I’m proud that there are so many passionate, responsible, and capable citizens who regularly carry firearms. However, a lot of the passion, responsibility, and capability stop there. Just carrying a firearm doesn’t guarantee you or your loved ones’ safety in a dangerous or traumatic situation.
We carry guns because we don’t want to be a victim or a statistic. Yet statistics lean towards the fact that you are more likely to need medical care or be ready to render care to someone else, than you are to actually use your firearm. So why don’t more people carry medical equipment?
I know lots of people who have first aid kits or “go bags” in their vehicle. But, more often than not, that’s where they stay. In the event of a traumatic incident, we don’t get to choose how close we are to our vehicle. We might be stuck with what we have.
Why Do I Need A Tourniquet?
I think it goes without saying that blood loss is bad. We want to keep that red stuff inside us. Extremity bleeds (injuries to arms/legs) are a common type of injury in explosions, shootings, or knife attacks. Tourniquets are the fastest and most effective way to stop extremity bleeding.
Your body doesn’t respond to bleeding very well. You have 5 liters of blood in your body or 5000 cc (cubic centimeters). If you lose 500cc (.5L) you become more alert and your heart rate increases slightly. If you lose 1000cc your heart rate increases to 100+ and you become more anxious. If you lose 2000 cc, you become lethargic and confused and your heart rate increases to 120+. If you lose 2500 cc, your heart rate will be above 140, your radial pulse will be absent, and you will go unconscious (which means, if no one stops the bleeding, you will die).
The severity and location of the injury determines just how quickly this can occur, but according to experts in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, this can happen in as little as 30 seconds. So train with that time limit in mind.
What Tourniquet should I Carry?
Hopefully that helpful bit of information has got you asking this question. The short answer is that you should carry the tourniquet you will have with you all the time. Which one that is should be based on your specific needs and ability. Here are all the tourniquets that I have used and that are actually vetted as being capable of saving a life.
- CAT Tourniquet
- Pros: Simple operation, popular/widespread use, effective on legs and arms
- Cons: One time use only, most difficult to conceal/carry, cost
- Pros: popular/widespread use, effective on legs and arms, similar operation to CAT but can be folded and made easier to carry
- Cons: Cost
- SWAT – T
- Pros: inexpensive, effective on legs and arms, small package (wallet size), simple to use (even has instruction on band). Doubles as a pressure band for junctional/chest injuries
- Cons: Arguably the slowest to apply, difficult to use with one hand
- RATS – T
- Pros: inexpensive, lots of different ways to carry, very fast application (even one handed)
- Cons: not as effective on legs (more so for adults, kids = ok)
I have 3 CAT – T’s: one in my personal vehicle, one in my patrol car, and one on my plate carrier. That’s where they stay. I have one more that I use to practice and only for practice. I have 2 SWAT-T’s: one in my plate carrier IFAK, and one that I carry in a pocket on/off duty. My wife and I each have 1 RATs – T. She carries hers in her purse; I wrap mine around my waist under my belt on/off duty. I don’t have my own SOFT-T quite yet…
There are other ways to carry a tourniquet, such as an ankle carry, or in a pouch on your belt. Ideally, I’d advise you try all of them and see what works best for you. Just be sure that you know how to use it, and won’t leave it at home or in your car.
DO NOT be that person who plans to use their belt or some other improvised device as a tourniquet. They almost never work. You wouldn’t use a magazine that frequently causes malfunctions hoping to just “get by”, so don’t do the same with a tourniquet.
There are other options out there, but they don’t have the lifesaving reputations these do. The principle with all these remains the same – apply it above the bleeding (as high as you can), don’t apply over a holster or bulky pocket, and make it TIGHT! Whether you’re applying it to yourself or someone else, make it hurt, otherwise you run the risk of not stopping the bleeding quickly enough.
There are other medical items that can be easily taken with you every day, but I think a tourniquet is the most fundamental. Make an effort to learn what you can do. Take the time to be more passionate, more responsible, and more capable in regards to your safety and the safety of those you choose to help.