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Unfortunately, whether it’s a car crash or a distant shooter, the option of self-defense doesn’t always exist. Even if you technically could engage with a ballistic solution, the best option very well may be to unass the AO, seek cover or barricade, and already have basic trauma care training. A little training and a little medical kit can go a long way…

At a recent gun industry press trip, I met with writers and professionals from around the country. On my backpack? The basic medical kit seen above. Out of approximately 20 of us, I believe only three of us carried medical supplies and one of those was an active law enforcement investigator.

My kit is embarrassingly sparse with an admittedly myopic focus on bleeding, but it’s more than nothing. Tourniquet, Olaes compression bandage, QuickClot (a larger kit version is available here), and nitrile gloves. Those hotlinks to Amazon are to the actual products I’m carrying. Have the same items in the glove compartments of our two vehicles as well. And I’ll list some other options below.

Perhaps the thing about my kit is that I don’t actually carry any of it on my person proper. My med pack is attached to the MOLLE webbing of my backpack (TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed) when I carry my backpack, and is popped off and dropped in my range bag (or elsewhere) if I’m traveling sans backpack.

While each car has a kit, I can’t say that I would have necessarily had any of these things on me at an event like a concert such as the festival Sunday night’s in Vegas.

I may have to change that. One of the other guys equipped with basic trauma care supplies at that press event was Riley Bowman, Director of Training & Media Production at Riley has carried medical supplies and other goodies in an ankle rig for many years now.

While I’m not sure I’ll go the ankle carry route (US Palm closed its doors, but other ankle medical systems include Strike Industries’ Ricci, Rescue Essential’s AMS, and the Frog.Pro SFD-Responder recommended by Rob Pincus), Riley’s choice has inspired me to transfer an even more basic kit to my on-person carry and beef up my off-person kits.

One option is a RATS tourniquet. That’s Rapid Application Tourniquet System and it’s fast and easy, though most professionals seem to prefer the CAT-style that I currently have in my pack and vehicles for a couple of reasons (easier to apply sufficient pressure, wider strap, etc). The RATS does have two main advantages, though: it’s more compact and it works much better on smaller limbs such as on kids and animals (e.g. police K9).

Often sold with a tight-fitting elastic sleeve (as linked above in a handful of colors), a RATS is easy to simply toss in a pocket. Some folks choose to wear them on top of their belt or even as a belt. The easier is it to have on you the more likely you are to have it on you, so I’ve ordered up a RATS to experiment with carrying it daily.

For my pack, I’ll be adding a second tourniquet to each, plus an airway, tape and gauze, and chest seal like the stuff included in the Tactical Distrubutors kit seen above. Via that link you’ll also see the ITS ETA Tallboy and Fatboy Trauma Kit Pouches, which are quick-access packs designed for storing, in an organized manner, exactly all of the sorts of medical trauma supplies we’re kicking around here.

As for CAT-style tourniquets, after similar recommendations from multiple people in the know, I’ve switched from a cheaper version to the Recon Medical ones with aluminum windlass and kevlar reinforcements. They’re available in a two-pack here, plus in FDE, blue, and safety orange.

The same company also sells an Israeli Battle Dressing. I have a similar Olaes bandage in my packs but all of this wrapping and compression could also be achieved with ACE Wrap and Kerlix.

Especially if you go the ACE and gauze route, but even if you don’t, trauma shears are extremely handy. Or so I’ve been told. I have approximately zero of them and am now adding one to each of my kits.




Finally, none of this equipment is particularly helpful without some training. Earlier this spring, RF and I took a Field Trauma Care & Rescue class with Tactical Fitness Austin. It was immensely educational, teaching not only the medical side but also the evac side. I hope they hold more of these courses and my wife is absolutely attending the next one — both of us if we can.

If you can’t shoot back — or often even if you could — get off the X, seek cover, barricade, and be prepared. There are stories of concert-goers saving lives by applying tourniquets in Vegas, and it was left to them to evacuate victims to where medical first responders were staged some distance from the scene until it was declared safe. With only basic training and sparse equipment, anyone can help save lives.

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  1. Amen to carrying first aid gear! I have a small bag that is attached to my range bag primarily designed for gunshot wounds as well as larger kits in all of the vehicles and at home. Wasn’t cheap to do, but glad I have them. And yes they have gotten use (car accidents….not ours…LOL). We have all had training to use the equipment.

  2. Good info. Pics don’t all load, had to re-open post a few times to see majority of them, but good info / thoughts.

    Thank you.

  3. Good stuff. I have a couple of Marine Corps IFAK packs in my cars. One is always at the range with me.
    At home is a squad level kit with lots of extras. (Former paramedic)

    • lost a few friends during my years in high school to gun violence and have been carrying an IFAK in my school backpack for almost 4 years

    • Your local gun training provider (some offer first aid classes), your local community college (basic EMT class), local Red Cross/American Heart Association (basic first aid). Just some thoughts off the top of my head.

      • Considering how much of my life I waste on YouTube, I decided to spend a worthwhile hour or so watching a few vids on how to use a R.A.T.S. The SkinnyMedic was very informative and I watched his vid on the Olaes bandage too. Thinking now of how much room I have left in my EDC backpack… I think you’re right Jeremy, the better solution is to put together a smaller kit I can add to or remove from my pack as needed.

  4. Chances are your first aid kit will be more useful to you than a firearm. Remember, you’re your own first responder…. Don’t just carry the one. Carry the both.

    • The people I trust for advice on this stuff were all of the opinion that the RATS is not as good as a CAT. However, they still all said that the things do the job. There do appear to be actual studies showing this, yes:

      A couple of those medical types said things similar to what we say about carrying a sub-compact gun. Basically, it isn’t what you’d choose if you knew you had to use it, but it’s better than leaving something larger at home and having nothing. With the compact nature of the RATS in addition to the low price, they’re very easy to carry and can be stashed anywhere as backups/additionals. In a pocket, worn around the belt, or some people clip the metal part to their belt and run the cord down the inside of their pants leg. Not that a CAT is huge or anything, but it’s certainly thicker and bigger.

      • I’ve said this before and I’m gonna say it again. RATS can eat a bag of dicks until they have a pile of approvals, certs and clinical studies to back them up.

        I don’t trust a company that lies about this kind of gear. Setting up their own company so they could put “TCCC approved” on their product might not be lying but it’s close enough in my book and it’s damned deceptive.

  5. 1. Get your medical supplies from a reputable supplier. Do not trust what you can get through Amazon.

    2. Get skills. Skills are more important than widgets. You can make TQ’s out of a shirt and a pen (or stick). Allowing someone to bleed out because you’re not near your $30 store-bought TQ is… lame.

    3. Want to really learn some skills? Take a EMT Basic class (which will run a full semester and require 10+ hours/week for 16 weeks), and then get a part-time job on an ambulance, if possible. Book learning is great. Real field exposure to medical and trauma conditions is better. It’s rarely so cut-and-dried as it is in the book(s). I’m a good book learner, and I’ve learned all manner of rapid field hacks as a FF/EMT on fire trucks and ambulances. Sometimes, the situation is very iffy, and your ability to improvise against the clock is what matters.

    • While I generally agree I would point out the following: Recent data show that improvised TQ’s are not as effective and pose significantly more risk to the limb with extended application.

      CAT or SOFT-T are the way to go when possible. They are the best things available according to clinical data.

      It’s also worth noting that in studied civilian mass shooting situations there are less extremity wounds and wounds are generally less survivable due to placement. Extra chest seals are highly recommended.

      • You’re missing my point.

        If you’re going to insist on a CAT or SOF-T, or “nothing,” – well then, there’s going to be a high likelihood that you’re going to be doing nothing.

        How many people are going to lug all this gear around with them every day? Not many. It’s like the people who think they’re going to pack around a full-sized pistol, four magazines, a knife, a multi-tool, etc, etc. Unless you’re going to lug around a man-purse filled with all this stuff, you ain’t taking it with you.

        • I understood your point from the jump.

          My point is that people are lazy and need to stop being lazy. IMHO the person too lazy to buy a TQ is never going to learn to use an improvised TQ. You can’t even get people to take a damn CPR class these days.

          Stop being lazy and complaining about carrying too much weight. I carry a full sized pistol, spare mag an IFAK and other shit everywhere I go. If I can do that so can everyone else. They don’t because they’re lazy and generally borderline obese or worse. All because they’re lazy (disabled people excepted).

        • “They don’t because they’re lazy and generally borderline obese or worse. All because they’re lazy (disabled people excepted).”

          As is their free choice, right?

  6. SOFTT Wide tourniquet. Or anything that does not depend on Velcro or plastic (as do the CAT and the chicom lookalikes).

    Go to for training.

  7. So, say I leave my TQ in my vehicle and all I have is a sturdy gun belt? At every SABC course I’ve had since 2005, they’ve mentioned using a good belt as a makeshift tournequit. I never thought to question it, but I’m not sold on banking on that technique. Anyone have any firsthand knowledge on the effectiveness of a good leather belt? Obviously it’s better than just direct pressure, and I’ll use it if it’s all I have, just wanting to ping the masses for experience.

    • The main problem with belts is being able to apply enough pressure to stop the bleeding. You can practice it yourself to get first hand knowledge, which you should do with any tourniquet or medical supply you’re carrying.
      Find your pulse on your wrist/ankle. You can also practice on a buddy.
      Apply TQ. It needs to be tight, and it’s going to hurt.
      Check pulse. If it’s still there, get tighter.
      Once that’s done, how are you going to keep the belt that tight? Does your belt have full length adjustment that will hold? Does you EDC knife have an awl?
      Release the TQ.
      If you can’t do all these steps, you need to find another method.
      The challenge with your arm is that you’ll have 1 hand and your head to do this. For the leg, it can require a lot of pressure for thick legs.
      For a mass casualty event, it mighy be acceptable to use on others after the real TQs are used up. Belts are better than nothing and were used at the Boston Marathon.

      • Excellent point on limited eyelets on a standard belt. In a pinch, I could cut a vertical hole until I found a better solution.

        It’s not a problem with nylon rigger belts, as they’re adjustable down to the width of the buckle. It probably wouldn’t work on a small child’s arm, but it would work for the majority of uses (adult legs and arms near the junction with the torso).

  8. You can find free basic training with your local CERT group, and from there usually go into more advanced first aid. Most even offer first aid / AED Training, as well as the 16 hour wilderness first aid training at a discount which I highly recommend since it gives you improvised first aid should for when hello is not immediately coming.

    I would recommend all of the above because of the focus on emergency preparedness and improvised skills. You will also get experience with teams, drills, FEMA protocols, and working with local first responders. The combination is very powerful in real life emergencies.

  9. I’d suggest another piece of kit as well: SAM splints.

    They’re light, foldable, and hugely versatile for myriad uses: they can be used for short splints when folded, long-limb splints, and also make a good c-spine collar or pelvic girdle splint.

    Leaky holes in your body are bad, but so are broken bones: I’ve used SAM splints several times (fortunately for me, on other people) and can vouch for them being fantastic. I carry four in my car and one in my carry IFAK.

    Also available on Amazon or from multiple other medical suppliers.

  10. As the end of the year approaches don’t forget that all of these items are Flex account eligible. You have to use it or lose it. I spend my flex account down to the last few cents at Medcom or Chinook Medical.

  11. All well and good, gentlemen. Good first aid or EMT training is never actually wasted.

    But hear me out. I spent much of my adult life training for one thing and another in medicine. I went through the first aid and CPR training long before I went to college. I spent 30 years in a varied nursing career, much of it seeing patients in their homes and often in the worst areas of So. Calif. I carried several large bags of supplies and equipment in my car, enough for a fair field hospital. Never used anything but the standard supplies and stuff in my little nurse’s bag.

    I used CPR just ONCE… on my own husband at home. He died of a massive heart attack and CPR was useless. I never once, in all those years, had any reason to use a tourniquet of any kind. Unless you are going into a war zone of some kind (now to include large venue sporting and entertainment events), you are highly unlikely to need any of it.

    But, as we say about our guns… it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

  12. Good Luck having that with you at most concerts or large outdoor events as they do not even allow a bag.

    Having something in the car may not be to useful.


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