How to Treat and Pack a Bullet Wound in the Wilderness

More than 39,000 people will die of gunshot wounds each year – or 109 people dying per day. Even if we exclude all gun deaths by suicide, there are still nearly 40 people dying from gunshot wounds every day.

This isn’t a discussion about gun control or safety, though. Instead, I mention these numbers to show why it’s essential for everyone to know how to treat a gunshot wound.

Step 1: Get Training

Take a scenario-based first aid course. These first aid courses use realistic dummies, complete with fake blood, or will even do entire scenes where you have to rush in and help victims.

Step 2: Secure the Situation

You should never risk your own life to help someone else (though I can’t say I wouldn’t do that to save my kids…). Before administering first aid, make sure the scene is safe.

Step 3: Locate Sources of Bleeding

With blood gushing everywhere, it can be hard to find the bullet wound entrance and exit site (if there is an exit). You may need to remove clothing – which is one more reason to always carry a survival knife with you.

Step 4: Stop Bleeding

The first step in treating any bleeding wound is to apply pressure. If you don’t have any first aid supplies, then cover the wound with anything absorbent you have available: a scarf, your shirt, the victim’s shirt…

Step 5: Check A, B, Cs

With gunshot wounds, controlling bleeding is the most important thing. Once bleeding is under control, you can check the ABCs: Airways, Breathing, and Circulation.

Gunshot wounds between the neck and bellybutton could have hit the lungs. This can result in a collapsed lung. Chest wounds should be covered with a seal to keep air out of the wound.