Safety and Training

First Aid: As Important as Your Gun

Compact trauma medical kit

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear about people I know getting their license to carry a firearm. Just as often, we hear news of a similar sort announcing another area relaxing restrictions or of a court victory enforcing our Second Amendment rights enshrined in the United States Constitution. Each of these little victories makes us each a little safer, but it also carries a reminder of the responsibilities shouldered by people who have made the decision to take charge of their own safety.

Compact trauma medical kit
It’s not just others that such a kit can help. Simply having a trauma kit, on your person or nearby, could allow a bystander Good Samaritan to render aid to you.

What I am about to say next is just my own opinion, but I feel very strongly about it, so I will be blunt: If you carry a firearm and you don’t have at least a rudimentary trauma kit that is quickly accessible, you’re wrong.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Difference Between Life or Death

If you have made the decision to carry a pistol, it only follows that you prepare to deal with the aftermath should you ever be forced to use it. Most people have heard the saying “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” The same thing can be said of emergency medical services. Without prompt action, it is possible to bleed out from a major arterial wound in only a few minutes. By taking a few basic life-saving measures, especially with the assistance of a trauma kit, bleeding can be slowed enough to allow time for advanced medical support to arrive.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to chase down and try to administer first aid to some bad guy you just shot out of self-defense. In a violent encounter it is rare to find only one side injured. Whether you are providing care to yourself or to an innocent injured bystander, your actions could make the difference between life or death while you wait for help to arrive.

It’s not just others that such a kit can help. Simply having a trauma kit, on your person or nearby, could allow a bystander Good Samaritan to render aid to you. Some commercial kits even have easy to understand instructions printed on laminated cards so that an untrained individual can adequately render aid if necessary.

Large first aid kit with contents spread out
There are a few different levels of trauma kits, also referred to as “blowout kits,” ranging from a full fledged corpsman’s kit down to the most bare bones trauma kit with only the most basic tools to stop bleeding.

Self-defense incidents aren’t the only time a trauma kit can come become a lifesaver. Accidental (and negligent) discharges at the gun range can be just as deadly. Other more common accidents happen all the time, both on the highways, at work, and at home. A person doesn’t have to be suffering from a gunshot wound to require life-saving measures. Trauma can come in the form of major lacerations from an auto accident or a slip with a knife while preparing a meal. Whatever the cause of the trauma, it’s important to be prepared to respond quickly and assertively.

My point in all of this is that you have already made the decision to be prepared by becoming licensed to carry a firearm. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. You should also be prepared for the aftermath of the much more common household or auto accidents that turns deadly.

Not All Kits Are Created Equal

There are a few different levels of trauma kits, also referred to as “blowout kits,” ranging from a full-fledged corpsman’s kit down to the most bare-bones trauma kit with only the most basic tools to stop bleeding. The larger and more advanced kits are great for keeping at home, at the range, or in your vehicle. The smaller kits are easily concealed in a purse, briefcase, or even a cargo pocket.

Navy soldiers treating a gun shot wound
Tools, whether a firearm or a basic life-saving kit, are only as good as the person wielding them. You should pursue training on the use of these kits.

Don’t discount the small compact kits. Having a basic kit that fits in your cargo pocket is better than a fully fleshed-out kit that you tend to leave in the house or vehicle. An example of this would be the IPOK (Individual Patrol Officer Kit) which fits conveniently and compactly into a plastic pouch. The components of a slightly better, but still very basic kit such as our IFAK (individual first aid kit) usually consist of the following—nitrile gloves, gauze and bandages, a few yards of duct tape, and a blood stopper such as QuickClot or some other brand. The Adventure Medical trauma pack is a good step up from the IFAK with the addition of a tourniquet. More advanced kits than this, such as the EMI Deluxe Gunshot Kit may also have shears, a dedicated chest seal and a tourniquet of some sort.

Of course, you might want a much more advanced kit like the STOMP mobile hospital that has virtually everything you could need. It’s perfect for your house or for a remote gun range where medical assistance may be some time in coming. The point here is that it’s worth it to diversify. Have a good full-sized kit for the home and range, a moderately-sized kit for your vehicle and a smaller and easily portable pocket-sized kit that you can carry around on a daily basis.

Training and Instruction

Needless to say, it would be foolish to simply purchase a trauma kit and just assume that you are good to go. By the same token, you wouldn’t buy a pistol and get your license to carry without having had at least some very basic instruction. Tools, whether a firearm or a basic life-saving kit, are only as good as the person wielding them. You should pursue training on the use of these kits.

IPOK first aid kit in black bag
Having a basic kit that fits in your cargo pocket is better than a fully fleshed out kit that you tend to leave in the house or in a vehicle.

Additional training should be sought out every few years after that, not just to keep your skills sharp, but because medical doctrines change often with advancing technology and deeper understanding of the human body. The techniques and skills you learned years ago may no longer be considered “best practice” for basic life saving or first aid. The medical use of a tourniquet has gone from a lifesaver, to anathema as a “guaranteed amputation,” only to eventually find favor again as one of the most effective ways to prevent rapid blood loss in an extremity and thus preserve life. Even basic CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) has gone through numerous evolutions in just the past few decades.

Preparedness isn’t necessarily stockpiling food, owning a bunch of ammunition, carrying a licensed pistol, or even just having a first aid kit. It’s the combination of training, skills development, tools and gear, and mindset. If you’re of the mind that a firearm is something you should responsibly carry as a method of being prepared, a trauma pack should be right next to it on your list.

What do you keep in your blow out kit? Tell us in the comment section.

For more on treating gun shot wounds, read these following posts:

 

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. As a SWAT medic with a large PD and smaller SO, I can attest to needing both the equipment and training. I’ve been a paramedic for over 20 years and have seen first hand how quickly the life can seep out of a person. Equipment – a basic IFAK is generally ample for individual carry, but make sure you have a good tourniquet (I prefer the CAT), a good hemostatic agent (I like Celox), and an occlusive dressing (HALO is my choice). With these 3 things, in addition to typically included trauma gauzes, you should be able to treat any GSW or stab wound. Just keep in mind these tools won’t give you God-like powers – some wounds are going to be fatal no matter what you do or how quickly you treat them. As for BOB or range kit, the addition of common OTC medications (allergy relief, NSAIDS, etc) triple antibiotic ointment, and multiple sized adhesive bandages will help make what could be the end of an enjoyable outing a mere bump in the road you can easily move past. Training for the non-Public Safety person may be a bit harder to come by. Specialized courses like PHTLS or TCCC aren’t usually open to the general public, but there are other options. Online videos, outdoor activity groups, and other available resources can be a good alternative, but remember to vet all techniques and procedures as best you can – you may not want to risk your life or the life of another based on what you learned from “Ranger Rusty” on his YouTube channel… Most all states have Good Samaritan laws that shield you from liability as long as you don’t do something crazy or wildly unorthodox, but check your local laws. Most of all, be safe. Try to develop habits and routines that prevent injury from occurring. But if all else fails, be prepared!

  2. I keep the following packed in one of the cargo pockets on my pants:
    1. Israeli Combat Bandage (6″)
    2. Three pairs of blue nitrile gloves
    3. CAT tourniquet
    4. A 15g pouch of Celox blood-clotting granules for a large wound.
    5. Ten individually sealed 1×1″ gauze pads impregnated with clotting agent (to be used for smaller wounds)

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