Basic Firing Line First Aid

Good Medicine For The Recreational Shooter.

Guns are innately dangerous tools. Were we completely honest with ourselves, this is part of the allure. The thrill of harnessing and controlling power is a primal component of the human psyche. It is that same seductive appeal that drives us to race cars, parachute out of airplanes, jump school buses with motorcycles and batter ourselves senseless in the guise of football. To taste a little danger and emerge unscathed is to feed that adrenaline addiction lurking within us all.

Because of the danger inherent to firearms, safety is the paramount concern for responsible Rugged Individualists exercising their Second Amendment rights recreationally. We typically shoot in established areas and employ fundamental safety rules and protective gear to minimize the risk of injury. Despite our efforts, if we do it long enough we will invariably be hurt. Independent of the mischief awaiting on the nasty end, modern firearms have unforgiving moving parts, sharp edges and heat aplenty, all of which can conspire to offend our digits and ruin an otherwise pleasant day at the range.

Kill an afternoon at the range with a bucketload of ammo and a semi-automatic rifle and you will almost inevitably bump your anatomy against something unpleasant. Add a sound suppressor to the mix and the likelihood is even greater. Absentmindedly brush a hot can or barrel against your buddy’s arm and you’ll lose a friend.


Basic suturing is well within the capabilities of anybody reasonably
handy with tools. Here, Will’s 15-year-old daughter puts his thumb
back together after he snatched the end of it off with a bench grinder.
With a little guidance she did a simply brilliant job.

Minor burns are pink and exquisitely painful. Imagine a sunburn on steroids. In this case the outer layers of skin are damaged and your body does a simply splendid job of reminding you how important it is not to do that anymore. These wounds will frequently blister and they should be gently cleaned and bandaged. Silvadene burn cream is great stuff sporting both antimicrobial and anesthetic properties. While Silvadene is a prescription drug, most docs will write you a prescription for it if you ask.

Third degree burns involve deep charred flesh and are typically uncomfortable but not necessarily painful. They are also fairly impressive to look upon. Anyone with a third degree burn should seek medical attention.

I have nipped my fingertips in folding stocks and closing bolts, opened a switchblade into my hand at a gunshow, and sewn up more than a few periorbital riflescope injuries. Minor lacerations and a little subsequent sewing represent an integral part of any proper young boy’s ascent to manhood.

Rinse fresh wounds in clean running water if possible. “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution” and early cleansing and removal of foreign material make for a much more pleasant long-term course. Clotting enhancers like Celox or QuikClot are both easy to use and effective. Direct pressure with something clean will stop most minor bleeding, but if insufficient, it might be time to pack up and find an Urgent Care clinic or ER.

Basic suturing is actually fun and well within the capabilities of the typical person handy with tools. Learning to sew minor wounds requires the complicity of a friendly physician or experienced nurse practitioner as the techniques, safety concerns, drugs and equipment are all fairly specialized and otherwise not readily available. I learned to sew several years before medical school under the tutelage of a broad-minded ER doc.

Pig feet make excellent practice subjects and can be found in the meat department at your local grocery though I am utterly at a loss as to why. They are great to sew on but I cannot fathom ever being hungry enough to eat one.


The external manifestations of gunshot wounds (above) can be misleading. Frequently there is little more than an unimpressive little hole, which fails to belie the mischief lurking within. Wound tracks in living tissue are notoriously unpredictable. Bullets can find their way to and through critical plumbing, bones and nerves without seeming particularly noteworthy on the outside. In this case, (below) the surgeon decided to leave in place this accidental discharge from a .22.


Bigger is better and frequently we corn-fed American gunmen can let our enthusiasm get the better of our judgment when it comes to recoil management. I introduce as evidence the typical recreational shooter with the newest big-bore precision rifle.
The recoil from a large-bore scoped rifle is more than adequate to punch a ring into the soft flesh around your shooting eye. Scope covers and technique are sufficient to prevent injury but a good riflescope laceration will start every conversation with a stranger you ever meet from that moment hence—the resulting scar is all but impossible to hide. I count among my friends a very attractive young lady who incurred such an injury on an African safari and has, as a result, related the story literally countless times. In her case it imbues her with a certain exotic and mysterious appeal.

Should there be the most unfortunate of accidents and someone be injured on the scary end of a firearm, it is critical to the outcome that control be maintained and the injury addressed as calmly as possible. Seek medical attention, by ambulance if appropriate, and think rationally. The most effective survival tool ever devised rests solidly upon your shoulders. This is the time to put it to good use.


We willingly drop gobs of cash on guns. It is a wise investment to put $50 on some proper focused First Aid gear. A little planning and a trivial investment can potentially rescue a good day at the range or even save a life. Blackhawk! makes ingenious and indestructible products designed for hard use in the “real world”. This medical pack will hold everything you need in an organized, compact and easy-to-use fashion.

It would behoove you to do some recreational reading in advance. There is a wealth of information available online and in print about managing gunshot wounds and the associated visuals can help the squeamish begin to overcome their disability. The purpose of this piece is simply to whet your appetite.

Direct pressure is typically your friend. Sterile pressure dressings are inexpensive and make excellent additions to a range bag loadout. Israeli Battle Dressings are my favorites as they incorporate a handy mechanism to help maintain pressure on a wound. Remember to pack them in pairs, as gunshot wounds frequently manifest as both the entrance and exit varieties. Seek out the ones sold by Shyh on — they ship brand new straight from Israel. By contrast, many domestic sources frequently sell dressings close to the end of their shelf life. Pressure applied to arterial sources upstream and tourniquets are viable tools if applied appropriately. However, looks can be deceiving when it comes to gunshot wounds.

I have seen patients with very little external evidence of injury precipitously decompensate and die in the ER after a gunshot wound. A tiny black hole to the chest or abdomen frequently does not illuminate the associated malfeasance lurking within. An occlusive dressing to seal a sucking chest wound temporarily can buy a little time as well and is also surprisingly affordable.

A little gratuitous mouse clicking and a week later the UPS Brown Truck of Happiness will materialize in your driveway with everything you need for a proper firing line First-Aid kit. There are literally countless options but the attached list has some basic suggestions.


A basic firing line First-Aid kit takes up very little space and weight
“and is surprisingly affordable. Pre-made versions are available from
dozens of sources but a little creative Googling will get you everything
you need. Remember: Gunshot wounds frequently come in both the entrance
and exit varieties—pack accordingly.

Lastly, there are several dedicated medical kit pouches available and Blackhawk! makes one of the best. Their pouch has plenty of pockets and elastic retainers, is just the right size, and incorporates a tear-away Velcro backing for easy access.
Bones heal, chicks dig scars, pain is temporary but glory is forever. Such tripe launched many a high school football team out of the dressing room and off in pursuit of glory. More than a few of us still have such sophomoric dogma inscribed upon the granite of our souls. This can land the Rugged Individualist in trouble from time to time. For the typical American shooter, some basic First-Aid skills and a little well-selected gear can salvage a fun day at the range or even save somebody’s life.

As for me, the appeal of self-sufficiency runs deep, and the more you can do for yourself means the fewer burdens you place upon those whose professions involve the maintenance of public safety. Devoting a bit of space in our range bag to some basic First-Aid supplies is the thoughtful, reasonable and responsible course —and 50 bucks will get you most everything you need.
By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs

Basic Firing Line First Aid Gear
(Available at your local pharmacy)

Telfa Pads and Kerlix Gauze
Silvadene Cream
Hydrogen Peroxide
(if running water is not available)
Trauma Shears
Decent Tweezers—cheap tweezers
will just frustrate you.
Disposable Rubber Gloves
Acetaminophen—for headaches,
minor sprains, etc.

Really Bad Day Additions Available Online

QuikClot or Celox—the sponges are easier to use than the powder.
Israeli Battle Dressings—at least two
Occlusive Dressings (for sucking chest wounds—they come in pairs)
Tourniquet Material

6160 Commander Pkwy
Norfolk, VA 23502
(800) 379-1732


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One thought on “Basic Firing Line First Aid

  1. Rick Hochmann

    I’d like to see the TSRA farm out the task of creating an affordable range first aid kit. I’d buy one with a nice TSRA logo and a Texas Flag embroidered on it. Keep it simple and inexpensive. They could be sold through the magazine, at sporting events and gun shows. Would also be a great “prize” or fundraiser.
    Thats all,
    R.H., LM


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