There are many different types and variations of tourniquets on the market today, but there is only one type of tourniquet we recommend.
A LITTLE HISTORY
If you examine some history around tourniquets (I will call these TQ for now) for the past 20 years, there has been a lot of drama. Much of it fueled by the military making bad decisions, then changing their minds, and then making more bad decisions.
For a long time following WWII, TQs were not even recommended or deployed by the military. Field medics knew TQs worked, doctors knew they worked, but for reasons I won’t go into (read more here), there was little support by military leadership to ensure soldiers and medics were equipped with them as a life-saving device.
Thankfully, all that changed in the last 20 years. Soon following the US interaction in the Middle East, Spec Ops units began employing TQs. They eventually caught-on to the rest of the military.
The most commonly employed field medical TQs were a variation of the CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) TQ we know today. It is basically a nylon band that is wrapped around the appendage, between the heart and the wound, with a wire inner core that can be tightened using a fairly long plastic stick that is wound multiple times until circulation is cut-off. The stick is then fixed to the TQ with a Velcro band to retain tension.
Unfortunately these devices have some limitations. They don’t work well for skinny adults or children because they are statically sized to fit a grown man’s thigh and do not adjust to a very small size. Additionally with the frequency of dogs employed in the military, they also don’t work well for them either.
They are also pretty awkwardly sized and difficult to pouch. Most pouches on the market today don’t fully cover the TQ which can lead to it getting snagged on clothing or just dirty from repeated exposure. Not what we consider an advanced design.
As a result, one pretty smart guy saw a need for an improvement into the traditional TQ market and invented a completely new platform to address both the CAT TQ’s weaknesses and improve the success of field medical survivors.
Jeff Kirkham took it upon himself to upgrade the TQ market with a completely new design. Instead of a static band that did not fit a variety of appendages, Jeff made the entire band flexible. you can apply it to appendages that range from a child’s arm to a grown man’s thigh. That’s a pretty wide range! He also made the TQ more compact. Here is a video that describes it in more depth.
The RATS Tourniquet, now called the Rapid Tourniquet by Rapid Medical features two different parts, a bungee cord and a locking clasp I call the buckle. The device is extremely easy to deploy and even better, easy to carry.
The TQ is stored with a loop already fashioned into the buckle. Even an injured person can slip it on with one hand. The bungee is tightened and wrapped multiple times around the appendage until blood flow is restricted. The bungee is then locked-down, preventing slack or losing retention, by slipping it through a v-shaped cut in the buckle.
Best part is the entire TQ fits into any small pouch. We recommend the Condor HHR (handheld radio) Pouch which is Molle compatible. You can stuff it into a shirt pocket if you like. However you carry it, we recommend you have one on you at all times while you carry or shoot.
As with anything that comes from the military, the reverence to decisions made by a lack of research or information can be a little frightening. Pat MacNamera calls this “institutional in-breeding” or the blind adherence to traditional practices that are no longer effective.
When the RATS TQ came onto the market, it received a visceral response from the military and civilian medical practitioners. You know what they say, if someone screams loud, they’re probably worrried about losing control. And that’s exactly what happened.
Fearing these continued, ignorant responses would tarnish his product forever, Kirkham changed the name of his TQ. But what is especially concerning is the degree and source of all this negative feedback. These were medical professionals, employed by civilian, law enforcement, and the military. The outright slander and lies they lobbed were very telling.
In the end of the day, what is most important is to ensure you are properly equipped to respond to an injury. We don’t care about major contracts with the government, we just need products to work. Do your own research and make your own decision.
A TQ is just the bare minimum field medical, however. Whatever TQ you choose to carry, ensure you do it consistently and you have practiced how to deploy it in an emergency.