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If you’re a gun owner and a shooter, range practice is an integral part of your experience. Regular practice allows you to maintain marksmanship skills — these are perishable and will deteriorate with neglect.
However, you and everyone else at the range are handling deadly weapons that use low-explosive propellants to launch high-velocity projectiles.
Accidental injuries ranging from minor cuts and burns to penetrating ballistic wounds and hemorrhage can, and do, occur.
As a result, it’s necessary to be prepared, both for your own sake and that of others. One of the best ways to be prepared is to have a first aid kit.
First Aid Kits
A first aid kit, also known as a medical kit, is a collection of life-saving supplies and tools, usually contained in a clearly marked pouch, bag, or plastic/metal box. Regardless of the form it takes, a first aid kit is useful for the household, vehicle, or travel. It allows you to render rudimentary medical care to yourself, your family, or bystanders.
First-aid kits can differ in their contents, depending on your knowledge and whether the kit must meet specialized demands. A survivalist or wilderness first-aid kit may require a distinct set of tools because emergency services may not be available for an extended period.
However, a first-aid kit for a shooting range should include everything you need to treat minor wounds and severe, life-threatening injuries. The priority for the latter category should be to keep the patient alive until emergency services arrive. If a range participant suffers a serious injury, such as a gunshot wound, call 911 first, then render aid.
Consider pursuing some basic medical training. Several nonprofit organizations, such as the American Red Cross, offer first aid courses that teach everything from controlling bleeding to performing CPR.
If you can’t spare the time to take a first-aid class, examine your kit’s contents and learn to use each item. You can also take your kit to your local fire department and have EMTs walk you through using your kit.
When assembling or purchasing a first aid kit, you should also include a notepad and a pen. These can be invaluable for noting important information regarding the patient, the time and nature of the injury, and what you did to help stabilize the patient.
Strict observance of firearms safety rules renders many accidental injuries preventable.
Unfortunately, not everyone follows these rules consistently. On other occasions, despite practicing muzzle awareness (Rule 2) and trigger discipline (Rule 3), unintentional discharges can occur because of mechanical or catastrophic failures.
Safety and Hygiene
Ensure that you do not contaminate any wounds. If you’re shooting or handling firearms and ammunition, you’re exposed to toxic substances, from cleaning solvents and lubricating oils to lead residue and propellant fouling.
Your kit should include the following for general cleaning and sterile handling:
- Antiseptic wipes and a hand sanitizer
- 1 or 2 × pair of sterile surgical or medical exam gloves (hypoallergenic; nitrile)
Minor Injuries/Common Items
When handling firearms, you may experience minor cuts, burns, or other injuries that don’t require a visit to the emergency room. You should wear appropriate eye protection, including ballistic glasses that can protect against metal fragments, sparks, unburnt powder particles, and errant casings. There are still other circumstances under which you may hurt yourself while handling a gun.
For minor cuts, include these:
- Adhesive bandages (various sizes)
For minor cuts and scrapes. There are many hazards to handling firearms. Sharp magazine lips or rear sight corners can cut your skin.
- 1 × pair of tweezers
These can be useful for removing metal and wood splinters and other fragments from your skin.
- Magnifying glass or jeweler’s glass
You can use this with tweezers or forceps for precise work in removing small foreign material from wounds or skin.
- Miniature flashlight
This is especially important under low-light conditions. Dawn, dusk, or at night, you must be able to see the wound clearly.
Spent cartridge casing freshly ejected from self-loading firearms can be hot enough to sear flesh. For burns, you can use a burn ointment.
- Burn ointment with lidocaine
Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic that can relieve pain from burns and skin irritation. It’s also useful for poison ivy and insect bites.
Moleskin protects burns and blisters from further irritation.
- Hydrogel pads
These keep burns moist and protected.
You should have a saline solution for wound irrigation. Don’t use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on minor or major wounds. These antiseptics can further damage the skin and impede the healing process.
Use the saline to clean the wound site, pat the wound dry with sterile gauze, place a gauze pad over the wound, wrap the gauze in a compression bandage, and tape it in place. If you need to apply further pressure to control the bleeding, you can use your hands.
Gunshot wounds require a trauma kit. You should include:
- 1 × trauma or EMT shears
These heavy-duty blunt-tipped scissors allow you to cut through clothing around the wound site. Use them to cut medical tape and bandages to the appropriate length.
- Sterile gauze pads
These should be of the non-stick variety, using a low adhesive. You don’t want the gauze pad to stick to a wound — this can re-open a laceration or puncture that has closed.
- Medical tape
Medical tape keeps gauze and bandages in place, and you can wrap it around the body or an extremity.
- Elastic or compression bandage
This bandage allows you to apply localized pressure to an injury.
The tourniquet is a common addition to many trauma kits — civilian, EMT, and military. However, its misuse has attracted controversy in recent years. Unless the patient is experiencing severe blood loss that you cannot control by other means, use a tourniquet.
- Chest seal
Only include a chest seal if you understand how to apply it. This is for treating what’s called a “sucking chest wound.” In this type of injury, inhaling sucks air into the chest cavity through the entry wound.
Stopping air from entering is the first purpose of a chest seal. The second is allowing air that may have already been sucked in to escape. If trapped air remains inside the cavity, it can apply pressure to the lungs.
A Word on Hemostatics
Hemostatic/antihemorrhagic agents such as QuikClot require more training to use effectively than a tourniquet. If you apply a hemostatic agent incorrectly, you may interfere with the healing process or complicate further surgical repair.
First-aid kits are essential for EDC. But those in the firearms community should stock and learn to use medical supplies. You can help save a life or limb in a serious gun accident when you have one of these first aid kits nearby.