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Effectiveness of Firearms in Executive Protection

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There has been a lot of discussion on the effectiveness of firearms in executive protection. For many protectors, as well as for protectees, guns are synonymous with protection. In addition, they appear to be an indispensable requirement for exercising this profession. That is why we gave ourselves the difficult task of determining, with facts, the effectiveness of firearms in real-life situations.

However, this purpose is almost impossible to specify through absolute scientific rigor since, only in Mexico, it would be practically unfeasible to account for how many people perform this activity, including:

  • Private security agents,
  • Complementary police,
  • Police officers,
  • Military who perform these tasks on official commission,
  • Military in retirement who work on their own, etc.

We do not have a precise number of protectors in the world. We do not know how many of them have a gun, nor the number of total events in which they could have used it with or without success.

Methodology and Data on Firearms in Executive Protection

We know that only in Mexico, according to the INEGI, in the last three decades, a total of 2.877 executives have been murdered. Still, we ignore how many of them had protectors and how many carried firearms.

If we extrapolate this globally, doing an exact study becomes impossible. That is why we decided to take a representative sample that allowed us to obtain a result, although approximate, significant enough to determine the performance of firearms in executive protection.

For this purpose, we analyze 124 attacks against prominent public figures during the 20th and the 21st centuries in 60 countries.

What were the criteria for considering these 124 cases? For the sample to be significant, we took into account the following aspects:

  • Universal nature – the cases are from around the world;
  • Historically verifiable and widely disseminated facts;
  • The number of cases is sufficiently representative;
  • Covers a significant period;
  • It is verifiable that the victims had an armed security protection team;
  • Victims are people of very high rank in their respective countries or persons with official protection assigned by the authorities. (So, it can be presumed that the agents that provided protection were duly selected and trained. Thus, the reaction failures can not be attributed to a lack of training or aptitude, characteristic of extreme relevance for the present analysis).

Only assassinations and assassination attempts have been considered because kidnappings would be impossible to quantify. Moreover, it would be extremely difficult to have historically verifiable facts about the performance of armed personnel in each case. The same applies to the use of firearms against random assaults and other types of similar problems since they are even less documented.

firearms in executive protection

Relevance of Firearms in Executive Protection

The sample of the 124 universal and verifiable cases is sufficiently broad and representative to show us what the best-armed security groups, in their respective countries, managed to do in the cases of actual attacks that occurred over more than a century and what was the relevance that firearms had to protect people in all these cases.

To consider that in a particular attack the use of firearms was successful, the criterion is that weapons should have been used effectively. That is to say that their use was decisive for the protectee to be unharmed. Otherwise, the survival could be attributed to an accident and not to the effectiveness of weapons.

Of course, the study also considered some documented cases where measures such as intelligence were decisive, so the attack was deactivated far from the protectee in space and in time as it should be in modern executive protection.

We divided the cases into two parts:

  • In the first one, the attacks were not successful for various reasons, and
  • In the second one, the attacks had a fatal result.

We can note that only in 4.03% of cases, firearms were decisive in saving the protectees.

So, this particular study shows very little relevance and reliability that this tool has in executive protection. Of course, as we could also see, 4.03% can save the life of the protectee, so it should not be abolished.

Myth and Action Movies

Firearms should not be considered the main tools in executive protection, nor should the security system of a VIP be focused on its employment. Of course, this is not intended to be a definitive study. Still, it can give a general idea about the degree of effectiveness of firearms in executive protection.

It is also important to note that, for decades, its preponderance in this industry was based on a myth or in action movies — not on the facts or the hard data.

Surprisingly, in 7.2% of the cases, the attacks were frustrated or later controlled by “empty hands.” These techniques were used against the lonely aggressors who attacked public figures from the crowd. This does not necessarily mean empty-hand combat techniques are more effective than weapons. This simply showed their efficacy for a specific threat that was frequent in the study, but it also means that empty-hand combat skills are essential in executive protection.

It is important to point out the attack against the presidential candidate of Colombia, Luis Carlos Galán, who was killed despite having 18 heavily armed agents. This fact makes it evident that a numerous and heavily armed detail is not necessarily an effective detail.

So the present representative sample gives an approximate value of 4.03% effectiveness of firearms in real-life situations. Of course, some might highlight its importance as a deterrent factor. However, analyzing its other advantages and disadvantages is not the subject of this study. Here we focus solely on analyzing a representative sample of its effectiveness in real crises.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, the firearm in executive protection is a tool of minor importance and reliability. However, it should not be dismissed since, as we saw, it can save our lives in some conditions.

The important thing is to focus our operations on preventive activities that allow us to anticipate and deactivate the attacks before they happen and stop focusing our operations on methods that historically didn’t give enough results.


  1. Eduard, Prince of Wales – 1900
  2. Leopold II, King of Belgium – 1902
  3. Alfonso XIII, King of Spain – 1906
  4. Theodore Roosevelt, presidential candidate, EU – 1912
  5. Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Leader of Soviet Revolution – 1918
  6. Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France – 1919
  7. Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – April 1926
  8. Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – May 1926
  9. Herbert Hoover, President USA – 1928
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President USA – 1933
  11. Keisuke Okada, Prime Minister of Japan – 1936
  12. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Sha de Iran – 1949
  13. Harry Truman, President USA – 1950 (firearms were decisive)
  14. Prince Hussein, Prince of Jordan – 1960
  15. Konrad Adenauer, German Chancellor – 1952
  16. Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
  17. Charles de Gaulle, President of France – 1961
  18. Charles de Gaulle, President of France – 1962
  19. Georgios Papadopoulos, President of Greece – 1968
  20. Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Soviet Union – 1969
  21. George Wallace, presidential candidate EU – 1972
  22. Ana, Princess of England – 1974
  23. Sukarno, President of Indonesia – 1962
  24. Gerald Ford, President USA – 1975
  25. Isabel II, Queen of England – 1981
  26. Pope John Paul II – 1981
  27. Reagan, President of the United States – 1981
  28. Chun Doo Hwan, President of South Korea – 1983
  29. Margaret Thatcher, first female British Prime Minister – 1984
  30. Augusto Pinochet, President of Chile – 1986 (firearms were decisive)
  31. Wolfgang Schäuble, German Prime Minister – 1990
  32. John Major, Prime Minister of UK – 1991
  33. Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1992
  34. Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1995
  35. Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt – 1995 (firearms were decisive)
  36. Kiro Gligorov, President of Macedonia – 1995
  37. José María Aznar, Spanish politician – 1995
  38. Prince Charles of Wales – 1995
  39. Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1998
  40. Jacques Chirac, President of France – 2002
  41. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan – 2002 (firearms were decisive)
  42. Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan – 2003
  43. Murat Zyazikov, President of Ingushetia – 2004
  44. Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan – 2004
  45. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh – 2004
  46. Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo* – 2005
  47. Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan – 2007
  48. George W. Bush, President USA and Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia – 2005
  49. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, President of Somalia – 2006
  50. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of Defense of Sri Lanka – 2006
  51. Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States – 2007
  52. Guillaume Soro, Prime Minister of Ivory Coast – 2007
  53. Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives – 2008
  54. Jose Ramos Horta, President of East Timor – 2008
  55. Queen Beatrix, Queen of Netherlands – 2009
  56. Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Leader of Ingushetia – 2009
  57. Stephen Timms, British Labor MP – 2010
  58. Ali Abdulah Saleh, President of Yemen – 2011
  59. Alpha Condé, President of Guinea (firearms were decisive)
  60. Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Leader of the Pakistani Senate – 2017
  61. Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela – 2018
  62. Omar Garcia Harfuch, Chief of the City of Mexico – 2020
  63. Ivan Duque, President of Colombia – 2021
  64. Assimi Goita, President of Mali – 2021
  65. Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia – 2022


  1. William McKinley, President USA – 1901
  2. Francisco Fernando (Franz Ferdinand), Archduke of Austria – 1914
  3. Sidonian Country, President of Portugal – 1918
  4. Michael Collins, Irish Revolutionary Leader – 1922
  5. Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli – 1924
  6. Aleksandar I, King of Yugoslavia – 1939
  7. Walter Edward Minister of United Kingdom in the Middle East- 1944
  8. Ahmad Mahar Pasha, Egypt Prime Minister – 1945
  9. Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, Egyptian Prime Minister – 1948
  10. Abdullah I, King of Jordan – 1951
  11. José Antonio Remón Cantera, President of Panama – 1955
  12. Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
  13. Hazza Al Majali, Jordan’s Prime Minister – 1960
  14. Louis Rwagasore, Prime Minister of Burundi – 1961
  15. John F. Kennedy, President USA – 1963
  16. Jospeh Bamina, Prime Minister of Burundi – 1965
  17. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, President of South Africa – 1966
  18. Robert F. Kennedy, United States Attorney General – 1968
  19. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Somalia President – 1969
  20. Wasfi Al-Tal, Prime Minister of Jordan – 1971
  21. Abdul Rahman, Malaysian Police General Inspector – 1974
  22. Francois Tombalbaye, President of Chad – 1975
  23. Shaik Mujibur Rajman, President of Bangladesh – 1975
  24. Muhammed, Head of State Nigeria – 1976
  25. Hans Martin Schleyer, German business leader – 1977
  26. Markenngouabi, President of Congo – 1977
  27. Ahmad Bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, President of the Republic of Yemen – 1978
  28. Park Chung Hee, President of South Korea – 1979
  29. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Diplomatic, British Royal Navy Officer – 1979
  30. William Richard Tolbert, President of Liberia – 1980
  31. Anwar Sadat, First Minister of Egypt – 1981
  32. Ziaur Rahman, President of Bangladesh – 1981
  33. Bachir Gemayel, elected President of Liban – 1982
  34. Mohammad Ali Rajai, President of Iran – 1981
  35. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India – 1984
  36. Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Minister of Justice of Colombia – 1984
  37. Thimas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, 1987
  38. Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Attorney General of Colombia – 1988
  39. Luis Carlos Galan, Presidential Candidate of Colombia – 1989
  40. James N Rowe, US Military Advisor – 1989
  41. Waldemar Franklin Quintero, Commander of Antioquia Police, Colombia – 1989
  42. Alfred Herrhausen, CEO Deutsche Bank – 1989
  43. Samuel Doe, President of Liberia – 1990
  44. Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, Presidential Candidate, Leader of The Patriotic Union Party – 1990
  45. Rajiv Gandhi, Hindu Politician – 1991
  46. Giovanni Falcone, Judge for Anti-Mafia – 1992
  47. Melchoir Ndadaye, President of Burundi – 1993
  48. Luis Donaldo Colosio, Presidential Candidate in Mexico – 1994
  49. Juvento Habyarimana, President of Rwanda – 1994
  50. Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel – 1995
  51. Vazgen Sargsyan, Prime Minister of Armenia – 1999
  52. Luis María Argaña, Vice President of Paraguay – 1999
  53. Zoran Djindjic, Prime Minister of Serbia – 2003
  54. João Bernardo Vieira, President of Guinea 2009
  55. Ali Abdulah Saleh, President of Yemen – 2017
  56. Alexander Zajarchenko, President of the Republic of Donetsk – 2018
  57. Aristotle Sandoval, former Governor of the State of Jalisco – 2020
  58. Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti – 2021
  59. Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan – 2022

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