Executive Protection and the use of firearms

Protección Ejecutiva seguridad privada

There has been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of firearms in Executive Protection.  For many protectors, as well as for those protected, weapons mean security and an indispensable requirement to be able to exercise it.  This is why we gave ourselves the difficult task of determining, with data and facts, the effectiveness that firearms really have within executive security in real situations. 

 However, this purpose is almost impossible to specify through absolute scientific rigor, since, only in Mexico, it would be practically unfeasible to count how many people work in this activity, among private security agents, complementary police officers, police officers commissioned to take care of the VIPs, military personnel who carry out these tasks under official order, retired military personnel who do it on their own, individuals with or without licence  who provide services without having a security company, bodyguards from large corporations and as well as those who are called “Escort drivers”.  That is to say, first of all, we do not have the precise number of protectors;  We do not know how many of them have a weapon or not, nor do we know the total number of events in which they could have used it successfully or without success.

 We know, according to INEGI, that in the last three decades we had a total of 2,877 executives and officials assassinated in Mexico, but we do not know how many of them had protectors and how many of them carried a firearm.  If we extrapolate this to a global scale, then making a totally accurate study becomes impossible.

 This is the reason why we decided to take a representative sample that would allow us to obtain a result, although approximate, significant enough to determine the performance of firearms in Executive Protection.  For this purpose, we analyzed 116 attacks against prominent public figures that took place during the 20th century and so far in the 21st century.

 What were the criteria for considering these 116 cases?  In order for the sample to be significant, the following aspects were taken into account:

 * Of a universal nature, since the cases are all over the world.

 * Historically verifiable and widely disseminated facts.

 * The number must be sufficiently representative.

 * That they cover a significant period of time.

 * It must be verifiable that the victims had an armed security team.

 * Victims who are persons of maximum or very high rank in their respective countries, or persons with official protection assigned by the authorities (In this way it can be presumed that the elements that provided them protection were duly selected and trained. Thus, the failures in the reaction cannot be attributed to a lack of training or aptitude, a characteristic of great relevance for the present analysis).

 * That they cover all operational conditions: from countries and places in peace conditions to places in armed conflicts

 * That cover very different types of attacks

 Only the attacks have been taken into account, because the cases of kidnapping, likewise, would be impossible to quantify.  Furthermore, it would be extremely difficult to have the historically verifiable facts about the performance of the armed personnel in each case.  The same applies to the use of firearms against accidental assaults and other similar problems, since they are even less documented.

 The sample of 116 universal and verifiable cases is sufficiently large and representative to show us what the best armed security groups, in their respective countries, managed to do in the cases of real attacks that occurred over more than a century and what was the relevance of firearms to protect people in all these events.

 To consider that the use of firearms was successful , the criterion is that they should have been used in a timely manner;  In other words, their intervention was decisive for the protectee to be unharmed, since otherwise his survival could be attributed to chance and not to the effectiveness of the weapons.

 The cases are divided into two parts: in the first, there are those in which the assassination  was not carried out for various reasons, and, in the other, there are those that had a fatal result.

 It can be seen that, of the 116 cases, only in six of them, firearms were decisive in saving the protectee, which represents 5.17% of the total cases.  So, in this particular study, the very little relevance that this tool has in the protection of executives and senior dignitaries is shown.  Of course, as we could also see, this 5.17% also means saving the life of the protectee, so it should not be an underestimated percentage;  however, firearms should not be considered as the main tools in Executive Protection, nor should the security system of a VIP be focused on the use of it.

 It is important to emphasize once again that only those attacks against certain types of people and with a very specific type of protectors were taken into account, not counting the enormous number of kidnappings that particularly hit Latin America.

 Of course, it is not intended to make a definitive study, but a general idea can be given about the scope that firearms have in Executive Protection.  It is also important to note that, for decades, their dominance in this industry was based on myth, or action movies, rather than facts or hard data.

 It is surprising that, in 8.6% of the cases studied, the attacks were foiled or the attackers were immobilized with “empty hands”, either by the protectors or by the people themselves.  These techniques were used against lonely people who attacked public figures from the crowd (attacks on Ronald Reagan, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, etc.)

 This does not necessarily mean that hand-to-hand combat techniques are more effective than weapons;  they simply showed their efficacy for a specific threat that was prevalent in the study.

 Also striking is the attack against the Colombian presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galán, who was assassinated despite having 18 bodyguards armed to the teeth.  This fact shows that a numerous armed  operation is not necessarily an effective operation.

 In conclusion, the present analysis of a representative sample gives an approximate value of 5.17% of effectiveness to firearms in real situations of use.

 This means that in Executive Protection the firearm is a tool of minor importance and of little reliability, however, it should not be dismissed, since, as we have seen, in some conditions, even if they are few, it can save our lives.  The important thing is to focus our operations on preventive activities that allow us to deactivate attacks before they happen and not to be focusing our operations on methods that historically have not produced results.


  1. Eduard, Prince of Wales – 1900
  2. Leopold II, King of Belgium – 1902
  3. Alfonso XIII, King of Spain – 1906
  4. Theodore Roosevelt, US presidential candidate – 1912
  5. Lenin – 1918 (attacker submitted using empty hands)
  6. Georges Clemenceau Prime Minister of France – 1919
  7. Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – April 1926 (attacker subdued with using empty hands)
  8. Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – May 1926 (attacker subdued using empty hands)
  9. Herbert Hoover, President USA – 1928
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President USA – 1933 (attacker submitted using empty hands)
  11. Keisuke Okada, Prime Minister of Japan – 1936
  12. Walter Edward Guinness, Lord Moyne, UK Minister to the Middle East – 1944
  13. Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, Prime Minister of Egypt – 1948
  14. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran – 1949
  15. Harry Truman, President of the United States – 1950 (firearms were decisive)
  16. Prince Hussein, Prince of Jordan – 1951
  17. Konrad Adenauer, German Chancellor – 1952
  18. José Antonio Remón Cantera, President of Panama – 1955
  19. Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
  20. Charles De Gaulle, President of France – 1962
  21. Georgios Papadopoulos, President of Greece – 1968
  22. Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Soviet Union – 1969
  23. Wasfi al-Tal, Prime Minister of Jordan – 1971
  24. George Wallace, US Presidential Candidate – 1972
  25. Anne, Princess of England – 1974.
  26. Sukarno, President of Indonesia – 1975
  27. Gerald Ford, President of the United States – 1975 (attacker submitted with empty hands)
  28. Elizabeth II, Queen of England – 1981
  29. Pope John Paul II – 1981 (attacker submitted empty-handed)
  30. Reagan, President of the United States – 1981 (attacker submitted using empty hands)
  31. Chun Doo Hwan, President South Korea – 1983
  32. Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister – 1984
  33. Augusto Pinochet, President of Chile – 1986 (firearms were decisive)
  34. Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Attorney General of Colombia – 1987
  35. Wonfgang Schäuble, German Minister of the Interior – 1990 (attacker subdued using empty hands)
  36. Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, Presidential candidate, leader of the Patriotic Union party – 1990
  37. John Major, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – 1991
  38. Eduard Shevarnadze, President of Georgia – 1995
  39. Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt – 1995 (firearms were decisive)
  40. Kiro Gligorov, President of Macedonia – 1995
  41. José María Aznar, Spanish politician and former President of the Government – 1995
  42. Luis María Argaña, vice president of Paragua – 1999
  43. Jacques Chirac, President of France, 2002
  44. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan – 2002 (firearms were decisive)
  45. Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan – 2003
  46. Murat Zyazikov, President of Ingushetia – 2004
  47. Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan – 2004
  48. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister Bangladesh – 2004
  49. Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo – 2005
  50. George W. Bush, President of the United States and Mikheil, President of Georgia – 2005
  51. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, President of Somalia – 2006 (firearms were decisive)
  52. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of Defense of Sri Lanka – 2006
  53. Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States – 2007
  54. Guillaume Soro, Prime Minister of Ivory Coast – 2007
  55. Abdul Gayoom, President Maldives – 2008 (attacker subdued using empty hands)
  56. Jose Ramos Horta, President of Timor Leste – 2008
  57. Reina Beatrix, Queen of Netherlands – 2009
  58. Yunus- Bek Yevkurov, Leader of Ingushetia – 2009
  59. Stephen Timms, British Labor MP – 2010
  60. Ali Abdulah Saleh, President of Yemen – 2011
  61. Apha Condé, President of Guinea, (firearms were decisive)
  62. Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Leader of the Pakistani Senate – 2017
  63. Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela – 2018
  64. Ivan Duque, President of Colombia- 2021
  65. Assimi Goita, President of Mali – 2021 (attacker submitted empty-handed)

 Consumed assesinations

  1. William McKinley, President of the United States – 1901
  2. Francisco Fernando (Franz Ferdinand), Archduke of Austria – 1914
  3. Sidonio País, President Portugal – 1918
  4. Michael Collins, Irish Revolutionary Leader – 1922.
  5. Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli -1924
  6. Alexander I, King of Yugoslavia – 1934
  7. Ahmad Mahar Pasha, Prime Minister of Egypt – 1945
  8. Abdullah I, King of Jordan – 1951
  9. Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
  10. Hazza al Majali, Prime Minister of Jordan 1960
  11. Louis Rwagasore, Prime Minister of Burundi, 1961
  12. John F. Kennedy, President of the United States – 1963
  13. Jospeh Bamina, Prime Minister of Burundi, 1965
  14. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, President South Africa, 1966
  15. Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States -1968
  16. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, President of Somalia, 1969
  17. Abdul Rahman, Malaysian Police Inspector General – 1974
  18. Francois Tombalbaye, President of Chad, 1975
  19. Shaik Mujibur Rajman, President of Bangladesh, 1975
  20. Muetala Muhammed, Head of State of Nigeria, 1976
  21. Hans Martin Schleyer, German business leader – 1977
  22. MarkenNgouabi, President of Congo, 1977
  23. Ahmad bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, President of the Republic of Yemen – 1978
  24. Park Chung Hee, President of South Korea – 1979
  25. Lord Louis Mountbatten, diplomat, officer in the British Royal Navy – 1979
  26. William Richard Tolbert, President of Liberia, 1980
  27. Anwar el Sadat, Prime Minister of Egypt – 1981.
  28. Ziaur Rahman, President of Bangladesh, 1981
  29. Bachir Gemayel, President Elect of Liban, 1982
  30. Mohammad Ali Rajai, President of Iran, 1981
  31. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India – 1984
  32. Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Minister of Justice of Colombia – 1984
  33. Thimas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, 1987
  34. Luis Carlos Galan, Presidential Candidate of Colombia – 1989
  35. James N Rowe, US Military Advisor – 1989
  36. Waldemar Franklin Quintero, Commander of the Antioquia Police, Colombia – 1989
  37. Alfred Herrhausen, CEO Deuche Bank – 1989
  38. Samuel Doe, President Liberia – 1990
  39. Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, presidential candidate of Colombia – 1990
  40. Rajiv Gandhi, Hindu politician – 1991
  41. Giovanni Falcone, Anti-Mafia Judge – 1992
  42. Melchoir Ndadaye, President of Burundi 1993
  43. Luis Donaldo Colosio, Presidential Candidate Mexico -1994.
  44. Juvénal Habyarimana, President of Rwanda – 1994
  45. Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel – 1995
  46. Vazgen Sargsyan, Prime Minister of Armenia – 1999
  47. Zoran Djindjic, Prime Minister of Serbia – 2003
  48. João Bernardo Vieira, President of Guinea 2009
  49. Alexander Zajarchenko, President Donetsk Republic – 2018
  50. Aristóteles Sandoval, former governor of the State of Jalisco – 2020
  51. Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti- 2021 

Ivan Ivanovich

CEO de AGS Group

autor del libro Protección Ejecutiva en el siglo XXI: La nueva doctrina.

Representante IBSSA en México (Internacional Bodyguard and Security Services Association).

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