The tourniquet will save a life if used properly.
Lets talk about the SOF-Tactical Tourniquets, since one of them is my personal favorite.
SOF Tactical Tourniquets come in two distinct models, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In this article I will cover the SOF-TT (Gen 2) (NSN: 6515-01-530-7015) and SOFTT 1.5” (Wide) (NSN: 6515-01-587-9943) models from Tactical Medical Solutions, Inc, out of South Carolina, USA.
The SOF in SOF-Tactical Tourniquet stands for Special Operations Forces. And yes, an American combat medic designed these tourniquets based on his extensive experience treating real wounded soldiers in bad places. He’s a good dude who deserves all the success his company has had. That being said, having two models can be confusing. So I will try to clarify.
For brevity sake, we will use call each model by names commonly heard around the hut, the SOF-T (Gen 2) and the SOF-T Wide.
How they work.
Both the SOF-T Gen 2 and the SOF-T Wide are strap and windlass type tourniquets. The basic concept – encircle the limb with a strap, tighten it with the windlass. The torque applied to the bar shortens the strap, compressing the limb with circumferential pressure – this compresses the blood vessels and decreases flow through the blood vessels. (Keep in mind, no tourniquet will stop bleeding from an exposed and bleeding bone, only from open soft tissue. You should apply a tourniquet to a traumatic amputation but do it high enough to compress the blood supply to the bone as well.
What’s the same?
Both SOF-Tactical Tourniquets are strap and windlass type tourniquets. Both have identical metal torque bars and plastic bar catches (the Gen 2 has 2, the Wide has 1). Both have straps, although the WIDE model has a wide strap – genius (theoretically, the Wide strap causes less compression damage to the limb). They both are applied to the wounded limb above the level of the wound and compression occurs in just about the same manner. Both are made of heavy-duty nylon, heavy stitching and metal bars. Both are extremely durable which is great for training – you will get a lot of training out of 1 SOF-T as compared to many other brands. (AND YES, YOU SHOULD TRAIN WITH YOUR TOURNIQUET)
The SOF-TT(Gen 2) strap is 1 inch wide. The buckle for the SOF-TT (Gen 2) strap is a basic spring clamp with a retention nut passed through the tab. The retention nut can be screwed down to prevent the clamp from accidental release – a necessity when a casualty is packaged in a hypothermia bag and then moved. You want to know that your tourniquet isn’t going to come apart on the way to the ER, especially if you can’t see it or new bleeding from the casualty during the ride. Sadly, as with most medical inventions, it wouldn’t be there if there hadn’t been at least one death from not having it.
The buckle for the SOF-TT (WIDE) is a custom two-piece job made from stamped steel that allows the strap to be separated from the windlass section for easier placement around a limb without the need to re-thread the strap though the buckle (good for trapped limbs where you can’t reach the end of the limb). The Wide model also has a single triangle bar clip on a traveler tab that allows you to place the triangle at the end of the bar. This is helpful since the bar usually ends up a little high on the strap.
Using the SOF-Tactical Tourniquets
Using the SOF-T (Gen 2) is a breeze, the WIDE is a little more complicated. They come packaged ALMOST ready to use, except that you have to remove the plastic wrap and rubber bands. To apply either one, simply make sure the strap is positioned so that the loop is large enough to pass your leg through easily, with enough strap on the outside of the clamp or buckle to grasp with your palm and fingers. Slip the tourniquet over the limb with the strap’s end facing the mid-line of your body, hike it up to the correct location (TRAINING REQUIRED) and tighten the strap. Finally, crank the torque bar a few twists, until the bleeding stops or your limb is pulseless (TRAINING REQUIRED) and place one end of the metal bar into one of the triangular clips (Gen 2 has 2 triangular clips). Again, training is recommended since this tourniquet use is not intuitive and a real world injury is not the time to try and figure out if the rubber bands have anything to do with it (they don’t, other than a cheap and weak way to mount your tourniquet on a vest)
The most notable user related difference between the SOF-TT (Gen 2) and the Wide model relates to the ease of tightening the strap. The SOF-TT(Gen 2) is much easier. For most users, the Gen 2 has a better draw angle and can be tightened simply by pulling the strap across your body with the arm opposite the limb you are treating. The Wide model often requires the user to compress his/her arm or leg against the body or ground in order to prevent the WIDE model from slipping around. This slipping jams the strap in the buckle and make tightening difficult. The one solution for ease of tightening the WIDE model is to pull up and away from the limb in order to tighten the WIDE strap.
All in all, the SOF-TT has saved hundred of lives across the world since its invention. It has brought hemorrhage control to the forefront of life saving in both military and civilian medical communities. My preference is for the SOF-TT(Gen 2) for its ease of application and extreme durability. Last I heard, MARSOC see things the same way and stuck with the SOF-TT (Gen 2).
Regardless of your preference, make sure you get at least one tourniquet and keep it within reach. If you are a professional sheepdog, I recommend you carry at least one tourniquet on your belt or vest and make sure your buddies do too.
Finally, no matter what you carry, be sure to train with it and make sure its ready to go before you put it back in your pocket or pouch.
Thanks for reading. The life you save may be your own….