If you own a gun, these six medical products are essential for your trauma kit or range bag.
Tourniquets Quickly, Effectively Stop Bleeding from Extremities
A tourniquet is the single most important piece of life-saving equipment in the event of penetrating trauma to an extremity, such as a gunshot wound, and is probably the best investment in medical gear for any gun owner.
Battlefield lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated tourniquets have a significant survival benefit, especially when applied prior to the onset of shock. As a result, law enforcement and fire/EMS agencies adapted tourniquet application as standard procedure.
Windlass-driven tourniquets such as the CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) and the SOFTT-W are most popular in military and law enforcement, while wrap-style tourniquets such as the SWAT-T may be more intuitive and faster to apply for the layperson. Both types are effective at stopping arterial blood loss. Windlass types are generally easier to self apply, while wrap styles are preferred for children, as they work better on smaller diameter limbs.
Keep in mind it is NOT recommended to practice with a windlass tourniquet, as they can stretch out under repeated use, making it difficult to stop bleeding when needed. Strap-type tourniquets like the SWAT-T or TK4 are not so easily degraded by practice application.
*Source: Journal of Emergency Medical Services Nov. 2013
Hemostatic Gauze Stops Bleeding Faster
Packing a wound with hemostatic gauze can significantly reduce the time direct pressure must be applied to an arterial bleed. This is especially important in the event of a mass casualty incident. For people with minimal training in wound-packing techniques, hemostatic gauze can make their efforts to stem bleeding more effective.
Agencies and professionals in EMS, military, and law enforcement are including hemostatic gauze in individual first aid kits (IFAKs) and everyday carry trauma kits at a higher rate than in past years, despite the significantly higher cost of the hemostatic gauze.
When hemostatic gauze is not available, the next best thing for wound packing is conventional gauze or bandages. The gauze is stuffed into the wound, using as much as possible to create pressure on the damaged blood vessels and slow the blood flow. After the wound is packed with either gauze or a hemostatic gauze, a wrap is applied to hold the wound packing gauze in place and maintain pressure on the wound.
Trauma Dressings Maintain Pressure On Wounds
The purpose of pressure dressings or trauma dressings, as they are sometimes called, is to tightly wrap a wound after it has been packed with hemostatic or conventional gauze to maintain pressure on the injury.
The battle-tested Israeli Bandage consolidates multiple first-aid devices—primary dressing (if wound-packing gauze is not available), pressure applicator, secondary dressing wrap (like an ace bandage), and a foolproof closure apparatus—to secure the bandage in place and hold the pressure.
Other designs, such as the Olaes Bandage, incorporate wound-packing material (gauze) along with the ability to apply direct pressure to a wound site and to cover/protect the wound. These bandages restrict blood flow from a penetrating wound by keeping pressure on the wound, even after hands are taken off.
Chest Seals Help Prevent Collapsed Lungs
When a lung is punctured by penetrating injury, air builds up in the pleural cavity between the lung and chest wall. The resulting pressure forces the lung to collapse, a life-threatening condition called a tension pneumothorax.
A vented chest seal placed over the wound allows air to escape from the chest during exhalation without allowing air back in during inhalation, preventing air from building up and collapsing the lung.
If a person with a chest injury is having trouble breathing, it’s an indication of a punctured lung. While other airtight dressings can be improvised for immediate relief, complications develop if they are left in place too long. A purpose-built vented chest seal will perform more reliably under a broader range of conditions and can be applied in seconds. Be sure to check for entry and exit wounds, placing chest seals over both.
Shears and Strap Cutters Are Safer, Save Time
While shears may seem like a frivolous add-on to those who routinely carry a knife, they are safer for the patient and make it much easier for the first responder to cut away clothing and equipment straps to obtain access to a wound. This small investment can save precious time when it counts.
Nitrile Gloves Protect From Blood-Borne Pathogens
If you have a trauma kit and it’s needed in an emergency situation, you will either be treating a patient or yourself, or someone else could be using it to treat you. In any instance, the first responder should take precautions to limit exposure to bloodborne pathogens. For the small cost, a pair of nitrile gloves is an excellent investment.
The Reality of Today's World
It is a hard reality that we are all at risk, regardless of our professions, lifestyles or recreational preferences. While public access and education efforts such as the national Stop The Bleed initiative are gaining traction, this does not guarantee life-saving bleeding control gear is available whenever and wherever needed. That responsibility rests with us—the general public. Being a gun owner means an even higher level of responsibility for preparedness.
What and Where to Buy
Components discussed here are available individually and in pre-built trauma kits or IFAKs. Kits range in price from roughly $45 for basic (but still effective) equipment to $150 for advanced kits with hemostatics. If you are still not sure about the best way to proceed, consider starting small and simple with a tourniquet and a trauma dressing. Those two components alone can cover a large percentage of severe bleeding cases. Search for instructional videos and read product reviews for the most widely used tourniquets and trauma bandages. Base your choices on what seems the most intuitive and understandable to you.
Where to Store Bleeding Control Products
Store the kits where you spend the most time and in the most easily accessed places in the event of an emergency. Common places include in your vehicle, home, boat, cabin, camping or weekend getaway area. If you do carry a firearm on your person, mini-IFAKs and ankle holsters are good options to explore. Hemostatics do have an expiration date, usually five years.
Training and Instruction Important, Available
We can’t understate the importance of knowing how to use the products mentioned in this article. Instructional videos are available online, and many gun ranges, gun retailers and fire/EMS agencies offer basic courses or know where to take one. Rescue Essentials lists trainers and instructors on its website as well.
BONUS TIP: Burn Treatment Gel Aids In Healing
It is not hard to find something to burn yourself on at the shooting range. A hot suppressor, barrel, or brass can cause painful and serious burns. Treating a burned area quickly helps prevent complications and aids in faster healing. Water-based gels with Lidocaine are the most popular and effective for minor burns.