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How To: Range Medicine 101

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In the military, medical proficiency across the entire platoon is paramount. In the 75th Ranger Regiment, every Ranger is qualified as a ‘Ranger First Responder,’ receiving advanced training in bleeding control, airway management, and even the administration of IV fluids. Additionally, each platoon has its own medic, an individual whose sole duty is to provide care for the men in garrison or in the field. Additional medical training programs are offered, such as the accelerated National Emergency Medical Technician – Intermediate (EMT-I) course. The purpose is to afford the platoon a greater number of experienced medical personnel on the battlefield, capable of treating more complex injuries and handle narcotics or other medications.

I attended the EMT-I course while serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and eventually worked as a medic for Blackwater Worldwide in Baghdad, Iraq. In the field of medicine, there were a few hard principles that never changed. These principles also apply to the recreational and even competition shooter.

Cuts & Scrapes

Cuts and scrapes are the most common injuries we see in any environment around equipment or guns. Human skin combined with metal can often cause problems. It’s just the nature of the beast. Have you ever gripped a pistol incorrectly and got a cut between your thumb and forefinger? It happens, and so do many other cuts, abrasions, and scrapes.

The range, indoor or outdoor, tends to be a dirty place filled with dust, dirt, carbon, and dip spit. If left uncovered and untreated, a small cut can become infected. Depending on the severity, infection can occur up to 2 days after the injury. You don’t need to spend all day treating a minor cut, after all, you're at the range and want to keep shooting. However, you need to stop and complete a few basic things before you go on.

First, clean the wound. Many times there is debris or grime in the wound. To flush out debris you need a liquid with some pressure. Water or any topical antiseptic, such as Betadine, is my choice. Betadine is your safer bet as it’s a topical antiseptic and disinfectant. I generally don’t use hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide not only kills the germs but also kills good cells that promote healing. Even Betadine can affect healing to a point. The first few moments after a cut you need to be sure it is clean. Second, pat it dry and cover the wound. I bring plenty of cloth tape, bandages, and sterile 2x2s, with me to any range. Cover the wound correctly so that you're not re-doing it every fifteen minutes.

The North American Rescue (NAR) Eagle IFAK. Perfect individual carrier for all medical items.

Medicine is a Perishable Skill

I spoke with my friend DJ Struntz at North American Rescue (NAR) about medicine the other day and he said, “Medicine keeps evolving just like firearms, and it’s a really perishable skill.” I couldn’t agree more. The practice of medicine, whether that be treating minor scrapes, airway management, and even bleeding control, is a skill just like the skill it takes to handle firearms. How confident do you feel shooting after you haven’t shot a round in 6 months? If you want to remain confident in your medical skills, you need to practice.

We spoke with DJ a bit more about how to access training. “In a civilian application you are faced with simple stuff, such as cuts, contusions, maybe a fracture, but it’s still important to take advantage of the many training options out there to be ready when more severe events occur,” said Struntz. “Most local fire departments, or even community colleges have inexpensive medical training classes that are great. The month of May is Stop the Bleed Month, and there are a number of great resources to access then as well. “

North American Rescue is a great resource to discover training resources, click HERE.

The Right Gear

There are lots of discussions about the perfect range medical bag, but it’s less about the brand and more about the equipment inside, and your capability. There are a few must-haves in every bag.

First, make sure you have all the proper Body Substance Isolation (BSI) equipment. A couple of pairs of sterile gloves, and a mask, go a long way when rendering aid to someone you don’t know. Next, a strap cutter or trauma sheers is needed in the event you need to access an injury or remove equipment such as load carriage. Benchmade has a great collection of rescue tools and strap cutters. Bottled water is important to have not just to flush out a wound, but maybe even if someone has something in their eye.

Benchmade 7 Rescue Hook and Strap Cutter U.S. Military NSN; 4240-01-543-9618

As mentioned before, for basic cuts and scrapes you need a liquid or spray antiseptic, Band-Aids, bandages, sterile cloth 2x2s, 4x4s, and cloth athletic tape. Double up on this stuff since it’s 90% of the injuries you see on the range. Often times you might see some small burns, and water jet burn gel is a great option.

Bleeding control is key in the event something traumatic occurs. A proper tourniquet, pressure dressing, and even hemostatic clotting agent such as Quick Clot is important to keep in your kit. This equipment, while important, is only as good as the person who uses it.

A few kits that I like are the M-FAK and the Eagle IFAK from North American Rescue. These are kits you can keep directly on your person. Alternatively, a product that is better for a group and can keep more in the carrier is the Combat Casualty Response Kit®-Squad Kit™. This system allows you to keep more items such as a bottle of water, or liquid antiseptic.

Any day at the range can go south when you have an injury. Medical equipment and training are analogous to firearms. If you prepare, and practice, you will be successful.

To learn how to build an advanced range medical kit, read: Gunshot Wound & First-Aid Kits: Everything You Need to Know to Build Your Own

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