The first thing new shooters learn are some form of Colonel Jeff Coopers rules of firearms safety:
RULE I: All guns are always loaded
RULE II: Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy
RULE III: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
RULE IV: Be sure of your target
Shooters have these rules drilled into our heads and most have them memorized. These rules are given to us to keep ourselves and others safe on the range and around firearms in general.
But do we know what to do if these rules are broken and someone ends up a victim to a gunshot wound? Do you wait for EMS to show up or is there something you can do to aid the victim while EMS is on the way? I recently took a course, GSW (gun shot wound) Trauma and Management, from my friend Franklin over at On Point Safety and Defense here in Pinellas County Florida on this very subject.
As someone who is on the range regularly, I felt it was important to have an understanding of basic first aid for a potential range accident. After all, we spend hundred's of hours training for the small chance of a defensive gun use training - shouldn't we also put in at least a few hours and a few dollars for safety?
The 3 leading causes of penetrating trauma related to gunshot wound (GSW) death are Hemorrhaging (bleeding), Pneumothorax (sucking chest wound) and Airway Obstruction. The #1 cause of fatal gunshot wounds is arterial bleeding, which is when an artery is hit causing rapid uncontrollable bleeding. In the next few paragraphs we will be discussing what do to in these situations and how to treat and hopefully prevent these different causes of injury or death caused by GSWs.
Start by remaining calm and send someone to call 911. If you panic, this could cause the victim to panic more than they may already be which could lead to incrased difficulty with assessing the victim and managing the scene. Locate the gunshot wound by completing a rapid initial exam, some signs may be obvious, but others may need a focused exam. Entry wounds will appear round and circular just as the diameter of the projectile. There might also be a black or pink abrasion around the outside wound.
You will need to verify if there is an exit wound through your assessment. This is if bullet traveled through the body and exited. The exit wound will be larger than the entrance wound, as the bullet tends to tear the skin as it exits. If there is no exit wound found the projectile may still be inside the victim. Grab your gunshot wound and trauma kit (you do have one, right?) and begin treatment to prevent further bleeding. This can be done by utilizing a medical dressing and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Once the dressing and the pressure are applied do not stop until EMS arrives. Also do not take the dressing off. This can cause the wound to reopen and start the bleeding all over again. If the victim is shot in their extremities, grab your tourniquet. A tourniquet is placed ABOVE the wound and if properly applied and will restrict blood flow to the injured extremity.
The second leading cause is a pneumothorax, commonly called a "Sucking Chest Wound.” When the projectile strikes the pleural cavity (lung/chest cavity) it creates something almost like a small vacuum. Air will start to fill the cavity around the lung causing the lung on that side to collapse due to the outside pressure. This will usually be known when the victim states they are having extreme chest pain or trouble breathing. In this situation the wound should be covered with a type of dressing to stop or limit air into the cavity. This can be a medically manufactured seal (HALO seal) or improvised with a plastic bag, wrapper from the dressing, or even a credit card (never leave home without it). Tape off the sides and allow a small opening to regulate the intake of air.
Three percent of GSW victims encounter an airway obstruction. The airway can be occluded by debris or by the victim's tongue. This can be initially remedied by performing a head tilt chin lift or jaw thrust maneuver. By properly performing this will cause the tongue will lift creating an opening for air to pass. There are other common methods utilized, such as a nasopharyngeal airway. If the victim is not breathing CPR may need to be considered.
Having certain supplies on hand can help one when these situations arise. I will not go to the range without a quality trauma kit. These kits can be as affordable as the $55 with literally no limit on what you can spend if you decide to be med supply nut. At the very least, you should have a Range Bag Trauma Kit (VOK) in your range bag and your go bag.
While you can choose to use the kit on someone else, the reason you carry medical supplies is for them to be used on you. Even if you don't have the training yet, don't you want to provide the supplies to someone else on the scene who does?
Each state has adopted the“Good Samaritan Act,” but the verbage does differ from state to state. Since my class with Franklin i have invested in a medical bag i take to the range with me (the Scout Trauma Kit). I also recommend taking a class in your area. It never hurts to have the knowledge and confidence to act quickly and in these situations. Who knows maybe one day you might help save a life.
If you're looking for medical supplies, take a moment to check out the revamped Red Danger Tactical website. I'm doing free shipping on everything in the store this month.
Lil Red Danger is a firearms enthusiast, firearms instructor, and spokeswoman for the firearms industry.
Raised in an anti-gun household, she first fired a gun 3 years ago and it was love at first shot.
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