If one thing about life is certain, it is that injuries happen. This is all the more true in activities and occupations involving firearms – and most especially combat. From civilians at home to soldiers overseas, the ability to react to and mitigate life-threatening injury is just as important as any other facet of shooting. Without ready first aid immediately on hand in case of an injury, even a minor problems can quickly go south.
Enter the Direct Action Response Kit, a potentially life-saving option for shooters, both recreational and professional. We here at Front Site Post do not see many combat aid kits come across our desk, so when we saw this complete trauma kit from Dark Angel Medical, we jumped at the opportunity to bring something new to your attention. Sparing no expense and lacking for none, the D.A.R.K. is a compact and complete option for attaching to a modular vest, battle belt, or even a hiking pack. We believe it would perform well in these roles, and offer a little extra peace of mind for citizen and soldier alike.
The D.A.R.K. is assembled and sold by Kerry Davis of Dark Angel Medical, a veteran flight and field medic with significant on-the-job experience (read more about Kerry here). As a result, the kit carries credentials that few other competing kits can match.
With the backstory out of the way, let’s get into the components included with the D.A.R.K.. Starting from the heart of the kit, and what Dark Angel calls the D.A.R.K. Insert: a refillable, vacuum-sealed package filled with the most essential items of the kit:
- 1 pair of Nitrile gloves – Nitrile provides the same tactile feel of latex, without the possible allergic reactions.
- 1 nasal airway, with lube included – creates airway through nasal passage if patient is unable to breath through mouth
- 1 4-inch “Israeli-style” bandage - For those that do not know, the Israeli bandage was introduced in the 1990s to the American Armed Forces, and is the current standard-issue dressing for the entire military.
- 1 QuikClot combat gauze pad
- 1 H&H PriMed compressed gauze pad
- 1 set of HALO chest seals – for application to sucking chest wounds
This portion of the package is self-contained and replaceable. It is also covered under Dark Angel’s guarantee: If any part of the Insert is used during a life-threatening situation, Dark Angel will replace the Insert for free (with proper documentation).
An essential procedure and tool used in many life threatening situations is the tourniquet. We have found that this component is often left out of – or overlooked by – many other combat aid kits. Not so on the D.A.R.K.. As Dark Angel states, this kit comes with “everything you need and nothing you don’t” and that stands true thus far.
A tourniquet is designed to cut off blood flow to extremities in the extreme case of a wound where bleeding cannot be stopped, and as such becomes a vital tool in any life threatening situation involving blood loss. Although it is not hard to make an improvised tourniquet in the right environment, the D.A.R.K.’s included Combat Application Tourniquet makes for a much more effective tool to combat rapid blood loss. By wrapping the tourniquet around the extremity and twisting the provided windlass, the inner ribbon of the tourniquet will begin to tighten (without the “CAT” system, improvised strips of clothing are wrapped around limbs and tightened with unreliable windlass, such as a stick, which will often break). As the #1 preferred tourniquet of the US Army, the CAT is of great quality, and Dark Angel makes sure such a quality tool is prominently featured in their kit. With a unique, hybrid, self-adhering hook/loop strip spanning the entirety of the wrap, there is no size limitation (within reason) to the limb it can be used on. As stated above, this tourniquet is supplied with a windlass and inner ribbon. This provides easy application and fast procedure time. With the attached “U” shaped windlass catch, the tool can be applied by one person, even if it was a self-application.
The next piece of the outer equipment is the shears. Trauma shears are often used to cut through clothing to quickly and easily expose wounds. While often included in combat aid kits, included shears are often lacking in quality. With durable polymer handles and coated metal blades, the shears of the D.A.R.K. seem to be quite the opposite. Often times shears come out of the box sharp, but dull quickly. This results in the blades not being able to cut though material and jamming often. As seen in the photo, the Rescue Essentials trauma shears provided with the D.A.R.K. come with a serrated blade. This will not only help hold material while being cut, but also allows the user to use the blade to tear through thicker portions of clothing. While nothing will ever stop the dulling of your shears, it may keep them cutting longer.
The pouch in which all these parts are stored is one of the best parts of the D.A.R.K. The proprietary, custom-built pouch, produced by EGL (Extreme Gear Labs) specifically for Dark Angel, is made out of high quality Cordura nylon and is a designed around the Insert to maintain a low profile. All while still being large enough to eliminate the need to “cram” the Insert in, possibly harming its contents. Due to its small size the custom pouch takes little space up on the users rig. Being comparable to a pair of stacked Magpul P-mag in size, the kit can easily be attached a battle belt using the supplied MOLLE straps with very little sacrifice of real estate.
Compact, durable, and complete, these are the three words that best describe the D.A.R.K.. When all is said and done, the D.A.R.K. provides everything necessary to treat any major trauma incident one could come across. Its price is suitable to the quality and thought that was put into its fully custom and high quality components. Taking into consideration its low profile and sleek design, it will be hard to find a better equipped kit that will take up as little space on your rig. For any serious shooter in any number of environments, a medical kit is just as essential as any offensive weapon. We feel that no kit would do as much for the price, or the space on your gear.
As a truly final thought: Although some of us at FSP have some combat aid experience, we are not medical experts nor combat medics. In order to make sure we had all possible information on this kit, we requested the assistance of an EMT to look over the D.A.R.K. By his positive reaction, coupled with the asking of where to buy one, tells us that this product is not only medic-created, but medic-approved. We can think of no higher praise than that, and no better reassurance that having the D.A.R.K. in dangerous places may one day save a life.