Gun gurus spend a lot of time and effort training gun owners to shoot their firearms safely and effectively in defensive situations. But the reality is 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 gun 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, 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 trauma kit. I’ve talked about some items that should be in different size first aid kits. But there are three specific items that should be in every single range bag in the United States.
I even keep a spare set of these in the trunk of my car, where it’s easy to grab and throw it in whatever bag I brought to the shooting range that day.
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 one you’ll most often run into in the wilderness — is 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 (and some sticks or branches) you can make yourself a pretty handy splint, or fashion a sling to keep a limb immobile.
Worst case scenario: you can also make it into a tourniquet, or more than a dozen other uses.
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 (sometimes called an Israeli bandage) 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 an EMT or first responder can arrive and get them 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 to better allow the clot to form. Did I mention that triangle bandages are great at that?
Guns shoot ammunition. Ammo causes gunshot wounds. Gunshot wounds make holes. Holes that bleed.
If your victim is hit in the head or has a chest wound, there’s not much that can be done at the scene beyond direct pressure and rapid transport. Gunshot wounds to the extremities, though, can be (relatively) easily handled with the application of a tourniquet at the scene.
The concept is simple: place the tourniquet as high up on the limb as possible. Turn the handle around until the blood stops flowing. Ignore any screaming (there will be plenty of that).
That pressure stops the leak, allowing time to get the victim — which could be you — to a hospital before he or she runs out of blood. As I mentioned, you can use a triangle bandage to make a tourniquet in a pinch, but a proper SOF-T tourniquet makes the process easy, effective and fast.
Obviously, this is not a complete IFAK (individual first aid kit) equipped with more useful items such as quickclot, a chest seal, nitrile gloves, band aids, medical tape, trauma shears and more. For tips on what first aid supplies you’ll need for a complete kit, read this post. But if you can’t carry a full-blown IFAK, having these three items in your range bag will help you deal with the most common medical emergency situations you’re likely to encounter.