Integrating Medical and Firearms Training

It doesn’t matter if you are a member of law enforcement gearing up for a high-risk search warrant or a traffic stop, or if you are just going about your business and carrying your favorite self-defense weapon for protection — it is always a good practice to have medical training and be prepared with medical supplies. It can be a life saver in an emergent situation. 

When you start getting into guns, you learn about different types of holsters, different ways to carry (inside the waist, on your ankle, shoulder rig, etc.) and we all practice shooting techniques and other firearms-related drills. But how much training do we do to prepare for what happens after the shooting takes place? Most people stop with the last shot on the range and call it a day.

Chuck Norris can run through a door, do some summersaults, fire six rounds in mid-air that hit all six targets and not have a scratch on him. But after all, he is… well, he’s Chuck Norris. The rest of us however do not have the Norris power and we need to train and be prepared.

firearmand medical kit
There are different types and sizes of medical kits/bags and there is no rule that you can only have one.

Even when it’s not the end of the world, just a minor injury can be somewhat annoying when you are not prepared. I once received a small cut on the side of my hand when I went to the ground to fire from the prone position during a training exercise. With a dozen SWAT guys on the range, we had plenty of tourniquets and trauma bandages, but no one had a band aid! How annoying is that? It wasn’t a blood gusher, but it wasn’t fun shooting the rest of the day with a small cut oozing on the side of my hand.

One of the first things learned in tactical training is this: no matter how much training you do, what you wear, and how cool you think you are, you can get shot or injured if guns and/or bad guys are involved. The training, the equipment, and the ability to be aware of your surroundings all give you an advantage, but never think you are invincible. As I say at work very often, you must hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

So, what do we do to prepare for the worst?

Incorporate medical training into your firearms training.

police training with medical kit
Running drills and practicing with your medical supplies is just as important as training with your weapons. (Image: KCRA 3)

When it comes to buying medical supplies, I will always recommend you seek out training for the supplies you choose. It is imperative that you know how to use them, and incorporate that knowledte into your firearms training. We can all apply a band aid on a small wound, but treating a major wound requires enough knowledge to act instinctively and quickly. You don’t want to wait to read the instructions in the medical kit until after you need it.

First Aid kits

first aid kit
First aid kits (like the one above from Amazon) are inexpensive and make a great starting point for putting together your medical plan when it comes to training. (Image: Amazon)

I would say most of us have a first aid kit, but how often do you go through it? Do you know exactly what’s in there? I used to catch myself saying “let me see what I have in here” as I would proceed to dig through a medical bag looking for something.

I would recommend opening your medical bag regardless of its size and making sure you know what’s in it and where everything is. Items that stop severe bleeding need to be in a place where you can get to them the fastest without opening a bunch of pockets or zippers. When you do use something from the kit, make sure to replace it right away.

Extra items can also be added to a kit so don’t think it has to stay the way you bought it; they can be personalized easily. Most pre-stocked med kits have some basic items, but you may want to add something specific that you have trained with or have more of a particular item than what came in the kit.

Tourniquets

Typically, you see military and law enforcement train with a tourniquet and carry them when working. But there is no reason why anyone carrying a weapon should not have one on them or in their vehicle. I get that you’re enjoying a casual day at the mall and the last thing you want to do is carry all the stuff people recommend with your sidearm like a flashlight, pocketknife, extra magazine and now I’m suggesting a tourniquet.

tourniquet worn on a chest rig
Some tourniquets can be placed on a vest carrier for quick access.

You must decide how ready you want to be should the unthinkable happen. There are some tourniquets that can be carried in your pocket without taking up much room. Others can be secured to your vest, placed in a medical bag (individual first aid kit) or one of my favorite places, just inside the car door. I keep one on my person, on my vest, in my medical bag, and in my car. If you or someone else needs one, you will need to get to it quickly.

tourniquet in top pocket of medical bag for easy access
When keeping a tourniquet in my medical bag, I like to keep it “loose” and in the top pocket for quick access and application. Simply reach in and pull to unfold the tourniquet.

Trauma Pack — Israeli Bandages and Other Compression Bandages

I like to keep specific items at the front of my medical bag. Tourniquet, Israeli bandages and other compression bandages, and chest seal are all within first reach.
I like to keep specific items at the front of my medical bag. Tourniquet, Israeli and other compression bandages, and a chest seal are all within first reach.

Tourniquets and Israeli bandages are life savers when you are hit in a limb, but you also need to be able to treat a chest or abdomen wound. For this you will need some type of Trauma bandage. I like to carry several compression bandages, gauze, and chest seal packs in my med pack, and I also keep a couple of these in my vehicle with my tourniquets for easy access. These are pretty straight forward, and they cover how to use them in most first aid classes. I recommend buying one just for training so you can open it and make sure you are comfortable with getting it out quickly and applying it.

Speed drills

It can be a blast to do some good speed drills on the range, but how fast can you retrieve the medical supplies when needed? Can you retrieve a tourniquet and apply it with one hand? Practice until you feel comfortable and can do it efficiently. Time yourself or your buddies and make it fun just like on the range.

Besides my basic first aid kit, the tourniquet and Israeli bandages are what I rely on the most for gunshot wounds until medics can arrive. There are lots of other medical supplies that can help. Use what you are trained with and comfortable using, but don’t over complicate it.

When it comes to the ability to react during a horrific event, you can improve your muscle memory with by spending a little extra time practicing. Spend a fex more minutes on the range to practice what to do if someone around you is shot. Spend five minutes a week going through your medical bag and supplies in your vehicle. Don’t assume you know what to do. Train to be prepared, just like you do with your firearm.

 

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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