20 February 2024

Are Close Protection Operatives Armed In The UK?

One of the first questions many people ask before starting close protection training in the UK is about the possibility of carrying a gun. Dramatisations of this role in film and TV might lead you to believe that working as a close protection officer will mean you’re allowed to carry a gun. Sorry to burst the bubble, but this isn’t the case.

In the UK, we have strict rules about guns, so only the police and armed forces are allowed to carry guns. And even this is heavily regulated so that only those who have gone through specialist training. Without these privileges, it is not possible to carry a gun in the UK – even if you’re working as a close protection officer.

Where in the world do close protection officers carry guns?

Some countries around the world allow private citizens to carry guns, which means that close protection officers may use these as part of their role. Perhaps the most famous location is the United States, where gun laws vary from state to state. 

This is often the source of confusion around whether or not close protection officers can carry weapons. Even close protection officers travelling to the UK with their client are not permitted to bring firearms into the UK. This includes CIA operatives working with high profile figures like the President of the United States. In this instance, they will have to coordinate with armed officers in the UK.

How do close protection officers do their job without a gun?

How do close protection officers do their job without a gun?

You might be wondering, how exactly are they supposed to work if they can’t carry firearms? For starters, it’s a lot easier to protect someone against threats when you are in a country where guns are illegal. With fewer guns on the street, it’s less likely that you’ll have to deal with this threat.

This means that close protection officers are focused on a different type of threat. They are trained in strategic planning that helps to avoid the possibility their client will be close to anyone who might present a threat.

They are also trained in tactics like evasive driving and arm-to-arm combat. Rather than using deadly force, they are trained to first avoid threats, and then neutralise them using other methods.

Is it more dangerous to be a close protection officer without a gun?

There is the fear that working in this type of role without a gun will make you more vulnerable, but this isn’t the case. Close protection officers in the UK are trained to handle situations without the use of a firearm. It could even be said to be safer than working in the US, because the chances of running into someone who poses a threat with a gun is much lower. There is also no risk that you could accidentally harm an innocent bystander when discharging your weapon.

Close protection officers commonly wear stab vests to enable them to engage directly with threats without worrying about knives or other sharp objects. They are also trained to avoid these situations rather than engage with them. Being able to identify the vulnerability in a situation and actively avoid it could be said to be safer than allowing dangerous situations to unfold and then using a firearm to protect against the threat.

How long is the training to become a close protection officer?

How long is the training to become a close protection officer?

Close protection officer training is one of the longest of all the SIA-certified professions. Training is typically around 16-19 days long and this career path also assumes some prior experience in policing or military training. The training involves a combination of classroom-based theory training alongside role playing and situational training to ensure all close protection officers have a solid understanding of the principles.

Final thoughts

If you’re thinking about becoming a close protection officer, it’s vital to have realistic expectations of the role. First and foremost, close protection officers in the UK are not armed, so you’ll need to learn different tactics to help protect your client.

Working without a firearm is not any more dangerous. It could even be considered safer working as a close protection officer in the UK, since firearms are not commonplace, so you are less likely to have to deal with this threat.