Gun gurus spend a lot of time and effort training gun owners to shoot their firearms safely and effectively. The reality of the situation: you’re more likely to need first aid — either for yourself or for someone else — than engage in a defensive gun use.

Setting aside everyday emergencies like traffic accidents and home emergencies, a safe and fun day on the range can go south in a split second. Whether someone deliberately turns a firearm on their fellow shooters or improperly loaded ammunition causes your firearm to go boom there are plenty of ways to find yourself in need of serious medical help.

I’ve had to run to someone’s assistance with my personal med kit on the range in the last year. So believe me when I say this absolutely can happen to you or those around you. Which means you need to be prepared.

One of the first articles I ever wrote for TTAG was about my emergency medical kit. I’ve talked about some items that should be in different size kits. But there are three specific things that should be in every single range bag in the United States. I even keep a spare set in the trunk of my car, where it’s easy to grab and throw in whatever bag I’ve got that day.

#3: Triangle Bandage

Ah, the lowly triangle bandage. Everyone seems to forget these little wonders when they assemble an emergency kit. They might be the most useful tool you have.

The most common use for a triangle bandage — the most likely one you’ll run into in the wilderness — splinting a broken limb. Whether you fell out of a tree or slipped down a rock face, the probability of spraining or breaking one of your limbs is relatively high. With a triangle bandage (an some sticks or branches) you can make yourself a pretty handy splint, or fashion a sling to keep the limb immobile.

Worst case scenario: you can also make it into a tourniquet, or any of a half dozen other uses.

#2: Pressure Dressing

The best thing for a cut or a puncture: grab a piece of gauze, slap it on top and apply direct pressure.

The gauze will give your white blood cells a framework to start forming a clot. The pressure will close off some of the smaller capillaries and slow the flow of the larger blood vessels which are still carrying blood to the rupture. That should give your body a fighting chance to seal the leak on its own.

A pressure dressing does all of those things at the same time. There’s a big absorbent dressing to keep you from leaking everywhere, and the bandage has straps built in so that you can tie it around the body and have the bandage maintain constant pressure on the wound.

This is a great first step for controlling bleeding and (unless your patient has been shot in a vital area) should do the trick to keep them alive until they can get to a hospital.

Know what else helps? If they were injured in an extremity, immobilize it with a sling of some sort to minimize movement and allow the clot to form. Did I mention that triangle bandages are great at that?

#1: Combat Application Tourniquet

Gunshot wounds create holes. Holes that bleed. If you’re hit in the abdomen or the head there’s not much that can be done at the scene beyond direct pressure and rapid transport. Gunshot wounds to the extremities (legs and arms) can be (relatively) easily handled with the application of a tourniquet.

The concept is simple: place the tourniquet as high up the limb as possible. Turn the handle around until the blood stops flowing. Ignore any screaming.

That stops the leak, allowing time to get the victim — which could be you — to a hospital before he or she runs out of blood. (Never tourniquet the neck.) As I mentioned, you can use a triangle bandage to make a tourniquet in a pinch, but a proper combat application tourniquet (CAT) makes the process easy, effective and fast.

If you carry only one first aid item in your range bag and glove box, it should be a combat application tourniquet.

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46 Responses to 3 First Aid Tools Every Shooter Should Have In Their Range Bag

  1. I didn’t see X-Ray machine on the list. 8>)

    You might add some unsterile gloves (useful if you have the time to get them on) and perhaps a pair of chest seals.

    • ditto on the chest seal.

      Toss an oral airway tube into the mix and maybe a few packs of QuikClot or the like and a hemostat or two.

      And some lessons, but those should be consumed ahead of time.

      • I recommend having a well thought out emergency kit first before any gun. My home replica of a CLS bag( I made 3, two for the cars, one for the home) has been used far more often then my ccw pistol. It has been key to being able to render aid either to others or myself. I still need to add the nasal air passege devices and the chest seals to complete it. Of course I have been trained on these which is another matter of readiness.

  2. Band-Aids; thumb sized. ‘Cause no matter how well you brief a newbie about not crossing their support thumb behind the slide….

    • That’s because it is a far superior product. I’ve broken many CATs on thighs. Never a SOFT.
      If you have a tourniquet, have 2.

      • I prefer the SOF-T to the CAT. The new 7th Gen CAT at least gets rid of the multiple one or two handed config issue but still looks prone to breakage. Also using the RATS TQ since the whole TCCC approved thing was cleared up and I like them. Very easy to apply and very versatile.

        I think if you can you should carry a TQ everywhere. Gun box, plate carrier, glove box of every car, in your pocket, etc. Other things are nice like hemostatic, bandages, or dressings but a tourniquet will be the most useful thing you have if you start to bleed.

      • Down range we had a combat load of three. They where really for helping others but we would joke that it was because 3 was the most you could apply to yourself.

  3. I carry all of the above in my range bag – so that if I’m somewhere and I don’t have my EMT bag, I can stop a bleed-out. Actually, I have two of the CAT TQ’s in the range bag. For what they can do in terms of life-saving, they’re cheap.

    • Trauma shears are dead useful. In fact, they’re strong enough to cut through a US penny. You can use them to cut through a seatbelt. Plus, while it’s not their specialty, they’ll do in a pinch as bandage scissors.

  4. I don’t know if most ranges even have a kit. If they do they don’t seem to keep them handy.

    The range I go to now has them everywhere. Some are larger backpacks others are smaller IFAK style pouches stuck on the wall with hook and loop backing and a strap. The they’re all bright red and if you’re new to the range the location of each one is a major part of the first timer’s briefing. The RSO’s advise that if you don’t know how to use the stuff, bring it to them and be prepared to do what they tell you when they tell you to do it.

    I know it’s a top 3 list but I’d add Combat or EMT Gauze to the list for punctures in areas that can’t be TQ’d and where bleeding is too heavy for a regular QuikClot (or similar) sponge or powder.

  5. You could always park an ambulance there so you could get a jump on calling one.

    ******************sarcasm alert***************

    While you should be prepared, there is overkill in having everything – and why should you have everything that people say would be nice? Maybe the range could stock the stuff, but keeping all the stuff mentioned(even without the x-ray machine), would not leave much room to transport your firearms and friends.

    • All that stuff plus a bunch more fits in a 7″H x 5″W x 2.75″D package. That takes up too much room?

      WTF do you drive, a SmartCar?

  6. Two CATs, two Israeli Bandage compression dressings, and a chest seal all fit into a cargo pocket of my range pants. Same thing when I ride my motorcycle. Because you never know.

  7. Thank god for all the internet doctors and surgeons ! All we need now is someone to give out the pharma/rx pain management! THE GOOD STUFF!

  8. “The gauze will give your white blood cells a framework to start forming a clot.”

    My platelets are contacting their union rep.

    Jokes aside, good article. +1 on the CAT and the kravat. I’d ditch the Israeli bandage though. Get a handful of 4x4s and a handful of gloves instead. Much cheaper and more useful.

    • The problem is that you now need a way to affix those 4×4 pads in place so that you can move the person without worrying about them coming loose and the bleed starting all over again.

      The IB does that for you which is it’s major selling point. It can also, in a pinch, be used as a TQ just like a triangle bandage. So one item covers the place of 2-3 items. Also, IB’s aren’t that expensive. By the time you buy a roll of medical tape or a triangle bandage and a box of 4×4 pads the difference in price might be $1-$2 and not in favor of the pads route.

      You have to keep an eye out on Amazon for them but you can get the 6″ bandages for about $6/each. Less if you buy a package of 3+. 4″ IB’s are about $4-$8 depending on the seller. DealMed 4×4’s are usually $6/box by themselves with Johnson&Johnson being more. The cheapest triangle bandages I’ve seen are in a 15 pack at $0.78 each. Medical tape is generally $1 a roll if you buy a 12 pack. So pads, plus the other stuff is nearly $8 vs $4-$6 for the IB if you’re a savvy shopper and I’m just talking about non-sale prices on Amazon.

      So really, you’re actually paying more for less useful stuff if you go the pads and tape route.

      • Yeah but you’re assuming the situation will indicate a pressure bandage. Gauze and tape will cover a multitude of situations from a paper cut up to gross bleeding. Hell I don’t even keep bandaids around anymore since I already have 2x2s and tape. So you get that box of 4x4s in your house, and you toss a few in a baggie in your range bag.

        • You make a fair point here but it wasn’t your original set of points which is what I responding to.

          The point of the article is that this is building a kit for your range bag or car which, in and of itself, makes the assumption that an injury serious in nature is possibly something you’ll have to deal with, that could be GSW or serious car accident or a cyclist/pedestrian hit by a car. Yes, someone could blow off a finger at the range or just skin their knee in your vicinity and in those cases an IB would be total overkill.

          That said, there’s no reason you can’t add a few items to this “Top 3”. The medical kit I carry in my backpack covers this list and quite a bit more (mostly on the lesser side of “Oh shit!”). It’s 7 x 5 x 2.5 inside it’s shell and weighs in at 1lb 7.30oz.

        • I don’t disagree. I guess it’s just a philosophical questions with Top lists. If you tell me I can only have 3 things, I’m gonna want each of those to be as multi-use as possible. For that I’d take 4x4s or 5×9/ABD pads

  9. That plus ‘regular stuff’ (band-aids, etc) and a chest kit are in mine.

    Some saline can be helpful if someone somehow gets some scum in their eye too

    • Colloidal silver works many times better than saline solution for anything eye related. Esp. pink eye. My kids have had it many times. A few drops in the eye and its gone by the time they get to the doctor. The symptoms anyway. The bacteria still show up and they get a prescription, but it’s unnecessary. Puss begins running out of the conjunctive eye as soon the silver colloid hits it, and the symptoms go away within hours.

  10. Why was a triangle bandage on the list but chest seals/occlusive dressings were not even included?

    He even said why they would be needed under the tq part of the article. Not many broken arms and legs at the range, even if there were you’re only waiting a little while for emt’s.

    Hell I’d put chest seals over tq’s. Pressure bandages are fine at the 2 spot. Medical muggle, Nick Leghorn! How about you write about what you know about?

    I was a combat medic, btw, before the hate starts.

  11. Did’nt read any of it! I’m eatin crackers with cheese and summer sausage! Listen, if he shoots himself in his fat ass like Tex Dumbass, shoot the bastard like a broke-leg horse!!

  12. I’m the CRSO for my gun club. 167 members currently. I’m also a retired RN, with 30 years of experience. I was an ER triage nurse for a while. I carry a large bag of essential medical supplies all the time. Have used four bandaids at the range in ten years… two of those on splinters and two on heel blisters…

    As far as I can determine, there has not been an injury more serious than semi-auto slide slicing there in something like 20 years. I don’t anticipate ever needing more than a bandaid or light wound dressing, even though there is always the potential for more serious injuries, of course. That’s why I carry a full kit, and suggest to members that they pack at least a minimal first aid kit of their own, since I’m not always there. Members of our club often shoot alone and everyone is always responsible for themselves and their own safety.

    Our indoor range has a big “first aid” kit hanging on the wall by the inner door. When I started as CRSO, I opened it one day to evaluate it, see what might be needed. What I found was useless… the paper coverings over the bandaids and other packaging all loose or in the bottom of the box. A tube of antibiotic ointment had split and leaked all over. Lots of dust on and in everything… and a dried up spider. I disposed of the entire mess, and repacked the cleaned box with the bare essentials. It is inspected and restocked as needed, at least annually. Packing individual items in small zip lock bags keeps things clean anyway.

  13. Nick,
    Take the premise one step further. Recommend some complete ‘minimalist, and/or nice sized equipped” kits. Either prepackaged or ‘build it yourself’, variety.

    I would pick up a decent med kit in a heart beat, but the stuff I see is either 700 band-aids of sizes not appropriate for POTG, tweezers, sun block and an emergency blanket; or half an ambulance and priced to match.

    While not looking to be an EMT-wannabe, I value the idea of being (better) prepared should something go unexpectedly.

  14. How many are aware that all of these jobs can be done by a roll of duct tape and a shirt? Its easy, it just takes knowing how. Duct tape and a credit card will even make a one way valve for a sucking chest wound!
    For those with that knowledge, I like this list better:
    1. Ampule of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) as carried by the Australian soldier.
    2. Squirt bottle of silver colloid
    3. Roll of duct tape! What else would be #3?

  15. When I took EMT training over 35 years ago they suggested using a Kotex/sanitary pad for a pressure dressing. They absorb blood and do not cost a whole lot.

  16. Always keep a few tampons and pads in the bag, they are sealed, sterile and FDA approved!

    Tampons also make starting a fire easy with tall that fluff inside, just hit it with a good spark.

    Agree with the duct tape, keep it in a zipper bag and it will not dry out, lasts ten years or more.

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