Choosing your armed response


Choosing your armed response

With armed robbery being a credible and constant threat not only in South-Africa but all around the world, it comes as no surprise that more and more armed response companies are popping up. Although I do not mind the number of manpower available to combat crime. The more armed response officers we have driving around, the quicker response times can become (client to vehicle ratio). But naturally, the influx of companies makes it somewhat more complicated to choose the correct one. It's simply not a price comparison that dictates the ultimate decision.

So I compiled a guideline for you:

  • Cost - Obviously you need to pay a realistic price.
  • Company portfolio - You need to make sure the company has relevant experience and has been around for some time, younger companies might not have the expertise and resources needed to provide an effective service, where some older companies again might be overstretched and ill-developed.
  • Is the company properly registered at the relevant authorities? - For example in SA, a company has to be registered with PSIRA and SAIDSA (South-African Intruder Detection Services Association, and, each of the armed response officers also must have relevant PSIRA registration and firearms training as per the Firearms Control Act.
  • What is the companies client to officer ratio? - Too many clients and not enough response officers could cause a back-log of alarms and have a dramatic impact on response times, usually when you will be needing it the most.
  • Supervisors - Does the company have sufficient supervisors on duty to handle break-ins, reports, and client complaints?
  • Vehicles - Is the company using relevant vehicles for your area - Rural areas or areas prone to heavy rain might require more rugged vehicles. And do they have enough vehicles up and running to get to all clients in a reasonable time?
  • Equipment - Is the company using relevant equipment? Armed response officers should have relevant equipment necessary to complete their tasks, such as flashlights, body armor, ladders, etc. (SAIDSA, By-law no.3)
  • Technology - Is the company utilizing new technology on the market that may better their overall services? Now and then the equipment is upgraded and new technology rolls out that help companies stay on top of their game.
  • Training - Probably the most important aspect of any company. Generally, any officer should go through relevant training to be able to register as an armed security service provider, but refresher training is not controlled at all. Is your company developing training to improve its officers, such as firearms training, first aid, vicious dog training, fire training, crime scene contamination, and criminal law?


So I would like to say that all companies are good, but just like every other industry, money talks and shortcuts work. Following these guidelines should keep things in order. Selecting the right response company does not have to be a daunting task, but it most definitely should be a careful decision! What complicates things more is the fact that not all the same companies can be found all over the country, nevermind across borders. So it's not a clear decision from town to town. What's more is that some smaller or up and coming companies will likely be the best fit for you, even if only for the next few years or so. Make a wise choice.

What is Tactical response?


What is Tactical Response?

I'm sure most of us have been intrigued by the facade of armed men dressed in tactical gear, manipulating firearms and other awesome gadgets all whilst moving as one man through buildings and taking out bad guys with 2 shots to the body and one to the head (You know, just to be sure). Although we most famously associated with the S.W.A.T teams from American movies. These tactical teams can be seen broadly from all corners of the world, from police forces, military, private security, and private military. For the focus of this website, of course, I will explain Tactical response in the private security industry.

So what is it?

Tactical response teams are normally considered to be a team of armed response officers trained in various weapons and tactics. Where the primary weapons would be some form of carbine or shotgun and s side-arm capable of carrying high capacity magazines. Combined with some team dynamics, these teams can be effective in combating higher levels of threat.

What type of training is required?

The typical training most of these officers receive would be from some form of military or police experience. Fortunately and also sometimes, unfortunately, a lot of these officers receive training from reputable private companies who specialize in training and development within the private industry. Most of these instructors come from some special units in which they served within law enforcement or military fields. Also, this type of training comes with a price, and most of the officers who have no prior experience would have paid for their training out of pocket. Or if your local service provider thinks some of their normal security personnel might deserve a greater chance in the private sector, they might pay for that training. These newly trained officers will repay the company with services rendered over a set period.

Onto the weapons...

So, as mentioned, carbines and pistols rule in the tactical industry. But also worth mentioning is the other effective weapons these guys get to play with, for instance:

  • Knives
  • Batons
  • Pepper spray/guns
  • Gas/smoke grenades
  • Flashbang grenades

Worth taking to mind is that different countries have different laws governing these officers and their allowed gear and weapons. For instance, South-Africa does not permit the more round stuff that goes boom after 3 to 5 seconds of pulling the pin. So please check with your current laws and regulations before buying the whole team those katanas!


Of course, special units need special gear, and with all the toys these guys carry, a lot of space and adaptability are needed! You want:

  • Bulletproof vests and plate carriers
  • Interchangeable pouches
  • Slim radios and earpieces
  • Medical kits
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Knee and elbow protection
  • Gloves and a beanie
  • Shades...

And the optional favorites of course:

  • Helmets
  • Balaclava
  • Night/Thermal vision
  • Patches, and a lot of them.

It's up to each officer to decide what works for him when it comes down to 12-hour shifts in the private industry.

What vehicles do they use?

So now they've got all the right gear and all the sweet toys to stuff it full with, but, how do they get to the scene?

Not with local transport, that's for sure. A sturdy vehicle, like a small truck, or as we SA guys call it, a bakkie is preferable. Even a small SUV will work. Now I'm sure to step on some toes here, but a car normally has a lower profile, though they might be faster, they don't climb curbs all that well and generally don't provide for much space. I'd much rather be using something that can keep up with traffic but be able to climb onto a sidewalk or speed through an open field when you're chasing someone who typically does not want to be caught.

What authority do they possess?

Now, this is where the lines can get fuzzy...

As private security, the law will be a certain issue. Do they act right? are they permitted to use force and how far are they allowed to go to protect their assigned clients?

Again, check with your own country and its laws! Although it is quite clear that reasonable cause calls for reasonable force, I have had to struggle with this in my career a few times. Am I acting according to law, or does the situation call for more action, which might be seen as unlawful? I don't wish to say that a more specialized unit should always act in self-defense, but that is the rule of thumb here.

So does it work?

Is it a good idea to upgrade to a tactical response unit? If the threat is credible, if your situation calls for it and if you can afford it, then Yes, it is worth it, and it can work for You. But be sure to integrate such a service correctly. Just parked outside your home, office, or business, whilst they could be better of patrolling the premises together with your normal guards will be more productive and effective. Having them close enough when needed is essential, but when it's not credible, you could be better off to direct that money spent, into better use, for instance, to upgrade to a 24-hour off-site monitoring service.

Do You need it?

As I stated earlier, if the situation calls for it, then yes, You do. I will not rely on normal guards or a single armed response officer to respond to a bigger office building. I would also say yes when you have a credible threat that normally armed response officers are not fit to deal with. So, with that said, I suggest you do a thorough risk analysis and threat assessment before making that expensive call.


A private tactical response team can be valuable if they live up to the required level of performance. To me, a single response officer, responding alone, is not a tactical officer, rather an armed response officer trained in tactical work. Not the same as an actual Tactical team! And as I always emphasize, make sure they stay up to date with training and industry development!

Home defense

Reaction unit

Reaction unit

For every situation that can occur, it will always be the best option to have an external reaction force to assist. This does not have to be an armed response company, as your local policing service might even be more efficient, and that will strongly depend on your specific country and location. This can even be a community policing project in your area with which you can have constant contact. At no point in any situation will I suggest that anyone as the man/protector of the home go out into danger to try and approach the threat. One great reason for this is that your family will be more vulnerable than ever when you are taken out of the equation.

The main purpose of a reaction unit is to scare off or possibly even arrest the invader/s. Any reaction unit you choose should be able to face the types of emergencies that you will most likely encounter. Whatever reaction unit you choose should generally comply with the following aspects:

When it’s your local police service:

  • You need them to react as fast as possible, but please keep in mind that at any given moment they might be busy with more calls than they can handle or anything that requires more attention than normal and this will greatly influence their response times.
  • Research and ask around about your local police service, what is their average response times, are they equipped for the job? Do they act professionally?

When you are looking at hiring a professional service:

  • The company should be registered with the relevant authorities of your country.
  • The company should comply with all the relevant laws on the service they are providing and the laws implemented by your country in regards to using firearms or lethal weapons used by the company.
  • The response personnel should be trained appropriately.
  • The company should have a reputable name, you don’t want a fly-by-night company to come to the rescue in your moment of need.
  • The company should regularly send their response personnel for updated training.
  • Preferably you want a company that wants to instruct you on their expertise and not one who wants to know what you prefer to have unless both agree on the same input. Once a company wants to know what you prefer, you need a more professional company. (You never hire an expert just to tell them what to do, because then you didn’t need them in the first place).
  • The company should have enough infrastructure to be able to respond to all their clients.
  • Price, of course, plays a great role, don’t settle for the cheapest and don’t expect the most expensive ones to be the best in the industry.

If you are considering utilizing your neighborhood watch or community policing service:

  • You need a community that is big enough to have someone on standby or constantly out on patrol, who can react immediately.
  • They should not try and be the Rambo’s of town, they have no more power or authority than any natural person do.
  • They don’t necessarily care about you, they care more about getting a piece of the action.
  • They will have to wait for professional assistance when there is a real threat.

How strong is your reaction unit?