How to Use a Tourniquet

blog, Tourniquet -

How to Use a Tourniquet

In the United States, blood loss is the leading cause of death following injuries. Tourniquets serve as a vital intervention to mitigate this alarming issue. This article delves into the proper application of windlass tourniquets and introduces the SOF® Tourniquet - What If Survival's top choice among CoTCCC-recommended devices.

What is a Tourniquet? 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Tourniquet is “a device for stopping the flow of blood through a vein or artery, typically by compressing a limb with a cord or tight bandage.”  They have been used since the 4th Century and continue to evolve to this day.

 6 different early tourniquets throughout history

(early tourniquets) Available at: 


Why Tourniquets Matter?

A tourniquet is a constricting band applied to a limb to control life-threatening bleeding. When severe hemorrhage occurs, rapid blood loss can lead to shock and death in a matter of minutes. Tourniquets are instrumental in preventing such outcomes, especially in pre-hospital settings where immediate medical care may not be available.

When Should I Apply a Tourniquet?

The CoTCCC and Stop The Bleed recommend applying a tourniquet in the following situations:

  1. Severe, life-threatening bleeding from an extremity that cannot be controlled with direct pressure.
  2. Amputation or near-amputation of a limb.
  3. A mangled extremity with uncontrolled bleeding.
  4. When direct pressure is not possible or effective due to the nature of the injury or environmental factors.

How to Use a Tourniquet?

To properly apply a windlass tourniquet, follow these steps:

  1. Expose the injured limb: Remove clothing or material covering the wound to clearly assess the injury, this includes emptying pockets.
  2. Choose the right location: Apply the tourniquet 2-3 inches above the wound, avoiding joints.
  3. Secure the tourniquet: Wrap the tourniquet around the limb, pulling it tight to compress the underlying tissue. Remove all slack before you start turning the windlass.
  4. Twist the windlass: Once the tourniquet is snug, twist the windlass until the bleeding stops. This may require several turns.
  5. Lock the windlass: Secure the windlass in place with the built-in retention mechanism (strap, clip, or holder).
  6. Note the time: Record the time of tourniquet application, as this information is crucial for medical professionals treating the patient later.
Stop The Bleed Infographic showing how to stop bleeding and use a tourniquet, step by step


Introducing the SOF® Tourniquet

SOF Tourniquet in the middle with thumbnails around it showing different features of the tourniquet
The SOF® Tourniquet is a CoTCCC recommended tourniquet, designed for rapid and effective hemorrhage control. Its features include:

1) Performance Compression Band

  • Reinforced polyester webbing maximizes compression during the application process. At a true 1.5" width, the performance material glides through the Rugged Buckle for quick, snag-free operation and minimizes loss of pressure over time after application.

2) Slack Indicator Wedge

  • Stitched into the Performance Compression Band below the windlass. The contrasting wedge offers a visual confirmation you have pulled all excess slack from the band. This is a critical step for proper tourniquet application and results in fewer windlass rotations required to reach occlusion. 

3) Rugged Buckle

  • Engineered to remove excess slack in a single fluid motion. The buckle's shape stabilizes the Performance Compression Band at any angle of engagement. The Rugged Buckle is an advanced, lightweight composite design with superior strength over previous versions. 

4) High-strength Aluminum Windlass

  • Machined from a single aircraft-grade aluminum bar stock, the 5.5” windlass features signature conical ends and grip-friendly texture for consistent torque. Its anodized finish minimizes impacts from environmental elements for durability in any scenario. 

5) Tourniquet Retention Assistance Clip™ (TRAC)

  • Conveniently holds the windlass in place until you can secure it into the Tri-Ring Lock™. The Trac provides steady handling during tough applications and enhances control for one-handed movements. 

6) Tri-Ring Lock™

  • Complete the tourniquet application by securing the windlass into the Tri-Ring Lock. It can easily be manipulated with just one hand and prevents the windlass from shifting during patient movement. 

7) Time tag

  • A tag for documenting the tourniquet application time.

Stop The Bleed Training 

Stop The Bleed in Red Text Training in white text black background

Taking a Stop The Bleed Class is crucial for acquiring the skills needed to handle life-threatening bleeding emergencies. The course provides practical, hands-on training, empowering you to act quickly and effectively in high-stress situations. By learning how to apply tourniquets and other bleeding control techniques, you can save lives and make a profound difference in times of crisis. Completing a Stop The Bleed Class prepares you to confidently face emergencies, fostering a safer community for all. 


Knowing when and how to apply a windlass tourniquet can make all the difference in an emergency situation. By following the CoTCCC and Stop The Bleed recommendations, you can help save lives when every second counts. Don't forget to equip yourself with a high-quality, CoTCCC recommended tourniquet like the SOF® Tourniquet, so you're always prepared for the unexpected.

You can purchase the SOF® Tourniquet here

SoCal, sign up for What If Survivals 5 Star Rated Stop The Bleed Class here

If you don't live in Southern California, please check out Stop The Bleeds Website to find a class in your area. (If your organization needs training we do travel)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published