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
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:
- Pressure dressing (the versatile “Israeli bandages” are quite popular)
- Gauze (to pack the wound)
- Tourniquet (to stop the bleeding)
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.
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.
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.
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!