Survival Gear Review: SOF Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT)

Before we dive in, let’s take some reality pills.  First, this tourniquet is for you, not for your good samaritan fantasy where you save the Survival Medical Kitbeautiful princess/prince with the severed artery (although I’m not saying it wouldn’t work for that as well).  Second, the mere fact of not carrying a tourniquet does not decrease your chance of ever needing one. And third, a tourniquet can easily be made out of many common items, but not when you are bleeding to death.  And bleeding to death on the battlefield is the most common preventable way of dying.

Wishing Is Not Planning

Of all the contents in a well stocked first aid kit, nothing is more frightening or misunderstood than the tourniquet. The utter simplicity of Best Survival Medical Kitdesign and finality of use has created a culture of confusion around its application and long term effects. Although the purpose and general operation of the tourniquet has remained fairly constant over the years, advances in medical understanding as well as the proliferation of activities we engage in that might produce a wound in need of a tourniquet has caused a major evolution in tourniquet design and philosophy making a revisit of the device as necessary to anyone who considers himself prepared.

Make no mistake, the use of the tourniquet is the same regardless of its design.  Massive blood loss is never a good thing, and stopping it fast and completely is a priority since nobody breaths very long when their plumbing has sprung a major leak.  But that is where the old school and new science of tourniquet design parts ways because the modern tourniquet also contains a modern understanding of what happens downstream of its application.

For quite a long time tourniquets were thought to do more harm than good, and back in 1916 the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps called them the “invention of the devil.” Where the real turnaround came is when the awful number of IED amputated limbs left the faucet wide open on arteries. After a massive increase in availability of tourniquets in the hot deserts proved to be a turning point in saving lives.

SOFTT-W Tourniquet 1.5 - Black
  • The new SOF Tactical Tourniquet 1.5" is lighter, faster and stronger! Generation 4 offers a new...
  • A true 1 ½" constricting band for increased constricting pressure and patient comfort.

Last update on 2020-08-12 at 06:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You Got 30

There’s an unwritten rule, well actually it’s been written all over the place, but it is not in stone, and the rule is that 30 seconds won’t kill Top Survival Blogyou. In other words, very few survivable injuries require care in the first 30 seconds. That means you can both move to a safe place and properly begin treating the wound. If enough blood is spilling that the 30 seconds is critical, then it’s probably game over no matter what you do. So why tell you this? Because those 30 seconds will go very fast and if you have to Mcgyver-up a tourniquet out of bailing wire and safety pins, then your patient hasn’t got much of a chance now does he? And that “he” might be “you.”

A tourniquet is not a perfect solution, but it is a much better option in reality than much of the hearsay you hear and people say. A tourniquet is not a the first step towards an amputation, and nor is it something that demands constant attention. Like CPR, the rules have changed. There is much we know and much we don’t about tourniquets , but with just a little more knowledge above basic first aid, the tourniquet is a viable and effective tool that should be in everyone’s kit.

Soft Cats and Rats

The design of tourniquets has evolved rapidly over the past few years so if you haven’t taken a close look at modern tourniquets lately, it’s Top Survival Blogtime. Much has changed and tourniquets are no longer a belt and stick, although that will work in a pinch (pun intended).  There are three main tourniquet designs today that should be considered by anyone with even the least bend towards preparedness. They go by nicknames or acronyms; the Special Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT), the Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T), and the RATS or Rapid Application Tourniquet System. Each design has strengths and weaknesses, but the end result is the same. Before jumping to a TQ solution, consider that the TQ must make sense to the person who will be applying it. Reading the instruction manual during a crisis is not how you want your 30 seconds spent.

Of the three, the SOFTT is probably the most self-explanatory, strongest, and most (or equally) intuitive. In fact, it is closest to traditional strap systems we use all over the place whether on backpacks, raft frames, or bike racks. Further, the SOFTT is easiest to put on to a leg when the vic is seated since it easily turns from loop to strap. However, I’d recommend storing the SOFTT with a the strap already looped through the clamp making a lasso large enough to fit over a boot. This will support one-handed operation if needed. While it’s possible to thread the strap one handed, personally, I don’t want to burn up any of my 30 seconds preparing something I should have done when the sun was shining.

The SOFTT strap is wide enough at a true one inch with a two inch sleeve providing the platform for the windlass and clap. In the case of Top Survival Blogthe SOFTT, the windlass is 4.5 inches of machined and textured aluminum bar stock. The width successfully stops the blood flow with one wrap compared to thinner strap designs. The SOFTT uses a familiar buckle along with screw locking mechanism to assist or prevent unintentional loosening. Tourniquets are very blunt instruments designed to stop blood flow. Too loose, they fail. Too tight, they fail. Too narrow, they fail. Too sharp, they fail.

Don’t Fail Me Now

As a crude device, the TQ will be placed under considerable load and stress far beyond what usual medical devices are subjected to. Top Survival BlogTherefore the windlass or tightening rod of a TQ is under significant pressure. So much so that plastic or wooden windlasses have been known to break just when you need them the most. Heck, even UV exposed straps have snapped under load.

The best TQ is the one you have, and if you ask three different people, you will likely get three different preferred tourniquets. But the biggest thing is to get one if you don’t have one, and make it obviously accessible such as on the outside of your BOB when you do have one.

Turn Clockwise

The instructions for the SOFTT are simple:

  • Use direct and indirect pressure on the wound to slow the blood flow while you locate and prepare your TQ.
  • Route the strap around the appendage as close to the torso as possible.
  • With the strap fully looped around the appendage, remove all the slack since the windlass only shortens the strap a couple more inches.
  • Twist the windlass until the bright red bleeding stops.
  • Lock the windlass into one or both plastic triangles. Double check that the bleeding has stopped. If not, tighten it more.

In a nutshell the most common mistakes with tourniquet use are 1) using when unnecessary, 2) not making it tight enough, 3) waiting too long before using the TQ, and 4) failing to check up on the TQ’s effectiveness later.  Nerve and muscle damage are the traditional casualties of tourniquet use, and the reason for the large amount of misinformation surrounding the effects of their use. Much of the nerve and muscle damage has been traced to narrow-strap tourniquets rather than wide-strap SOFTT models.

Take Two. They’re Small

Now I’m not a doctor…well actually I am but not that kind, nor have I ever played one on TV, but I have had advance first aid training including tourniquet use.  While I have not had the pleasure to save someone’s life with a tourniquet, I have installed them on arms and legs in practice, and like all survival situations, nothing goes exactly as planned.  Which is exactly why you need as many ducks in a row as possible before the SHTF.

SOFTT-W Tourniquet 1.5 - Black
  • The new SOF Tactical Tourniquet 1.5" is lighter, faster and stronger! Generation 4 offers a new...
  • A true 1 ½" constricting band for increased constricting pressure and patient comfort.

Last update on 2020-08-12 at 06:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

All Photos By Doc Montana



Doc Montana
Written by Doc Montana

Doc honed his survival skills through professional courses, training, and plenty of real-world situations, both intentional and not. Doc lives to mountaineer, rock climb, trail run, hunt, race mountain bikes, ski, hunt, and fish. Doc Montana holds PhD’s in both Science Education and Computer Science and currently teaches at a University in the northern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of Doc's articles.

6 thoughts on “Survival Gear Review: SOF Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT)”

  1. As I recall my first aid training in the Guard you only use a tourniquet when you need to stop severe bleeding and the limb is lost anyway. We were told only to use them as a measure of last resort to keep the other soldier alive.

    Reply
  2. KansasScout you are / is correct

    But being in a situation where any hope of help in time we can dispense with rules

    you do not have to completely stop bleeding to a zero point that could / will destroy nerves and kill off muscle.
    from many years ago every 20 minutes you were to back off unless the limb was missing and allow some flow.
    re tighten and continue {that was debated hotly} until the person expired or was transported.
    I do recall the position the band on or just above the injury

    We are so pampered we think the calvary is on it's way and people never die it is nonsense, We get all these
    stories of the guy that fell rock climbing and had to amputate his own arm and saved himself well it happened he did
    he was and his action was EXCEPTIONAL that means once in a blue moon.

    Once the survival rate reaches zero your options are limited and ANYTHING you can do to postpone or prevent death is as good as it gets the problem comes in when lawyers get involved.
    If it comes to dying or loosing a finger toe hand or limb most people would opt for sacrificing a portion to save the
    body.

    There are times when the patient can take control and refuse treatment then a lawyer will argue that they were under duress and not able to make decisions pertaining to life and death.

    From personal experience a pressure bandage over 12 hours did slow the bleed enough for the blood to coagulate
    and seal the wound this was after suture failed to stop the bleed from the artery.
    I did not need a transfusion I did loose over a pint or more it is hard to say as some was at the location in the vehicle
    A vascular surgeon was consulted after sutures failed he advised pressure and close observation.
    in 12 hours the bleeding stopped completely and it healed on it's own.

    Remember that the width of a tourniquet is very important too narrow it damages the tissue and nerves.
    too wide it is ineffective and the amount of pressure is enough to handle the flow without damage to tissue.

    Here is the problem unless your a doctor and have alternatives it can get dicey quick you need to watch for
    shock check pulses on both sides tissue for dehydration and turgor reaction etc etc. way more than an average
    person would realize.

    All of this is a very good reason to take an first aid and EMT course even all that will not make your question your
    decision once you start to treat anyone especially your own family.
    All of the training and education will not stop death we only try our best and God does the rest.

    In a WROL or TEOTWAWKI or like many emergencies where the hospital is damaged or destroyed or in worse
    we cannot get there from here our focus needs to be on what is best for the patient until professional help can be had.

    I have my own ideas on pressure I think it is valid as over time, to apply pressure on a specific point the bandage
    needs to be thicker there normal this can be accomplished with gauze and wrap with Kling and or Kerlix
    a Ace bandage works as well.
    If your forced to use the stick and bandanna the stick needs to be over the bleed I.e. direct pressure.

    I like this I think it is a bit narrow I have double D rings on a strap about 1 3/4 wide I think it came off a suitcase.
    It still needs a wad of gauze or cloth to direct pressure to the injury point it is long enough to wrap a person.
    but can be released easily.

    I am not a doctor use your best judgment and or training this is an opinion tainted with some experience
    having seen some horrendous injuries treated in third world countries treated with less and people survived.
    and don't forget branding and the old flashing gunpowder trick and hot wood ashes, does it work well it has but, no body has the numbers on the ones that did not make it.
    in either case a pressure bandage to prevent a hematoma and direct blood flow would still be needed or else you would end up with a blood knot under the flesh and that could be a problem I have seen them as big as a baseball.
    As squeamish as most people are I doubt it would get that far and as pointed out your time limit is short.
    Most people pass out at the sign of a personal large wound or profuse bleeding.

    I did want to touch on removal of impaled or embedded objects we are suppose to leave them but what do you do if no help will ever come ? it is a issue in survival situations. but not when we still have access to hospitals.

    Reply
  3. Major, USAF (Ret.), assistant professor and clinical coordinator at the University of Texas Robert Sippel wrote at EMTworld.com…

    "Tourniquets should be considered another treatment modality and not a treatment of last resort."

    Further, he explained…

    "Two hours is considered the length of time a tourniquet can be in place before neuromuscular injury and functional loss begin. For applications longer than 2 hours, cooling the limb may help delay injury and loss of function. The best method to save a limb is rapid transport and converting to a less-damaging means of hemorrhage control as soon as practicable."
    http://www.emsworld.com/article/10364651/ems-reca

    And if you want the long story…

    "The tissue under the tourniquet will develop local inflammation immediately after the tourniquet is applied, and there will be a decrease in PO2 and an increase in PCO2 in the tissue cells. Between 15 and 45 minutes after application, a physiological nerve conduction block develops, affecting motor and sensory transmissions. Direct compression of the nerves causes a second conduction block known as tourniquet paralysis. The stored cellular ATP will be exhausted after 2 hours and creatine phosphate after 3 hours. Lactate concentrations will increase when the cells switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism, with a corresponding decrease in pH as metabolic acidosis develops. Microvascular injuries will begin after 2 hours."

    Reply
  4. Thanks Doc and crew, I have been trying to decide which way to go on this subject. I'm going to read and study this one more time and pull the trigger on this item.

    Reply
  5. We recently (last 6 months) received training specifically with the SOFTT and SOFTT-wide tourniquets. Used appropriately, they are an effective treatment method. In the past its been said that they should be removed every 6 hours or loosened. As it turns out, this is both unnecessary and dangerous. According to our training, tourniquets should only be removed by properly trained people (ie, doctors and/or trauma surgeons).

    This device, as described, is to stabilize a patient and stop bleeding. You’re probably going to need some specialized care after it.

    Another option that we trained with and has proven effective is the SWAT-T. http://www.swattourniquet.com/

    Reply

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