Safety and Training

Plan to Survive a Gunshot Wound with These Four Practical Steps

blowout first aid kit

Whether you’re an avid participant in USPSA, IDPA, 3-Gun competition, hunter or simply a law-abiding citizen, you probably love putting your skills to the test with realistic training scenarios and situations. At the end of the day, shooting matches, hunting and tactical training involve the practiced use of potentially deadly firearms. Accidents can (and sometimes do) happen, and a careless moment can easily turn a fun day at the range or scouting in the field into a serious situation.

Even though we would all hope that the occasion to use one never arises, the fact remains that owning a first aid kit tailored to handling gunshot wounds (commonly known as a “blowout kit”) and having an effective contingency plan could mean the difference between life and death.

However, there’s more to medical safety on the range than just having a first aid kit stuffed somewhere in your gear. The following four basic guidelines can assist you or your shooting club’s safety committee in assembling an effective, consistent plan for handling life-threatening emergencies.

Get Some Blowout Kits

blowout first aid kit
A blowout kit contains the essential first aid supplies to treat moderate to severe puncture and hemorrhage wounds.

A blowout kit contains the essential first aid supplies to treat moderate to severe puncture and hemorrhage wounds in one easy-to-stow package. At a bare minimum, your blowout kits should include:

A well-equipped kit will normally contain other ancillary items, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article, as is the usage of such. The primary takeaway from this point is that a properly assembled blowout kit doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Your main objective, in the case of a gunshot wound, is brutally simple: Stop the bleeding and plug the hole until paramedics can arrive.

Consider this, a life -preserving kit can cost less than a box of ammunition, and uses about the same amount of space. There’s no reason not to be prepared to save your own life or the life of those around you should the worst happen. And there’s no real excuse for not having two, three or more kits present at your gun club’s action shooting matches.

It’s not enough to just own a blowout kit or tourniquet, though. You’ve got to have the know-how to use these tools, which leads directly into our next point.

Seek Training

If your gun club doesn’t have any staff members who are trained in first aid for gunshot wounds, you’re potentially courting disaster. This type of training can be relatively inexpensive and save a life if the need arises. As previously stated, while the principals involved are not complex, proper instruction can go a long way toward increasing confidence under stress.

Getting two or three regulars at your gun club certified isn’t a bad idea, and match directors in particular need to know their way around an Israeli bandage. Taking the latest tactical training class is probably more glamorous than sitting through a lecture about first aid, but the latter is probably much more applicable to your daily life. Who knows when a bad car accident or other emergency medical disaster will strike?

Most training schools offer a reasonably priced practical “combat medicine” courses that complement the shooting curriculum. Chances are good there’s one in your area! Consider reaching out to the instructor and asking if he or she is interested in hosting a class at your gun club for the benefit of any interested members.

Tourniquet and field dressing
At bare minimum, your blowout kit should have a pressure dressing, gauze and a tourniquet.

Have a Plan

Every shooting club and range is different. If you’re in a position to offer suggestions, get together with your range officers, club manager and the board of directors to address the unique medical emergency needs of your shooting club.

If you don’t already, you should definitely host a safety briefing at the beginning of each match or training event. During this period, designate specific volunteers to perform duties such as shutting down all shooting ranges (for some reason, medical helicopters aren’t too keen about landing near outdoor ranges with trap and skeet shooters letting loose) and calling 911.

Another shooter, preferably one with medical experience, should be assigned to stop the bleeding and perform emergency medical procedures until the professionals arrive. Again, every gun club is different. When in doubt, consult a professional.

Practice, and Keep Your Gear Fresh

Do you stow your blowout kit in the same place in your gear at all times? Do you carry a tourniquet on your person (you should), and are you practiced in applying it with either hand, or with one hand? If the new shooter in the range stall next to you inadvertently launches a round into your leg, do you want to bank on having time to pause and thoughtfully consider which bag or toolbox your blowout kit is in? Definitely not.

Being prepared isn’t just a matter of getting your concealed handgun license, purchasing a gun and then going about your business. It’s safe to say that if you lawfully carry a gun, you should also carry a tourniquet and be trained in its use. Preparedness is a complete package, not just the “fun” parts.

Packing a full blowout kit with your everyday-carry gear is likely not going to be convenient. However, when worst-case scenario happens during the defensive use of your firearm, you’ll never regret having that tourniquet tucked into your back pocket.

Don’t forget to stay up-to-date on practical gear innovations in the medical world, and make sure any expiration dates on all of your emergency supplies are intact.

Conclusion

Israeli bandage
The versatile “Israeli bandages” are quite popular.

Naturally, the above list is by no means comprehensive. Emergency plans differ greatly based on your given application and club’s needs. An expansive tactical training facility will obviously have different requirements than an indoor mom and pop-style shooting range.  And a long-range hunter who appreciates solitude in the wilderness is going to have a different emergency plan than the director of a regional USPSA or IDPA match.

There’s no excuse for not owning the gear needed to save your life in case the worst happens. Be honest with your equipment needs, seek proper training from accredited sources, have an up-to-date strategy and stay safe!

Do you have a blowout kit in your range bag? What do you keep in it?

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 decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (35)

  1. Excellent comment on sucking chest wounds. Tegaderm or generic equiv is great to have for big booboos, and in the old days, the cellophane off a cigarette pkg worked for sucking wounds. HOWEVER, you need to valve it. Either by NOT taping down 1 edge so it has a “flap” valve (you WANT air inside to come out, but STOP air from being sucked in), or if ya wanna spend a few more bucks, then put a Bolin Chest Seal in your kit.

  2. Tampons and feminine hygiene pads have become a staple in many G.I. personal first aid kits. By design, these materials are DESIGNED to lessen, decrease or stop the flow of blood products. They are relatively inexpensive and readily available at any big box or local convenience store, and do not take up much room either. Many a male G.I. has been saved on the battlefield by this method. Okay, let er’ rip with the jokes and goofy comments…if you’ve been there yourself, you know this info is true.

    1. Good comments and information above.
      Buy the smallest diameter tampon you (or your significant female partner) can find. Don’t worry they will expand to fill the hole.
      We would not be without them in our range FA bag.
      Also, have a medical transport plan.
      Our range is about 18 miles from nearest ER so plan to use a student’s vehicle to rendezvous with ground or medical helicopter.
      Develop your plan now!!

      Tom and the Training Team

  3. Sucking chest wounds are not going to stop with gauze and you can’t use a tourniquet. How about using a tegaderm (sp) patch to go over the hole. It’s the same used to cover an iv site. Cheap, easy to use and the person can “breathe”. And why not buy some quickclot? Using those two will greatly increase the ability to successfully treat a GSW to the chest. Just my opinion.

    1. Yes, Tegaderm does an OUTSTANDING JOB sealing a wound if you can get your hands on some. Plus, you can custom size the big pieces to the size of the wound. Just make sure the gross matter is removed (ie dirt, leaves, etc.) is washed out as best as possible( rinse with a bottle of water) wipe excess water away from site, and stick into place. Also, their needs to be a 2-3″ barrier area around to wound that will give the Tegaderm enough area to stick and not shift. As for sucking chest wounds, surgical tubing would most likely be needed to “puncture” the cavity where blood/ chest fluid tends to get trapped afterwards. And only 3 of the 4 sides should be “sealed” so that any other drainage can escape and not be trapped behind the Tegaderm. The 1 “open” side should face outward(ie the side closest to an arm from the wound) this is so that if you have to put said injured person in a recovery position (ie Fetal position with the injured side facing down. Abdomenal is lay on back with knees up with the upper half of the body propped up not flat to take pressure off the Abdomen)to go for help, the fluid can escape down and away from the body and not run onto other parts of the chest obsuring the site of the injury or worse, into the other lung where further distress or infection would likely happen. ????
      Some of this equipment requires some know-how. I think that not only should individuals have a variation of materials in their kit…they should also carry with them the knowledge for proper usage of the materials so that they do not cause further damage to the injured person.????

    2. Tegaderm patch works wonders on most large and nasty open bleeding wounds. Used it myself too many times to count. You can pick it up at most pharmacies or medical supply stores for a reasonable price. Good advice!

  4. Rare cases, perhaps, but locally, a mountain climber had to cut off his own arm in order to survive an accident on the mountain. It’s not just for bullets. The slip of an axe or machete, or hunting knife. At the beach my stepson, whittling on a piece of driftwood with his pocket knife, slipped and cut his thumb to the bone. Had to drive all the way to the next town for medical. As a police officer, we had such things in our patrol vehicles and they rarely had cause to be used. Yet within miles as I stated my vacation, I came upon a major accident which had just happened. My first aid supplies, including the forceps out of my field surgical kit were put to use, as was my fire extinguisher, blankets, and road reflectors. The vehicle which had already stopped had nothing but a CB radio and we were out of reception range. You just never know. How great is the price if a life is saved? Especially if that life is someone you love?

  5. Not something every shooter should need, but if you are a hunter, Dick Chaney IS still on the loose!
    The items others have listed, I’d ADD (the equivalents of these):

    1) North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet Tactical Black 30-0001 – about $30 here on CTD & easier to use w/ 1 hand.

    2) Adventure Medical QuikClot Sport 25G Clotting Sponge 5020-0019
    (here on CTD) – it’ll help stop bad bleeding UNDER the compression dressing.

    3) Syringe, needle & Lidocaine – for those who can get it, know how to use it & aren’t allergic to it.

    4) Oasis Disposable Sterile Skin Stapler W/enhanced Control, 35w Preloaded Staples on AMAZON by Oasis $11.71 — for when you are WAAAAAY out & it’ll be a while till you can get back to an ambulance. The wound will probably get infected, but it might hold you together so you can walk out., or survive a rough carry out.

    5) Motrin or Tylenol or something for pain.

    & Watch “No Country for Old Men” for lessons 🙂

  6. Agreed on choice of “Bare Basics”.
    Something that I ALWAYS tell people to add to their kit:
    1. A hand full of Tampons
    2. Several Maxipads
    3. A couple of ziplock bags
    4. A good size roll of Medical Tape
    5. A couple pairs of Nitriles
    6. Hand San for “Post Procedure Clean-up”
    This is in addition to the basics mentioned. With these items and a bit of teeth gritting, you can plug an enterance / exit wound(s), pressure dress it, and potentially save you or someone elses life. I recommend these items also because they are BASIC items that you can literally buy at ANY Grocery-Convenience-Bulk Buy Warehouse Store/ Shopette/ PX, they hardly cost anything, and properly sealed.. Will last a pretty long time unopened. That’s my two cents on the subject.
    Remember, if it sounds stupid but works…. IT AIN’T STUPID.

    Sound off with your Alibi’s and/ or Caveats!

    1. *CAVEAT 1*
      Their is also an item that NO ONE should ever NOT have on hand when out romping around the “Back 40″….SUPER GLUE. If you happen to get a clean cut laceration to the skin and are able to place the skin back over the opening…do so, give it a pat with an alcohol swab/ Hand San (let dry) and then VERY DELICATELY apply a drop of super glue to one side of the cut. Using gravity and the glue applicator tip, tap along the wound to cover it in glue. Give it about a minute or so and then use cottonball (pocket lint as a last resort) to dab the glue slightly and allow some of the cotton to stick to it. This creates a “clot” that reenforces the glue. Once it is DRY, put a bandage or band-aid over it and get to a Doctor as this is a TEMPORARY solution to a Laceration.

  7. Yoy say you don’t need one? May the one who will need is you? So you have life insurance may be you will never need t either? So you spend a few bucks on a kit. Never have a need to use it what did you lose? You probably spilled that much at the bar last weekend?
    Hey, if you never use you can leave it to someone who just might need it.

  8. I’ve decided to “Wear” my STOMP Medical Kit, stead of having a separate STOMP Medical Kit/Bag. ScotteVest Q.U.E.S.T. Vest has 42-pockets. Plenty of space for storage. My Wheelchair is rated for 265-pounds, and I weigh close to 240. That gives me ~25-pounds to Work With, probably closer to 20-pounds. With a 5-pound margin of error…

    1. I would like to see some pics or more info of how you do this. I’d like to carry one on my chair instead of the bulky Man purse that I use now.

  9. Wow Gordon that’s impressive! Thank you so much for your service and thanks to all of you who run or have run toward the sound of gunfire in the service of this great nation! RECONDO school grad holy cow that’s awesome!

  10. Consider also: Dermabound Advanced, its a Medical-Grade Super Glue that comes in a box containing 12 0.7ml Pen Applicators. Prices Vary for $25.00 to $600.00 (no joke). Made by Ethicon, Inc., and can be purchased at Medex Supply . com. For $24.99 without a Doctor’s Prescription…

  11. I carry a Trauma Pak by Adventure Medical Kits with clotting agent, etc. ALSO carry nitrile gloves, unscented tampons. silver ointment and adhesive bandages. I always wear a belt, so I always have a tourniquet with me but will seek out some rubber tubing to avoid scaring the natives when a guy in his 60’s starts “sagging”. :-). I hadn’t considered super glue, even though I’ve used it in the past. Will add it tonight along with a pair of sharp scissors.

    All of this stuff lives in my range box and is the first thing you see when you flip it open … after all, I might not be the doctor — I might be the patient. The box is marked with a white tape cross.

    I took CPR classes about a year ago, but don’t know where to find a “ditch medicine” class. Any suggestions more specific than the ones in the article would be gratefully received.

    1. Come to think of it, my only CPR mask is in my bug-out bag. I need to get another one for my range bag. The local community college seems to be the best source for hem around here. There are enough of us old farts at the range that a gunshot wound probably isn’t even the most likely lethal trauma to prep for.

    2. @ Bill.

      On a SMALL wound, I would consider Super Glue. But, NOT on a Large Wound. Common Super Guy, contains “Cyanocryltate” and Medical-Grade Super Glue, also contains Butyl, Isobutyl and Octyl to counter the “Septic Shock” associated with Common Super Glue. Apply too much Common Super Glue, and you can actually Kill the Patient…

    3. I am a disabled vet of the Vietnam War. I carry a full STOMP medical bag with me at all times. It will cost you about $450.00 , and it comes with everything you need when answering a trauma accident.

      2 years after I finally came home from my 3 tours in Vietnam, where I lead a 5 man Airborne, Ranger, Recondo, Commando LRRP Team up in I corps at Camp Eagle — very near Hue Phu Bi. On my 3rd tour leading my team, I was shot by an Ak-47 in my right shoulder, and had the shrapnel from an enemy grenade blow off my left knee — both joints needed to be replaced. I had also broken my Lumbar spine which continues to crumble, I had a nerve stimulator implanted in my Lumbar Spine, now it and 2 strong pain meds and I am an
      Able to walk for short distances with the assist of my cane. I have a body full of shrapnel. Most recently because my team was sprayed with Agent Orange, I had to have a quadruple bypass ( agent Orange is the number one cause in creating cardiac artery stenosis ),

      I after finally came home went to Nursing School ,( on the advice of other spec-op soldiers like I had been), I went to Nursing School because as they had said I WOULD DAMN WELL NEED ONE EVENTUALLY. They were right. So now after several surgeries in attempts to put me back together, I have yet one more ,6 hour surgery to go then, I hope it will be my last one.
      I was 19 went over to Vietnam came home after my 3 tours only to be spit upon and have rocks thrown at us.
      Anyway I carry the S.T.O.M.P. medical back pack just in case I come upon an accident scene and hopefully I can help some one.

    4. I did forget to say that at the present time I am 67 years old, and because of the way I lead my team. I was able to bring my entire team home to America. We still talk to each other and help each other whenever we can.
      THEY ARE MY FAMILY !!!

    5. @ Gordon Smith.

      Question, How much does “color” play into your purchasing decision. A “OD” Blackhawk STOMP Medical Bag is available at “Adorama” Camera for $217.38 USD and a “Black” Blackhawk STOMP Medical Bag at Sails Marine for $290.40 USD…

  12. I pretty always have a pressure dressing in my kits . . car, range, home.

    If you leave your house for any reason, you should have one. Period. Whether you’re carrying or not.

  13. Good lesson, but 50 years to late. In 1966 was in Vietnam, working security for a work detail. Got shot in the leg by a sniper. Stupid me, no first aid kit on my truck, work detail, none either. Did have black electrical tape and G.I. toilet paper. Wadded up tp and wrapped it with electrical tape. Drove 30 miles to a medical unit, to get patched up.
    Won’t go out with a gun or otherwise, without first aid kit. Blowout kit seems like a very good idea, with clotting agent in it sounds even better.

    1. Secundius — 1) LIKE your suggestion re: the Hemostatic Shaving cream — for those of us who remember shaving w/ a blade 🙂 Good for cleaning the wound, cleaning your hands, & helping to stop bleeding.
      2) BUT what the heck do you mean by “GLUE TRAYS”? Surely you are not speaking of mouse/roach trap types of trays? They’d undoubtedly clamp things together well, but would wreak havoc getting ’em off in the ER. Do you mean packaged kits that have Dermabond in them? If not, how about posting a link or other reference, please.

  14. I was fortunate to grow up in a medical family and learned basic First Aid by treating my own minor injuries. That said, my dad the doctor virtually ran away from medical emergencies. Why? Because EMTs are better at ditch medicine than any doctor. And P.Js and Navy Corpsman are the best ditch doctors on the planet. Using tournaquets and stabilizing a gun shot or stabbing victim do not come naturally or by osmosis in a medical family. If one wants to practice emergency First Aid, he or she should learn from a certified EMT, Navy Corpsman or Pararescueman or at a minimum, a certified First Aid instructor with some field experience because their ain’t no doctor in an emergency like a ditch doctor!

    1. I agree I am a retired military operating room nurse but when I was a volunteer fireman on a dept that also ran an ambulance service, the people who ran the ambulance always wanted me to critique each of there runs, even before I went to the EMT training. Training and practice are the most important thing in any survival situation.

  15. Great idea and advice. I would add a couple of blood clotting assistance
    products and have at least 2 of the Israeli type bandages.

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