The Missing Link: Medical Training for Shooters


Kit Up! Dark Angel Medical on the range running tourniquet drill.

Two weeks ago I ran an article about the Direct Action Response Kit from Dark Angel LLC. As you may recall, I went on a brief mini-rant about the lack of emphasis on individual trauma gear/training seen in some military career fields and the vast majority of law enforcement agencies. Judging by the response from readers such as Z, SFC Young, BuckarooMedic and several others the topic struck a chord. Majrod suggested the topic of training as a follow-on article.

Here ya go. This was written by Kerry Davis, designer of the D.A.R.K. last year. I follow his “TacMed Tip of the Week” on the Dark Angel Facebook page and asked him if he’d care to opine. He responded with an article that stresses just how little time you have to deal with a serious injury before the victim loses consciousness.

Don’t forget Dark Angel Medical has a course running this weekend near Austin if you’re in the area.

The Missing Link

Courtesy Kerry Davis, Dark Angel Medical LLC, reprinted here with permission.

The shooting community is a very selective group. Whether it’s training courses, firearms, optics, ammo, accessories or other gear, we feel strongly about what we like, and conversely, what we don’t like.

However, we all have one thing in common. We all want the best of the aforementioned  to achieve success in a dire situation. There are a large number of us who spend quite a bit of money and time on all of the latest and greatest and put quite a few rounds downrange into paper every year in order to become more proficient with our chosen system.

We train for the worst-case scenario in shootings. We should also place that emphasis on medical training and train for those worst-case scenarios as well. Proficiency with an individual med kit can be just as life-saving as can proficiency with a firearm. Unfortunately, there has not been a great deal of emphasis on this vital component of training. It seems as though it has been the “missing link” in the shooting community. A quick internet search to look at the number of emergency medical courses available for shooters versus the number of shooting courses will tell the tale. But, playing “Devil’s Advocate”, “Is a medical course for shooters really necessary?” That question can be countered by several other questions.

What if that bullet happens to punch flesh and not paper? What if you were on the scene of a mass casualty incident? What if your partner got stung by a bee during routine surveillance? What if your child put their arm through a plate glass window while chasing a ball? What if you came upon the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident? What if you didn’t drink enough water on a hot training day practicing dynamic entries over and over?

That’s a lot of what-if’s, but those what-if’s are no different in gravity than the what-if’s we train for on the range; the unexpected, the worst.

Basic emergency medical training should be a skill set which every shooter obtains prior to a basic firearms fundamentals class. It should cover the full spectrum of basic, lifesaving skills, not just gunshot wounds as not every casualty is the result of a bullet. It’s importance cannot be emphasized enough. Like shooting, it’s a perishable skill.

Emergency medicine is as constantly evolving as firearms and tactics and we would serve ourselves and our community well by keeping our minds open.  Newer, better and more efficient techniques designed to save lives are continually being developed. It is our responsibility to learn as much as possible and improve our skills both with our firearms and our first aid kits and practice with every given chance.

Once a life-threatening encounter has passed, we are then faced with the task of attempting to fix with tourniquets, hemostatics and gauze what has been punctured by bullets or broken and torn by the ragged steel and shattered glass of a wrecked automobile. Proficiency through practice will increase our ability to emergently render first aid to ourselves or others in that type situation without freezing.

Ultimately, the long and short of  honing our skills is quite simply, survival. Medical training, like firearms training, can improve our short-term survivability while we wait for law enforcement or EMS to arrive on scene. Proper training and, more importantly, proper mindset are keys to that survival. It makes us more self-sufficient and an asset to society rather than a liability.

Hopefully, we will never have to draw our firearm in self-defense, just as we may never have to employ our individual med kit to staunch the flow of blood. But, proper training in either modality is the key to a successful outcome

We must train for the worst that can happen before, during and, especially, after the gunfire.

-Kerry “Pocket Doc” Davis

25 June 2011

About the Author

Kilgore & Call
Richard Kilgore and Jake Call have been writing on and off for for many years now. You can reach them at or follow them on Instagram at @breachbangclear or Tumblr at
  • EGS

    Absolutely correct. I am attending a two day class this weekend with Suarez International and I am mulling volunteering as an EMT for the additional training.

  • Everyone trains to win the gunfight… Just like a street fight… There is a chance you will loose. Knowing what the do in the first 20 seconds of losing could save your life.

  • majrod

    Thanks. Good article. It’s hard to refute the need to provide medical care to oneself or others if you’re making the case to exercise your second amendment right.

    Folks that care about defending themselves and developing the other “life saving” skills have to do some work if they don’t have access to the specialized courses or aren’t in the service. My next door neighbor is a combat medic and I make friends easy. Any ideas to increase one’s knowledge would be helpful.

  • Lance

    Good point Mr. Reeder I agree to what you say.

  • FormerSFMedic

    First of all let me say that Kerry Davis is highly regarded in the training industry. His words on the matter of training are spot on. It doesn’t make much sense to train to shoot someone and fight your way out of a situation and then not train in basic medical skills under the same conditions. This is not Golf or Tennis, this is self defense, which is to say this FIGHTING! Someone WILL get hurt. Understand, that if something happens in the real world that involves you pulling out your gun it will almost undoubtedly be fast, dynamic, up close, violent, and chaotic. We can’t control those bullets once they leave the barrel and we certainly can’t control what the threat shoots at! Everyone should be prepared to save life in the event of a real world life and death event. It’s crazy to think that while being involved in this community and being involved in shooting sports and training, that people don’t prioritize tactical medicine or basic first aid skills.

    • @FormerSFMedic, may I use your quote. I’ve been helping out Kerry by doing a web page compilation of his TacMed tips on my domain! Really, this is for any of you. Many thanks!

      • FormerSFMedic

        @Kathy S. – Absolutely! That’s fine with me. Kerry is well know to be a great instructor and I hope he has continued success in the industry! Hopefully I can come out and take a class with Dark Angel someday and experience everything for myself. God knows I need a brush up.

        • I just happened to see this. Thank you soo much!! I thought so much of Kerry and Lynn after we talked and what they’re trying to do (this kind of training simply never occurs to most people who consider themselves to be (and are) serious defense minded people), that I just started making a web page compilation of his TacMed tips and tried to add appropriate images, links and hints that I know about. I was thrilled when they asked me to help them with Dark Angel! Again thannk you!

          • Very humble! An 18D wanting a brush up? wow! :) I will be taking a class one day!

          • Oh and anyone is it’s okay with please let me know. I don’t want to just assume and copy!

          • one of my huge collection of DoD/mil/TTP/medical etc documents :) (click)

  • Justin

    It’s funny most shooters say they are training to save their life if it is ever in danger, but in some states the law says danger means they attacked first, not just drew a gun. What if that shot hit you, or worse a family member with you? Yeah you may take down a bad guy and save your skin, but what about theirs? Take a class, train, save a life. That simple.

    Keep up the blog guys, loving it!

  • Gmod

    As a civilian medic, I’ve seen the simplest injuries take down the toughest of the tough. No matter how great of a shot you are, there is always someone out there who is better. It is in those times you need additional training in medical care because I doubt an EMS crew is less than 30 seconds away. Train up, gear up and prepare, because you at some point will be the difference between life and death for yourself, a loved one, a friend or a complete stranger.

  • TXRifleman

    Have recieved emergency first aid and medical training over the years, but can’t afford a good trauma kit… why is saving lives so much more costly than the cost of causing the trauma?

    • Chris W

      Promedkit $136.50 and has everything a non medic would need. That shouldn’t bust anyone’s bank.

  • Will

    I am taking a Basic EMT class this summer. If I would made it into the military I would have wanted to obtain some type of battle field medicine training.

  • volunteerEMT

    As a shooter, and an emt, i love articles like this. Its not just about shooting straight or knowing how to stop the bleeding, but both.

    Thanks for the great writeup Doc!

  • I do training across the US and I can see a hesitation in my students for the first 30 minutes or so. Medic Stuff is just that in their eyes we are conditioned to leave medical matters to medics. If some one gets sick we take them to the ER. If someone gets hurt we call 911. It is the same conditioning that we need to fight against. I can save lives with the same hands I can take lives with. It takes 2-3 minutes to bleed out from a femoral artery injury. If you follow this link you will see a video I found that demonstrate just that. After the 30 minutes of being in a tactical responder course these shooter are all about being able to save their own lives if they are challenged. For those of you who do tactical medical training keep up the good fight. There is a saying, “the fate of the wounded often lies in the hands of the person who applies the first dressing.” Do not die yelling MEDIC!!!!!

  • Z

    Thats a nail in the coffin article right there. Just to prove this is so legit:; one day i was cleaning up shop at my old range job and I was thinking where the **** did the med pack go? So i ask the owners brother and he tells me that i’m not qualified to inspect it is and not to open it. No joke I’m the only person on staff with the mos of 68w and the only person with prior civilian ALS experience. So i ask him why he thinks I can’t open the bag and his next response is that “if it is opened you cant be sure that everything that came inside the bag is still there and he would have to throw it away” I just dropped it after that, no sense in arguing with stupid. So I talked it over with the boys and we decided I would bring in a cls bag and we would keep it where we could get to it and everyone knows whats inside and how to use it. Later the owners brother found the bag and threw it away stating ” your not in charge and my aid bag is the only one with the correct supplies in it” I **** you not worst gun range in the world. Theres alot of type A personalities on the range and they really need to either figure out quick that real self aid and buddy aid goes hand in hand with firearms. Dark Angel is putting out the good word, im drinking the kool-aid

  • Jeff

    I think this is a great topic. I took a Wilderness First Aid class 2 years ago. I learned so much and I want to go further, but Advanced First Aid and First Responder classes around L.A. are either full or scheduled at crazy times. Most places want you for a whole week and I can’t do that with a family and a job. I can go to a college like Phoenix or DeVry and get a degree in fifty different fields at night, isn’t this just as important?

  • bbb

    First aid for traumatic injuries isn’t something that should be required for shooters, it’s something that should be learned by everyone. Including children.

    I learned first aid and CPR in the Boy Scouts…but honestly I don’t remember much other than “don’t use a tourniquet unless someone is going to bleed to death without it because they’re probably going to loose whatever limb you put it on.”

    Everyone should know basic first aid by 10, intermediate by 13, and advanced by 16. Especially considering most people in the US start driving and riding by 16.

    • Jim37F

      “don’t use a tourniquet unless someone is going to bleed to death without it because they’re probably going to loose whatever limb you put it on.”

      As an Eagle Scout and current Soldier, I’ve always thought that was asinine. Yes for most cuts you’ll come across in the civilian world direct pressure is the easiest and best solution. But heaven forbid you come across a severe cut, say from a piece of metal or glass in a traffic collision, and there’s severe bleeding, I’ll go for a tourniquet first. Why? Because the time it takes for a tourniquet to permanently damage tissue is measured in hours, and the time it takes to die from bleeding is measured in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be alive with a lost limb than be dead with all limbs intact (and now just as useless as the one that would’ve been lost anyway)

      • bbb

        I always thought it was weird they taught us that torqniquet = amputation…

        I agree with you, either way.

  • jrexilius

    good stuff! I have been seriously lacking in my medical/first-aid training and plan on spending training time this year to try and catch up.

  • John McKenzie, ER-RN

    Hi there, I am so glad to read all the comments on the need for first aid training. Whether a person is involved in the shooting community, or just a lay person, basic first aid is a must. Just a little about me, I have been in the military (reserves) for nearly 20 yrs, spent as a Combat medic and did a bit in the sand box. After my MOS training I decided to go for my RN and I work in the ER in the civilian sector. I spend more time on my medical skills everyday to keep people alive and I spend many hrs every wknd on a dynamic range to hone my gun fighting skills. Both go hand in hand. I don’t think one is more important, they are equal. I know I must be able to adapt and stay fluid in any situation and that means from being in gun fighter mode, then switch to rescuer mode. Remember in any situation, options equal success. This applies to both worlds. Staying proficient in both worlds allow me the best chance I can in protecting my battles on my left and right and saving their lives if need be.

  • Logan

    Absolutely, I always hate when I see peoples concealed-carry load-outs and yet they don’t have a blow-out kit or trauma kit with them. Same thing goes for that absolutely stupid concept on how EMS is the LE’s blow-out kit. Average EMS response time=8-minutes, Bleeding/Bleed-Out time from a Femoral Arterial Bleed=2-3 Minutes.

  • Jay

    Funny, during the past week at an active shooter meeting, I had to Law enforcement officers say they won’t provide assistance to injured at an incident. Thought that was odd. Their reasoning is that’s the EMTs job

  • Yes_ADoorGunner

    I guaran-fu**ing-tee if one of their buddies in blue were laying shot a mile away they’d break every law in the book to get there and help, though. Funny, aren’t they suppose to protect and serve the public?

  • Good article, was an ET in the Navy so are chief sent us all to CPR class. Someone present had to be certified on CPR to work on energized gear. Later on was working third shift in manufacturing plant. Third shift didn’t have enough people on to require a nurse. They asked if anyone had prior experience with first aid and CPR. Me and two others said yes, so us three and a supervisor were sent to Red Cross industrial class. Found very informative and unfortunately useful a few times. Back then I made a nice kit out of a lot of “extras” from work, in a good size tool box. When I bought a new regular cab pickup I didn’t have the room for it. I liked the Pro Med Kit: STS Blow-Out Kit. Would be out of way in truck and though not as cheap as “extras” from work, not to bad a price. No training with air way use (above my level), so would probably put my CPR mask in instead. Never used Celox but looks like a great product.

  • 276 pedersen

    Props to you for bringing in a CLS bag… but like you said you can’t argue with stupid. Sounds like a range to avoid.

  • Bob McMahan

    I worked for some years for RMK-BRJ, a big contractor in Vietnam. The company had jobsites all over the country and initially employed a male nurse at each one. At some point, the male nurses were replaced by former 18 Deltas. I got a bullet through an elbow during the the 1968 May 5 offensive, and Jim Cole, a former SF medic, took care of me. It was not a big deal, as it turned out, but his background gave me a lot of confidence that I was going to be OK.

    Many years later, I took a very nice weapons course with Jeff Gonzales. I noticed that he had medics deployed in a SUV not far from the range, just in case.

    For anyone who doubt’s the need for medical preparedness, just Google John Shaw and the incident at Mid-South in which a Navy SEAL was killed in a shoot house exercise.