By Mark “Six” James, EPS, CPO
Just like building a house or repairing a car the right tools often make the job significantly easier. While agents and operators possess varying skills levels your tools are designed to help enhance your operational capabilities and maximize your efficiency. Below is a selection of commonly used tools of the trade, which can help you, become more efficient in conducting your business. They are listed in alphabetical order and not tactical importance. Just as the situation should dictates your tactics, your individual skills, threat level, detail and environment should also help dictate your tools. It is not expected that an agent would carry all of the tools listed below on every detail, but ideally the ones which best compliment the assignment.
Body Armor – sometimes the shield is more important than the sword. It is a must have for protection specialists. It is more important to not get you or your client shot, than it is to shoot, shooting is extra credit. Personal armor is designed to absorb the impact from handguns, some shotgun projectiles and shrapnel from explosions. All body armor is not created equal so please do your research. Metal or ceramic plates can be used with a soft vest, to provide additional protection from rifle rounds. Soft vests are commonly worn by protection specialists and law enforcement whereas hard-plate reinforced vests are mainly worn by combat soldiers, police tactical units, and other high risk protection teams. Typically the slimmer the profile and lighter the weight the more expensive the vest will be. Understand your vests rating capabilities – Level 1 through Level 3. Most vests will provide minimal assistance against a knife slash, but almost no assistance against a stab or puncture. There are some very good high tech vests which are stab resistant however they are priced accordingly. Buy the best vest your budget can afford and upgrade as soon as practically possible.
Communications – in some cases a two way radio is a great communication tool in other cases a cell phone with a good Bluetooth ear piece is a better low profile communication option. As the public is use to seeing professionals chatting on their cell phones. Make sure if your cell phone or your PDA is your primary communication tool, make sure your cellular provider is as good as the rest of your equipment. It doesn’t do you any good to have high tech phone or PDA and a low tech provider. Make sure whether using a two way radio or cell phone your ear piece has good noise reduction capabilities. During your advance work make sure your communications will work in the region you are traveling or in the event facility. If working with a team, make sure you have hand signals in the event you lose verbal communications capabilities.
Credentials – one day someone is going to ask you to present them. Don’t get yourself in legal trouble by working without the proper credentials. Make sure you understand the carry and use of force laws in the states or countries you work in or will be traveling too. Remember our job is to reduce risks and deal with threats. Don’t create undue risks to yourself or your client. Working without the proper credentials can land you in jail and get both you and your client sued.
Edged Weapons – can be used to cut or puncture things, they are also extremely useful in a close quarter deadly force situation. They rarely malfunction and they never run out of ammunition. Look for stainless steel knives with high carbon contents in the blade as it enhances sharpening and edge retention capabilities. Also look for knives with non slip grips, hand guards and strong locking construction to minimize/eliminate lock failure. I prefer knives which give you options in how you can wear the tool. Many of the modern tactical folders also feature open assist devices that aid in faster deployment. You want the ability to change the position of the clip to allow you to hang or wear the knife in your preferred pre-deployment position based on the situation. Knife carry considerations and legality vary from state to state. Don’t carry a felony. Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.
Expandable Baton – Provide psychological deterrence and can be devastatingly effective as a contact tool with proper training and user motivation. They may also be used as a come along device or for glass break situations. They can be deployed collapsed like a kubotan or extended as a defensive barrier tool. They are used to intercept an adversary and can extend your defensive range by an additional 16 – 31 inches. They primarily provide adherence through pain compliance. Some of the more modern expandable batons also double as pepper spray dispensers. Effective range is 3 – 6 feet. Expandable batons are now losing some favor to other non lethal options; as some professionals voice concerns about potential excessive force liability.
Firearms – are like nuclear weapons once you release them, it is extremely difficult to recall them. They are historically considered as a last option for many, but in the protective services business the threat level, environmental conditions and the actions of the perpetrator or adversary will often dictate your response. You should become very familiar with the use of force laws and carry laws within your city, state or country. Deadly force encounters are typically sudden and incredibly violent. Most gunfights are over in 3 shots or less and with an elapsed time of roughly 3 seconds. The cadence is often much faster than the participants anticipated. I recommend a person carry the largest caliber they can shoot accurately. Accuracy should always trump caliber size. While there are many fine firearm manufacturers and calibers I prefer to stay with the more traditional calibers of 9 mm, .38, .40 and .45 caliber and larger modern gun manufacturers like Beretta, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kimber, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Springfield. You will find a greater assortment of ammunition and proper fitting accessories (holsters, lights, lasers etc) with the larger brands and more popular calibers.
Handcuffs – provide increased control of violent aggressors. Hinged handcuffs also provide increased lateral rigidity, while chain handcuffs provide enhanced flexibility in application particularly during confrontation. They can also be used as an impact weapon if necessary. Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.
Impact Flashlights – Impact flashlights are multi-use tools. They can be used as an illumination device to help keep your client from tripping in the dark or they can be used to temporary blind or disorient an adversary’s night-adapted vision. Impact flashlights typically have hardened edges for use as a self-defense striking tool. They neutralize the threat via pain compliance. They are often allowable in environments where traditional weapons are not permissible. Effective range 3 -4 feet as an impact weapon or within arm’s reach and 5 – 15 feet to blind or disorient.
Pepper Spray – is an inflammatory. It works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes crying, sneezing, coughing, hard breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness. The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray. Without treatment the full effect lasts approximately thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours. Extreme caution should be used when deploying in small confined spaces or large crowds due to collateral damage to non combatants.
Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried and easily concealed. Highly concealable pepper spray dispensers are usually effective only at very close range typically 3 -4 feet within arm’s reach. The tool’s name is derived from the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC). OC derived from many of the hottest chili peppers in the world. Unlike typical aerosol dispensers, the Kimber Guardian Angel pepper spray blaster emits two individual shots of a powerful OC mixture and allows you to keep an attacker at a distance, as it can be discharged from 13 feet away. Powered by a pyrotechnic drive, the two independent charges travel at 90 mph and cover 13 feet in 1/10 of a second.
Stun Gun or Stun Knuckles – provides unparalleled psychological deterrence, as most people don’t like being on the other side of the juice. They help extend your defensive capabilities and usually will keep you from having to break something or someone. A stun gun is an electrical self-defense device that uses high voltage to stop an attacker through pain compliance. Touching a person with the prongs on the stun gun or stun knuckles immobilizes quickly or helps create a reactionary/distance gap. The stun gun is designed to adversely impact the nervous system. It dumps its energy into the muscles at a high pulse frequency that makes the muscles work very rapidly, but not efficiently.
A stun gun is not the same as a taser. A stun gun is a direct-contact weapon. In contrast, a taser delivers electrical shock remotely by means of barbed contacts connected by wires. The stun gun’s effective range as a contact weapon is 3 -4 feet or within arm’s reach.
Tasers – a taser is a conducted energy weapon that utilizes compressed nitrogen to shoot two small probes up to 15 feet. These probes are connected to the weapon by high-voltage insulated wire. When the probes make contact with the target, the weapon transmits powerful electrical pulses along the wires and into the body of the target. The taser relies on neuro muscular incapacitation not pain compliance. Tasers jam sensory and motor functions, which inhibits muscular control. It can totally incapacitate upon impact regardless of the body part it touches. Traditional firearms often require contact with a vital area to quickly neutralize a threat. In contrast to a hand gun, a taser’s advantage is that it typically requires far less practice to get a similar result.
Tasers are generally not designed to be used as direct contact weapons. One of their major advantages is providing protection from a distance. However, many of the newer models are also designed with direct capabilities. Another advantage of a taser is that they have been shown to be extremely reliable in taking down even the most aggressive adversaries. A taser can even penetrate approximately two inches of clothing. Because of their extreme effectiveness, tasers are considered to be one of the best choices among non lethal defense weapons available. Effective range up to 15 feet.
Mark “Six” James
Executive Director / Founder Panther Protection Services
For additional safety tips visit www.pantherprotectionservices.com or visit them on Facebook.
I will add a small hand held metal detector and spare batteries (radio / mobile) to this list,
I applaud Mr. James stance on firearms as a “last option”. I can’t stress enough the importance to have less-lethal options on board! As you know, situations typically fall short of imminent danger or threat of great bodily harm, therefore presenting a firearm is likely not the appropriate choice. Point being, if an agent only equips themselves with a firearm, they have immediately limited most other response options at their disposal, which may increase the propensity for the firearm to be presented at the wrong time.
Long story short…if an agent does not equip themselves in a manner that will allow them to utilize tools to escalate or de-escalate use-of-force based on what is “reasonable”, they very easily could find themselves in front of a court that will not be sympathetic to the fact that other less-lethal options were not considered before introducing a lethal tool (firearm).
In closing, I’m sure Mr. James would agree that while equipping ones self with less-lethal tools, it is imperative that proper end-user certification be maintained for each tool while doing so.
Solum Reverto Domus
If I ever find an agent talking to anyone on a detail other than one of the team members they would be immediately sent home at the first practical opportunity. If you can’t give your undivided attention to the detail, then you don’t need to work the assignment. If you need someone to talk to help you stay awake, you did not prepare yourself in advance for the assignment by getting the proper rest or as a team leader we didn’t allocate the right number of agents to the coverage plan to allow us to rotate agents to maintain their focus. If you have stuff going on at home that has the potential to distract you for the good of the client, yourself and your team members stay home it is safer for all.
That is the discipline that goes with EP.
I hear you, Six, but with a little experience, you can whip out your little pad and jot down a name or license plate number in the dark almost without even looking. I’m seeing guys these days drawing their smart phones instead for everything, and slowly trying to input all kinds of info in there. But, hey, I’ll admit I’m old school! 🙂
As for the low profile of ear pieces, I hear you on that too, but the guys abuse them by getting lost in near-constant chats with company, wife, or GF, and I’ve seen several clients eventually ban those while around them. It’s kinda like being inside a portable phone-booth, and one never really knows whether the guy is paying attention.
The radio ear-pieces are another story, but go to any big store and you’ll see the same phenomenon now: staff walking around laughing, self-involved, and completely unavailable to anyone but the other guy on the air.
I know that coms are essential to multi-man details, and that the problem can be mitigated by common sense and skill, but those aren’t that widespread it seems.
Sorry, I don’t mean to derail this entry – those are just big pet peeves of mine.
And brain and shape are neither gear, nor tools, BTW. We could’ve added a light to the list, though, even for daytime assignments.
When I was referring to professionals on their phones, was not referring to the agents being on the phone. The bluetooth vs. the wire in the ear may lower the profile of the agent.
Watch, notepad and pens are also important as Alonzo points out, however the notepad is typically most important during the advance work (if you are taking to many notes during the detail you are probably losing your focus or creating your own distractions. The pen can also be used as a low profile improvised weapon if required.
dont”t forget brain & a very good shape
Great list, to which I’d like to add a watch, notepad, and pen, things I too often see young and gadget-addicted agents forget (that’s probably not exactly what most people think of as “gear”, though).
And I wish I could completely do away with my cell! We’re spending WAY too much time “communicating” with various people (boss, client’s assistants, etc.) who have no need to be in direct/constant contact with us. Life-savers as they can be, phones are of the evils of modern life, and shouldn’t get in the way of protection professionals, but it does, earpieces or not.
It is very true that “the public is used to seeing professionals chatting on their cell phones”… and it’s still shocking to me.
Excellent instructive article, Six…
(…except for the Sig oversight)…
Great article Six