and technology to offer superior protection.

Importance of Impact-Resistant Products in South Florida

For residents and businesses in South Florida, choosing impact-resistant windows and doors is not just about compliance with building codes but also about ensuring safety and peace of mind. With the region’s susceptibility to hurricanes, having products that meet small and large missile impact resistance standards is crucial.


Understanding the terminology and significance of small missile and large missile impact resistance helps in making informed decisions when selecting windows and doors for your property. At National Glass & Construction, we specialize in providing top-quality impact-resistant products that meet all relevant standards and ensure the highest level of protection. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings and how we can help safeguard your property against severe weather conditions.

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