Selecting Between Armed and Unarmed Security

Selecting the right type of security guard service is a critical decision for any business seeking to protect their premises, assets, employees and customers. While both armed and unarmed security guards can provide invaluable protection, there are important trade-offs to consider between the two options, especially when considering the various types of industries such as retail, construction, commercial property, trucking or restaurant. This article examines the key differences, pros and cons, and ideal use cases for contracting armed versus unarmed security personnel.

Key Differences Between Armed and Unarmed Security

The most fundamental distinction between armed and unarmed security is the presence of firearms and other weapons. Some other key variances include:

  • Training requirements – Armed guards undergo more intensive training to responsibly handle weapons and respond to lethal threats. Unarmed guards require less training overall.
  • Perceived threat level – The visible presence of armed guards can deter criminal activity through an intimidating show of force. Unarmed personnel rely more on observation and reporting.
  • Intervention capabilities – Armed guards can respond with greater authority, force and tactical capabilities if a confrontation arises. Unarmed guards focus more on observation and de-escalation.
  • Psychological impact – Heavily armed guards create a higher-tension environment that some clients/customers may find stressful. Unarmed personnel present a more relaxed, customer-service focused image.
  • Licensing – Special licensing and permits are required for armed guards. Unarmed personnel do not need special weapon licensing.
  • Cost – Hourly rates for armed security are typically higher than unarmed to reflect their advanced training. Unarmed guards represent a more affordable option.

Let’s examine the advantages, disadvantages and best uses of each security option:

Pros and Cons of Armed Security Guards

Immediately able to respond to lethal threatsHigher hourly cost than unarmed guards
Can deter criminal activity through visible show of forceRequire more licensing, training and compliance
Greater ability to intervene in dangerous situationsMay create tense environment for citizens/customers
Enhanced capabilities with firearms trainingHigher liability risks associated with weapons
More psychological authority and command presenceNot practical in many environments like schools

Ideal Use Cases for Armed Security

Armed security personnel are best suited for high-risk environments with greater probabilities of dangerous confrontations, such as:

  • Guarding sensitive federal facilities, nuclear sites, military bases and infrastructure
  • Executive protection and bodyguard roles for dignitaries or celebrities
  • Securing high-value assets like banks, armored carriers, or currency vaults
  • Monitoring construction sites and remote locations with higher risks of trespassing and theft

Armed guards are also commonly seen providing robust security at venues with large crowds and alcohol consumption like stadiums, music festivals, and nightclubs where risks of fights, petty crimes and disturbances are elevated.

Pros and Cons of Unarmed Security Guards

Lower hourly rates than armed personnelLess able to immediately intervene in dangerous situations
Require less licensing, training and complianceDo not deter criminal activity through show of force
Provide friendly, customer-service focused environmentLower perceived authority to command situations
Well-suited to public-facing roles and sensitive sitesFocus more on observation and reporting than confrontation
Avoid risks associated with weapons possessionMay require armed backup for high-risk scenarios

Ideal Use Cases for Unarmed Security

Unarmed guards deliver a visible, yet non-intimidating presence well-suited for sites like:

  • Schools, universities and child care facilities where weapons raise extra risks
  • Hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare campuses focusing on service and de-escalation
  • Shopping malls and retail stores aiming to balance access, hospitality and order
  • Office parks, restaurants, residential buildings and parking garages
  • Hotels and tourist destinations where guest sensitivity is higher

Unarmed personnel also fill important roles handling access control at building entrances, reception desks, screening stations and event check-in areas.

Key Questions to Consider When Choosing Security Services

When deciding between hiring armed or unarmed security guards, it’s important to carefully evaluate your specific risks, needs and objectives, including:

  • What types of threats or disturbances are most likely to occur, and how frequent?
  • How critical is an immediate armed response capability if an incident arises?
  • What is the setting, and how sensitive are occupants or bystanders to weapons?
  • Will the visible presence of armed guards help deter threats, or unduly alarm people?
  • What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? More security-focused, or more hospitality/service-focused?
  • How cost-sensitive is budget for security personnel?

Properly assessing your unique requirements as a business, agency or institution will lead to the best fit between your needs, budget and culture. Both armed and unarmed guards can provide invaluable protection when deployed in the right scenarios.

Getting Started with the Right Security Partner

Here at Centinel Security, we specialize in providing highly trained, licensed and professional armed or unarmed security personnel tailored specifically for your environment. We take the time to understand your specific risks, sensitivities and protection goals.

Our experienced consultants will evaluate your premises, assets and vulnerabilities and advise you on the ideal security guard personnel, protocols and technologies to mitigate risks. We’ll ensure you get the right blend of capabilities, value and fit for your organization and buildings.

To learn more and request a free, no-obligation security assessment, contact Centinel Security today. Our team of specialists is here to provide the peace of mind and protection you need to operate safely and successfully.