Range First Aid

Statistically speaking, shooting is one of the safer recreational activities that one can participate in.

However, guns do have the potential to cause a great deal of harm, be it accidental or intentional harm. Additionally, many ranges are in out-of-the-way locations (I shoot a lot on National Forest land) where any number of natural hazards exist and emergency services may not be readily available.

While I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any serious injuries at the range, I still have pack a first aid kit and other emergency supplies whenever I go shooting. The most serious injuries I’ve had to treat at the range have been minor (<1″ long and not very deep) cuts and some sprained ankles from slipping on rocks. A basic first aid kit can be assembled for not very much money (do-it-yourself kits are almost always cheaper and more effective than store-bought ones), and can treat most minor-to-moderate wounds and injuries.

The addition of QuikClot and some occlusive dressings can help treat a gunshot wound in the unlikely event that one occurs. If one uses these items, be sure to get enough to treat both an entrance and exit wound.

Remember, the first rule is “do no harm”. Don’t pack stuff you’re not qualified to use (Doc Russia is capable of performing field surgery with his truck kit, but I’m not…so I don’t bother with most of the stuff he has.), lest you end up harming someone more than helping.

In addition to “stuff”, be sure that you have knowledge. Take a basic first aid class from the Red Cross. If you’ll be out in remote areas, take a wilderness first aid class. One can never have too much knowledge. I’d bet my life on a trained, knowledgeable first responder with basic equipment, rather than a well-equipped but untrained person. Keep your training up-to-date.

Some other useful tips:

  • Write down the emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers for the local emergency services. Calling 911 from a remote area may result in your call being routed to a more distant call center. For example, 911 calls from cellphones in California are often routed to the Highway Patrol, who may have to transfer you to the local emergency services. When on National Forest land, I also have the number for the local Ranger Station.
  • Be prepared to give your exact location when calling emergency services. Know the name (if any) and location of the range where you’re shooting. If in a remote area, get a GPS and write down the coordinates ahead of time (like when you park). If there is no address where you are, know the local cross street (even if it’s just numbered National Forest roads), if any.
  • Evaluate communications options before you start shooting. If you’re out of cellphone range, find out how far and in what direction you need to go in order to get sufficient signal to call for help. If possible, locate the closest landline telephone (say at a Ranger Station) ahead of time. If in the deep wilderness or at sea, consider getting an emergency locator beacon.
  • Before you head out, be sure that someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • If shooting in remote areas, consider going in groups of at least three: if one person gets seriously injured, the second can provide first aid while the third finds help (such as traveling to where cellular signal is available).

Anyone else have any hints, tips, tricks, recommendations, or resources?

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