Gunshot First Aid For Preppers: What You Need To Know

In the greater preparedness schema, most preppers share common needs for generally similar equipment and resources. Firearms, and the protection and security they provide, are near the top of the list.

Almost every serious prepper is fairly well versed in acquiring suitable weapons and anything else regarding guns. They make it a point to practice and learn how to use them to defend yourself against the evil enemies.

But what many of us overlook and remain woefully absent of experience or knowledge is the flip side of the zombie coin. What if one of ‘them’ shoots one of your group, and you are now seriously wounded? How would you handle it?

What WOULD you do?

And more importantly what COULD you do?

You might be pretty good with CPR and regular ‘Bandaid first aid’, but what would you do in real time? What if you face the squirting, spurting, bloody mess of a gaping blackish red hole in someone’s shoulder from a blast of AK fire from intruders trying to breach your camp perimeter defense?

Well, pay seriously attention here, because this article might help you find some answers.

There’s never ANY true substitute for proper emergency care by well-trained first responders, or REAL medics or doctors.

But if you don’t have them in a bad SHTF scenario, a specific and easily learned knowledge and preparation for treatment of certain wounds dramatically increase at least the chance of the wounded person’s survival, when otherwise they would die in short time.

It’s pretty simple and fast once you have the right stuff in your survival med kit and familiarize yourself with the procedure described herein by watching videos of it how to use and do it. In some cases you can even patch yourself up like Rambo did if you are conscious, able, and determined to survive.

Standard ‘civilized’ wound trauma surgery is a highly refined and specific form of medical treatment. Today, even combat medics have a sophisticated procedure and support system designed to be highly coordinated and successful in some venues rivaling any hospital ER set up. There are usually specially trained field surgeons close enough to the battle zone with advanced field trauma centers and supplies where a high rate of survival is achieved.

But this is NOT what we are talking about here.

This is about your worst fear coming true as a prepper. Which is when your low profile ‘retreat and OPSEC’ mode is discovered and breached and you are now fighting in a life and death match with only two outcomes. You make it… or you don’t.

And for the sake of simplicity–which is actually the cold hard reality expectation when it all boils down to it–this info is based on the worse case doomsday scenario of having no hospital facilities, doctors, or trained field medics anywhere to help you. So only you or your ‘group’ will be able to do anything for yourselves.

What to Do? Stop the Bleeding, Treat for Shock, and Keep Them Breathing

ASAP after the wounded person goes down, quickly but carefully remove/cut away their clothing around the wound to clearly locate and assess the damage to allow room for wound dressing.

With bullet wounds, people initially usually die from bleeding out if a major critical organ is not hit to cause imminent death. Bleeding out enough to lose critical blood pressure will result in not enough irrigation to the brain which automatically causes ’Shock’ which then begins to shut the body functions down, ultimately causing death.

To prevent this it is imperative to STOP any and ALL bleeding FAST. For multiple wounds you may have to remove most of the clothing and if the weather is freezing, this can be a problem unless you can quickly get the wounded inside or have warm blankets handy.

Be careful handling the wounded person because bullets also break bones on their way in and out that often can’t be seen. Movement can cause excruciating pain.

Bullet wounds are unique in that unlike a blunt trauma injury with a bat/pipe, knife, or even an arrow, the exit wound can be quite asymmetrical in its path through the body, sometimes amazingly so.

In the recent tragedy of the two uniform officers ambushed in the ongoing Ferguson, MO debacle one was struck in the shoulder and the exit wound was down in the lower back area! The second officer was hit in the face at the cheekbone and the bullet deflected to lodge behind the ear! First off this indicates to me that the rounds used were likely lower velocity .22 LR caliber which are notorious for that type of wound channeling.

With this officer it looks like they said that the doctors decided to leave the lodged bullet behind the ear alone for now. This is done for a reason. It’s bad enough in terms of surgical stress to the patient to fix the damage on the face so if they don’t have to immediately add to it, it’s sometimes better to wait until the first surgery heals.

Which brings up another important point…

…DON’T even think about replicating what you see in the old cowboy movies by digging around in the wound with your Blacksmith ‘horse shoe tongs’, or Bowie knife, to extract the bullet to proudly immortalize your surgical success!

Most high powered rounds will be through and through anyway exemplified by a larger ’exit’ wound, and if not, as in the case of some rapidly expanding pistol hollow points which would be floating too deep for you to even know where it is anyway without an X-ray scan.

Without the proper surgical back up resources, you’re better off just stopping the bleeding and leaving well enough alone. Many have survived relatively unbothered by bullets and small pieces of shrapnel metal lodged in their bodies for years.

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CLICK HERE to find out more about simple and effective first aid techniques that you need to learn for survival.

How to Prepare to Treat for Shock

While you are initially situating the victim and getting ready to ‘operate’, you might as well position the body to treat for shock with the legs elevated slightly.

Medical ‘Shock’–not to be confused with emotional/psychological PTSD type shock– is the term used to describe a complicated condition where many types/combination of trauma or pathological conditions causes not enough oxygenated blood irrigation due to low blood pressure to sustain critical organ function.

When blood pressure is lost from wound bleeding, as opposed to snake bite, heart weakness, toxic exposure, etc. it is known as hypovolemic shock, but the symptoms are all about the same.

If the patient was still conscious after being wounded and they also begin to go into shock they experience dizziness, breathing irregularity, rapid pulse, pale skin color, etc.

Left untreated, medical shock often leads to death. So if the wounded person is losing or already lost sufficient blood, the blood pressure must be restored after the bleeding is stopped by lifting the legs if that’s possible, or inclining the entire body so that blood flows to the heart and brain can be adequately irrigated.

There are additional causes and treatments for shock and it behooves any serious prepper to learn as much about it as possible. This is why you always see the IV bottle drip with at least a saline solution/plasma if they can’t type match a blood transfusion. They must keep a blood pressure/circulation and vitals function in stabilization to eventually create homeostasis and recovery,

Also be prepared to immediately perform CPR if there is a suspicious loss of consciousness.

Stopping Bleeding With Pressure Bandages Directly to All Wounds

shotgunThis is where it gets a bit complicated, especially if you don’t have the right bandages.

But nothing you can’t handle with some clear thinking and basic training.

There are ways to ‘improvise’ if nothing else. But if you are not dedicated enough to your survival prep plans to have a decent medical kit right along with your grab gun, your water filter, and your whiskey flask, then don’t get into gunfights anyway and you should just dig a deep hole somewhere–which will also serve as your grave–and hope nobody finds you.

There might be a large exit wound–the typical exit wounds of an AK or .223 round through the body can remain as large as golf ball after the tissue mass has constricted. If bone fragments are tearing through as well, then it will be larger.

That’s a nasty hole and if the heart is still pumping it will look like a park water fountain –only BLOOD red–and if really squirting or flowing that usually indicates veins and/or an artery was hit or ruptured also.

Treat that first by inserting a Celox or Quick Clot pack, an antibiotic powder or gel application and then a proper size compression bandage. Then go to the smaller entrance hole.

Otherwise if you don’t have a pressure bandage you have to press down and hold your bandage with sufficient power to preclude leakage until the Quick Clot does its thing by rapidly coagulating the wound area through a chemical process. Just a gauze pad and tape won’t be enough on a bullet wound. Pressure bandages like the Israeli bandage, have built in pressure torque clamping system and work well.

A ‘pressure bandage’ is just what it sounds like. It must be applied and kept under pressure. And we don’t just do a little pressing/holding it on while you tape it.

A victim can bleed out through a bandage a little slower but critically and not be noticed because the bandage absorbs and hides the flow the blood. The bleeding must be stopped at the wound. The bandage must be tightly pressed on the wound or the bleeding won’t be stopped properly.

Many are aware of the use of a tourniquet to stop large bleeding in the extremities. If you use the Quick Clot material and pressure bandages quickly and efficiently and the wound is not bleeding so profusely then you shouldn’t need a tourniquet.

But if a major artery is open and that you can’t even insert the Quick Clot material due to being unable to temporarily ’sponge’ out the blood, then apply a tourniquet only as long as it takes you to dress the wound and stop the bleeding then remove it immediately afterward.

Once the bleeding has been stopped, make the victim comfortable and quiet while monitoring for shock and respiratory difficulties until further advanced treatment requirements can be ascertained and provided if possible.


The naked truth is that it’s a good/bad bet that anytime you become unfortunate enough to be involved in a gunfight, the odds of you getting wounded or killed, are just as ‘even’ as the other guys.

If that bothers you, and it should, make sure you implement an appropriate survival plan for it by getting some more detailed books or videos on the subject of survival medicine, practicing, and hopefully have someone in your family or ‘group’ get professionally trained in this type of medic work. You should also upgrade your basic ‘first aid’ kit with some of the proper medical supplies, safety strategies, and equipment.

A different piece of non-medical equipment but directly related and influential to the types of bullet wounds you might get is some good Body Armor, if you can afford it.

This would help mitigate the more serious bullet strikes to vital areas of the torso.

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DISCLAIMER: The information given and opinions voiced in this article are for educational and informational purposes only and does not replace medical advice or the practice of medicine. No provider-patient relationship, explicit or implied, exists between the publisher, authors and readers. As many of the strategies discussed here would be less effective than proven present-day medications and technology, the author and publisher strongly urge their readers to seek modern and standard medical care with certified practitioners whenever and wherever it is available. 

Written by

Mahatma Muhjesbude is a former Spec-ops combat Vet, LEO, international security consultant, and private contractor. He has instructor level credentials and skills in various survival disciplines. He is a dedicated advocate of Liberty and Justice for all and a proactive defender of our Constitutional rights. He strongly believes that the best value you can give back in life is vital knowledge through experience, and that's why he's writing for Survivopedia, using a pen name to protect his real identity. You can send Mahatma a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • I use Yunnan Baiyao
    An All Natural Chinese Herbal Supplement
    Yunnan Baiyao may be used as first-aid for any kind of traumatic injury or internal bleeding, whether one has a small cut, bruise, swelling, a serious wound from gun shots, an internal injury from car accidents or fighting, or bleeding from surgery and stomach ulcers etc.† One may simply pour the Yunnan Baiyao power on to the cut and/or swallow the power

    • Yes Paul, I am an Acupuncturist, and have used this before to stop a brachial artery puncture wound! Stopped the bleeding in less than a minute! This is always in my carry bag!

    • Thank you for the tip! I’ve never heard of it before, but just ordered some for my trauma kit!

  • That picture of the gunshot wound was kind of gross. I’m going to guess that thats in close spaces, like home invasions. I feel like thats more common in cities and places like that.

    • Well, Matt, did you, perhaps, think that ‘surviving’ a gun fight would be…’pretty’?

      But let’s see how good some of you think you are at identifying such ‘grossness’?

      Tell me at one range that shotgun was fired, what size shot, and whether the wound was fatal, or not?

      That shouldn’t be too difficult for a ‘real’ gunslinger?

      • 12 gauge birdshot, 8-12ft (depending on choke or lack of one), fatal.

        • Very good, Ericx! Right on! I’m glad to see some serious ‘practitioners’ on the site. And likely no exit material so one could easily say that this hit resulted in some ‘optimal’ stopping power?

  • So let’s start with the basics, the ABCs of emergency medicine. Does your patient have a patent Airway? Is your patient Breathing? Can your patient sustain their circulation?
    If theses critical life threats are not immediately addressed, your patient will die. If there are no immediate life threats then rapidly and systematicly work head to address issues. This is basic for any trauma or medical emergency.
    As per GSWs, if the wound is to the head, apply dressing and pray.
    If the wound is to the neck or chest (any area above the diaphragm), apply an occlusive dressing (Halo Chest Seal, Asherman Chest Seal, vasoline gauze pad, Saran Wrap) this will prevent air from entering the body at the wound site (both entrance & exit) which should mitigate either an air embolism or a tension pneumothorax, both life threatening.
    Belly wounds will need lots of gauze pads. On these I would apply Saran wrap then gauze. Should your gauze become saturated with blood, remove all but the first pad, and begin to add more until the bleeding stops. Never remove the first piece of gauze from a wound as you will damage the clot the body is trying to form.
    Extremity wounds should have direct pressure with gauze applied first. Remember to press as hard as you can on the wound to attempt to stop the bleeding. Again what you are trying to do is assist the body attempt to form a clot. So never remove the first piece of gauze once it’s covering the wound no matter how bloody it gets.
    If direct pressure is not stopping the bleeding, or if you have bright red spurting blood coming from an extremity, do not hesitate to use a tourniquet. Once the tourniquet is on, do not remove it! Even if you think you’ve dressed the wound, once the blood flow is started again you will wind up in a gigantic mess. The best thing you can do is note the time the tourniquet was applied (bleeding controlled) and get the patient to a suitable facility or medical personnel.
    Hemostatic agents (quick clot) are great, but don’t hesitate to throw on a tourniquet if needed, as they can be in place for 6 hours before permanent damage to distal cells and muscle tissue begin.
    Never give aspirin nor alcohol for pain in these situation. This will only exacerbate bleeding.
    Keep your patient as warm as possible, and continue to reasses the ABCs.
    Remember all you’re try to do is stabilize the patient. What they really need is definitive care as soon as possible.

  • One of the first lessons I was taught in Combat First Aid was stopping a sucking chest wound. All the above information does apply, but the simplest way of stopping such a wound is to cover it with some form of flexible plastic. We were taught to use our I.D. cards. It is just large enough to cover most bullet wounds. Alternatives would be a plastic food storage bag, cellophane, if that’s all you have, or even a rubber glove. A sterile dressing is preferred, but in an emergency, sterility goes out the window.

    Semper Fi!

    • Fox, while doing something is usually better than doing nothing instead of just watching the person bleed to death, there are a lot first aid DIY hacks that would ‘suffice’. But throwing out ‘sterility’ just because it’s an ’emergency’ should not be one of them if any way possible. Just a splash of that ‘good juice’ (190 proof grain alcohol) in your pocket Flask over the wound and then a quick dusting of Cayanne pepper will be enough to ‘UN-guarantee’ a septic infection even if you don’t have a sterile bandage.

      As for ‘sucking’ chest wounds’ I didn’t cover that yet. That’s going to be in ‘part II’ There are special bandages for these now that are really the only way to go. If you or your group has anyone getting a chest shot, simply stopping the bleeding won’t save them if you can’t immediately get hospital Emergency Room care.

      In the next article I’ll cover some of the more typical serious gunshot wounds and advise on the best med-kits and gunshot equipment to have in your survival resources. It’s not as expensive as many think but then, if you have to ask, that means your life must have a ‘price limit’ on it?

      • Looking forward to the next article!
        ANY information, even if you already know it, is valuable ad you never know what new trick you might learn (the Yunnan Baiyao was new to me as a blood-stopper).
        As for SCW’s, the HALO seal is sterile, works great, takes up less space in an IFAK than a MRE beverage pack and only costs <$20.
        In my IFAK I keep an Izzy bandage, pack of Celox, couple tampons, a couple large gauze pads, sterile gloves (in mini ziploc), a couple Oxi's and of course the HALO seal. All good to have if your opponent gets lucky and gets one through your armor/SAPI plate!

        • Yeah, that Yunan B was new to me also, I’ll check into it seriously. Wait until my next part 2 on this topic before you buy anything else, I’m analyzing some of the best stuff AND expedient training videos on this, which would be worth their weight if they measure up and are state of the art. Thanks!.

          • Roger that! If the Chinese herb works as good as it’s supposed to, it might justify a small vial in the IFAK for multipurpose use. Researching it myself and it sees the VC in Vietnam used it to great success. Looking for scholarly resources in the meantime.

      • While I agree that simply stopping the bleeding of a sucking chest wound will not in and of itself save the victim, it is still a vital and necessary first step. The reason, which I’m sure you will cover in your next episode, (I am really in agreement with you on most of your views) is because the wound is sucking air into the thorax causing eventual collapse of the lung(s) and ultimately, death. But, as for putting a higher value on keeping the wound sterile, the patient will die far faster from oxygen deprivation than from septic infection.

        I never said that sterility should be avoided. But, by the same token, I have personally witnessed very “dirty” treatment of life threatening wounds still allow the victim a reasonable chance of recovery.

        Even in armored warfare, the first rule is: “Don’t get hit!”

        When this is impossible, make do with what ever is available, and try to keep it sterile, but don’t let that be the determining factor in your decision to give aid.

        • You’re absolutely right, Fox. I of course, have more of a fear of post traumatic sepsis because most of my ‘experience’ was in Asia and Africa where infectious elements were just hanging around like biotic vulturesWAITING for a wound to pounce on and infect and in the far to often absence of antibiotics, even if you stopped the bleeding adequately, that still meant certain death if you were not available of real hospital care forthwith.

        • Here’s the best solution to that problem…
          I’ve applied these (luckily, only in simulation) in less than 30 seconds upon discovering the SCW… and that was solo with BOTH sides (entrance & exit) with an unresponsive victim! They are compact enough to put in any IFAK and having them is priceless!

  • Cayenne pepper powder also stops bleeding very well. Just pack it into any wound. May sting a bit at first, but will stop bleeding and the nutrients will accelerate healing of the wound. Used it when I sliced open my hand deeply on sharp knife. Stopped bleeding quickly, and healed rapidly with zero scarring!

    And consider eucalyptus essential oil after the bleeding stops (for infections & pain). Apply topically, as it penetrates the skin & destroys infectious germs. Pain relief is a nice side effect of this oil too! The pure essential oil will evaporate rather quickly if you apply it to skin, so mix some into a bottle of your favorite body oil (jajoba, coconut, coco butter, almond, virgin olive oil, etc.). Shake before using (if liquid). Aboriginal female nurses in Australia were known to keep cloths dipped in eucalyptus oil in their shirt pockets. The fumes kept them from contracting flu & infectious diseases in the hospital…hence, still the best stuff for colds/flu, and lung & sinus issues.

    • Forgot to add also…always keep a bottle of Grapefruit Seed Extract (not grapeseed) in your medicine cabinet. Google the hundreds of internal & external uses of this powerful & very safe medicine for both humans & all manner of pets/animals.

      Nutribiotic is the best & also most popular brand of GSE. Comes in both liquid & tablets…and is inexpensive.

    • Important: I forgot to mention to google “citridal” vs “grapefruit seed extract”. I have an old bottle of Citricidal (the original, effective, bitter-tasting product) by Nutribiotic, which I still use…but I noticed Nutribiotic no longer sells Citricidal. I believe because the FDA told them they can no longer sell it. They now sell a product simply called “Grapefruit Seed Extract”, which many users say is not only not bitter-tasting like the original, but is also less or not effective. So make sure you can get ahold of the original Citricidal. Perhaps it’s only available from overseas suppliers?? I don’t know…but will be looking into this because Citricidal is too valuable to not have on hand.

  • As a Marine Corps veteran nearly 14 years I was taught and did teach the 4 rules to saving someone’s life in a combat situation and have field-tested it
    Start the breathing,stop the bleeding,protect the wound and treat for shock in that order
    Semper Fi

    • Hi Bill, I’m working on an article for a CPR/AED and First Aid training center in San Diego. Would you be willing to email or talk to me about the steps you took to stop the bleeding? We want to give our students real stories from people who have been faced with this situation in the field, not just Red Cross recommendations. Thank you for any help.

  • Another good thing to have on-hand (and in your kit) are tampons, Yea, tampons, great puncture wound blood-stoppers, sterile, compact and easy to store and use. No IFAK should be without them.

    • Ericx, as far as the Yunnan Bai Yao goes, I have been an Acupuncturist for almost 20 years now and this formula was one that was taught to us when I went to school. It has been around for a long time. Yes the American soldiers used to find vials of this on the vc and didn’t know what it was. If they only knew back then they could have used it on themselves! This formula has many uses, from headaches, minor contusions, strains, sprains, hematomas, pain from trauma and the biggie, it stops bleeding quickly! In the vials and the capsule packages there is also a small red pill. This pill is to be taken if there is very severe bleeding and if the person is loosing consiousness. You can find this formula from any Acupuncturist, or go to an herb shop that sells Chinese herbs.

      • Scott, thanks so much for this information! My Uncle served in VN (5th Group SF) and mentioned a Chinese herb the VC used that would stop bleeding. Guess this was the one! Looks like it fills the gap in using QuickClot/Celox for arterial bleeding and something for wounds greater than just a bandage. I did a little research and it warrants getting a vile for both the big med bag and IFAK.
        One question, how does it work in conjunction with a bandage, let’s say a deep laceration or in-out missile wound to the peripherals (no arterial damage)? I generally use an IDF compression bandage or tampon/traditional compress to stop bleeding (unless it’s bad, in which case I may go to the Celox), I wonder how this does as a preemptive compound used for less-than arterial bleeding wounds. Thanks!

  • Thank you so much for shedding light on the seriousness of gunshot wounds. You are right when you advise people not to follow what the movies do. In fact, that can make things much more serious and even lead to death. Being certified in First Aid and CR can help a lot when it comes to treating a gunshot wound, regardless of where you are or what supplies you have on hand. Thanks again for sharing!