The rise in terrorist attacks on diplomats, political figures and wealthy individuals has resulted in the inevitable up-gunning of security details. When I first started working on close protection teams in Europe during the 1970s, our teams were frequently armed with .380 autopistols—most often Walther PPKs. That was considered adequate. Occasionally I worked places where we were limited to .32 ACP pistols, where I used a Walther PPK-L. When I had a choice I carried a Browning Hi-Power backed up by a .380 PPK. Rarely, though, did we have long arms.
The first protective job I remember on which I was armed with more than a pistol was in North Africa, where I had a Beretta M12 SMG in addition to my Hi-Power. After that there were others, but most of the time we still only had handguns. Today, if security details have a choice they usually have long guns available. Of course local laws may prevent carrying of anything other than pistols. A few years ago I advised a team in Paraguay that was limited to only .32 ACP autopistols. The best they could do was to carry the high-capacity CZ-83 or Beretta M82.
SECRET SERVICE MP5
As more details started using longer guns, submachine guns predominated. The Secret Service adopted the Uzi and trained its agents extensively in its use. It has since been replaced by the HK MP5 for Secret Service protective details. I believe that the Secret Service uses primarily MPA3 versions with retractable buttstock. It is quite possible that some MP5K compact versions are available for carry in a briefcase or concealed more readily under a coat. HK actually offers a briefcase designed to carry the MP5K and allow it be fired from within. I do not have any knowledge whether the Secret Service in fact has these or not. However, the Secret Service did used to use a “tailgunner” with an Uzi in a briefcase on foot escort.
One protective detail that I do know has used the briefcase to carry an MP5K is France’s GSPR (Groupe de sécurité de la présidence de la République). GSPR members are excellent shooters and train extensively at deploying the MP5Ks—that is assuming they have their weapons! In June 2012, the GSPR agents protecting French President Hollande at the Rio Earth Conference forgot to pack their weapons!
London’s Metropolitan Police Royalty Protection Unit has used the MP5K. In fact, one of my contacts who served on Royalty Protection says that when Princess Diana used to work with the Royalty Protection team to learn counter-kidnapping survival skills, she used to like to shoot the MP5K. I know that the Royalty Protection guys adored her. Their ID lapel pin was a small queen of hearts. British armed police doing perimeter security along with the Royalty or Diplomatic Protection teams will often be seen carrying what appears to be an MP5A2. This is actually the semi-auto carbine version.
Many other units that include close protection among their missions also use versions of the MP5—Austria’s EKO Cobra, Croatia’s Lucko Anti-Terror Unit, Czech URNA CT Unit, Ecuador’s GEO and GIR, Germany’s GSG-9, Greece’s EKAM CT Unit, Hong Kong’s VIP Protection Unit (G4), New Zealand’s Police Special Tactics Group and SAS, Spain’s GEO, UK’s SAS—just to name a few.
FN P90 PDW
For some close protection units, the compactness and concealability, the high magazine capacity (50 rounds), penetration of ballistic vests when using AP ammo and greater range of the 5.7x28mm FN P90 PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) has made it appealing. Although at first the rather odd shaped stock of the P90 might make it seem ungainly, it is actually extremely ergonomic. However I have discovered, as have others who carry a P90 concealed, that a good sling (I prefer a single point) is an absolute necessity. I found the original sight supplied on the P90 very hard to use. Obviously others did too, for when the Secret Service adopted the P90 they specified a different sight. I would note that in my experience, the typical P90 sight has a tendency to catch on the inside of a jacket during the draw when worn slung beneath the jacket. The P90 was widely used by members of the Secret Service Uniform Branch and has seen some service with protective teams as well.
One problem I found when evaluating the P90 for close protection usage was carrying spare magazines. The 50-round magazines are rather long and require either a mag pouch on a harness for carry under the arm or some other arrangement. I found that it was possible to add a pocket inside one of the “photographer’s vests” often worn by protective teams.