When the weather’s right, there’s nothing like pulling up to an empty outdoors gun range early in the morning on a weekday. The weekend crowd is gone, as is the inevitable range chat that comes with it. There’s no hanging around at your table, waiting around for other folks in order to go down range to check or change your targets.
Of course, I also like watching movies in empty theaters. Go figure.
IT’S JUST YOU AND THE SHOOTING
However, that solitude comes with a price. That price is being able to deal with an emergency on your own, without the support or help of others. The same is true for hunters or backpackers who like to strike off on their own. Nevertheless, for the sake of this discussion, we’ll keep it related to being ready for such an event while shooting solo at a range.
Many different mishaps can occur during range sessions that could cause serious injury. Just watch any number of YouTube videos in which people shoot themselves while practicing their pistol draw or when a gun suffers a catastrophic failure. Even a random ricochet can result in a great day turning into a life-or-death struggle.
This leads us to the question of how prepared we are for that moment when we must deal with a traumatic injury all on our own. Certainly, there are some injuries so traumatic and that result in such shock that effective self-care is not a real possibility. However, for those wounds that can be managed until professional emergency assistance is accessible, there are a few things worth considering.
To prepare for such an event, it’s my personal opinion that five key factors will determine the outcome. The first is knowledge. That seems to go without saying, but quite often, folks will gear up with first aid equipment without really knowing how to use it. Even more complicated is the complexity of the human body and the correct protocols for dealing with different types of wounds.
Like any other subject that needs to be approached seriously, training in first aid is absolutely critical to increase the chances of being able to effectively manage an injury and survive. Aside from standard first aid training—even advanced levels—it wouldn’t hurt to take a wilderness first aid course.
These types of courses focus on how to deal with injuries when typical first aid equipment and personnel aren’t available. Whether it’s using a sleeping pad to stabilize a leg or cutting a pack strap to make a tourniquet, the ability to improvise in the field will greatly improve your chances.
One place offering that kind of training is Randall’s Adventure Training’s Ditch Medicine Course.
There’s an old joke about a tourist stopping a man on the street and asking him how to get to Carnegie Hall. The stranger grins and replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” Obtaining knowledge through a class is great, but as we know from our school days, the knowledge won’t stick unless regular practice occurs.
The next factor, practice, is how we get better, more efficient and reinforce what we’ve learned. In a group setting, practice is also one way to stay updated on new trends and how to learn new techniques or procedures from others. Finally, practice is also a way to shake out gear to find what works well and what doesn’t.
MANY DIFFERENT MISHAPS CAN OCCUR DURING RANGE SESSIONS THAT COULD CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY.
After gaining the requisite knowledge and developing a proper mindset through practice, it’s time to move to the next factor, and that’s having effective “preps,” or supplies, to do the job. This is usually the first thing most people do in preparing to deal with first aid and wound management. I did this myself, but I learned some lessons that might be helpful to others.
Without real knowledge in first aid, and without practicing different scenarios, a lot of money can get wasted on items that aren’t really needed, aren’t as effective as other brands or designs, or cannot be employed effectively by the solo user in certain situations.
For instance, if one hand or arm is disabled, can the gear in the first aid kit be opened, used or applied with just one hand? Is the gear simple and intuitive, making it easier for the person to use while in shock and with their fine motor skills rapidly degrading? This type of expertise and understanding can increase the quality of wound management, and it can also save the user a lot of time, money and frustration during the process of building a kit or pack.
Finally, the last factor that will help improve the odds is discipline. When assembling a trauma pack or larger first aid kit, discipline and follow-through are just as important as anything else we’ve talked about.
If the kit has been raided for an item, make sure that item is promptly replaced. If the kit has been used, go through a checklist to refill it to make sure everything is where it needs to be. As civilians, our kits will (hopefully) not be used on a regular basis. Some items need to be rotated out every so often due to expiration dates or degradation of materials.
Something I noticed during SIG Sauer’s range day at this year’s SHOT Show was that each range officer was carrying a trauma pouch on their belt. I thought that not only displayed their level of knowledge and professionalism, but it also illustrates a point.
Practicing high-speed skills during live fire can lead to accidents on the range, so having the knowledge and capacity to address injuries while alone is a vital preparation to make.
Even in the midst of hundreds of people available to assist, and with EMTs sitting just outside the fence, seconds still matter. The ability to react to a situation immediately could make all the difference. That sense of urgency in a dire circumstance increases exponentially for the lone shooter on the range. In some cases, having a kit in the vehicle will be about as useful as having it on the moon.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.