Do You Have First-Aid Gear in Your Range Bag?

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Let’s do a quick inventory of the range bag. Here is a sample checklist that I think most everyone would agree with:

  • Gun
  • Ammo
  • Hearing protection
  • Eye protection
  • Spare magazine
  • Cleaning gear
  • Stapler/staples
  • Targets
  • Tool kit

Yep, you’ve got it all. Or do you? No, says I! You do not! Where are your first-aid supplies?

Supplies for the Gun Range

Do you have first-aid supplies in your range bag? Is it something you have thought about? Do you carry a basic trauma kit with you to the shooting range? If I keep asking this question in different forms, will it magically make a trauma kit appear in your range bag? I think not. But maybe, just maybe, the discussion here will prompt you to take action and load some basic first-aid and trauma supplies into that range bag.

The first question is a simple one: What do you think you need?

Let the debate begin. Different folks with different levels of preparedness will throw out different ideas of what it means to be “ready” for a negligent discharge with injury at the shooting range. I’m going to suggest you keep in your range bag the bare minimum (which means I get to make another checklist):

  • Tourniquet
  • Compress Dressing
  • Duct tape

Choosing Specific First-Aid Items

I’m thinking this will cover all the basic needs should someone get shot while on the range. The tourniquet is for arterial bleeding. The compress dressing is for wounds that don’t include arterial damage. The duct tape can be used as a temporary chest seal for a sucking chest wound. Back in my Navy days (who remembers the GITMO Five?), we were taught to treat a sucking chest wound by cleaning away as much blood as we could, covering the hole with a military ID card and taping that in place with duct tape. This was, of course, a temporary, stopgap fix, but the U.S. government had complete faith in the system.

As far as tourniquets go, you should get one that you can apply to yourself if the need arises. There are a couple of good tourniquets on the market that require you to stretch the latex band to get the proper amount of pressure. These are fine if you are applying them to someone else, but a good windlass-style tourniquet will allow you to get the device in place without help. Plan ahead and open your tourniquet as wide as possible, then fold it up and use small rubber bands to keep it in place. Opening your tourniquet wide before you need it will allow you to get it over your thigh with less trouble while you are in excruciating pain and losing blood quickly.

On the topic of compress dressings, I have found that surplus military dressings, even the foreign ones, are a great value, are built very well and seem to last a lifetime in storage. Pro tip: Buy a couple extra and open one so you can see what it looks like, how it is packed and how you might use it BEFORE you need it. Call it training and remember that you must train with your first-aid gear just like you must train with your defensive gear.

Life or Death at the Gun Range

Having even the basic trauma treatment material on hand can mean the difference between life and death if something goes wrong on the range. And you don’t need a huge kit for multiple casualties. Think about it. Typically only one person on the range will get shot on any given day. After that shooting, I’m pretty sure all action at the gun range will stop until well after the ambulance and police have left the scene.

If something goes wrong, provide immediate first aid, stabilize the patient to the best of your ability and call 911 as quickly as possible.

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