When building their own first aid kit, most military veterans have a decent idea of what they might need—at least when it comes to life-saving care, and especially in the realm of massive hemorrhaging. There might need to be some research done in terms of civilian-specific care, but generally speaking, veterans will go ahead and buy gauze of some kind, elastic bandages and a couple of other items used to control bleeding. Of course the last thing any military person would forget would be the tourniquet.

I mean, the knock-off brands probably do more good than this… but how can you know? | CJTF-HOA

Unless they acquired tourniquets from the military, those people are going to have to purchase their own. A tourniquet uses mechanical advantage to constrict the blood-flow of an injured limb, and it really has to ratchet down before the bleeding slows significantly. On top of that, if it’s on the outside of someone’s hiking pack, the exterior of their range first aid kit, or even just scraping around for a couple of years in the car, it’s most likely going to see some wear and tear before it sees any real use. You need a good one that will work under these kinds of stressors.

There are lookalikes to the tourniquets you knew in the military, but they are not the same. A CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) has been rigorously tested and vouched for by NAEMT (National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians) and TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care), North American Rescue, the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research, and many more legitimate programs and organizations. There are many identical-looking tourniquets on Amazon or Ebay or other like sites that do NOT have the same history of testing.

I was not a combat medic, but I was a Ranger First Responder, EMT and I always pushed myself to continuously train on the trauma basics (to include tourniquet application) all throughout my military career. I could probably not tell the difference between these imitation brands and a real CAT if someone put them in front of me—they look the same. Just Amazon search for a “CAT tourniquet” and you’ll see what I mean—pay attention to the varying “tacticool” brand names.

It is unlikely that these tourniquets would just snap into a thousand pieces once you use them. The windlass will probably hold without cracking and the strap will probably not fray. It is most likely designed to look like the CAT because it probably IS like the CAT. So who cares?

I would buy a knock-off brand leaf blower based on a large amount of probably’s, just as I would buy a knock-off shower caddy. I would not buy a knock-off gun, I would not buy a knock-off climbing harness and I would not buy a knock-off tourniquet.

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Probably’s are not good enough in the realm of life-saving devices. The groups mentioned above put countless hours of testing behind the products they endorse, and they do it knowing that people will literally trust them with their lives. “Random Tactical Company” with the endorsement of an obscure “Medical Fitness Journal Institute of Outdoor Doctors” doesn’t cut it, despite the cool medical looking labels and watermarks on their images.

Do your research and don’t buy into gimmicks that haven’t been tested. If you’re doubting it, ask a medical professional or head straight to the source—North American Rescue is a good place to start, as they are a trusted supplier by the military for many things tactical, tourniquets included.


Featured image courtesy of the U.S. Marines