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What Happens When You Get Shot And How To Survive It

Saying America is obsessed with guns is like saying air is suitable for breathing, and an estimated 100 people are killed by a gun every day in America.

Which is why people are scared stiff about getting shot, but far too few people understand what happens when we get shot and what we can to to increase our chances of survival.

First, the bullet itself isn't what causes most of the damage- it's the momentum behind the bullet:

...when a bullet enters your body, your flesh absorbs a great deal of the momentum the bullet was carrying.

All that momentum has to go somewhere, so the bullet transfers it to your body, causing it to expand and create a large cavity, then falling back in on itself. That tremor can cause serious damage to your organs and tissues, even if the bullet doesn’t actually hit them.

(YouTube Link)

Second, the main killer of those who have been shot is blood loss:

Connor Narciso, former combat medic and Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan, says don’t let movies and TV fool you. A single gunshot in the arm or leg is more than enough to kill you if you’re unlucky.Why? Blood loss, which Narciso asserts is the number one preventable cause of death on the battlefield (about 90% of those preventable deaths are due to blood loss). If that bullet hits a brachial artery in your arm, one of the bilateral inguinal arteries in your groin, or the subclavian arteries beneath each of your clavicles, you’re looking at massive hemorrhaging.

Third, the best thing to do when somebody has been shot is call 911 and try to stop the bleeding or, in the case of chest wounds, stop air from entering the chest cavity:

...look for swelling, skin discoloration, and other signs of hemorrhaging, then try to control it by applying manual pressure on the wound, or by fastening a tourniquet high and tight on the limb where the wound is located.

If there’s an open bullet wound in the chest cavity, it’s important that you try to prevent any air getting sucked into it. Otherwise, you or the victim may suffer tension pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, cutting breathing capability in half. The best way to plug the hole is with some form of occlusive dressing. This can be petrolatum, gauze from a first aid kit, or something improvised, like tape or plastic. Whatever you use, it needs to provide a total seal, so absorbent materials like standard gauze pads will not work.

See What Happens When You Get Shot And How To Survive It here


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I remember my Army training for battlefield 1st aid. It included how to treat what was called a "sucking chest wound" when the lungs/chest were hit. The first aid bandage packs were lined with metal foil and we were taught how to turn them inside out and create a seal to the wound. Fortunately I never had to try that procedure.
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