What to do When You Get Shot

Getting shot is one of the most painful experiences that can happen to you. We seldom expect it to happen and on the few cases that victims expected it, they usually end up with fatal injuries. The world we live in is full of elements that we cannot control such as the behavior and decisions of other people. What we can control is how we’re going to handle the situation once it has happened.

The possibility that getting shot can happen to you is an alarming thought and most people are unprepared for it. You might end up feeling completely hopeless and you might just want to give up and do nothing. However, as bleak as the situation might be, there are a few things that you can do to make sure you survive long enough for help to arrive.


Aside immediately reaching out to the emergency hotline and letting them know about your current situation, stopping the bleeding is the first thing you should do when you get shot. Find the gunshot wound and try to put pressure on it. It will hurt, that’s for sure, but this is not the time to shy away from pain because you might be just a few minutes away from going into fatal shock. Here are a few things you need to make sure of when you attempt to stop the bleeding:

  1. Apply direct pressure on the gunshot wound. If you don’t have bandages or gauzes on hand, use your own clothes. Use the palm of your hand to press down on the wound firmly.
  2. Once the cloth has been soaked with blood, do NOT remove it as this may cause more bleeding and irritation. Just find another thing you can use over it while making sure that you do not go easy on the pressure for even a few seconds.
  3. If the wound continues to bleed, consider repositioning your pressure point. It might be that you are not applying pressure on the correct space.
  4. Elevate the part where the gunshot wound is. This is easier to do for wounds on the extremities. The purpose of elevation is to lessen the blood flowing to the injured part of the body.
  5. Tie a tourniquet high and tight over the limb. This can be made from straps, cloth or your own belt. This should be your last resort as it commonly means that you will have to lose the limb to survive.
  6. For the extremities like your arms and legs, you’re going to have to apply indirect pressure. Here’s how:
    1. For gunshot wounds on your arm, apply pressure on the brachial artery which is found on the inside of your arm.
    2. For gunshot wounds on your thigh, apply pressure on the femoral artery which is found in the middle of your groin and upper thigh.
    3. For gunshot wounds on your lower leg, apply pressure on the popliteal artery which is found behind the knee.
  7. If you think that your limbs are rapidly swelling, this may be a sign that the bone was damaged as well. You’re going to have to make a splint by putting stable structures on each side of the limb in a way that it won’t allow it to move much. Here are a few tips on how to do it:
    1. If you think a joint is injured, include the bones around it when you’re making a splint and vice versa.
    2. If you think that help won’t arrive until a considerable amount of time has passed, put a cloth between the limb and the splint to absorb any moisture.
    3. Avoid skin damage by making the splint as soft and firm as possible.
    4. Make sure that whatever you used to wrap the splint is not tight enough to cut off the circulation. You can do this by regularly checking if you’re losing feeling or your skin is changing colors to a sickly pale.
    5. Once you’ve splinted the injured limb, elevate it above the heart to limit the swelling.

The important thing to note here is that the process above is specifically for external bleeding. If you suffer internal bleeding, there is not much you can do about it as it is a surgical situation. The signs of internal bleeding are the following: decreasing alertness, barfing, unusually fast pulse and nausea.


At the same time that you’re attempting to stop the bleeding, you’re going to have to prevent yourself from going into fatal shock. When we say that a person is going into shock, it does not pertain to your emotional state. In medical terms, this is what happens when a person suffers considerable trauma or bleeding. The body will want to compensate for whatever it will lose thus forcing your body to hit an overdrive. This is the most common type of shock called hemorrhagic shock.

The goal is to prevent yourself from entering irreversible shock which is what happens when your body begins to shut down and your vital organs are impaired because of the lack of blood. Here are a few things that ought to help you once you find yourself in this situation:

  1. There is nothing you can do to keep yourself from going into shock. It is the body’s involuntary response to trauma. The only way to keep yourself alive once the shock has set in is to keep your calm and do damage control for as long as you possibly can.
  2. Loosen anything that is tight in your clothing like buttons, zippers and belts. Remove your shoes but if you have socks, leave them on. The goal at this point is to let your body breathe.
  3. Cover yourself with a coat or anything that can give you warmth. Your temperature needs to be kept at a consistent level to at least prevent from going into the final stage of shock which when you will lose consciousness without knowing if you’ll ever wake up.
  4. If the gunshot wound is not anywhere in your spine or torso, elevate your legs above the heart. You can use your own clothes or anything that can provide a considerable height around you. An idea would be to stack your shoes on top of each other. If you don’t think that’s enough, add anything that you can to get a higher platform.


The most fatal areas of the body when nicked or hit by a bullet are the head, chest and abdomen. All these areas could easily lead to infection which will kill you even if you manage to survive the blood loss. Here are a few things that can help you through the situation:

  1. If you get shot around the area of the head and neck, remember one thing: airway. In this situation, it is very likely that you might end up choking from your own blood. If you can remain conscious, sit up and lean forward. If you don’t have the strength to pull yourself into a sitting position, lie on your side and lift the top knee to keep you in that position.
  2. Do not attempt to make a tourniquet for a neck gunshot wound.
  3. For a chest gunshot wound, recognize the signs of a sucking chest wound. This means that the wound is sucking in air and not coming out, which could lead to a collapsed lung. Coughing up blood and shortness in breathing are the most common signs. Here’s what you will have to do in this case:
    1. Expose the wound. Take any clothing or linen out of the way and expose the wound. Determine if there’s an exit wound. If there is, apply pressure on both sides.
    2. Make an occlusive dressing that will act like a vacuum every time the wound sucks in air. You can do this by laying any type of plastic, preferably a card, over it. When the wound sucks in air, the card will block it but if it needs to release, then it can easily push it up.
    3. If you feel that it’s getting harder for you to breathe, reduce the pressure to allow the chest to rise and fall.
    4. Keep the occlusive dressing where it is until help arrives.
  4. An abdomen gunshot wound can cause blood loss as well as infection. In this situation, it would be ideal if you carry around anything that can sterilize cloth like alcohol. You can use it to cover the wound while applying pressure on it. If your intestines can be seen through the wound and if it’s ripped, your only hope is for help to arrive sooner rather than later.

Although there are many things that you can’t control in your everyday life, at least try to avoid getting yourself in a situation that will get you shot. There’s no telling about what will happen to you and more often than not, the blood loss and/or infections will kill you before help arrives.

Learn self-defense techniques to at least have a fighting chance against an armed adversary. And above all, always have the presence of mind to determine if you’re heading into a dangerous situation before it happens.


The information in this article is provided “as is” and should not be mistaken  for or be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician before trying any of the advice presented on this page. Always seek the help of a professional when delivering a baby. Neither the author nor www.SurvivalSullivan.com or the company behind the website shall be held liable for any negative effects of you putting into practice the information in this article.

1 thought on “What to do When You Get Shot”

  1. You need to carry a positive attitude into danger. Not everybody who gets shot AT, gets hit. Not everybody who IS shot, dies. Think you’re going to die, you just might.

    Additionally, take advice from an old police officer friend of mine who got shot in a gunfight. “I was determined to not be the last MF shot in this gunfight.” He wasn’t. Dave went to the ER, the other guy went to the ME.

    If you can, be like Dave, and take the other guy with you.

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