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Close Protection & Firearms

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Close Protection & Firearms

The Application of Firearms in Close Protection & Armed Security

This article is the introduction chapter from my book “Close Protection & Firearms” which sets the tone for the book and also puts some tactical myths to rest... The book “Close Protection & Firearms” at the below links!

The Introduction Close Protection & Firearms

There is much confusion in the close protection industry as to the application of firearms. In this book I aim to dispel some of the myths and highlight the realities of the armed close protection and security industries. Also remember, you cannot learn to shoot by just reading books and watching videos, you need to actually go and shoot. This book and my others can give you guidance and advice, but you must apply the advice in reality for it to actually be worth more than just being words on paper and thoughts in your head.

Personally, I have been involved commercially in the armed security industry since 1994, after leaving the British Army in 1993. I spent 5-years in a British Infantry Battalion (1-WFR), which did provide at least a basic foundation for my future career. In the late 1990’s I started to organize firearms training courses in the Former USSR. I also worked in the firearms and security business the United States for 18 years where I owned licensed security and private investigation agencies that provided armed security and close protection services. While in the US I certified well over 900 people for their Florida Concealed Carry Permits alone and ran a multitude of tactical firearms courses and events. I have also provided tactical firearms training and where legal armed security services in Latin America, Caribbean, Europe, Middle East and Africa. So, I understand the firearms, armed security, and close protection industries just a little bit...

Over the last 20-years the close protection industry was somewhat hijacked and has been focused on those doing overt PSD work in Iraq and Afghanistan. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan were quite unique in the application of private security personnel and I doubt if we will see such situations again, on such a scale in the future. Also, providing PSD services in Iraq and Afghanistan is very different from the realities of the commercial close protection business on the terms of tactics, weapons, laws, and rules of engagement.

The close protection industry is one that has been highly glamorized, but the truth is a lot of those promoting the Gucci courses and services have little, if any actual close protection experience, armed or unarmed. People also seem to forget that most close protection jobs are unarmed due to the fact that the ownership and carrying of firearms his very restricted in most countries.

The primary firearm used for close protection is the pistol, due to the fact that it is concealable. But, in many places getting pistol permits is very difficult and impossible even if you are a citizen of that country. I would say internationally the most common firearm I have come across for armed security is the shotgun, which is a firearm that seems to be very neglected on most close protection firearms courses. Such firearms as assault rifles are generally only available to military and law enforcement personnel and are rarely used in the commercial security industry, unless you are working on a government connected detail or post.

So, close protection firearms courses where assault rifles are the primary weapon don’t really make much sense unless they are follow-on courses after the students have mastered the use of pistols and understand how to use shotguns.

Another thing that many close protection firearms training providers have seem to have forgotten is that if you are working armed in say Europe, US, Caribbean or Latin America you will be in plain cloths and not waltzing around in plate carriers, with drop holsters and wearing camouflage BDU’s or military uniforms.

As I said, the close protection industry has been highly glamorized, especially the firearms training sector. It’s sad that many of those that are aspiring to work in the close protection industry have been misguided by training providers and conned out of their hard eared cash on courses, well tacticool holidays, that are irrelevant to the real close protection industry.

One accredited training program I openly criticize is the UK “Hostile Environment Close Protection Operators Course (HECPO)”, which to me is a scam course praying on those who are honestly seeking a career in the close protection industry. I understand some companies that were running these courses were using them to select people to work on their contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes perfect sense to me. But they should have told the students with no military or firearms experience that in reality, away from what the glossy brochures said, they had zero chance of getting armed work after the course.

From what I have seen from the awarding bodies guidelines for the level 4 accredited HECPO courses (Official title is the Level 4 Award in Close Protection in a Hostile Environment – Firearms and Tactics) they do not list required courses of fire that need to be passed, specific firearms to be used, and numbers of rounds that need to be fired and the requirements for the course instructors are very vague.

“Tutors are required to: hold a close protection qualification, have had 5+ years’ experience with firearms (police / military / civilian HECPO), carried out at least 1 operational tour / contract in a hostile environment.”

You can class most US inner cities as hostile environments, so from the above requirements a 5-year armed security guard in the US is qualified to teach the Level 4 accredited HECPO course. Also define “1 operational tour”? I understand one Level 4 HECPO instructor spent his time in Iraq/Afghanistan as an intelligence clerk… Tactically making coffee, pushing papers and double tapping computer keyboards…

The awarding bodies guidelines for the level 4 accredited HECPO course that I have read also does not mention that real firearms and live ammunition have to be used. This fits in with UK laws where firearms are all but banned. So, this means there are those doing these qualifications and only using airsoft and replica firearms. But, you get the same accredited certificate for a live fire or airsoft course…

I have spoken to a few people who spent a lot of money doing the level 4 accredited HECPO courses and were not taught basic pistol skills such as shooting from the hip, or one handed in any context. As I said earlier pistols are the primary firearm for close protection. In comparison, basic armed security guards (G-license) in the US State of Florida have to shoot a set course of fire with their pistols at rages from, if I remember right, 3 to 25 yards, while shooting on double targets.

This means in reality that someone who has completed the basic State of Florida G-License armed security course will have a better and more relevant skill set than someone with a level 4 accredited Hostile Environment Close Protection Operators Course. This to me is where I see the level 4 accredited HECPO as a scam… If an unknowing client was given a CV of someone who has the level 4 accredited HECPO certificate they would expect them to be well trained in the use of firearms, where the chances are they are not or only been trained with airsoft guns!

I take it the level 4 accredited Hostile Environment Close Protection Operators Course was written by some ex-squaddies who were running the UK SIA courses and wanted to make some extra cash on a supposed firearms qualification. I also take it that those at the awarding body that accredited the course had no clue about firearms training and just signed off on the course. The UK is not a gun friendly country and firearms are very restricted, so the chances are very high that the accreditors had never ever touch a firearm themselves!

From a commonsense perspective if someone has been issued a certificate stating that have undergone weapons of firearms training then you will have expected them to have actually used live firearms and not only airsoft, deactivated or replicas guns. If those issuing the certificates did not clearly print the guns used for training were airsoft etc. then they are clearly bullshitters selling bogus courses.

I see an application for airsoft guns for force-on-force training but not as substitutes for real firearms and ammunition on supposed firearms courses. To put it into perspective if you believe that airsoft guns can substitute real firearms then shouldn’t everyone playing airsoft skirmish games be classed as real combat veterans?

The scary thing is there are those out there working armed, whom their clients think are qualified and competent with their firearms because they have a high-speed tactical certificate from a bogus course. These unfortunate clients, most of time, are trusting the security companies providing the guards to ensure they are qualified. But these companies’ main interests are to provide the minimal standards required so they can make the maximum profit.

We had one very good guy come to us for training who was a team leader for one of the large security companies that was working in Afghanistan. From the first moment we put him on the range it was clear he could not shoot and was at a novice level with a lot of bad shooting habits. Even though he told us he was competent with firearms it became quickly clear to him and us that he was not. Maybe one reason for this was that for the 6-years he had worked in Afghanistan he had never shot a qualification or done any live fire firearms training. But you know what? Even though he could not shoot straight he is qualified to teach the level 4 accredited Hostile Environment Close Protection Operators Course.

If you’re serious about getting into the armed security or close protection business, you are going to need training but please always verify the credentials and experience of those giving the courses. There are a lot of competition shooters who are now, because they dress up in tacticool plate carries and military uniforms, offering tactical firearms courses.

Many of these people a very competent shooters but for starters with techniques, in reality you’re not going to stand in the open and change a magazine, however cool you look doing so on Instagram... You move to cover, very quickly… But I suppose you don’t have to consider being shot at while taking part in inclusive for all shooting sports…

You can learn some good firearms skills shooting competitions but don’t forget this is a sport... A non-physically demanding sport like bowling, darts, or pool. Gun ranges are safe, the floors are flat, you have time to play, and if you mess up your drill just reload and practice again. The streets are a little different and even at base level how you carry a firearm for self-defense can differ greatly from what’s allowed on gun rages or in competitions.

Another problem I see with a lot of the tactical firearms courses is they are teaching techniques that have been invented for gun ranges and make no sense when applied in reality. Such a technique is I think call by the YouTube tacticool warriors “scanning”… This technique is where after the shooter has fired his rounds they look to the left and right while keeping their firearms pointed down range. I have heard explanations that this technique is for breaking your tunnel vision and to identify other hostiles after a shooting incident… All I can say is what complete bullshit!

After and during a shooting you need to move to cover or safe location, don’t whatever you do stand in the same spot like a lemming… Another basic rule, wherever your eyes go the muzzle of your weapon goes… If there are other hostile targets, when you see them, you want to shoot them… You won’t be able to do this if your firearm is pointed in a different direction to where you are looking. On the streets less than one second in time can kill you or save you. What I have just described can’t be taught on a fixed gun rage firing line or in a shooting rage booth for safety reasons. So, the only reason I see for teaching this sweeping technique is that it adds irrelevant content to course taught by instructors with little experience and common-sense that are teaching static gun range shooting techniques.

Most firearms courses for licensing requirements are pretty basic but should provide a creditable qualification and some OK knowledge, not only on firearms but also the local laws. If you live somewhere where firearms are banned or restricted, you’re going to have to rely on dry drills and practice firearms “Katas”. Or join the military, police, or move to somewhere where you can train properly and also work armed.

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, in this book I aim to dispel some of the myths and highlight the realities of working armed. I am sure some of what I have written will upset more than just a few people. But my perspective is from over 30 years international experience of dealing with firearms commercially for defensive purposes. My perspectives are not those of a career cop or soldier whose main concern is getting brownie points and their pensions, or of the sports shooter, gun enthusiast or scammer out to make some quick cash. Firearms to me are business. A tool that I employ to make money… And the close protection business is about making money and also staying alive to spend it…

April 4th, 2022

Books on Amazon

Close Protection & Firearms

The Application of Firearms in Close Protection & Armed Security


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