Beating the Reaper – Book Review

Beating The Reaper Book reviewBeating the Reaper: Trauma Medicine for the CCW Operator is a book title that immediately caught my attention.  With all of the books on the market about shooting and self defense, there are a scant few that deal with the reality of being injured in a violent attack.  After reading this book, I wanted to review it here and share the information with you.

We all carry a firearm for self defense.  Why?  Because we may be confronted with a life-or-death situation where the use of a gun can save our life.  The use of that firearm is not in a vacuum, though.  There is a very good possibility the person we are forced to shoot is also armed with a gun or other deadly weapon, and they may use it on you before you can stop them.

Winning a gunfight is more than putting more holes into the other guy.  It means surviving!  If you are wounded, do you have the skills needed to stay alive until help arrives?  That is where Beating the Reaper comes in.

Beating the Reaper was co-written by Dr. John Meade and Sua Sponte.  Dr. Meade is an emergency physician, EMS medical director, reserve police officer on a SWAT team and teaches tactical medics on SWAT teams.  Dr. Meade is also the Director of Tactical Medicine for Suarez International.  Sua Sponte (a pen name) is an active duty special operations medic with extensive experience overseas.  Both authors are more than qualified to teach basic trauma self-care.

Beating the Reaper closely follows Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC or T-Triple-C) protocols developed and used by the US military in treating combat injuries.  Though the mechanisms for injury may be different (how many civilians run into an IED or grenade attack?), the expeditious treatment of an injury can offer the same life-saving opportunity to the CCW citizen as it does to the soldier in some far-away hell hole.

The most common form of preventable death on the battlefield is the uncontrolled hemorrhaging (bleeding) from a single extremity wound.  This could be a gunshot wound to the leg or a stab wound in the arm.  It is conceivable that these kinds of injuries would also be commonly seen as a civilian who has been the victim of a vicious criminal attack.

Regardless of the cause, if massive bleeding can be rapidly controlled, the odds of survival dramatically go up.  The authors cover how to address massive bleeding from an extremity and in other locations on the body.


A CAT, or combat application tourniquet, can be carried easily in a cargo pocket or in a lightweight ankle holster as shown here.

For those of you who have been through the typical first aid and first responder classes, you may be surprised to find out that early application of a tourniquet is recommended by the authors and the TCCC protocols in many cases.  Very often, tourniquet use has been discouraged, and its use has been accepted only as a last-ditch option.

Using a commercial tourniquet like a CAT or SOFT-T, a person can rapidly control massive, arterial bleeding without placing themselves into significant danger of losing the limb.  Beating the Reaper goes over exactly how to apply each of these tourniquets, and includes photos for clarification.

The authors also cover the use of pressure dressings like the Israeli bandage and hemostatic agents.  Bleeding from areas not easily addressed by a tourniquet (like the head and abdomen) are also discussed.

But, bleeding is not the only kind of problem someone injured in a violent encounter.  Airway obstructions, chest wounds, broken bones and shock are also discussed in this book.

The authors don’t teach this medical information without considering the tactical realities of combat.  In other words, one of the first things discussed is the actual mechanics of a gunfight:  putting rounds on target, light, movement and reloads.  Only after stopping the attack can you pause and assess your injuries.

One of the TCCC principles is that medical aid is part of the overall tactical situation, and that sometimes the best medicine is overwhelming firepower.  To phrase it another way, trying to care for yourself or another before neutralizing the threat may cause you to receive additional wounds.

The photos throughout the book do a good job of demonstrating the techniques explained in the text.  Some of the photos are gruesome, so those with weak stomachs should consider themselves warned.  All of the pictures are in black and white, which does not detract from their illustrative benefit.

Beating the Reaper: Trauma Medicine for the CCW Operator is an excellent book for anyone who wants to survive a violent encounter.  While an experienced 68W (if you have to ask – you are not) may not get a lot out of this book, for the vast majority of people, this is a superb starting point for building your knowledge and skills in self care.

Knowledge beats gear every day of the week.  However, knowledge plus the right gear is a much better position than either alone.  I personally have a small kit in each of my vehicles and in my home that contains a CAT tourniquet, Israeli bandage and QuikClot Combat Gauze in addition to some other small items.  This kit is easy to grab and get into for fast access in a bad situation.  Many readers know that I am also a cop, and I carry a tourniquet on my person at all times when in uniform.

This gear is important, but the knowledge is essential.  Beating the Reaper goes a long way to getting you the knowledge you need until you can get into a hands-on class.

(Ed. note:  Suarez International offers a Trauma Medicine for the CCW Operator class.  Looking over their schedule, it looks like they have six classes left in 2012 from Florida to Utah.  I’ve not been to one, so I cannot speak with experience, but I expect they are an excellent way to learn basic trauma care.)

Richard Johnson
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Beating the Reaper
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