First Aid: When a Gun Isn’t the Answer to the Problem

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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. I have the same items in the glove compartments of our 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 the Ricci, Rescue Essential’s AMS, and the Frog.Pro SFD-Responder), 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. I took some basic training with Tactical Fitness Austin. It was immensely educational, teaching not only the medical side, but also the evac side.

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 some basic training and even sparse equipment, anyone can help save lives.

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    • I work near LAPG. They have some good belt kits. I was looking at one last week, and think I’ll go ahead and get one now. I attended an advance handgun course last month, and three of the students had them.

  1. I really have to get around to ordering (and hopefully carrying in my car at the very least) some basic medical emergency supplies.

    Thank you for the tips and suggestions Jeremy.

    • Good article! I sometimes watch Sensible Prepper on Youtube. A SootchOO channel. An enormous catalog of medical preps & pretty much everything you need to know. Endless good advice & resources…

    • Another course which is useful is PHTLS, which is more general and while it includes GSW’s, it isn’t exclusive to “tactical” field trauma.

  2. There are many places that offer basic first aid training, some are free. Take courses, and not just once. Make it part of your yearly training program.

    I had taken the combat lifesaver course several times in my military career and in my job mow I take online and in person first aid training to stay updated.

    Learn all you can.

  3. I am trained on CAT styledue to ease of one handed application. Nothing against other styles, but if I have an bad wound on one arm I can more easily apply the CAT tourniquet on myself. While we have used th.for years at work I only have one that I carry on my motorcycle due to riding remote roads alone. I need to work some overtime and get a few more!

  4. You can do a lot with 20 feet of 1″ webbing and some training. Carrying single-function devices means you’re either carrying a lot of stuff, or you’re leaving something behind. Learn how to improvise, then carry some basic stuff that can do double/triple/etc duty.

    For example: You can make a TQ out of 1″ webbing, some wooden or metal rod (say, a small flashlight, which you should also be carrying), and some tape to hold the rod once the bleed has stopped. Or you could use the webbing to drag someone. Or you can use webbing (or tape) with some newspapers or carpet to make a splint.

    You can carry a roll of medical tape, a roll of 1″ webbing and some dressings in a pretty small package. You can make a chest seal out of a disposable plastic wrapper and some tape, leaving a corner of the plastic wrap open and not taped down.

    Don’t fall into the mindset that “unless you have some gadget, you’re out of options” in a medical situation.

    • “You can make a PRETEND USELESS POS PHONEY TQ out of ______” Just carry a piece of bailing twine or 550 cord if that is you level of preparation.

      Recon is history. CAT is 1/2 ass plastic POS. RAT is laughable. Get a SOFTT-W

      Then attend a Stop the Bleed.

      • I carry a TQ (with aluminum windlass) in my bunkers. I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve needed a pre-made TQ in all the medical calls I’ve responded to. I can’t recall how many times I’ve used the webbing, tape, roller gauze, 4×4’s and SAM splints I carry in my bunker pockets.

        As I’ve said above, PHTLS covers a lot more than just GSW’s or bleeding trauma.

  5. The recon medical stuff is a great deal.

    My wife bought me a couple more of their kits with shears, tournequit, compression bandage, and now chest seals.

    Someone above noted they were now out of stock, but i do recommend them when they restock.

    Great deal for 25 bucks.

  6. Trained long ago as an SF field medic. Worked for several years as an EMT/Paramedic.
    Carry a full medics kit in each vehicle and a small kit on the belt. Have a pretty comprehensive med kit in the house.
    Also have had some experience with just plain meatball medics type of improvising and adapting what is on hand if no med kit or first aid supplies are available.
    If nothing else, get a basic first aid course from the red cross and buy a small kit from an outfit like MY MEDIC, or DARK ANGEL. The life saved could be your own, or someone dear too you.

  7. avatar Geoff "A day without an obsessed, apparently brain-damaged and mentally-ill demented troll (who deserves to live in New Jersey) is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

    “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).”

    A K9 bleeding out and in shock sounds like a good way to get a mauling, if the pupper senses you are the one causing it more pain… 🙁

  8. Dang, you guys finally did it. I have been around firearms for more than 40 years, spent 20 years in air traffic control featuring enough acronyms to crash airplanes, and am currently wrapping up a medical degree in pharmacy, and I have NO idea how to “unass the AO” Maybe we need an article on that. I am guessing it is similar to an X-assectomy.

  9. I spent the better part of 40 years as a Paramedic, then a Trauma RN, so this is old hat stuff to me. I keep RATS, CATS, SOFT Ts in my vehicle jump bag, and have for decades. So I agree that if you carry, you need at minimum a blowout kit and BLS Training.
    The life you save may very well be your own.

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