Range First Aid: DIY Trauma Kit
Many shooting-related injuries just need a “boo-boo kit”: antiseptic wipes or an antibiotic cream, a handful of Band-Aids, and some medical tape. As shooters, we are more likely to see the kind of medical mishaps covered by a basic first aid class than a major trauma like a gunshot wound or even a severe cut or fall.
We’ve already talked a bit about how to manage range emergencies, but what about that time between the injury and an ambulance arriving?
The consequences of major trauma and the need for immediate treatment while waiting for more well-equipped response make it important to shooters to learn first-line treatment and have appropriate supplies with them at all times. Nothing substitutes for training, and that should be your first priority. However, it’s still a good idea to have the right tools with you even if you haven’t made it to a trauma first aid class yet.
From personal experience, I know it can be confusing and expensive to figure out what kind of kit to buy. There are some great pre-made kits out there like the ones available from Imminent Threat Solutions, but I was hoping for something small and cheap enough to have no excuses to own and carry yet still be effective. I don’t have any professional affiliation with any company I mention here except for PHLster, a long-time sponsor. Mistakes here are my own, not those of the experts I consulted with.
Here’s what I came up with the help of Morgan Atwood, principal at BFE Labs and others:
- Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier
- SOFTT-W tourniquet
- H&H Medical flat compressed gauze
- Nitrile gloves in a small plastic bag
- Duct tape
Both the SOFTT-W and CAT tourniquets come highly recommended, and I went with the SOFT-T because it folds up slightly flatter. With this kit, every bit of space is at a premium. I pair it with a pressure dressing for additional options.
Those of you who have some background in trauma medicine might wonder why I haven’t included any hemostatic gauzes, such as Quikclot. While they can be very effective and can be found in very small packages, they are also expensive and less costly products such as plain gauze can be nearly as good for immediate response. My kit uses gauze so that you can’t use money as an excuse not to build this kit.
Gloves are an essential part of any first aid kit to prevent possible contact with other peoples’ bodily fluids. In fact, paramedic Jon Blatman believes gloves are so necessary that you should always have a pair with you, since your hands can do a lot even if you don’t have any other gear. A big box of gloves costs less than $10-$20 and can be used for everything from first aid to keeping your hands safe from cleaning solvents. Nitrile is better than latex in case of allergies. Here, they’re in a plastic bag to help protect them and so that the bag can be improvised into an occlusive bandage. That’s one of the many reasons flat-wrapped duct tape is included in the kit.
For a more complete, but somewhat larger and more expensive kit, former paramedic Marc Seltzer of Officer Store and Armed Dynamics suggests attaching the Flatpack to a simple AR magazine carrier such as this one from Voodoo Tactical or a small pouch like this Condor Utility Pouch, and adding an H&H Mini Compression Dressing, a mini chest seal, and more plain or hemostatic gauze. I added a PerSys Medical 4” WoundStop dressing and a North American Rescue (Flat) Emergency Trauma Dressing to mine, as a midway point between plain and hemostatic gauze.
Components for my kit can be found at Rescue Essentials, or at Officer Store, under the Medical Supplies section. The Flatpack itself is available by itself or in combo packs with tourniquets from PHLster dealers.
So there you go – get some training, buy or put together a trauma kit, and be safe on the range!
I picked up a small First Aid field kit from Medal of America for <$40. I supplemented it with 2×2's, 4×4's (3 ea) a tourniquet and 3 pair of blue surgical gloves along with Triple Antibiotic ointment, a tiny tube of Hydrogen peroxide (used for teeth whitening), paper tape and self stick gauze roll. Yes it all fits is light and easy to store anywhere you want.
Extreme trauma immediate treatment for injuries like gunshot wounds, compound fractures and puncture/stab wounds all centers on three basic principles; In this order,
1. Stop the bleeding. If the ruptured blood vessel is a large one like the abdominal aorta, and if this vessel was lacerated in half, then massive hemorrhage ensues and death comes in literally 20-25 seconds. If the artery is smaller in size, and no first aid was received by the victim, then death will come in 2-3 minutes. Even wounds to a vein can cause someone to bleed out an around 5 minutes. All the CPR is the world will do no good if the victim bleeds to death, so stop the bleeding.
2. Get the heart beating. Oxygen does no good if the blood isn’t circulating to move to where it’s needed. So, if in doubt, restore the heartbeat.
3. Breathing. Get the lungs working, or do their work for them.
And be sure to treat for shock. Shock causes massive dilation of the blood vessels to creates low blood pressure. This is why you elevate their legs and loosen the clothes; you want to get the blood moving again.
The most important items in your trauma kit are going to be something to assist in stopping the bleeding, and a CPR mask to protect you and help you give CPR. Trust me, you do not want a victim vomiting into your mouth while you give CPR.