Med Kits: The Most Important Thing to Have at the Range

When packing your range bag I’m willing to bet the majority of shooters forget one very important piece of gear.

This piece of gear can save a life, and it does so every day.

So what is it?

Come on, the title should have clued you in.

A First Aid kit, an IFAK, a Trauma kit, Oh Shit Kit, whatever else you want to call it.  A simple medical kit should be part of every shooter’s range bag.  

As an instructor, I take this very seriously because I am responsible for the safety of my students and insist on packing a rather large medical kit.

I’m surprised a lot of folks don’t bring their own range medical kit, and how many people seem surprised at the idea.  However, most people see the light pretty early in this conversation.

You’re at a firing range, there is some inherent risk to it.

first aid kit essentials
With the right stuff in your first aid kit, you can greatly minimize that risk.

It’s minimal, and it is rare accidents happen.  However, they do happen, and when they do it’s better to invest a little money and be prepared than hopping around on one foot waiting for an ambulance.

To make it easy for you I’m going to break down my kits, and give you an idea of what you should carry in your range bag first aid kit.  With these simple tools (and the knowledge of how to use them) you can be confident that you are prepared for any emergency at the range.

Bump, Bruises, and Bites

While gun ranges are in general incredibly safe places, you can’t prevent everything from happening.  Just like the rest of the world the range is home to all kinds of mini mishaps. This includes your normal bumps, bruises, cuts, pinches,  everyone’s favorite: allergens.

Since these are the most likely ‘mishaps’ to occur at the range I’ve gone ahead and listed them first.  To deal these little accidents any decent Range Bag Medical kit will be prepared to deal with them. Here’s a list of the most items to include in your Medical Kit.

Bumps

Slip and falls are a pretty big cause for injury in the United States and account for 15% of all ER visits.

In these situations, it’s typically only necessary to treat any open wounds and make sure nothing’s broken.  In the event of a serious fall obviously, 911 needs to be called.

three stooges
If you don’t know what you’re doing, trying to help can sometimes make things much worse.

However, if the person is simply bruised or bumped applying an Instant Cold Pack can help relieve pain and swelling.  These packs do not need to be kept cold to work.  With most, you squeeze or crack the center and the pouch will become cold almost instantly.

Bites and Stings

Outdoor ranges in many parts of the U.S. are likely home to all number of flying and biting critters.  This includes mosquitoes, wasps, ants, and more.  To deal with bites some simple sting cream will usually work.

Allergies

Another feature of outdoor ranges is, for better or worse, the great outdoors.

This means you get to be exposed to your favorite allergies.  It’s great to keep some Benadryl on hand for allergy attacks, although remember this often makes people drowsy and drowsy people shouldn’t be firing a gun.

pollen
You guys want some pollen?

Alternatively, for external allergies Benadryl cream can treat them, and you won’t have the drowsy effects associated with oral Benadryl.

Beyond that, try to aim for non-drowsy solutions that can fight off all the sniffly noses and itchy, watery eyes.

Small Cuts

Ever learn the hard way not to use a crossed thumb grip with a pistol?  If you have it probably left you with a nice cut.  

Guns, with all their metal and moving pieces, do have a tendency to cause pain.  Be it speed loading a Mossberg 930, or getting a bad case of Garand thumb, cuts just happen.

slide bite
Slide bite hurts, and it can ruin a day at the range if you’re constantly getting dust, powder, and other debris in the wound.

Gun range tend to be dirty places and in a lot of cases, cuts are often accompanied by carbon because you’re likely digging into the gun for something.  So this is why you are going to need some antiseptic spray or antiseptic wipes.  You’ll need to sterilize the wound before anything.

range bag first aid kit contents
Just a few things I always keep on hand

After you sterilize you’ll need to bandage it.  This is why some basic bandages, butterfly bandages, and even gauze and medical tape is another basic necessity.

This way you can keep shooting without risking infection.

Gun ranges can be kinda gross, with lots of lead in the air in indoor ranges.  It’s important to clean any small wounds and keep them clean as you shoot.

One of the Easiest Ways to take care of these little issues is a small, but affordable general first aid kit.  It’s not enough for a full first aid medical kit, but it contains some of the small basics you may need.

first aid kit
First Aid kits like this are great to have on hand just about anywhere.

Burns

burn scar
A friend of mine’s gnarly brass burn.

Another often overlooked, but necessary piece of any Range based medical kit is something to treat burns.  Have you ever grabbed a hot suppressor?  Or even just a hot barrel?  What about a rogue piece of brass?

I’ve seen the effects of a misplaced hand and seen just how painful it can be.  It’s good to get the burn treated quickly and help minimize the damage.  The less damage, the faster it’ll heal and the less it will hurt.

A little burn gel with 2% lidocaine can do wonders for treating a burn.  I use Water Jel Burn Gel and keep a large burn bandage in my kit for more serious burns.  It’s actually issued to the USMC, and I’ve seen how effective it is.

water jel burn dressing
Water Jel is one of the premier burn gels out there.

While deployed we were working with some local Afghan Forces and after a long firefight, the Afghan soldier grabbed the barrel of his PKM to move it.  Needless to say after a few hundred rounds his barrel was close to white hot.

m249 barrel
White Hot…. Photo courtesy of AmmoLand

Our Corpsman, Doc Kyle, immediately applied burn gel to his hand, and it seemed to soothe his pain quickly and prevent the burn from getting worse.  After the gel was applied he calmed down, and Doc was able to sterilize and bandage the wound.

Gun Shots

Of course, the biggest worry a lot of shooters have is gunshot wounds.  Believe it or not gunshot wounds at gun ranges are actually quite rare.  However, given the seriousness of a gun shot wound, its important to be prepared.

Realistically you won’t be able to do a whole lot to treat a gunshot wound.  It goes without saying the person who was shot needs to head to a hospital.  

However, in the time before the ambulance arrives you can apply life-saving first aid.

tourniquet in action
Marine demonstrating tourniquet applitcation

The best thing you can do is stop the bleeding.  One of the best ways to stop the bleeding of an extremity is to apply a tourniquet.  Not a belt, a real tourniquet.

I keep a military-issue CAT tourniquet in my range kit because not only was I extensively trained to use one, but they are super simple, and plenty of Youtube videos are out there to teach you how to use it.  CAT tourniquets are also pretty cheap, and easy to find.

cat tourniquet
For less than $20, you can have access to one of the most commonly used life-saving first aid devices.

You can also apply one to yourself easily.  They proved to be massively successful during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  No one knows how many lives they’ve saved, but enough so that most Marines carry as many as possible.

For wounds to the abdomen, I keep Quikclot Combat Gauze ($20), a simple gauze that features a hemostatic agent to aid in clotting.  I also keep a lot of standard gauze to help pack the wound and apply pressure.

Stopping the blood flow is one of the most important steps you can take in treating a gunshot wound.  Keeping a few supplies on hand could save your life, or the life of another.  

quick clot sponge
These things are good to have on hand in any first aid kit, but especially a range bag first aid kit.

General Necessities

So outside of the specific examples above, I want to talk about a few necessities your kit needs to have.  These tools do not require training, but can be invaluable for a gun range medical kit.

Staying Sterile

Antiseptic sprays and wipes are absolutely a necessity for your medical kit.  From small cuts to gunshots the ability to disinfect can prevent future infections.  Infections can be painful and slow healing at best and can kill a person at worse.

antiseptic spray

Antiseptics are so cheap and available it’s ridiculous not to pack some in your kit.  On top of that, you should pack some basic antibiotic ointments.  Applying these to small wounds prior to applying a bandage is another infection-fighting step to take.

I also pack some antibacterial alcohol based hand wash to allow me to clean my hands before and after I help someone with any wound.  This prevents the spread of germs to both parties.  You never know who doesn’t wash their hands when they go to the bathroom, and you never know what diseases might be rocking around in someone’s blood. 

Gloves

On the same subject of remaining sterile, it’s good to pack some latex gloves.  These are better suited for larger wounds and more serious burns.  They also protect you as you apply treatment.

Bloodborne pathogens are nothing to mess around with, and you want to limit your exposure as much as possible.  These are also another must have tool for treating eye based injuries.  A cheap pair of gloves packaged in a sealed plastic bag is all you need, just make sure you dispose of them appropriately.

disposable gloves
Disposable gloves protect you, and your patient.

Trauma Shears

Trauma shears are another good tool to have when it comes to treating wounds.  These are especially handy when it comes to treating gunshot wounds.  It’s almost always safer to cut the clothes off then try to remove them.

When it comes to treating a torso gunshot wound it’s best to minimize movement of the patient.  Trauma shears, at least good trauma shears, can zip through BDUs, leather, and denim with ease.

A Bottle of Water

Lastly, a bottle or source of water is another valuable tool.  Guns often make use of all sorts of fun and corrosive chemicals.  Getting any of these in your eyes is gonna give you a really bad day.

A bottle of water allows you to immediately wash the chemicals out of the eye, and buy time to get to a permanent water source.  I’ve been the victim of getting a healthy death of hot CLP to the eyes during a training event.

I was manning the M240 medium machine gun, putting a healthy dose of hate downrange.  My hand was in position under the gun manipulating the Transverse and Elevation mechanism for the gun.  It’s right behind the ejection port.

My hand was being hit with brass and hot CLP as I fired, but my thick Nomex gloves made it so I didn’t even notice.   The gun had a malfunction and as I popped the top a round cooked off in the chamber.  Luckily I knew not to pop the entire cover entirely just in case of this.

first aid kits
First Aid kits come in every size.

However, the mini explosion sent a shotgun blast of hot CLP into my face, my eyes were protected due to my glasses, but my reaction was to try and wipe it off my face.  With a glove covered in hot CLP.

It did not go well, and my eyes were on fire.  My quick thinking team leader used his Camelback to clear my eyes of CLP.  He reacted without much notice, and due to his application of water, I was spared any permanent damage.

After that, I always had a bottle of water dedicated to cleaning chemicals out of eyes.  Oh, also my squad worked so well together we never had a lull in suppressing fire.  I’m proud of that.

The Most Valuable Tool

Lastly, the most valuable tool is between your ears.  Getting some basic medical training can make a major difference.  Obtaining a lesson in CPR, basic first aid, and some other small techniques can easily save a life in the event of a disaster.

So what do you guys think of my kit?  Would you add anything?  Let us know below.

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kyle628Daniel BasseKevin D. CoahranDave from San AntonioEric Hung Recent comment authors
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Daniel Basse
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Daniel Basse

Here’s an easy one that a combat medic friend recommended for my IFAK, and I’ve always packed since; 2 tampons. They’re small, lightweight, super absorbant, and fit into a bullet hole to stop bleeding quickly while other actions are taken. Providing useful support for female crewmembers in a pinch is a popular move, as is tossing one to male members who are doing a. lot of complaining. A very useful IFAK addition.

kyle628
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kyle628

This has been disproven multiple times. Quick google search. Not a good idea in reality.

Kevin D. Coahran
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Kevin D. Coahran

I would add a curved needle and thread for stitching if needed.other than that sounds like a great kit I would also add a instant ice pack.

Dave from San Antonio
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Dave from San Antonio

Good article. A first-aid kit should be included with your range bag. The most valuable tool is between our ears. Generally, a true statement, but…we all know at least “one”.

Karen
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Karen

Excellent article! You certainly gave me a great deal to discuss before we head back out to the range.
While at a new indoor range in San Antonio, Mission Range, I looked around for any type of First Aid supplies. I asked the young man at the desk what the protocol was should someone be accidentally cut or experience a non-life threatening injury while there ” I guess you’d call 911?”. Should indoor ranges, where we pay a rather high fee to enjoy, have basic First Aid kits readily available?

Eric Hung
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Thanks Karen…and that might be a reason to search for a new range!

Sergey
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Sergey

Absolutly agree. The people do not take care of first aid until the first incident happen. I’m not exception. In my country, where i’m original, before receiving the driver license each person must passes the exam of first aid, and the first aid kit must be in each car. BTW: I have first aid kid here in my car in USA as well. Thanks for article. I’ll remeber that i can use car’s first aid kit in the range if it will needed.

Eric Hung
Admin

Thanks for writing in Sergey, glad to hear you are prepared!