May is National Stop the Bleed Month. A life-threatening bleeding injury can happen anywhere. Uncontrolled bleeding is the leading cause of preventable death from trauma. Tourniquets have become the standard of care due to their ease of use, rapid application and complete stoppage of blood loss. They are an initial lifesaving intervention to control massive hemorrhage from an extremity, buying precious time until professional medical help arrives. A tourniquet is the most essential medical item to carry. Statistically, you’re more likely to need a tourniquet than a gun.

TacMed SOF Tourniquet Gen 5

Not all tourniquets are created equal. The patented SOF® Tourniquet (SOF®TT-W) by TacMed Solutions™ has a history grounded in real-world experience on and off the battlefield. It was designed by Ross Johnson, a Special Forces medic and the founder of TacMed. During his deployment in Afghanistan in 2003, Johnson recognized the critical need for an effective tourniquet to save lives.

At that time, the tourniquet in his aid bag was the same model as those issued since World War II and lacked reliability. Determined to improve hemorrhage control, Johnson created the SOF Tourniquet, which has since become a trusted choice for elite military forces and emergency responders worldwide.

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The SOF Tourniquet is Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) recommended and approved for use by the U.S. Department of Defense. It also meets the new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. It is the tourniquet of choice for the American Red Cross.

The CoTCCC, a division of the Department of Defense’s Joint Trauma System (JTS), plays a crucial role in shaping evidence-based guidelines for trauma care in tactical and combat environments. CoTCCC conducts thorough research and rigorous testing on various tourniquets. Their goal is to assess the effectiveness of these tourniquets specifically in combat situations.

Over the years, TacMed Solutions has made several enhancements to the SOFTT-W based on end-user feedback, material testing and extensive research. These improvements have resulted in the Gen 5, the latest generation, which is not only more effective but also easier to use.It is lighter and stronger than its predecessor. Design upgrades also provide smoother and faster one-handed and two-handed applications.

Tourniquet Design and Functionality

The Gen 5 operates in the same way as the previous version. You pull the tail tight 2 to 3 inches above the wound (or high and tight when the bleeding site can’t be clearly identified, the wound is hard to access or time is critical), twist the windlass until bleeding stops, secure the windlass in the Tourniquet Retention Assistance Clip (TRAC™), and then secure it with the Tri-Ring Lock™.

The SOF Tourniquet does not utilize hook-and-loop to secure the strap. Although hook-and-loop is a quick way to secure webbing, its grip could be compromised if it picks up dirt and debris or gets wet. Also, hook-and-loop tends to grab onto everything, which could become an issue when dragging a patient, causing a loss of tension. These are known, albeit rare, issues with the CAT® tourniquet.

The windlass on the Gen 5 is 5.5 inches long. It is longer than the Gen 4 but smaller in diameter. This design change eases the process of securing it into the TRAC and Tri-Ring Lock, ensuring better control during application. It is machined from high-strength aluminum and hard anodized. It features signature conical ends and a grip-friendly texture for a secure grip and consistent torque, even with bloody hands.

The tourniquet weighs in at 3.7 ounces. Folded in its package, it is 5.5 inches long and 2 inches wide. The full length is 40 inches.

SOFTT-W Enhanced Features

The Quick Compression Buckle™, previously made of metal, has been redesigned using a sturdy plastic for smoother manipulation with rounded edges. It still offers great functionality for unbuckling to get around a limb where you cannot access a trapped limb to slide the tourniquet over. The buckle is engineered to remove excess slack in a single fluid motion.

The SOF Tourniquet is designed for rapid application, even with one hand. The new TRAC virtually eliminates any risk of the windlass accidentally releasing after the tourniquet has been applied. It locks the windlass in place, which is especially helpful for one-handed applications, while you secure it with the Tri-Ring Lock.

Upgraded Webbing

The webbing has also been upgraded for strength and now includes a contrasting color stitching wedge that acts as a slack indicator. This stitching lets you know you if still need to pull the tail tighter before you begin winding the windlass. This is a critical step for proper tourniquet application and results in fewer windlass rotations required to reach occlusion. Slack is one of the key reasons people do not achieve hemostasis.

The new reinforced polyester webbing material is very abrasion-resistant and highly resistant to UV rays, chemicals and moisture. It glides through the buckle for quick, snag-free operation and minimizes loss of pressure over time after application. It also includes a tag for documenting the tourniquet application time.

The Gen 5 continues to feature a true 1.5-inch tourniquet strap, which offers a broader compression pattern compared to many conventional tourniquets or those with a 1-inch constricting band within a 1.5-inch sleeve. This expanded compression pattern leads to enhanced arterial compression and improved comfort for the patient.

Flat-Fold Technique

If you need a tourniquet, you need it quickly. While there are a variety of excellent tourniquets, the bulk of some tourniquets can pose challenges for discreet everyday on-person carry. The SOFTT-W is more compact than other CoTCCC-recommended tourniquets and can be flat-folded to reduce the overall profile of the tourniquet even more. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pull some slack underneath the windlass.
  2. Fold the windlass to the side and hold it in place.
  3. Fold the tourniquet at the base of the buckle.
  4. Adjust the length of the webbing so that the loop and the tail meet at the ends.
  5. Fold the ends just beneath the base of the tourniquet.
  6. Tightly fold everything over beneath the buckle.
  7. Secure with rubber bands.

Video tutorials available online also provide step-by-step instructions on how to flat-fold the SOF Tourniquet. The tourniquet does not come flat-folded.

Should You Get the SOF Tourniquet?

TacMed Solutions SOF Tourniquet Gen 5 is a significant upgrade from its predecessor, offering enhanced features and functionality. It establishes a new benchmark for prehospital tourniquets. The current MSRP is $34.00. It is available in black, rescue orange, tan, red cross and trainer blue. Each tourniquet ships with two UV-resistant black rubber bands. It is made in the USA. Training and practice is essential with any tourniquet. The time to learn is not during an emergency.


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Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice or to replace appropriate training in the selection, safe use and application of a tourniquet or any other medical device.