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!

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