Pro’s and Cons of Armored Cars
I am regularly asked about whether I favor armored cars or not, as with everything they have their pros and cons. Armored cars do have an application, the first thing you need to consider is what level of armoring the car you’re buying or using has. I have come across people driving around in cars armored to stop pistol caliber rounds in areas where the bad guys carry assault weapons, they thought an armored car was all they needed and were unaware of the different levels of armoring.
You will also need to confirm where the car is armored; doors, windows, floor, engine, roof etc. Some cars may only have some armored panels in the doors and rear seat, always check for yourself and do not believe what people tell you. Also try to find out who armored the car; is it a production vehicle, was it armored by a reputable company or by the local mechanic. Some steel plates welded into the vehicle at the local chop shop may work fine, as long as the suspension holds out and the engine runs. As with all vehicle op’s, always do your maintenance checks or make sure the drivers do them!
If you are using a driver you should check his qualifications and make sure he can actually drive to a good standard and the vehicle you’re using is well maintained. Over the years I have encounter people who claim to experienced chauffeurs, drivers and bodyguards but in reality were a liability. The main thing you need to consider when hiring drivers or security personnel is whether they can be trusted or are they working with the criminals or kidnappers. This is where you always need to be personally security aware and know where you’re going and what you’re doing, never unconditionally trust anyone with your life or to have your best interests at heart.
Now think like the criminals, if you knew your target was driving around in a SUV armored to B6 level are you going to shoot at them when they are driving around or wait for them stop and get out of the car, or stop them and make them get out of the car? Think about how can you get someone out of a car; what would you do if a female driver bumped into the back of your car, get out to inspect the damage and then possibly be kidnapped by her two armed accomplices crouched in the back seat of her car? Always be aware of decoys that are intended to make you stop and get out of your vehicle, such as accidents or even bodies next to the road. Basic rule, stay in your car and keep moving between safe areas.
A criminal tactic when targeting armored cash-in-transit vehicles is to box them in, cover the van in gasoline, then give those inside to option of throwing out the cash, surrendering or being burnt alive. An issue with armored vehicles is that you cannot shoot at the criminals from the inside. There was one incident I recall from the mid 1990’s where an unarmored van that was moving cash was stopped and ambushed in a country I was doing business in Eastern European. The van was rammed by a truck the criminals had stolen, much like in the movie “Heat”, the fact the van was unarmored enabled the security personnel inside to be able to shoot through the side of the van and drive off the criminals, which they could not have done if they had taken and armored van that day.
There have also been numerous incidents where criminals have assassinated targets traveling in armored vehicles with IEDs, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and improvised shaped charges all of which are available on the black market.
An armored cars can assist you in your security program and save your life but it should not be all there is to your security program. As always a proper and realist threat assessment need to be done and where budget allows you need to utilize advance security and protective surveillance.