Learn to de­fend your loved ones with these six VIP pro­tec­tion tips.

By Leroy Thomp­son

I’ve worked pro­tec­tive de­tails in var­i­ous parts of the world and trained close pro­tec­tion teams, hostage res­cue units and coun­terin­sur­gency units in as­sorted venues—but the most im­por­tant prin­ci­pals I will ever pro­tect are my fam­ily and my­self.

The tech­niques I ap­plied in the “ar­eas of con­flict” are the same ones I would use to de­fend my loved ones. Fol­low­ing are six ways to be your own body­guard.


Many of the pre­cepts I prac­tice are com­mon sense, but from time to time we all have to be re­minded to ap­ply it. The most ba­sic prin­ci­ple is to avoid prob­lems rather than con­front them if pos­si­ble. To give a cur­rent ex­am­ple, in St. Louis where I live, vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions have be­come rather com­mon. As a re­sult, a lot of al­legedly “in­no­cent by­standers” have got­ten ar­rested in po­lice “ket­tles.”

The sim­ple so­lu­tion for a sen­si­ble per­son is to avoid those demon­stra­tions. Don’t be a gawker. I would ex­pand that ad­vice to other ar­eas: Avoid rough bars and strip clubs; don’t walk down dark streets in ques­tion­able neigh­bor­hoods at night; be­ware of aban­doned build­ings, dark park­ing lots, dark al­leys—you get the idea.

Here’s an ex­am­ple: One of the best restau­rants in St. Louis is lo­cated in a ques­tion­able neigh­bor­hood with its park­ing lot about a block away. Af­ter hav­ing to ob­vi­ously flick my coat back to clear my pis­tol one night when three dis­ad­van­taged youths were fol­low­ing my wife and me to that park­ing lot, we dropped that res­tau­rant from our list.


I live in an open-carry, shall-is­sue, con­sti­tu­tional-carry state, so quite a few peo­ple carry guns—gen­er­ally that’s a good thing. But I still like to know who around me is armed, so I ap­ply the same ob­ser­va­tion skills I used when work­ing pro­tec­tive de­tails: I watch for peo­ple who keep pat­ting their sides, walk­ing in an odd man­ner, tuck­ing a hand un­der a shirt or in­side the pants, or ex­pos­ing a hol­ster when they bend over or reach.

And, I pre­fer not to broad­cast that I’m armed. Even though open carry may be le­gal, I keep my pis­tol or pis­tols con­cealed and try to avoid mak­ing move­ments or ges­tures that in­di­cate I’m armed.

In restau­rants or other places where I am seated, I try to get a seat with my back to the wall where I can see the en­trances and the cash reg­is­ter so I can an­tic­i­pate po­ten­tial prob­lems. With most of my ex­pe­ri­enced friends, the rule of thumb is the guys pack­ing the guns choose their seats first. That en­hances se­cu­rity for ev­ery­one.

Speak­ing of en­trances, just as I did on pro­tec­tive de­tails, I make sure I know all the pos­si­ble ex­its from wher­ever I am. In places such as the­aters, I try to sit close to an exit. I also look around the area for po­ten­tial cover. We eat of­ten at a French bistro with din­ing on the pa­tio. I like to sit near a large, heavy con­crete planter. I’ve also eval­u­ated fields of fire from be­hind it. Some would say para­noid, but I say pru­dent.

Un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween cover, which may stop a bul­let, and con­ceal­ment, which may hide you from a bul­let. I would also rec­om­mend train­ing us­ing cover. For 10- to 15-yard shoot­ing, learn to use ei­ther the shoot­ing hand or sup­port hand de­pend­ing on left-hand or right-hand cover to shield you the best.

I also prac­tice fir­ing my first shots from be­hind cover stand­ing, go to my knees for the next shots, then go prone for the next shots. This mag­ni­fies the ten­dency of many shoot­ers, es­pe­cially poorly trained ones, to shoot high.

Al­ways be sus­pi­cious of strangers—po­lite, but sus­pi­cious. Var­i­ous things set off my radar. Peo­ple with hood­ies up al­ways at­tract my at­ten­tion, es­pe­cially when the weather doesn’t in­di­cate the need. In most cases, I do not shake hands when a stranger prof­fers his hand too quickly; where I live that can be a way of gain­ing con­trol of your gun hand so Scum­bag 2 can stick a knife in you or club you.

If some­one does grab my gun hand, I am pre­pared to draw a knife avail­able to my sup­port hand and slash his arm to shreds. By the way, when I pass on shak­ing hands, I of­ten say, “Sorry, sprained wrist.” It avoids in­sult, but if the in­di­vid­ual has bad in­tent, it may give him the im­pres­sion he has an ad­van­tage he doesn’t.


For at­tacks in close quar­ters, train to fire from the ground, when rolling clear, when back ped­dling, when mov­ing side­wise or to your rear, without turn­ing fully or af­ter piv­ot­ing. You can also make your­self a more dif­fi­cult tar­get by turn­ing side­wise or go­ing to a knee. An im­por­tant tech­nique when work­ing pro­tec­tion de­tails was prac­tic­ing for an at­tack at very close quar­ters. We trained to punch or push, then draw to gain some dis­tance to bring our weapon into ac­tion. I’m a great be­liever in de­liv­er­ing a punch that not only puts dis­tance be­tween the at­tacker and me, but also puts him out of ac­tion or lim­its his ef­fec­tive­ness.

In one “emerg­ing na­tion,” I learned to use the draw tech­nique in which the pis­tol is drawn and the sup­port hand comes into po­si­tion to meet it close to the ch­est. This serves two pur­poses: A shot may be taken quickly and there is less chance an at­tacker can gain con­trol of the pis­tol. Know the 21-foot rule for an at­tacker with a knife—if you let him get within 21 feet, he will prob­a­bly stab or slash you be­fore you can draw your weapon.


A large part of the se­cu­rity plan­ning for close pro­tec­tion is de­voted to se­cur­ing the prin­ci­pal when trav­el­ing in a ve­hi­cle. Though it is not likely that you and your fam­ily will be the tar­gets of a kid­nap­ping or as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt of the type faced by many dig­ni­taries, the danger of car­jack­ing, road rage, or street crime still ex­ists.

Many of the same pre­cepts ap­ply.

One of the most ba­sic tenets of VIP pro­tec­tion when in ve­hi­cles is to vary the route as of­ten as pos­si­ble. As the most likely crimes against you and your fam­ily will not be of the pre­planned ter­ror­ist va­ri­ety, this will not be a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion. How­ever, know­ing al­ter­nate routes that will al­low you to de­tour if you hear of civil dis­or­der or snip­ing on a high­way is use­ful.

A VIP driver and the pro­tec­tive team must al­ways be alert to sus­pi­cious ve­hi­cles. So should you. A com­mon armed rob­bery tech­nique is to lightly run against a vic­tim’s bumper at a stop sight to lure him or her from the ve­hi­cle to “ex­change in­for­ma­tion.”

Be alert dur­ing fender ben­ders, es­pe­cially if hit by a car with sus­pi­cious look­ing driver and pas­sen­gers. VIP driv­ers are al­ways aware of ve­hi­cles creep­ing up to pull next to them at in­ter­sec­tions—es­pe­cially mo­tor­cy­cles or mo­tor scoot­ers with pas­sen­gers. I am sus­pi­cious of driv­ers who pull next to me and “eye­ball me.”

Be­ware also of street thugs who


at­tempt to sur­round the ve­hi­cle when stopped for a stop sign. Doors should al­ways be locked and you should be ready to use your ve­hi­cle as a weapon if needed, though for that to be jus­ti­fied you will have to be un­der ob­vi­ous at­tack.

Film­ing street thugs with an iPhone may dis­cour­age them and may also of­fer ev­i­dence if you have to take ac­tion. Some might ar­gue that it might make them an­gry, but if they are al­ready threat­en­ing you, that thresh­old has been crossed. Def­i­nitely be aware of the danger of get­ting boxed in by a ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing gang mem­bers work­ing with other gang mem­bers on the street cor­ner. Un­like a VIP pro­tec­tion de­tail, you won’t have a trail car with ad­di­tional shoot­ers.

In an ex­treme case of civil un­rest or an as­sault on a ve­hi­cle where it is im­mo­bi­lized, knowl­edge of tech­niques for ex­it­ing a ve­hi­cle un­der fire can be a life­saver. Ba­sic tac­tics are to evac­u­ate on the side away from the ma­jor threat and to use the engine and/or wheel wells for cover. Rather than be­come im­mo­bile, how­ever, it is bet­ter to at­tempt to exit the “kill box” in the ve­hi­cle.

If an­other ve­hi­cle has been pulled into po­si­tion to block your es­cape ram­ming it may be nec­es­sary to es­cape. Stan­dard tac­tics dic­tate ram­ming the por­tion of the tar­get ve­hi­cle where the engine is not

(i.e. the rear on front-engine ve­hi­cles). This will in­crease the chances of push­ing the tar­get ve­hi­cle aside.

To be hon­est, such tac­tics are de­signed for trained driv­ers who have prac­ticed the ma­neu­ver. Know­ing how to do a J-turn of­fers an­other es­cape pos­si­bil­ity. Oh, and have a good first-aid kit in your ve­hi­cle.


Do­ing close pro­tec­tion also in­flu­ences choice of weapons and train­ing. An as­sump­tion in close pro­tec­tion that can carry over to pro­tect­ing your­self and your fam­ily is when fac­ing an at­tack an­other per­pe­tra­tor may be com­ing. Just be­cause you have neu­tral­ized an at­tacker does not mean there is not an­other one. Stay alert and scan for ad­di­tional threats. Don’t for­get to scan up­ward to win­dows, walk­ways, etc. I have found when train­ing pro­tec­tive teams, many trainees get tun­nel vi­sion and for­get to look up, down and around.

The pre­cept that there may be an­other at­tack com­ing in­flu­ences the prac­tice of car­ry­ing mul­ti­ple spare mag­a­zines and gen­er­ally a sec­ond gun when work­ing on pro­tec­tive de­tails. This ap­plies to the ex­tent that I be­lieve any­one car­ry­ing a


hand­gun for pro­tec­tion should have at least one reload.

The fastest reload is usu­ally a sec­ond gun, so that is an op­tion that should be con­sid­ered. I carry a pocket gun much of the time with a spare magazine in the op­po­site pocket. On oc­ca­sion, how­ever, I sub­sti­tute a sec­ond pocket gun for the spare magazine.

In close pro­tec­tion sit­u­a­tions, the need for mul­ti­ple spare mag­a­zines and/or a spare gun is based on the like­li­hood of en­gag­ing mul­ti­ply at­tack­ers and the need to give sup­pres­sive fire while the prin­ci­pal is evac­u­ated. That same need could arise to pro­tect fam­ily mem­bers.

When I car­ried a sec­ond gun on pro­tec­tive de­tails, the sec­ond gun of­ten of­fered an en­hanced tac­ti­cal op­tion. It might have pro­vided bet­ter long-range en­gage­ment ca­pa­bil­ity (i.e. a SIG P210), had a light mounted for low­light us­age, or been loaded with AP (Ar­mor-Pierc­ing) or other pen­e­tra­tive ammo for use against ve­hi­cle-borne at­tack­ers or those wear­ing body ar­mor.

The in­di­vid­ual car­ry­ing a self-de­fense hand­gun will rarely go to such lengths, but I do rec­om­mend hav­ing a light along. It can ei­ther be a small Sure­Fire flash­light, or it can be a com­pact weapons light car­ried in a jacket pocket. They can func­tion as flash­lights when not mounted on the gun or can be mounted for search­ing a dark area.

Re­mem­ber, though, that the light that lets you see lets an at­tacker see to tar­get you. I would rec­om­mend us­ing the mo­men­tary fea­ture on weapons lights so you are not a con­tin­u­ous tar­get. I also have a dou­ble shoul­der hol­ster that lets me carry my pri­mary hand­gun without a light and my backup hand­gun with a light mounted. I rarely wear it for ev­ery­day carry, but it was a vi­able op­tion for pro­tec­tive jobs.

I men­tioned long-range en­gage­ment. The abil­ity to shoot with a hand­gun at 50 or even 100 yards is a very use­ful skill, es­pe­cially if you have no choice but to face some­one with a ri­fle.

Per­haps, it’s be­cause I worked in Third World coun­tries, but I de­vel­oped con­fi­dence that with my P210 I could place shots at 100 yards as well as most of the lo­cals armed with AK-47s—note I said most. I didn’t want to bring a pis­tol to a ri­fle fight, but if I had to, I wanted one that I could shoot at longer dis­tances.

In­cor­po­rat­ing some of the train­ing tech­niques I use for close pro­tec­tion teams may prove de­ci­sive in a deadly en­counter or may just vary train­ing. More crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists wear body ar­mor to­day. Hence, prac­tic­ing head or pelvic shots equips you to face an at­tacker that doesn’t go down. I also fre­quently prac­tice Mozam­bique Drills (two to the cen­ter of mass, one to the head) for the same rea­son.

It is very im­por­tant to prac­tice “in­jured arm or hand” drills. Ev­ery time I prac­tice, I fire at least one magazine with my sup­port (left) hand to re­mind me that I can shoot with that hand if nec­es­sary. Pe­ri­od­i­cally, I fire 50 rounds with my sup­port hand and in­cor­po­rate magazine changes as well. This builds skill with that hand but also re­in­forces in my mus­cle mem­ory so I can switch hands and keep fight­ing if in­jured. I also train to take “hostage shots” on the as­sump­tion that a fam­ily mem­ber may be seized. Prac­tice tak­ing a head­shot or shot at a small ex­posed por­tion of an as­sailant’s body enough and you will be­come con­fi­dent you can do it if the need arises.

I prac­tice these shots at 5 yards, 10 yards and 15 yards. I also train to quickly step in front of my wife or an­other fam­ily mem­ber to en­gage. This is stan­dard train­ing for mem­bers of a pro­tec­tive team, but is ap­pli­ca­ble in fac­ing street threats.

To be hon­est, this tac­tic gen­er­ally as­sumes that I would be wear­ing body ar­mor, which I find un­com­fort­able for typ­i­cal day-to-day wear, but I have prac­ticed the drill so many times that I can en­gage very quickly while thrust­ing the per­son I am pro­tect­ing away from the threat.


Per­haps the most im­por­tant de­ci­sion you may have to make quickly is whether to re­treat, take cover and stand and fight, or ad­vance on the threat. Gen­er­ally, ad­vanc­ing will not be an ap­peal­ing choice un­less there is no easy re­treat and the only pos­si­ble way of es­cap­ing is to move to­wards an at­tacker and elim­i­nate him to al­low es­cape. Re­treat without en­gage­ment re­mains the best op­tion.


This ar­ti­cle is meant to of­fer some of the lessons learned from work­ing on close pro­tec­tion teams. I have found that much of the ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve gained in close pro­tec­tion does in­flu­ence how I re­act in daily in­ter­ac­tions and travel. I’m prob­a­bly over-gunned some­times and usu­ally over cau­tious, but I am also more con­fi­dent that I re­main switched on to pos­si­ble dan­gers.

At least I don’t have to study the photo ar­ray of pos­si­ble threats to my prin­ci­pal when I head out to the gro­cery store, but does that make me more sus­pi­cious of ev­ery­one?

Left: If a neigh­bor­hood looks dan­ger­ous, it prob­a­bly is. Peeter Vi­isi­maa/ Getty Im­ages Below: Even with a pocket pis­tol, al­ways carry a spare magazine. Fuz­zMartin/Getty Im­ages

Above: Carry a com­pact hand­held or weapons mounted light; the weapon light may still be used as a hand­held light if de­sir­able. On pro­tec­tive as­sign­ments, Thomp­son some­times car­ried his sec­ond gun with light mounted. Thomas Eck­stadt?Getty Im­ages

Above: Train for close quar­ters at­tacks. sky­nesher/Getty Im­ages

Car-jack­ings and other street crime are com­mon enough that you should be sus­pi­cious of any­one ap­proach­ing your ve­hi­cle. Plan to take ac­tion be­fore it's too late.Gre­gor Bis­ter/Getty Im­ages

Ve­hi­cle engine com­part­ments and wheel wells make for good cover if at­tacked near your ve­hi­cle.

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