Armed vs Unarmed Security Guards: Knowing Their Differences to Help You Make the Right Business Decision

Armed vs Unarmed Security Guards: Knowing Their Differences to Help You Make the Right Business Decision

The key difference between armed and unarmed security guards is that armed guards carry firearms while unarmed guards don’t. However, this does not mean that unarmed guards are defenseless. They carry non-lethal weapons like batons, tasers, and/or pepper sprays. They also undergo intensive training to handle dangerous situations including emergencies.

Both have their pros and cons and can offer effective security solutions for your business. But how do you choose the best option for your needs without spending more than you have to?

Here, we’ll discuss the following topics to help you decide:

  • Pros and cons of armed and unarmed security
  • Best situations to hire armed/unarmed guards
  • Factors to consider when choosing between armed and unarmed security

Scout Security has intensively trained, fully licensed, and insured private security guards and mobile patrols in the Denver Metro and Colorado Springs areas. We offer comprehensive and cost-effective security solutions for the construction, industrial manufacturing, hospitality, and other industries. Contact us now to learn more about our services.

Armed Vs. Unarmed Guards: Pros & Cons

Armed Vs. Unarmed Guards: Pros & Cons

To assist you in choosing between armed or unarmed security guards, below is an overview of the pros and cons of each:

Armed Security GuardsUnarmed Security Guards
Pros– Professionally trained and licensed to carry firearms
– Ideal for serious security threats and violent situations
– Employed in high-risk settings that deal with high-value people, money, and expensive goods like banks and museums
– They offer a more cost-effective solution for low and medium-risk businesses like parking lots, apartment complexes, and construction sites
– Effective visual deterrents that can carry out other duties like regular patrols, access control, customer assistance, and threat identification
Cons– Guards carrying firearms can cause discomfort to employees and customers
– They are more expensive than unarmed guards but offer a greater degree of security
– They are expected to use lethal force that can result in fatalities which leads to higher insurance expenses and greater liability
– They only carry non-lethal weapons so they are not ideal in settings that are prone to violent crimes

*They can effectively de-escalate conflicts as well as cooperate with law enforcers and emergency response providers to mitigate damages to your business

Find a more detailed discussion of the pros and cons of armed and unarmed security guards here.

5 Key Differences Between Armed and Unarmed Security

Aside from the use of firearms, armed and unarmed security services have other differences that will surely affect your decision on what type of service to choose.

Key Differences Between Armed and Unarmed Security: Firearms, Training, cost

#1. Armed security contractors carry firearms while unarmed guards carry non-lethal weapons.

As mentioned, armed guards can carry different lethal weapons to handle dangerous security attacks. These weapons also aim to protect the guards and other people in case of violent situations where the use of force is necessary.

On the other hand, unarmed guards are not authorized to carry firearms but they are trained to use force using non-lethal weapons when needed. Their mere visual presence can deter common and minor crimes such as trespassing, vandalism, theft, break-ins, and others.

Note: Hiring unarmed guards prevents firearm-related incidents which reduces liability claims against your business, especially if you hire a fully insured security company.

Also Read: How Mobile Patrol Security Can Proactively Deter Crimes on Your Property

#2. Both undergo intensive training, but armed guards go through additional training and certification programs.

There is a significant difference between armed and unarmed security guard training. Armed guards training may cover most of that of unarmed guards plus additional training for using firearms and neutralizing threats. Although this may be the case, unarmed guards may also undergo more intensive training in areas that will help them perform their duties more effectively.

#3. Armed security guards are more expensive to hire due to the additional training and certifications needed as well as equipment upkeep.

Aside from the extra and frequent training required, armed guards need to renew certifications and licenses as well as keep their firearms in good condition. They are also often deployed in more dangerous situations which means higher insurance premiums. This makes them more costly to hire compared to unarmed guards who do not need special licenses because they don’t carry weapons that also need to be maintained.

The cost of armed guards will also depend on:

  • Your business’s risk
  • Your location
  • Their duties

Also Read: 11 Benefits of Mobile Security Patrol in Improving Safety & Why Your Business Needs It

Key Differences Between Armed and Unarmed Security: Hiring Process & Duties

#4. Hiring armed guards is a more rigorous process because they need to meet specific standards and requirements.

Armed guards are entrusted with harmful weapons that could kill, so they go through a more rigorous screening process before they are hired. They must meet certain requirements and possess the required licenses and certifications. Hiring unqualified armed guards can lead to costly liabilities that you will most likely need to shoulder.

Unarmed security guards who do not carry dangerous weapons have minimal requirements. However, you still need to make sure that you are hiring highly trained security personnel who can effectively handle various security issues.

For instance, Scout Security’s mobile patrollers and security guards are trained in threat identification and mitigation, conflict de-escalation, emergency response, and others. Thus, ensuring that you will still get a high level of security that can proactively deter criminals and prevent threats before they escalate.

Also Read: 7 Different Types of Security Patrolling: Foot Patrol, Mobile Patrol, Active Patrol, Random Patrol, and More!

#5. Unarmed guards can perform a variety of duties while armed guards are often focused on highly specialized services.

Unarmed guards perform various duties to keep your property safe without the need for costly training and licensure requirements.

Armed security guard duties often involve two key things: protecting high-value assets and responding to life-threatening incidents.

For unarmed guards, they can have other duties such as:

  • Threat and hazard identification
  • Controlling identified threats/hazards
  • Conflict de-escalation using verbal judo
  • Access control
  • Emergency response procedures
  • Traffic management
  • Regular patrols
  • CCTV monitoring
  • Customer assistance
  • Employee escort

Also Read: Static Security vs. Mobile Patrols: What Are Their Key Differences?

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Armed and Unarmed Security Guards

It is clear that armed security, though expensive, can provide a higher level of security for high-risk businesses involving valuable assets where violence cannot be avoided. However, hiring armed guards is not always a practical and cost-effective solution, especially for small businesses.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Armed and Unarmed Security Guards: Your Risk Level

#1. Your Risk Level: The Most Important Factor to Consider

Your business’s risk level is the major determinant of whether you should choose armed or unarmed guards. The first step is to identify the potential threats that you might encounter by using previous data on past security incidents.

High-risk businesses should hire armed guards. The presence of unarmed guards for visible deterrence will suffice for low to medium-risk businesses.

What are High-Risk Businesses?

These are businesses that have a high chance of criminal activities, especially violent ones, including:

  • Manufacturers, storage facilities, or sellers of jewelry, automobiles, and technological devices
  • Businesses transporting high-value goods such as gemstones
  • Those dealing with sensitive or confidential information
  • Banks and other situations involving the management or transport of large amounts of money
  • Large events involving high-value people
  • Courthouses
  • Airports
  • Government facilities
  • Museums

Also Read: 7 Advantages of Hiring Construction Site Mobile Patrol Security Guards

What are Low to Medium-Risk Businesses?

These are businesses where having armed guards on the premises could cause discomfort but still need a certain level of security to deter criminal activities.

Examples are:

  • Apartment buildings & multifamily properties
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Resorts
  • Malls
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Parking lots
  • Shopping centers
  • Construction sites
  • Processing plants
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Public recreation areas
  • Educational institutions

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Armed & Unarmed Security Guards: Business Type & Guard Duties

#2. The Type of Setting or Business

The right type of security that will meet your needs will depend on the products and services you are offering which will determine the specific risks your business will be exposed to.

If you are dealing with large sums of money, expensive products, high-profile people, and sensitive information, you need armed guards who can give you heightened security. Armed guards are a great way to intimidate criminals which will reduce the likelihood of security attacks on your business.

For businesses that are frequented by many people such as malls, apartments, and other commercial spaces, unarmed guards are a smart choice. Aside from discouraging unlawful activities and violent behaviors, uniformed professional guards can make your employees and customers safe without causing discomfort.

Also Read: How to Hire a Security Guard: 7 Factors to Consider & More

#3. The Duties You Want the Guards to Perform

You don’t want to spend more than what you should be in meeting your business’s security requirements. There are times when hiring armed security guards is impractical and may be overkill aside from being costly. So before you decide, consider what tasks you want your guards to do. Below is a table of the key duties that armed and unarmed security guards can do to guide you:

Armed GuardsUnarmed Guards
– VIP protection
– Protecting valuable assets in banks, museums, government facilities, etc.
– Handling serious threats and violent attacks
– Video surveillance
– Property monitoring
– Patrolling
– Greeting, assisting, and escorting customers
– Front desk duties
– Controlling access to restricted areas
– Crowd control
– Bag searches
– Discouraging vandals, trespassers, thieves, etc.

Also Read: Mobile Patrol Security Officer Duties: What Do Mobile Patrol Security Professionals Do?

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Armed & Unarmed Security Guards: Customer Perception & Insurance Cost

#4. The Image You Want Your Customers to Perceive

Security guards can either give peace of mind or cause uneasiness depending on the situation.

The type of guard you will hire will greatly impact how customers see your business and how your employees will feel while working with you. 

For instance, armed guards create an intimidating atmosphere and can make customers/employees feel tense and uncomfortable. Your guests may even feel alarmed and wonder if they are in a safe environment.

Deploying armed guards may imply that your business is frequented by violent crimes which will affect your image. In addition, the presence of firearms can escalate situations, especially when the guards use them to intimidate law violators.

Unarmed security guards can provide a more relaxed atmosphere and handle conflicts calmly to prevent the involvement of violence. They are ideal for retail businesses, residential complexes, recreational establishments, and other low-risk situations where deploying armed guards will cause uneasiness.

Only hire armed guards in high-risk situations where they can make customers and employees feel safer and protected (e.g. banks) rather than anxious.

Also Read: 13 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mobile Patrol Security Service

#5. How Willing You Are to Pay For More Insurance

Liability insurance is another important factor that you need to consider. Since you may be held liable for the actions of your guards, you need to have comprehensive liability insurance if you hire armed guards. In the event of dangerous situations where the guards are required to use their weapons, you could face costly lawsuits for the resulting fatalities or injuries.

Also Read:


Are armed guards better than unarmed guards?

This depends on your risk level, the type of your business, the duties you want the guards to perform, and the image you want your customers to see. Armed guards are more effective in high-risk situations where money and high-value products/people are involved. Unarmed guards can provide better security while improving customer perception for most businesses.

What is the difference between armed and unarmed security?

Their most obvious difference is that armed guards are licensed to carry and use firearms while unarmed guards can only carry non-lethal weapons. Armed security guards are often employed for highly specialized services such as VIP and asset protection. On the other hand, unarmed guards are hired by many businesses that need flexible guards who can adapt to various situations and perform multiple duties.


In conclusion, you only employ armed guards in high-crime areas and when they are really necessary. Unarmed guards are suitable for most businesses not only for the cost but also for their effectiveness in proactive crime deterrence and threat identification. 

Hire Scout Security’s top-tier security guards and mobile patrollers that include veterans and former law enforcers in the Denver Metro and Colorado Springs areas. Let us help you build a robust security plan for your business through a comprehensive risk assessment to address your specific needs. Book a consultation now!

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