GISS International

Armed Vs. Unarmed Security Guards: Which One Is Right For You & Your Business

Security guard watching monitors

When choosing a security guard service, you may have several questions during the decision process. For many, it comes down to determining whether or not an armed or unarmed guard is the better choice for the security of your business. The answer comes down to several factors including the industry your business is in, the budget set aside for the project, and where your business is located.

Armed vs. Unarmed Security: Understanding the Difference

The difference between armed & unarmed security guards may seem clear at first – one type carries a weapon, the other type does not carry a weapon. However, the details become a little less obvious when diving a bit deeper.

Unarmed Security Guards

For the majority of businesses, unarmed security guards are the best option for protection personnel. Unarmed security guards generally have a lower cost than armed security guards. Specific industries and businesses will need guards tailored to their needs. When hiring unarmed security professionals, you can opt for uniformed, suited, or plain-clothed officers.

Armed Security Guards

Due to the nature of having a firearm, armed security guards are generally used for higher-profile events or facilities and cost more than unarmed security guards. Armed security guards are usually best suited for behind the scene roles since their weapons could make potential clients and customers tense and nervous. For businesses that have valuable assets or products, having guards with firearms may discourage attempts at thefts over standard unarmed guards

It’s important to keep in mind that all armed guards must be fully licensed to carry a firearm. We recommend doing your research when choosing this type of guard, in order to properly vet the personnel protecting you and your business. How many years of experience do they have? Are they ex-government officials, law enforcement, or military personnel? Are they fully insured? Be sure to ask these questions when you’re choosing a security guard company.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Between an Armed & Unarmed Guard

What is the budget you have set aside for security?

As mentioned, armed security guards will cost more than unarmed security guards. This is mainly due to the extra costs from training, licensing, insurance requirements, and experience that comes with an armed guard. It’s important to work with your security agency to determine what gives your business the most bang for your buck.

Keep in mind that just because unarmed security guards cost less than armed security guards, it doesn’t mean they are less effective. Unarmed security guards are well trained in communication and public relations. This means de-escalating situations when tensions arise, calling for backup, and calling the police in emergency situations.

What are the primary concerns that you have about your property or facility?

Security is always a top priority, regardless of the type of guard you choose. However, if your business handles high-priced items like jewelry, art, or collectibles, an armed guard may be a better choice to thwart off threads and protect everything you’ve worked hard to build. By having firearms, armed guards can discourage crimes that could be committed otherwise in the presence of an unarmed guard.

Do you have a specific threat you are concerned about?

Unarmed guards are useful for situations that might involve vandalism, trespassing, or transients. Unarmed guards are typically less threatening to those at the location and can be more approachable than an armed guard. They can provide the same level of deterrence, but will not have the same amount of intimidation.

On the other hand, armed security may be more suited to preventing theft. Having guards with a firearm can set the tone and make thieves think twice before stealing items. Even if armed guards are behind the scenes, they can quickly jump into situations where they are needed.

What perception do you want to attain from having security?

Armed security guards are generally avoided in public spaces due to the intimidation factor that comes along with having a firearm. Armed security is best in discrete roles rather than in the public eye. Having an armed security guard out in the open for the public to see may give a perception of a place being unsafe and cause the opposite effect of its intention. It’s important to understand that armed guards may provoke further escalation rather than promoting safety and peace. Sometimes less is more, and unarmed guards can do a better job of making people feel safe in certain settings like bars, nightclubs, or concerts. Every situation is unique so always consider every factor in play.

What are you willing to be liable for?

Keep in mind that business and/or property owners may be held liable for the actions of security guards on their property. For armed security guards, the liability increases due to the risk that comes with a firearm. There is always a chance of shots being fired which can cause injury or death. In these situations, your business can be held responsible. Properly trained armed security guards with a background in government, military, or law enforcement can limit liability. It needs to be understood that regardless of how much training an armed guard has, the liability associated with them will always be higher than having an unarmed guard present. If you decide to use an armed security guard, ensure they are fully licensed and trained to the standards required in the state your business is in.

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