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Executive Protection and Firearms: A Catch-22

What is the Priority for Weapons Training?

In the many Executive Protection (EP) internet photos and articles you will inevitably see EP agents training on the shooting range or the company orients itself to firearms somehow.

Every EP detail should always do proper threat assessment and planning to avoid having to use their firearms, but never forgetting that the enemy always gets a vote. The problem is that too much focus is placed on firearms as a “go to” or is considered a last-resort solution first, first.

How many times do you even see firearms use for EP in the USA? In Europe or Asia? Weapons cannot even be brought into most countries/states/cities. When there is only one or two tools in the toolbox then you have reduced your available options and reduced your chances of success. Let’s examine the issues of firearms. how they relate to our industry, and their proper place.

In reviewing the force continuum that we must keep an open mind that there is a range of defensive options to use on attackers; open hand, closed hand, baton/TASER/OC and then lethal force/firearm. Many EP schools list at least some firearms/range training in their curriculum whether 7 days or 30. Since firearms use is deadly force and the “last resort” on the force scale, what are the other types of defenses taught at these schools? Do they provide any introductions at least? Why aren’t these discussions on the EP forums? Shouldn’t they be?


The psychology of carrying a weapon may heavily influence us into taking unnecessary risks as well. Just because we have “tool” that will get us out of trouble. This may have been the cause of the “Corporals Killing” during an IRA funeral in 1988. Two British Army corporals were each armed with a Browning Hi Power pistol and in a civilian car (more weapons in the trunk). During a prior IRA funeral British soldiers shot at the funeral procession killing several attendees. In this incident, they approached the procession and were stopped by the procession, one soldier put his gun out of a window and fired a round into the air. The corporals were removed from the car, disarmed, and later killed. Why did the British soldiers think they had an upper hand on the crowd? Because they were armed? What was their thought process? It was never confirmed why the civilian-clothed corporals were even present.

In my past career in the military with the US Army Investigation Command (CID) and in the Louisiana State Police, I have worked with, known, or spoken with protectors with wide ranges of experience in the military, private sector, US Government and the state of Louisiana. Many of the protectors I have met are standard, one each where they have a suit, firearm, spare mag, a blowout kit, radio and that’s about it. I recently spoke with Michael K. Vaden of Vaden International who has performed training and provided denied area protection operatives that operate worldwide; many of these areas are/were active combat or at least a low intensity environment (LIC). Mr. Vaden maintains his biggest asset was always the ability to think and the skills to do anything necessary to defend the client(s). This “anything necessary” is broad though; it also includes the hand-to-hand combat skills necessary to defeat an attacker.

Do we all realize that the moment you fire your weapon you have made your client a witness? That you are now stuck on the “X” until the police are finished with you? That you are very likely going to jail? That your client is also not leaving until the police are finished with him? Traditionally, most details are one-man details. So, who is now protecting your client while you sit in jail and your entire prep plan is thrown out? Even if your client did obtain last-minute protection, is your client’s plan for the day/trip totally ruined?


As a recent student of Krav Maga I am in awe of the value and utility of fighting skill of Krav Maga (the Israeli Defense Force’s hand-to-hand combat art). Krav was invented by the late Imrich (Imi) Lichtenfeld as response to fighting the antisemitic riots in his home town in the 1930’s. He then fled to Palestine in 1940 and joined the Israel Haganah forces and became instrumental in training Jewish forces in what became Krav Maga.

Imi developed Krav Maga to overcome the professional rules that Imi and his fellow athletes had trained by as boxers and wrestlers, and restricted their options in street fighting with NAZIs. The only rule in Krav Maga became “do not get hurt in training” and there are no other rules! Imi once made a famous statement about Krav Maga that you “be so powerful that you do not have to kill.” Deception, power and an infinite number of strikes and blocks gives an unlimited number of options when dealing with attackers. Krav also gives powerful open hand options that are devastating to attackers and fulfill the first level of the force continuum in using “open hands.” Imagine how well that appears in the camera coverage of your incident? Now imagine that your operatives are moderately well trained in Krav that an attacker is left on the ground with a blown-out shoulder/elbow/knee as you continue on with client and “get off the X.” Any video of that situation will leave no doubt that you are in the clear and acted appropriately and with minimal force. You are also less bound to remain as there is no dead body, no other civilians hit by stray shots, etc. You have isolated your response to the attacker(s).

Krav Maga, or “combat contact” in Hebrew, is not the only defensive technique available. I am not an expert in any other fighting skill so I can’t and won’t recommend nor denigrate any other skill out there. What I will say is this: If your form of martial arts has points for winning in competition, then I hope there is a non-point technique in that system that teaches you to win in combat. In the Louisiana State Police, we boxed and fought for 17 weeks of our academy. We never spent much time with ground fighting skills. We used standard police tactics on cuffing and baton. They worked…usually if the subject was compliant. When you had a hype-aggressive subject you had to resort to OC spray or baton and TASER. With our video pervasive society, how does striking someone with a baton look today?

As a former Louisiana State Trooper, I think that many of the negative police incidents we see in the news today are a result of lack of hand-to-combat training; be it Krav Maga or some other technique. Most police officers are not comfortable with hands on fighting and typically rely on their TASER or OC spray, and ultimately their firearm. They have usually missed the first two levels of the continuum if their subject was non-compliant causing escalation. The consequences of a police officer using their weapon today can mean an end of their career even if they did everything correctly; it now depends on the optics of the situation unfortunately.

Overseas in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, police shootings are relatively rare. There the police focus more on talking to offenders, but then rely on their hand-to-hand skills to take offenders into custody. I only illustrate that here to point out that the police there are very well trained in hand fighting skills and the results show.


As executive protection agents, the examination above can be applied to our profession and a requirement to protect our principle. Being comfortable with your own fighting skills will not only allow you to overcome an attacker(s), it also allows you to measure your response at the most efficient level and allows you and your client to depart that location. Anything that anchors you to that spot-failing to disable the attacker, multiple attackers your fighting skill doesn’t neutralize, taking too long, etc. is a failure in the EP world in that your client is exposed while you are engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Even if the attacker has a weapon, you will be anchored still in awaiting a police response if you use your firearm.

If we agree that firearms, although they have a place in this field, it is not nearly as important as our current EP culture would like, then the alternative is hand to hand combat skills. If that is the case, then we need to discuss the issues associated with that conclusion.

I would refer to an article that Molotov Mitchell posted in "Krav Life" and was excerpted from his upcoming book, "Sweaty, Bloody, Happy" and is titled, “Ten Furious Facts About Krav Maga” where he discusses the differences in Martial Arts and fighting skills.  He is a recognized expert in the field and a founder of Atlas Krav Maga Federation and current owner of Queen City Fight Club in Charlotte, NC. In this article he presents the pros and cons of each fighting skill and/or Martial Arts. In reviewing this material, I found that there are vast differences between each skill and also a lot of similarities for some. As a recent student of Krav Maga (Molotov Mitchell is my instructor), I have found that I am investing at least ten times the amount of training at Krav Maga than I spend cultivating my shooting skills. At this 10:1 ratio for an older guy, I am aware that maybe a younger EP provider can take less time. But are we practicing these skills? At a similar ratio? Where are the EP articles referencing hand combat versus firearms training?


Are there appropriate times to use your firearm? Absolutely, but only as a last resort, realizing that you have failed in your threat analysis, and your mission planning to prevent it. At the end of the day, saving your client is what counts. 

If you can study an appropriate martial art or Krav Maga, then I recommend you fully do so. Another benefit gained is when sparring in Krav Maga you are in fact doing High Intensity Training (HIT) that will improve both your fast-twitch muscular development and your cardio. Both are worthy gains. It is a comprehensive, taxing workout!


Finally, planning and threat assessment are truly the way to prevent most issues on the field in EP. As Matthew Parker states in his basic EP class (Independent Security Advisors, - if you have to use your weapon in the field then you have failed in your threat assessment. Mike Vaden related that history shows us that most attacks on a principle are during transportation, specifically arrivals, departures, and direction changes (slowing to make a turn); This was shown by the attack on President Ronald Reagan by Hinkley. There have been numerous attempts on principles in these specific areas where an armored car, and good threat assessment has saved the life of the principle.

In reviewing the above points, I would suggest that EP professionals’ training needs to focus on planning and threat assessment, hand to hand fighting skills of the type that are truly useful, driving skills, medical aid, actions on contact, then firearms and all the rest. Think about your training. What changes would you make?

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