If you do live fire training, especially with others doing movements with you, and you do not have an IFAK with a tourniquet then you are full of fail. We could debate all day long about what medical supplies you should carry in your IFAK, but when it comes to tourniquets there are a few mandatory requirements to consider. It must be, in no particular order:
- Easy to deploy, even single handedly
Generally when you talk about tourniquets, the CAT and SOF tourniquets get the most mentions as they are pretty much the standard. They are really simple overall to use: pull it out, unfold, slip it over the extremity, adjust it, twist rod to tighten, lock rod into place.
The Rapid Application Tourniquet, RATS Tourniquet, is a bit of a different beast though to accomplish the same end result. Instead of a wide, adjustable strap, it is instead a single long piece of narrow, flat, bungee cord. Instead of a tension rod to twist, it has a cleat that you jam the bungee cord into in order to lock it in place.
By nature of its compact design, it is easy to carry the RATS TQ by simply rolling it up in a coil that will fit in even a small pouch, like a compass pouch for example. Pull it out, hold the cleat end, and it’ll unroll itself. Once deployed, put the far end of the TQ through the loop on the cleat end and then fit it over your extremity. You then wrap the bungee around the extremity several times to make the wrap wide enough (you’ll want 1.5″ at least) and then jam the cord into the cleat to hold it in place. Tada, bleeding stopped. It does seem to be a lot faster to deploy, and uses less fine motor skills, than some other TQs that I’ve used.
We had a few concerns at first about the RATS Tourniquet. The first was that the 1/2″ bungee cord is pretty narrow and we were afraid of the cord cutting into skin when pressure is applied. This turned out to be mostly unfounded as the multiple wraps makes the tourniquet wide enough to prevent that from happening though. The only time this was an issue was when Ryan and I tested the RATS Tourniquet on our upper thighs – we both have rather huge legs and due to the length of the TQ, we had to REALLY crank down on the cord to get it into the lock after the 3 wraps needed to make it wide enough on our legs (1.5″ width is recommended to prevent material from cutting into your skin). That made it way too tight there. This is caused by the length – if the RATS Tourniquet was extended a couple inches (which the manufacturer said they can do), it would be perfectly fine there. Used on our arms or below our upper thighs had no issues at all and it worked well.
Unlike the CAT and SOF tourniquets, no tension rod is used and instead you pull the tourniquet tight and slip it into a metal cleat that will lock it into place. We couldn’t get it to come loose even when we only partially locked it in place (since we needed to keep using the TQ for additional testing). The RATS Tourniquet, like other tourniquets, is supposed to be single use and the cleat is designed for that. Once locked into place, it isn’t going anywhere. And actually, that would be a huge problem if the manufacturer didn’t have great attention to detail. Since leaving a tourniquet on too long can be dangerous to the patient, you need a way to be able to remove the tourniquet at some point, and it may be at a time where you don’t have shears to cut it off. To prevent that issue, the cleat was designed with a notch that allows you to easily bend the cleat out of the way if needed to release the bungee cord. That’s pretty neat.
The RATS Tourniquet is very well designed with high quality materials. The bungee cord is protected with a covering to prevent wear, the bungee cord itself is very durable and hasn’t stretched, cracked or torn from multiple stretches and the metal cleat system is extremely effective.
When this tourniquet comes up in discussion, I’m always asked what tourniquet I carry. I do carry a CAT TQ on my plate carrier, because it is a fine tourniquet and easy to deploy as it’s kept outside of any pouches, but I also carry a RATS Tourniquet on my war belt and in the small IFAK I keep in my car. If I didn’t have a CAT TQ already, I would absolutely consider carrying a RATS Tourniquet in its place.