The Professional Armed Security Guard

Bill Pitcher instructing in Central America

Bill Pitcher instructing in Central America

By Bill Pitcher, Senior Firearms Instructor

“Excellence is the basics, mastered.” This statement has been used by many to spur folks on to excellence in many fields of endeavor. Today we’ll begin discussing the basics—and thus the road to excellence—in handgun shooting, particularly shooting a handgun for the purpose of defense in the armed security guard profession.

Getting Ready

Armed security is a unique profession, having many of the trappings of law enforcement; but only rarely any true public authority behind the badge. Since that is the case, the guard acts at his own peril and must first be sure that he understands the laws of his own jurisdiction. No two states are exactly alike, though a general concept is that you may use deadly physical force to protect yourself or another person from the threat of deadly physical force. In fact, many employers will have that as a bottom line in policy: that is the only time the company will stand behind you if you use deadly force. I make this point first because it is necessary to understand the position you are in before you even display a firearm, let alone press the trigger. Displaying a firearm under inappropriate circumstances will brand the security guard as a cowboy, reckless in his behavior, and will most likely have an ill effect on his career. Displaying a firearm is appropriate only when it is reasonably likely that you are about to encounter a threat of deadly physical force. A related issue is the question of your internal make-up. Are you prepared for the reality of taking a life or causing life changing injury to another human being—even if the law and your policy says that you are totally correct to do so? That’s a critical decision that only you can make. Also, using deadly physical force will put you in the public eye and subject you and your family to a tremendous amount of scrutiny from a number of places: police, your employer, the media…. You’re in for a long haul. If you have not made up your mind that you’ve got it in you to stay the course, there are lots of unarmed jobs in the profession that need to be filled by quality people. Maybe you would be a better fit for one of them. We can teach virtually anyone with reasonable eye-hand coordination to shoot effectively; but we can’t teach that willingness to shoot. Our New York State 47 hour course armed security guard course is a great way to learn the basics, but only you know what you’re made of.


The first of the basics is safety. Anyone seen handling a gun in an unsafe manner, whatever the circumstances, will have professionals question his (or her) abilities. There are four absolute rules:

  • All guns are always loaded, unless you have checked it yourself.
  • Keep all firearms pointed in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are on target and have made the decision to fire.
  • Be sure of your target and the target environment.

Self-enforcement of these rules will help keep you and everyone around you safe.


If you’re about to enter the world of armed security, the choice of a firearm will come up. The first is that of a revolver or an auto-pistol. Some employers may answer that question by mandating—or even issuing—a firearm and related equipment. Though the law enforcement profession (at least in the US) is now dominated by the auto, there are still a number of private security companies that use revolvers. The auto has several advantages, the first being the ability to carry more rounds, but the revolver is certainly a capable firearm for defense. Many would argue that the revolver is an easier handgun to master, and I won’t argue with that—it might be. That means more accurate shooting with less effort which would make all that extra ammunition unnecessary. Though I carry an auto as a duty firearm (policy) and an off-duty firearm (preference for concealment), in no-way would I consider myself out-gunned if forced to carry a revolver in both circumstances. It’s a matter of competence (the basics, mastered). Most companies will also mandate—or give a range of options—as to what caliber and round can be carried. Keep the choice of firearm and caliber in mind if you are going out to by a handgun specifically for use in armed security work. Whatever related equipment you’re going to need, do some research first; don’t just run out and buy what looks good in the gun shop. Talk to other professionals, especially those who have done the job for a while. See what works for them—and what hasn’t worked for them; learn—and save money—from their mistakes.


To summarize this segment: know the law of your own jurisdiction and your employer’s policy; know yourself and your own make up; learn the basic rules of safe gun handling, follow them at all times and finally, be proficient and confident with whatever handgun you’re going to carry. You’re now on the way to mastering the basics. In the next session we’ll begin the discussion of stance, grip, breath control, sight alignment/sight picture, trigger control and follow through, the foundation of good shooting.


Bill Pitcher is a career police officer, now semi-retired, and has been a police firearms instructor since 1985. During those years he has taught all levels of firearms training from in-service of seasoned veterans, to basic schools (police and security), active shooter, force-on-force, and firearms instructor courses. His teaching has been mainly in New York, but has travelled extensively in Latin America to train police there also. Bill has worked with Peeler Group International since 1995 in both field operations and instruction.


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