The Secret Service use a variety of arms to guard the president.
The Secret Service use a variety of arms to guard the president.

Both the president and the vice president, as well as most top government officials, are protected by the United States Secret Service. The president is the most valuable and most vulnerable client of the Secret Service, as the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy have proven. Secret Service officers employed as the president's personal bodyguards use a variety of firearms, including concealed weapons when out in public, long range weapons when guarding the White House itself and even -- possibly -- high tech weapons that few know about.

Handguns of the Secret Service

The standard issue handgun for most of the Secret Service, including those who personally protect the president, is the Sig Sauer P229. This compact automatic handgun combines high caliber .357 hollow point rounds with a small size that can be easily concealed and holstered in a variety of positions and locations. The P229 is also used by many members of the U.S. armed forces and law enforcement, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard. Another commonly used handgun of the Secret Service is the Glock 9 mm, which is more common among uniformed agents than plainclothes officers.

Machine Guns of the Secret Service

When guarding the president or the White House in uniform, many members of the Secret Service are armed with automatic or semiautomatic machine guns such as the Heckler & Koch MP5A3 9 mm. These firearms are considerably more effective for defending the president against assaults by groups of attackers, or from those who are armored. Members of the Secret Service Emergency Response Team, which frequently stands guard on the White House lawn, have been seen packing short barrel submachine guns with attached flashlights on top, which let them target in the dark.

Rifles of the Secret Service

Rifles are also used to guard the president of the United States, both when he is out in public and from the roof of the White House, and in both cases these marksmen are meant to spot and eliminate threats from a distance. An elite countersniper force usually takes to the rooftops in public places when the president is making an appearance. These professional snipers use high powered rifles topped with scopes that allow them to zoom in and pinpoint targets from a distance and in a crowd. Secret Service countersnipers often work in teams, with one agent responsible for giving directions and calculating factors such as the wind, while the other does the shooting.

High Tech Weapons of the Secret Service

Some people think it's possible that the Secret Service also may employ a variety of high-tech weapons while protecting the president, the details of which are shrouded in secrecy. "Directed energy technology," which could mean anything from laser beams to microwave-based arms, have been studied by various U.S. government military and security departments for decades. According to a 2008 article in Wired.com, an attempt brought against the Secret Service by Donald Friedman to declassify information on use of directed energy weapons ended with the information being too sensitive to release because it pertains to the protection of "very high government officials."