Sunday, June 6, 2010

Notes on Combat Medicine and Handguns

I haven't seen any combat here, but at this point I've run through enough simulated missions to have a bit more insight into what works for me, and what doesn't as far as my armament is concerned.

For the entire time that I've been reading about, and using firearms, I've been told that a handgun is nothing more than a stopgap until you can get to a "real weapon". I'd like to offer a dissenting opinion on that. As a medic, I'm carrying an M4 Carbine and an M9 handgun. My combat load, including body armor, aid supplies, ammo, and sundries, weighs about 70 pounds, give or take. I weigh just under 170 lately.

We're patrolling in heavily armored vehicles with very little room to work with inside. In the event of a hit, it's my job to get to the casualties and treat them, and then get them to a vehicle in which we can evacuate them to higher medical care-by ground, or to an LZ for the chopper.

So far, once I sling my M4, it hasn't come off my back. It tends to get in my way, even with the stock fully collapsed. The barrel catches on seats and straps, on my armor, or doors. It's not quickly accessible. Were I to keep it up front, it would bang my patients in the head, and get in the way of my hands applying bandages or tourniquets. I full realize it's utility if we were taking fire from longer range and I needed to lay down suppressive fire, but with the current ROE it's not likely.

My 9mm is kept in a Serpa holster on the left side of my chest, strapped to my armor. It gives me minor pause about muzzle discipline, as the angle can tend to flag people to my left side depending on where they are at, but with movement, I dont think that there is any completely safe place to put a handgun where it won't flag someone, at some point. That's where safety latches and trigger discipline come into play.

What this position does do, however, is keep the handgun readily accessible, no matter what position I happen to be in, excepting completely prone. In many cases when we get hit, civilians swarm the area-begging for food and water, offering to help, throwing rocks, trying to loot our downed vehicles, and just generally causing enough mischief to raise the pucker factor a bit. They also don't have a good concept of personal space or standoff distance, and sometimes the only thing that gets them to back off is an aggressive demeanor and the muzzle of a weapon. This makes the 9mm perfect. I can be treating a casualty, and if somebody breaks through security, have a weapon on them immediately and still be able to work with one hand. I'm a fair pistol shot, Ive qualified expert each time.

All of these things combine to make the M9 my go-to weapon, and really, my primary weapon. It's not ideal in terms of range or stopping power, but for my situation, its really the best that I could hope for.


  1. In case no one has told you, thank you very much for your service. :)

    As regards 9mm ball ammo, it's not optimum, but it will work just fine. Just keep shooting til the threat is no longer a threat. FWIW, the calf/ankle pockets on your ACUs hold M9 magazines very well.

    Al T.

  2. Makes perfect sense. You're DOING something. In a perfect world, those providing security will stop any threats before you need to draw. The world is imperfect.

    Heck, I've heard tell of WWII combat medics who went unarmed because they were CIs. Times certainly have changed.