How To Treat Gunshot Wounds In The Field

This topic came as a request from one of our readers. I am happy you asked because it is commonly an over looked subject. It can go by many names (trauma care, critical care, field aid, improvised first aid). These things are different than typical first aid and are much different than a field medic or emt coming to your rescue. In this article we will be coving what you can do to treat gunshot wounds (GSW’s) with minimal or no professional supplies. With out any delay lets jump right in.

1. Shot In The Leg – When dealing with a shot in a lower limb there are some basic concerns to have in mind. Infection is a one of them but the bigger concern as with most wounds is blood loss. Your first step happens with incredible speed, do not take your time as you may not have any to spare. There are 3 parts to step one; 1-Wipe the blood from the wound (do not going crazy, just get as much as you can with 1 swipe). 2- Observe how fast the blood come flowing back out. 3- Compress some kind of rag on the wound ( gauze are great if you have them, a half clean shirt is better then nothing if you don’t). This pressure needs to be constant so have the casualty hold it if need be and their capable, if not I favor holding with my elbow or knee while I continue working.

If the blood flow in step 2 was heavy then you likely hit the femoral artery and you have literally no time. You can completely loose a life in 3 minutes if not the leg. You need to cut off the blood flow to the leg immediately. For this you will want a tourniquet, I always have one but I imagine most do not. So use your belt and pull it until blood stops flowing then tie it off. This will need to come off every 90 minutes for 10 minutes. Be mindful of blood loss however, no leg is better than no life. You will need to remember the time or write it on the casualty with a pen or sharpy.

The way YOU as an untrained individual will apply the tourniquet is called a Hasty. To avoid accidents this will be the only way I teach. Apply the tourniquet at the at the top of the leg just beneath the hip. Make sure it is straight and level. Then twist until blood flow stops. CALL FOR HELP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

2- Shot in the Arm– Generally speaking all is the same as shot in the leg with the variable being that the Hasty tourniquet will be applied just beneath the shoulder straight on the arm until blood flow stops. Another difference is that with upper limbs you should give 10 minutes of blood flow every 60 minutes providing it wont cost the patient their life.

3. Shot to the Chest- This is seriously dangerous stuff here. Your chest houses the majority of your major organs any of which are vital and can cause death when injured. You cannot do surgery in the field most times so your game plan is to beat the clock. There are however tricks to help. First of all Wipe, Observe, Compress. You will likely see a weeping chest wound. This is when air is sucking in through the wound and WILL collapse a lung if not dealt with ASAP. In the field you can create a pressure regulator over the wound to help with this. Things that will works are chip bags, drivers licence, sandwith bag, ect. I prefer licence simply because of availability but it can be too small. If tape is available, gently tape it on 3 sides over the wound. If you have no tape then gently hold it over the wound. The way it works is that it sucks tight when you inhale preventing air from entering and putting pressure on the lungs. On exhale it allows extra air to push back out through the wound. This is a life saver. When treating a chest wound be very weary of spinal injury. You want to minimize movement.

4. Headshot– There are limits to what you can do here in the field. Pressure can be dangerous and tourniquets are not an option. There is a good chance moving the patient can kill or paralyze them. I recommend calling for help immediately and and gently holding cover on the wound to prevent infection.


With any of these techniques you run the risk of infection and disease. Be careful not to harm yourself. Also always have your abilities in mind so you do not make things worse. Thanks for reading. As always Master your Tactics and NEVER BE A VICTIM.

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