Today I’m going to do a real basic post on some first aid on the range! The information I’m relaying is straight out of a Law Enforcement Tactical Casualty Care class. If you’re unfamiliar with the TCC, TECC, TCCC, courses…they’re all variations on military medicine guidelines that have been revised in recent years. Some courses are more involved than others. For more information, head over to the NAEMT website, which is loaded with information including local class locations. The basics you want instruction on are the application of tourniquets, wound packing, use of hemostatic agents, and if possible…how to deal with sucking chest wounds. Those are the basic wounds and techniques likely to occur as a result of a gunshot wound, whether deliberate or unintentional. However, this information is truly invaluable. A bad car accident can easily cause some of the same wounds, so don’t think it only applies to gunfire!
First Aid on the Range
A basic class like this is pretty useful. For liability reasons I’m not going to instruct you guys on how to do this stuff. I’m not an EMT and I’m not an instructor. However, I will show you some photos of the gear, describe what some of it is for, and hopefully show you the value of getting the training. One of the more common causes of death when talking about gunfire is exsanguination. That’s a fancy word for bleeding to death. It occurs when somebody cranks off a round and shoots their leg, arm, etc. piercing an artery. It’s no joke, you can bleed out in as little as 3 minutes. Think about that, what’s your drive time to a hospital? Could you even find another person at your range in 3 minutes in an emergency?
A tourniquet is a device that can be strapped on an arm or leg, above the bleeding site, and used to apply pressure to the artery to stop the bleeding. I remember being told early on these devices were a no go for first aid on the range. Risk of losing the limb, etc. I was truly surprised when I went through the class. You can have a tourniquet in place for upwards of four hours without negative effects. Not that you want to wait that long, but look at it another way…would you rather risk potentially losing a limb or your life? Get the training so you can apply one of these in a hurry if it’s needed, you might just save your own life, or somebody you care about!
Obviously, a tourniquet won’t work if the round hits center of mass, or in juncture areas like the groin and shoulders. Guys, if somebody at the range takes a stray round, especially rifle, to the center mass they’re in deep shit. You need to get them to a hospital, fast! That doesn’t mean you’re powerless. This is where wound packing and using hemostatic agents comes into play. Where can you buy this stuff? Head over to North American Rescue!
Don’t buy the older stuff in powder form as there’s a slim chance the granules can actually travel through the blood stream and potentially cause a clot in a place you don’t want one. Current guidelines regarding hemostatic agents are to use gauze that has the agent impregnated into it. Hemostatic agent is a fancy term for something that enhances clotting. Quik Clot is the most recognizable brand, but there are others out there. Look for gauze with hemostatic properties to aid in wound packing. It reduces the time you need to keep pressure on the wound from 10 minutes for regular gauze to around 3 for hemostatic gauze, that’s a large difference!
Your other treatable threat to a person’s well being, especially with a hit in the chest, is a sucking chest wound. If you want more information on these, google the term tension pneumothorax. The problem here, with regard to first aid on the range, is the hole in the victim’s chest. The hole allows air to be sucked into the chest cavity as your lungs expand and contract creating a bit of a vacuum. As the air pressure within the chest cavity increases, it hampers the victim’s lungs from fully inflating, which hampers breathing. That’s bad. It can collapse lungs and it’s tough to breath with collapsed lungs. There’s a way to treat it, with a special chest seal that only allows air to pass out of the chest, and not into it. Again, this is stuff you need training for proper application. You’re literally talking a life and death scenario, so make sure you know what you’re doing!
I’m sorry if you were hoping for a how-to on this stuff. This is life and death stuff, and I’m not really comfortable putting that information into an article. Less because of my ability to write about it, and more because I’m afraid somebody will read it and think that’s sufficient training. I will say that I went, at work, to a pretty basic class and it was only around 8hrs in duration. Holy cow, totally worth it. Honestly, anybody that goes shooting should go to these classes. It should be a requirement for all CCW permits. This is information that could save somebody’s life in the event of an accident at the range. Remember, this isn’t just restricted to first aid on the range!
We live in uncertain times with hordes of evil doers looking to do harm to western civilization. It may not be an accident, it may be an attack. Maybe an active shooter at a mall. It could be something as pathetically simple and tragic as a bad car accident on the way home. With a little bit of training, the right equipment, and some intestinal fortitude…you might just make the difference between somebody living to see another day and not making it home at all. Especially you guys that participate in this website and precision shooting sports! High powered rifles, competition, there’s a lot of potential there for an accident. Get some training and some gear so you can make a difference!