In the fast-paced world of tactical and emergency work, being prepared is not just a talking point; it’s a necessity. Imagine you’re in that situation – maybe a combat zone or a severe accident scene. Maybe you’re a cop, EMT, or just a prepared citizen. Injuries, unfortunately are part of the deal. That’s where tourniquets come into play, not just as gear but as potential lifesavers. In this article, we’re going to discuss the different types of tourniquets, their uses, and why knowing your way around them is as crucial as having a solid game plan. ***I also will share some advise from my personal experience, IT IS NOT medical or legal advise, so do not take it as such. I am not a Doctor or lawyer*****

What Is A Tourniquet?

A tourniquet is a device used to apply pressure to a limb or extremity to limit the flow of blood. Think of it as a crucial first step in controlling severe bleeding in injuries, buying precious time until medical help arrives. Tourniquets are simple in design but mighty in action, and understanding their function is key to using them effectively.

How to use a tourniquet

Parts Of A Tourniquet 

When it comes to the parts of a tourniquet each component has its specific role, like members of a well-trained tactical team. Let’s break it down:

  • Strap: This is the work horse of the tourniquet. It wraps snugly around the limb, applying the needed pressure to reduce or stop the bleeding. The strap needs to be both strong and flexible, able to conform to the limb’s shape while maintaining enough tension to be effective.
  • Windlass: The windlass is a rod that you twist to tighten the strap. As it tightens, it increases the pressure applied by the strap, crucial for controlling severe bleeding. The windlass needs to be robust and reliable because when you’re turning it to stop bleeding, it’s no time for equipment failure.
  • C-Clip: The C-Clip is the glue that keeps the other parts working. Once the windlass has been twisted and the bleeding is under control, the C-Clip secures it in place. This ensures that the pressure remains consistent and the tourniquet doesn’t loosen, which is vital for maintaining effective hemorrhage control.
  • Time Tag: Last but not least, the Time Tag is the record keeper. It’s used to note the time when the tourniquet was applied. This is critical information for medical personnel who take over treatment, as prolonged application of a tourniquet can have adverse effects. It’s a small but mighty part of the tourniquet that plays a big role in patient care.

Each of these parts works together to make a simple device run like a well-oiled machine, to make the tourniquet a lifesaving device. 

History Of Tourniquets

The story of tourniquets is as old as the history of medical interventions. It’s a tale of evolution, adaptation, and constant improvement. Dating back centuries, tourniquets have been used in various forms to control bleeding, especially in battlefield scenarios.

  • Ancient Times: The concept of a tourniquet was first documented in Roman times and even before. It was Hippocrates, ‘the father of modern medicine,’ who first described the use of a band to control bleeding. However, these early tourniquets were rudimentary and far less effective than we see today.
  • The Middle Ages: In medieval times, tourniquets were used more frequently, especially during battles. Surgeons of that era began to understand the importance of controlling bleeding during amputations. However, the methods were still crude, often just a belt or a stick used to twist and tighten a cloth around a limb.
  • 17th to 19th Century: The true development of the tourniquet began in the 17th century. French surgeon Ambroise Paré is credited with inventing a more sophisticated tourniquet with a screw device to control pressure. This period saw significant advancements in the design and application of tourniquets, particularly in military medicine.
  • The World Wars: Tourniquets gained a prominent place in medical kits during World War I and II. They were used extensively to treat battlefield injuries, saving countless lives. This era saw the refinement of tourniquet application techniques and an increased understanding of their physiological impacts.
  • Modern Times: Today, tourniquets have evolved into highly efficient, user-friendly devices like the CAT, SOFTT, etc. They are standard military, law enforcement, and emergency medical equipment. Modern tourniquets are designed with materials and mechanisms that maximize effectiveness while minimizing potential harm.

Through the centuries, tourniquets have remained a steadfast ally in the fight to save lives during emergencies. They’ve evolved from simple bands to sophisticated devices, each iteration improving on its predecessor. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and our relentless pursuit of saving lives.

Types Of Tourniquets

Not all tourniquets are created equal, and that’s a good thing because not every injury situation is the same. Different types of tourniquets are designed for varied scenarios, knowing which one to use can make all the difference.

Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)

The CAT is like the Swiss Army knife of tourniquets – versatile and dependable. Designed primarily for combat situations, it’s engineered to be applied quickly and effectively, even with one hand. It’s robust, with a windlass system that ensures tight pressure, making the combat application tourniquet a go-to choice in critical moments.

CAT Pros & Cons


  • Speedy Application: In emergency scenarios where every second counts, the CAT can be applied swiftly, which can be a game-changer in saving a life.
  • One-Handed Capability: This is crucial if the user is injured and only has one hand available. It’s designed for self-application in tough situations.
  • Reliability: Known for its dependable performance, the CAT is a trusted tool in military and civilian emergencies.


  • Physical Strength Requirement: Some users might find it requires significant strength to twist and secure the windlass, which could be a limitation in certain injury conditions.

SOF Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT)

SOFTT Tourniquet
SOFTT Tourniquet

Meet the Special Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT) – the tactical expert of tourniquets. Designed for use in emergencies to control severe bleeding in limbs. It is an evolution of the traditional tourniquet, incorporating modern design elements to enhance effectiveness and safety. With a durable buckle and a wider band, it’s tailored for stability and efficacy.

SOFTT Pros & Cons


  • Durability: Its robust construction can withstand harsh conditions, making it suitable for rugged environments.
  • Comfort and Efficiency: The wider band distributes pressure more evenly, reducing the risk of tissue damage during prolonged use.
  • Versatility: Effective in various medical scenarios, from civilian accidents to military injuries.


  • Bulkiness: It’s a bit larger and heavier, which might not be ideal for light carry or compact first aid kits.
  • Learning Curve: Its mechanism can be complex for those not trained, potentially delaying application in critical situations.


The Tourni-Key, a minimalist and innovative option, it is designed for its compactness and ease of use, making it ideal for unexpected emergencies, if you know what you are doing. Its straightforward, key-like design allows for rapid deployment. Despite its small size, the Tourni-Key is effective in controlling limb bleeding and can be used with various makeshift bands, adding to its versatility. Its portability is a significant advantage, easily fitting in small spaces or attaching to a keychain, ensuring it’s always at hand when needed.

Tourni-key tourniquet
Tourni-key Tourniquet

Tourni-Key Pros & Cons


  • High Portability: Its compact design makes it easy to carry in a pocket or small medical kit, ensuring it’s always at hand.
  • Ease of Use: Its simplicity is a major advantage, particularly for those not trained in more complex tourniquet techniques.


  • Limited Strength: While handy, it might not provide the same level of constriction as more robust models, potentially affecting its effectiveness.
  • Specific Use Cases: It’s more suitable for civilian, non-combat scenarios and might not be the best choice for severe injuries where more advanced tourniquets are required.

Choosing the Right Tourniquet

Selecting the right tourniquet isn’t just about grabbing the nearest one; it’s like choosing the right tool for the job. Different situations call for different types of tourniquets.

Injury Type

When it comes to injuries, one size does not fit all. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Severe arterial bleeding in a limb: You’ll want a tourniquet like the CAT or SOFTT, known for their ability to apply substantial pressure to stop heavy bleeding.
  • Less severe injuries or in tight spaces: A Tourni-Key might be more practical, especially if you’re limited on space or dealing with a less severe injury.

User Proficiency

This is a big one. If you’re not trained on a particular tourniquet, it’s like trying to fly a plane without ever taking a lesson. Stick to what you know. If you’re well-versed in using a CAT, it might be your best bet. And remember, overconfidence can be as dangerous as underpreparedness. It’s always better to use a simpler tourniquet effectively than to fumble with a complex one.


Think about what you can realistically carry. If you’re a hiker, a bulky tourniquet might not be practical. But if you’re in law enforcement with a duty belt, you might have room for a larger, more robust option. It’s all about balancing need and convenience.

Tourniquets in Tactical Situations

Tourniquets are like unsung heroes in tactical situations. It doesn’t matter how good you look in your gear, or how much training you have, getting wounded is always a possibility. Studies show that timely application of a tourniquet can significantly increase survival rates in severe limb trauma cases. For instance, in military settings, the use of a combat tourniquet has been a game-changer, reducing fatalities due to limb exsanguination. In civilian scenarios, like car accidents or industrial injuries, having a tourniquet in your Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) can mean the difference between life and death.

IFAKs in all shapes and sizes

Maintenance & Storage

Taking care of your tourniquet is as important as knowing how to use it. Keep it clean and dry, and regularly check for wear and tear – it’s not just another piece of medical gear, it’s a lifeline. Store it in a place that’s easily accessible, like a TQ soft pouch or a tourniquet soft holder, but also safe from environmental damage. Think of it like keeping your fire extinguisher in good working order; you hope you never need it, but you’ll be glad it’s there and ready if you do.

Carrying and using a tourniquet comes with its own set of responsibilities. Legally, you need to be aware of the guidelines and regulations, especially if you’re a professional. Ethically, it’s about using it with the right intent – to save lives. It’s a tool, not a cure-all, and using it requires judgment and skill.

Tourniquet FAQs

What are the classifications of tourniquets?

Tourniquets are generally classified based on their application method – windlass, elastic, adhesive, and mechanical advantage. Each type is designed for specific scenarios and user proficiency levels.

What is the most common tourniquet?

The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) is arguably the most common, especially in military and tactical environments due to its effectiveness and ease of use.

What are the colors of tourniquets?

Tourniquets come in various colors, often to signify their type or to fit with the uniformity of tactical gear. However, the color doesn’t affect the functionality.

Why are tourniquets blue?

Sometimes the blue color is simply a choice, other times it denotes the TQ as a training only tourniquet in a classroom setting.

What is the smallest tourniquet?

The Tourni-Key is one of the smallest and most compact options, designed for ease of transport and simplicity in use.


And that wraps up our overview of the various types of tourniquets. Remember, this is more about having a TQ and knowing how to use it, and keeping it well-maintained can make a world of difference in emergency situations. At Tacticon we understand the importance of tourniquets. That’s why we offer top-notch tourniquet holders and accessories, as well as Level 3+ Tacticon Body Armor and other gear, to ensure you’re always prepared. Stay safe, stay prepared, and remember – knowledge is your first line of defense.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.

1 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough, Know The Types of Tourniquets

  1. ads508 alternatif says:

    You really make it seem so easy with your
    presentation but I find this topic to be actually
    something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I will
    try to get the hang of it!

Comments are closed.