Armed vs. Unarmed Security: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Armed vs. Unarmed Security: Which Is Right for Your Business?

When deciding between armed vs. unarmed security guards, determining which is right for your business can be tricky. Several crucial factors come into play as you examine your options, including the nature of the company, its location and the role you’d like your security personnel to play. This post dives into the essential considerations, including the pros and cons of hiring an armed or unarmed security guard and their typical roles and duties, to help you make the best choice for your organization.

What Is an Unarmed Security Guard?

Unarmed security guards are certified security personnel who have undergone a comprehensive basic training course. This course provides these individuals with several essential skills needed for protection and safety duties in various situations.

Unarmed Security Guard Duties

Unarmed guards are most suited to roles in low- to medium-risk environments, where the mere presence of a guard is enough to deter potential unrest or criminal activity. Their tasks may include:

Pros and Cons of Unarmed Security Guards

Exploring the pros and cons of hiring an unarmed guard will help the decision-making process.

These are some of the primary advantages associated with hiring an unarmed security guard for your business:

  • No firearm presence: Depending on the nature of your organization, the presence of a firearm may make customers and staff uncomfortable.
  • More affordable option: Unarmed guards have undergone less training than armed guards, which translates to a lower hourly rate.
  • Non-lethal weapons: Should the need for force arise, an unarmed security guard usually has a baton, pepper spray, and, sometimes, a taser available.
  • Crime deterrence: Having security personnel present is far more effective than just installing an alarm and CCTV system.
  • Customer assistance: Unarmed guards often fill customer-facing roles, performing duties such as providing directions, walking customers to their cars, and managing the front desk.


couple checking into a hotel


When hiring unarmed guards, there’s only one key pitfall:

  • Lack of a firearm: An armed guard can make employees and customers feel safer in certain situations, like high-crime areas.

What Is an Armed Security Guard?

Armed security guards possess a firearm, a license to carry it, and extensive firearm and security training beyond the basic training course that unarmed guards complete. Due to this additional training, they offer a greater degree of security than unarmed guards.

Armed Security Guard Duties

Armed guards are effective in areas requiring more protection, such as businesses in high-crime areas. You will most often find these guards undertaking duties and roles such as:

  • Watching over expensive items or stock in a retail, manufacturing or storage setting.
  • Guarding significant sums of cash on-site or in transit.
  • Monitoring crowds at large-scale festivals or high-profile events.
  • Protecting valuable, sensitive information.
  • Patrolling operations situated in high-risk areas.

armed security guard

Pros and Cons of Armed Security Guards

Opting for an armed guard also has its advantages and disadvantages to consider as you navigate your options.

A few of the integral pros associated with hiring an armed security guard include:

  • Firearm authorization: The most significant benefit of hiring an armed guard is that they’re authorized to carry a firearm, which can be helpful in high-risk environments.
  • More training: Armed guards have extensive training, more security-related licenses and certifications, and the capability to take on more responsibility.
  • Enhanced security: These guards’ ability to carry and use a firearm combined with their training gives you greater security and assurance in emergencies and violent situations.
  • Improved worker morale: Businesses in high-risk industries or high-crime areas may want armed guards to help employees feel protected and more at ease.
  • Greater customer safety: Customers visiting businesses in high-risk environments typically feel safer when a security officer with a firearm is present.

There are also a few cons to consider when it comes to hiring an armed security guard, such as:

  • Increased discomfort: Depending on the situation, some customers and employees may have a negative association with firearms and feel uncomfortable having an armed guard around.
  • Higher cost: Due to their intense training, greater skill level and more licenses, armed guards will cost you more per hour than unarmed guards.

Considerations When Selecting an Armed or Unarmed Security Guard

In addition to examining the pros and cons of armed and unarmed security guards, evaluating your organization’s current situation and needs can help you decide which option you should choose. Some considerations include:

1. The Business’s Risk Level

Establishing your organization’s risk level can help you decide whether an armed or unarmed guard is best for you. A high-risk level may warrant hiring an armed guard, while a low-risk level may indicate unarmed security personnel will suffice.

Your business could fall within the high-risk category if it involves:

  • Manufacturing, storing or selling expensive items with a high resale value, such as jewelry, smart tech devices and motor vehicles.
  • Handling or transporting large sums of money, like for a bank, department store or grocery store.
  • Transporting valuable items, such as precious metals, gemstones and high-ticket goods.
  • Processing or storing confidential, sensitive or restricted information.
  • Hosting or facilitating events involving public figures or significant crowds.

Businesses operating on the low-risk end of the spectrum may benefit from unarmed security guards. These organizations could include:

  • Places of worship, like churches, mosques, synagogues, temples or dedicated community halls.
  • Educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities.
  • Public recreation areas, such as parks, pools and playgrounds.
  • Public and private exhibition spaces, like galleries and museums.

2. The Type of Business

The nature of your business, its culture and its people may dictate your options. To determine whether an armed or unarmed security guard would be suitable for your organization, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would the presence of an armed guard affect my business?
  • Would an unarmed guard be enough to ward off crime and make employees and clients feel at ease?
  • How might customers and employees feel with an armed guard present?
  • Will the security guard be in plain view of customers and staff, or will they be behind the scenes?

The presence of an armed or unarmed guard may make your patrons and staff feel more comfortable, but it could also have the opposite effect. The impact will depend on your specific business circumstances and needs.

retail store open sign

3. The Potential Threats

Assessing the threats your organization might encounter is a critical step when deciding which security service to choose. If your operation is in a dangerous area where armed robberies and violent attacks are a real possibility, an armed guard would be your best defense. Otherwise, an unarmed security guard may be the most effective option.

Bear in mind that while they lack the authority to carry a firearm, unarmed guards still offer a great deal of protection. These guards are trained to apply force with a non-lethal weapon and can make an arrest when needed. They’re also ideal for operations requiring someone to monitor CCTV cameras and carry out patrols to watch over your business, team and customers.

4. Liability Insurance

Another crucial consideration is whether you want to pay for more insurance. If you hire an armed guard, you’ll likely need to take out comprehensive liability insurance for your business. Having a firearm on-site poses a liability, as a situation may arise in which your guard needs to draw and fire their weapon. Should an injury or loss of life result from the shots fired, your organization could face a lawsuit. Liability insurance protects your business against the actions of your armed guard should an incident arise.

If you hire an unarmed guard for your business, general liability insurance should cover issues arising from using a baton, taser or pepper spray.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Security Guard?

Hiring an armed security guard provides your business with the highest level of protection, but it is more costly due to the guard’s extensive training, license and certification renewals, and firearm upkeep. The cost per hour can also fluctuate depending on your business’s risk level and location.

Opting for an unarmed guard is more cost-effective, as there is no firearm to maintain and license renewals are at a minimum, depending on your state. However, your property will have less protection.

Hire World-Class Armed and Unarmed Security Guards From The Guard Alliance

Regardless of your business type or risk, you can trust The Guard Alliance to provide top-tier unarmed and armed security guard services backed by a highly trained and skilled team. At The Guard Alliance, we lead the industry through innovation, transparency and accountability, providing tailored security solutions to global brands. Contact The Guard Alliance team to discuss your business’s security needs and how we can help you.

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