Private Bloggins


April 6, 2015
by Chris
1 Comment

The CTOMS™ Aluminum Jubilee

Yes it’s true, CTOMS™ is 10 years old this week.  That would make it our Aluminum Jubilee.  Oh how time flies when you’re having fun.

What started out as an idea to bring tactical medical training to law enforcement from military experience, quickly took on a life of its own.  CTOMS™ evolved into unexpected directions and passions, usually faster than could ever have been foreseen.  It’s been a steep learning curve and the lessons have been hard, unforgiving, expensive at times, and without regret.  I’ve come to learn that companies have personalities, most often defined by their leadership whether they realize it or not.  One of the many keys to success has been to surround ourselves with like minded people and companies that share our values, while distancing ourselves from poison.  Above all, always striving to be logical and professional, regardless of emotional inertia to the contrary at times.  I’ve also come to learn that companies are not easy, static or predictably linear, but rather are living entities.  Alive with their personality and growth.  Maturing with age.  They can get fat, and must go on diets.  And they exist, like all of us, in the eternal fight against entropy.

CTOMS™ started out like a lot of companies; an all time consuming endeavor that slowly took over my house, until finally we moved into our commercial space.  The hard work in those early days hasn’t really let up, it’s just changed form.  As CTOMS™ has grown, so has the complexity of the company and the market we work in.

Business is really about the customers.  Without customers, quite obviously there is no business.  But customers are not just the supporters of the business, they are the reward for us as well.  We’ve had the privileged of training with amazing units and agencies, all of which will remain nameless.  The teaching and learning has always been a two way street.  We’ve also had the honor to meet some truly amazing people that do some truly amazing things for the world, their country, their community and their families.  Our mission has always been ‘to make a difference’.  The great thing about that mission, is that it is an extension of our customers mission as well.  Being an enabler so that our customers can ‘make a difference’, whether that is fighting terrorists in far away dangerous lands, protecting us at home, or protecting your families, that is our reward.  Being a modest link is a chain of security.  Or more accurately, contributing to the two foundation layers in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the form of confidence, knowledge and tools for safety and security.

By far, the most rewarding aspect of CTOMS™ has been hearing from the individuals who have had to put the training and equipment into real world use.  When put in those life changing, life or death moments, former students have always excelled in the face of unimaginable circumstances.  If we played even only a small part in a successful outcome, that is our reward.  I’ve always said, this is serious business.  Hearing success stories of Care Under Fire and Tactical Rescue, tourniquet save after tourniquet save, only reassures us, we’re in the right business for the right reasons.

With highs come the lows.  While the death of every law enforcement officer, soldier, airman, airwoman, sailor, first responder (you get the picture) is heart breaking, 4 in particular have hit close to home being former students; MCpl Kristal Giesbrecht, Pte. Andrew Miller, Cpl Nicolas Beauchamp and MCpl Christian Duchesne.  Their images honor our hall and serve as a reminder of why we do what we do every day.

There are two other groups that have helped immensely in getting us to where we are today.  This first is our vendors, who have provided support and best of breed products so that we may bring them to the Canadian market.  To name only a few; Smokehouse a Design Company and Composite Resources both of which have been with us since the very beginning.  TacMed Solutions, Atomic Mike (and of course Don, the prototype shop and everyone at CF), and ITTS all deserve mention.  There are certainly more, and not being listed only means I have mTBI, and not that you aren’t appreciated.

The second group has been our staff, past and present, full time and part time, employees, instructors, support and without a doubt our families.  I’ve learned from everyone.  Everyone’s contributions have been essential in making a difference – not just for the company, but for end users.  I thank every single one of you.

To all our customers, staff, vendors and associates, we thank you from the depths of our hearts and look forward to continuing our great relationships.  The magnetism of all these players has been defined in our underpinning Corporate Ethos, which I truly believe has been the quintessential component to our success.  And so in keeping with that Ethos, we will be foregoing pomp and circumstance, because there is more important work to do.

Chris Kopp

January 28, 2015
by Chris

Hemorrhage Control – What Aunt Flow Didn’t Know

Every now and again, this bad recommendation surfaces.  I actually saw this printed in an emergency veterinary book recently which prompted me to finally write this article.  It’s time to bust this myth.

I think it was the 2008 SOMA conference and the medic’s were presenting their combat medical vignettes.  A medic was presenting his casualty vignette when it started going something like this:

“…so I stuck my finger in the wound, and it…no shit…, it felt like a vagina.”

At which point, the entire audience of about 500 collectively looked at their neighbor and asked “did he actually just say that?”.  And then he continued:

“…so I put a tampon in it.”

I’m sure almost everyone that has ever received ‘tactical medical’ training, and many that haven’t, has probably heard this advice in some form.  Back in 2000 during my EMT ambulance practicum, noticing there were no big field dressings like the Army issued me, I asked my preceptor ‘if we get a really big bleeder, what do we have to use?’ to which he answered ‘probably the diapers’.

Enter critical thought.

To start with, let’s define exactly what the issue is I’m addressing in plain language.  Often, so called “subject matter experts” will give the advice, that to treat massive hemorrhage, tampons, sanitary pads and even diapers are acceptable and effective ‘bandages’.  The qualification they give is that they are designed to ‘soak up blood’.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; if you’re ‘soaking up blood’, you aren’t controlling hemorrhage.  You are only keeping the floor clean.  When someone asks the question ‘how much blood can this bandage soak up?’, they are completely missing the point, and don’t fully understand hemorrhage control.

Sanitary Pads and Diapers

Let me first address sanitary pads and diapers.  These are specifically engineered and manufactured to soak up blood and urine and hold it in ‘keeping you dry’.  They rapidly wick fluid away from the surface.

If you consider the way blood clots in a wound, this actually works against what you are trying to accomplish.  Effective hemorrhage control is to tightly pack gauze up against the damaged vessel, and inside the wound, and hold it under pressure.  Medical gauze is specifically designed for this purpose.  It puts a significant amount of ‘surface area’ in the form of the gauze fibers in the area where the blood is leaking out.  The (manual) high pressure is to minimize this leaking out by squeezing the damaged blood vessel(s) closed.  Blood flow is slowed, and with the clotting factors in the blood activated, it becomes sticky, and hopefully sticks to the gauze fibers and all their surface area.  With pressure maintained and minimal movement and disruption, hopefully, eventually a clot will form within the matrix of gauze fibers, over the hole in the damaged vessel(s) that will hold and prevent further hemorrhage.

Place a sanitary pad or diaper on a wound and it doesn’t put surface area in the form of gauze fibers in the wound.  Rather, it actually wicks the blood away, almost sucking it out of the wound, leaving no clotting or clotted blood present in the wound to seal it.  The blood is wicked into the core and clots inside the pad and away from the damaged vessel where it is actually needed to adhere to, to form the plug.  Not the best conditions to promote clotting.  So the next time someone tells you to use these devices, please educate them on the difference between their great theory of hemorrhage control, and the reality of physiology, physics and the design of these products.


The other adjunct I’ll address is the tampon.  The theory is that tampons soak up blood so they should be good for hemorrhage control.  After all, that’s what they are designed for isn’t it?  They come on a stick that seems like it should fit into a bullet wound track, so why wouldn’t it be effective in a gun shot wound for hemorrhage control.

If you understand ballistics, you know that when tissue is struck with a high velocity projectile, the kinetic energy transfer causes both a permanent and temporary cavity.  Those cavities also disrupt tissue planes which creates access to potential spaces for blood to pool in internally, as well as following the permanent wound cavity out the entry and exit wound (if an artery is damaged).

Medical gauze sold for packing wounds is usually around 4 inches x 12 feet (144 inches).  And a typical gunshot wound will easily eat that entire roll and possibly then some.

Does anyone know how much gauze is in a tampon?  I didn’t, so I opened one up.  I needed to soak it in water as it was compressed extremely tight and trying to open it dry, just pulled off little pieces.  Little pieces that if they became loose and lost in a wound would be great infection beds.

A tampon is made of two 2 inch x 4 inch pieces of gauze-like material and a little string.  And that’s it other than the applicator.  Compare that to 12 feet of medical gauze.

20150127_20013520150127_20021520150127_20032320150127_20040420150127_200555Compare this to the volume that comes in one gauze package.


A tampon is not designed to stop bleeding.  It is not designed to clot blood from a wound.  And I absolutely refuse to entertain any jokes whatsoever regarding the natural physiology of the female body.  This is serious and respectful business.  The bleeding source is not the vagina, but rather from the uterus, and blood flows out through the cervix then the vagina.  The tampon is deigned to soak and hold a small amount of blood.  The required function is very different.  In the presence of a damaged artery, two 2″x4″ pieces of gauze is like throwing a rock at a tank.

Let me leave you with this advice on managing massive traumatic hemorrhage; soaking blood does not equate to stopping bleeding.  Once you get past that, you’re on your way to really understanding how clotting, and hemorrhage control works.  You need to provide surface area (gauze fibers), including pro-coagulants and or muco-adhesives if available, in and against the actual wound, specifically the damaged vessel that is the source of the bleeding, under pressure, for an adequate duration, so that the minimal amount of blood that does leak out forms a stable clot.

If you need to improvise, a cotton T-shirt can’t be beaten, except by a bamboo T-shirt.  Leave the diapers, sanitary pads and tampons alone or else you could be ‘doing more harm’.

September 30, 2014
by Chris
1 Comment

MIL/LE Harnesses 101

Preface: This post is critical, so I would ask you to keep an open mind.  But the intent is to be critical to specific design features and not to any specific product, brand or company.  The vast majority of the companies that make harnesses with less desirable features noted herein have been in the harness business far longer than I have, and make excellent quality and designed products (unless they include the features I address concern with).  At no point is there any intention to identify specific products or brands, which is why no brand names other than CTOMS are mentioned.  It’s also the reason pictures are not posted in this article, but rather generic internet search terms to help you conduct the research yourself.  These terms will sometimes bring up only one or two specific brands as examples of conditions I am describing (at the time of the writing of this article – the internet changes, so search results may as well).  The spirit of the article is to post personal opinion regarding certain generic harness design features relating to the safety of that design feature.  So without further ado…

Let’s talk harnesses. You might need one to secure yourself into a helicopter. Or you might need one for work positioning, rope assault, mountaineering or rescue work. Or as was once explained to a friend of mine of the breadth of skills a SAR Tech has (by a non-SAR Tech): “they do parachuting, scuba-diving, first-aid, and sometimes,…even rappelling”. Yes it’s true…sometimes, they even do rappelling. And if you need to rappel, you too will need a harness.

But as often as we seem to find ourselves in that emergency situation rappelling out of danger using our para-cord bracelet, key chain carabiner and riggers belt, and before we drink the sexy ‘if I buy that brand/color harness it must be good, and I must be cool’ cool-aid, let’s take a critical look at harnesses. Specifically, let’s look at them from the requirement perspective of military/law enforcement.

To be clear, this article is not about harnesses intended for recreational climbing, industrial work positioning or fall arrest or rescue at heights, or mountain rescue and the like, though, at times, it may be used for similar tasks. Mil/LE have unique additional requirements that should be taken into consideration. Just like aircraft, trucks, rifles and medicine, taking an off-the-shelf civilian design and slapping a MulitCam® paint job on it rarely suffices to meet the actual, practical and unique demands of Mil/LE.

The key features of a harness developed for this application SHOULD be that they are:

  • Safe – does not compromise acceptable safety standards in order to achieve any of the below features;
  • Functional – functions for it’s required intention; e.g.: work positioning, fall arrest, suspension, etc.
  • Non-interfering – does not inhibit or interfere with range of motion or movement (flexibility, range of motion and agility);
  • Lightweight (can be carried unobtrusively, including when it may not even be needed);
  • Low pack volume (can be carried unobtrusively, including when it may not even be needed);
  • Rapidly and easily donned and doffed while wearing gloves and tactical equipment, preferably without having to balance on one leg and not having to take any gear off;
  • Seamlessly integrates, and non-interference with tactical equipment and movement. Main tie in point and gear loops are easily accessed while wearing tactical equipment;
  • Minimal snag points;
  • Low/no noise signature;
  • Subdued color; and
  • Comfortable.

There are probably more but I’m making this up as I go so bear with me.

Should I make sacrifices in function/design to save weight and space?

The answer is how much does frustration and lack of safety and performance weigh? For those that have ever donned a harness that didn’t have rear leg loop support straps, took a knee, then tried to stand up knows the answer. For those that don’t know, the answer is; carrying the weight of the little elastic straps is more than most likely well worth it to save the frustration, and quite honestly, potentially the life threatening situation the lack thereof could put you in.

What makes a bad harness?

Notice I didn’t ask ‘Who makes a bad harness?’. That would be way too bias, and just not professional. However it is the reason for the lack of pictures in this post. There is unfortunately a plethora of less desirable designs in the marketplace. Instead of posting images, I’ve posted key generic search words you can plug into Google that should turn up some examples if you have a discerning critical eye that can pull them out of the non-applicable and acceptable harnesses revealed in the same search.

Here are some key features you should ensure a harness has or doesn’t have before you commit your hard earned dollars or agency’s scarce budget, performance efficiency, and life to it.

Quick release buckle on the main belt.

I consider this a life threatening design failure. Cobra buckles are great.  They don’t open under load. Especially the new Cobra Pro’s. These Pro’s have been redesigned with even tighter tolerances and refined engineering to prevent accidental single side only connections and reduce unintended opening. So why shouldn’t I put one on the main belt of my harness? It is far more convenient to don and doff, isn’t it?

There are three concerns off the top of my head with a side release buckle on the main belt that is not captured and secured in harness mode:

  1. From time to time, from personal experience safety checking side release buckle harnesses, more often than you would think, the buckles do not fully seat because of clothing, debris, snow or ice, sausage fingers, etc. The reason being is that when donning, often there is force pulling the two ends apart.  Once one side clicks in, the person donning believes the buckles is secure.  However, the force pulling the two sides apart prevents the second side from connecting.  This about halves the strength and integrity of the buckle. Though it should be noted that AustriAlpin significantly reduced this likelihood with their redesigned Pro version. However, the possibility still exists, even in the Pro version, with a far greater commonality than you would probably expect.
  2. The convenience makes it convenient to forgetfully but purposefully open it while being worn as life support, eliminating the life support capability. Or for that matters, forgetting to close it at all (think taking a leak); and
  3. Sure it won’t open under load, but that doesn’t mean it won’t open accidentally when not under load, especially when you don’t know it opened accidentally before loading it with your life. Accidental opening of one, even both leg loops is not that big of a deal. Accidental opening of the main belt can be catastrophic. For example, when not under load, imagine bending over.  The buckle is not loaded and perfect conditions that preface all accidents, the folds of clothing and tissue squeeze the side release tabs unbeknownst to the wearer. The wearer then commits themselves to the edge with an insecure buckle on their main belt, inverts and slides out of the leg loops.

I am only aware of the first example occurring, and quite frequently.  The question to ask yourself is if the convenience is worth the risk, especially when just as convenient but far safer options are commercially available. Use critical evaluation if you are considering purchasing a harness with a quick release buckle on the main belt, that if opened, compromises the integrity and safety of the harness. Are the other features of the harness worth the sacrifice in safety?

Google Image Search: cobra buckle rappel harness, work sit harness for special forces

Quick release buckles on the leg loops with protruding release latches.

While certainly not as serious as a quick release on the main belt – if you accidentally pop a leg loop, who really cares? But again, it’s one of those added risks vs. benefits. I’m a huge fan of quick attach/release buckles on leg loops. Donning and doffing is so much easier, especially with skis or crampons on. However, there is the possibility that, not under load, the buckle can get squeezed between folds in trouser fabric or gear and depress the tabs and partially or fully release the buckle unbeknownst to the wearer.

Google Image Search: Cobra buckle leg loops (Keep in mind your looking specifically for the 1″ Cobra Buckles with protruding release tabs. Larger Cobra Buckles and the new 1″ buckles with XS tabs have tabs that are protected from depression by the frame, though at not completely immune.)

Carabiner as the belay loop (connecting the leg loops to the main belt).

This one is really bad, and I see it far too often. I consider this another life threatening design failure. This is a serious safety compromise to try to solve a convenience problem of quick connect/detach leg loops. The carabiner becoming cross loaded in this configuration is the rule not the exception and therefore there is no good reason for this design.

Google Image Search: riggers belt harness, urban leg loops, alpine bod harness

No leg loop support straps (the elastics that connect the back of the leg loops to the belt).

I consider this a life threatening design failure. If a harness does not have these, it is simply ignorance and negligence on the part of the designer as far as I’m concerned. Yet for some reason, a significant amount of harnesses in the this market seem to lack this feature.

Here’s the deal. If I place a tourniquet over clothing and tighten it so tight it cuts off flow of the femoral artery, that tourniquet can still be dislodged with leg movement and clothing manipulation. Thighs are cones, and loops around them tend to migrate to the smaller diameter, often just following gravity toward the knee. Legs loops that are much looser than a tourniquet do the same thing with nothing holding them up.  If you don’t believe me and you’re hell bent on saving the miniscule weight, and convinced they aren’t required, please don’t take my word for it.  Do one or all of the following: Don a harness without rear leg loop support straps and:

  • Take a knee, then stand up. Do it a few times and eventually you’ll see what happens. Then imagine doing that on the ramp or the sill of an aircraft, or during fire and movement on a two way range.
  • Climb. Climb at a climbing gym or at the crag. Hell, just climb a ladder (especially a caving ladder).
  • Tread water then try to swim (but make sure there is a life guard present. I also recommend wearing a PFD you can actuate if you start panicking).

It will happen to you once, and you’ll never wear a harness without them again, I promise. So don’t buy a harness that doesn’t come with them.  You will regret it.

Google Image Search: riggers belt harness, tactical rappel harness, urban leg loops

Fixed leg loop size.

This is a sporto harness feature and needless to say, doesn’t really work well for Mil/LE application. The good news is that unlike many of the other concerns listed, this one is rarely designed into Mil/LE harnesses, though you can still find an example or two out there.  Leg loop size needs to be adjustable for varying layers of clothing, comfort and correct fitting of the harness.

Google Image Search: riggers belt harness, fixed size leg loop harness

Leg loop sizes that are counter-dependent on each other (one gets larger when one shrinks, i.e. one sling loop, both legs, fixed size).

I’m pretty sure this isn’t an airworthiness approved harness configuration. This is the fixed loop that goes around your legs then you pull the back side of the strap between your legs and clip it to the front side, then clip it into the belt (see “Carabiner as a belay loop” above). The problem(s) with this is that when one leg loosens the other tightens. It’s not a stable configuration. (see ‘No leg loop support straps’ above) (see ‘Fixed leg loop size’ above) A pre-set size is not going to work the same for 5’2″ and 6’6″ or two people the same height with different thigh girth. If you’re going to carry this style as an emergency harness, I highly recommend 1″ tubular nylon pre-sized to fit your body type. At least then it is multipurpose and saves you a lot of money. Take caution regarding the ‘see-saw’ motion of this type of harness over extended use as it can be abrasive to the connection point.

Google Image Search: riggers belt sling leg loops

Chest Harnesses.

It is also worth mentioning chest harnesses.  If you’re wearing a plate carrier or a pack, you’re most likely going to need a chest harness to help keep you upright. The problem here is integration with armor. Chest harnesses either need to go under the plate carrier, the anchor coming out the top at the neck, which I’ve seen and is a terrible and dangerous idea. Or they need to go over top, which usually means over top of everything. Unfortunately, this covers up access to, and crushes your ammo, med kit, pushes the PTT on your radio, etc.

Here is the catch now – the advertisement.

Trust me when I tell you, we have mentally masturbated all these concerns to exhaustion, and have come up with some very unique solutions.

Considering all the above, CTOMS™ has developed our 2nd generation harness systems; the M2, G2 and T2 Systems. These harnesses have been developed to consider the unique features and capabilities required in a tactical harness, without compromising any of the safety concerns.   We are currently entering into production and anticipate availability early 2015.  Stay tuned for full reviews of the harnesses here on Private Bloggins.  If you have further questions regarding the upcoming harness systems, drop us a line and we can put you on the list to send you the information package once available.


April 2, 2014
by Chris
1 Comment

Cobra vs. Raptor – Head to Head

Disclosure: My company is a customer of AustriAlpin products.  These comments are mine, not CTOMS’, nor AustriAlpin’s.  The interest in assessing these two buckles is in determining the best product to purchase as a component of harnesses that I design.  It has evolved beyond that into educating the public about my findings so that they may make safe and educated purchase decisions as well.

A while back we pull tested a couple Raptor Buckle samples to destruction to measure the breaking strength and posted the surprising results here.  The intent was only to satisfy our own curiosity and validate our buckle choice in our products.  While it was purely an editorial on our sample test data, it stirred the pot, and I think in a good way.  As new actions have occurred since then, an update on what is new in this realm is warranted.

I noticed that on Raptor Buckle’s website they updated their test images and data.  One of the most serious critiques of the previous post was that Raptor’s test method didn’t appear to pull the buckles in ladder lock configuration, thus not pull testing it in the configuration of function.  The new images now show the buckle in ladder lock mode…well, kinda. If you look closely, the webbing is threaded in ladder lock through the buckle, but instead of the tail being free, they have stitched it down, creating a closed webbing loop around the center bar of the buckle.  Why this is both interesting and concerning is that, once again, it alters true assessment of buckle performance in real world application.  No product is going to be manufactured with that design because it negates the functionality of adjustability in the ladder lock.  The concerning part is that it alters test results.  It pulls on the bar evenly on both sides, instead of unevenly, in a rotational force, as it would in reality.  As such it most likely will alter the data, hypothetically in favor of stronger test results than had the webbing tail been left loose.  Just like the original testing where the ladder lock wasn’t engaged, whether these oversights are due to naivety or an intent to mislead, I’m not going to speculate and will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Three other interesting facts remain.  Once again, their tests seem to only have been conducted in loop configuration.  The direct pull breaking strengths (stamped onto the buckle) being derived from those results instead of actually doing direct pull tests.  The problem with that, just like sewing the running tail in the ladder lock into a closed loop, is that its not a truly accurate conversion – can’t derive direct pull results from loop configuration pull results.  You have to do the actual test, which based on the data available to me, Raptor has yet to conduct or at least publish.  The second is probably also worth mentioning that 1 3/4″ webbing appears to have been used on the 1.5 inch and 2 inch buckle tests, which may or may not alter accurate results.  And finally, the last concern is that their results are so different than ours and other much more thorough and reputable third party testing.

The AustriAlpin camp took the testing a step further.  They sent 5 buckles of each size; Cobra Buckles and Raptor Buckles sourced by 3rd parties from online suppliers of the buckles, to TÜV SÜD for independent testing.  I’ll let you visit their website and determine their credentials for yourself.  TÜV SÜD chose 3 of the 5 samples to test.  I have to say, kudos to AustriAlpin for the initiative.  Obviously they have a bias and a business motive, but to incur the expense for an objective third party to do head-to-head testing shows that the company certainly stands by their product and has the respect for their customers and end users to educate them.

AustriAlpin shared the results of that testing with me a couple weeks ago with permission to post them.  I saturated myself with the test results then incubated them for a couple weeks so as not to make any knee jerk interpretations.  I think I have enough illumination now to post the facts and my editorial comments on them in the hopes of instigating some critical thinking and constructive discussion.

The first thing that struck me about the TÜV SÜD testing was that in the smaller buckles, the webbing broke before the buckles. As the buckles got larger, the buckles would break before the webbing.  I had a hard time accepting this as valid testing if the test is trying to measure break strength of the buckles.  Then during my incubation, I realized that it’s still a good data set because it still measures a system failure point involving the buckles head-to-head.  Whether it’s the webbing or buckle that fails, the system fails.  The test wasn’t necessarily just testing buckle strength, but rather system failure point in general in a direct comparison.  It needs to be fully understood that a webbing failure below 9kN does not constitute a buckle failure because the buckle didn’t break.  The webbing was just not a high enough quality, though it was at least the correct size.  A buckle company can’t anticipate and rate their product to the almost infinite amount of webbing variations that exist.  Having said that, webbing doesn’t break, it has to be cut.  And in this head to head comparison, it shows the force at which a Raptor and a Cobra ‘cuts’ the webbing.  If at some point in the future, head to head testing is conducted to measure break strengths of the buckle, a stronger webbing would have to be used.  In the larger buckle sizes we can definitely see break strengths vs. stamped ratings.

One last thing to mention before getting to the test results.  There is always the potential for one camp to claim that the other tampered with the test buckles or test method to alter results in their favor.  My personal opinion is this is a desperate defense in absence of tangible evidence of the same.  This was brought into question after posting my test results.  So in commenting on these tests, all I can do is base my comments and evaluation on facts available to me and leave speculation out.  I will give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume professionalism and common ethics.  This pertains to proof in chain of custody of sample buckles from procurement to testing etc., and the test methodology of TÜV SÜD and their reputation that would ride on that test methodology and ethic.  Test method is derived from images and descriptions, not speculation.  I personally would have liked to compare test data conducted and or funded by the Raptor camp as well.  But the problem is, the only test data available that I am aware of is results from tests where the webbing tail through the ladder lock has been sewn into a loop and the system is pulled in loop configuration.  Therefore, I have yet to see credible data from the Raptor camp of where they get their direct pull data and even credible data to support their loop config ratings.  I welcome such data for review.

Summary of the TÜV SÜD results:

1 inch buckles

Raptor slipped between 5.6 and 6.2kN then webbing broke between 6.3 and 7.1kN.  Buckle bent.
Cobra did not slip and webbing broke between 8 and 8.2kN.  No visible buckle damage.

1.5 inch buckles

Raptor slipped between 5 and 6.6kN then webbing broke between 8.1 and 8.5kN.  Buckle bent.
Cobra slipped between 6.3 and 7.95kN then webbing broke between 7.7 and 10.1kN.  No visible buckle damage.

1.75 inch buckles

Raptor varied from not slipping in one test and slipping at 4.1 and 5.5kN then the buckles broke between 7.85 and 8.3kN.  All 3 below stamped rating of 9kN.
Cobra did not slip.  The buckles broke between 11 and 11.3kN.  All 3 above stamped rating of 9kN.

2 inch buckles

Raptor slipped between 6 and 7.4kN then the buckles broke between 6.6 and 8.1kN.  All 3 under stamped rating of 9kN.
Cobra did not slip.  The buckles broke between 10.9 and 12.5kN.  All 3 above stamped rating 9kN.

Note that the Raptor buckles slipped quite often before breaking. In the configuration of their test method conducted by J. Henry Holland Corp., this would have been impossible to determine because they had sewn the webbing into a loop around the center buckle bar as described at the beginning of this article.

The bottom line is that based on the TÜV SÜD testing (consistent with my own personal testing), the Raptor Buckles bend and brake consistently below the direct pull stamped rating, and the manufacturer has only published their own loop pull testing results, again in irregular configuration.  The Cobra Buckle doesn’t deform and I have yet to see data where is has broken below the stamped rating.  And I’ll say it again – I have no interest, financial or otherwise in these businesses.  This assessment is objective and intended to determine the best product for my purposes and to educate others based on available data.

Some will argue that the Raptor Buckle is still ‘strong enough’, but I think this has become a question of integrity and accountability.  If it was simply a head-to-head, one product is almost always going to be better than the other and, in this case, that appears to be so.  In a free and open market, competition is a good thing and that difference in quality might be offset by price, location of manufacture, and other preferred criteria when making purchase decisions.  The problem though is that pesky stamped rating that is the same between the two buckles/companies, except that the Raptor Buckle seems to have trouble meeting it, except in questionable test configurations.  My question is, if you were a company, why wouldn’t you do exhaustive testing on your product in proper configuration?

The full TÜV SÜD Test Report can be viewed here. 

I welcome everyone’s comments.

December 5, 2013
by Chris

Dual Pattern TRACE™ Rope

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new Dual Pattern TRACE™ Systems rope.  With this new feature, users are able to quickly find center rope, and also able to log use based on rope side/pattern.  Ropes will be stocked in 30m, 46m and 60m lengths.  Available immediately for custom order and in stock early January.

photo 5-2photo 2-2

December 4, 2013
by Chris

Buster Brown

Allow us to introduce you to the newest, and most destructive member of the CTOMS team: we’re calling him Buster Brown.  No, it’s not a log splitter.  This is an amazing, custom built, mobile, slow pull test machine built for us by HK Ironworks in Manitoba, Canada.  The detailing is impeccable with the bearing mounted rolling carriages, bollards and eye connection options and frame extension.  We’re eager to start breaking things with it.  Buster is going to allow us to conduct more and faster in house peak force and strength testing on rope systems, harnesses and anything else our little hearts desire.


June 20, 2013
by craig.keller

New Online Patrol Officer Down (POD™) Survival Course Nearing Completion Date!

With a seven year track record of instructing world class Military and Law Enforcement Tactical Medicine, CTOMS™ is continuing the Evolution of Tactical Medicine™ with this program by bringing it to you online.

The online POD™ Survival Course continues to set the standard with a law enforcement environment specific focus regarding basic level casualty management where a direct threat exists. This course applies to any law enforcement personnel who may find themselves using their firearm in self defense and/or in protection of the public. Completing the POD™ Survival Course will give you the confidence, knowledge and necessary skill transfer that are directly and immediately applicable in conducting self-aid and first aid in a direct threat environment.

The course will be available without the Practical Training Component (PTC) to any current serving officer and with a PTC to all agencies, including a Train the Facilitator Course for organic training cadre’s to facilitate a sustainable program of the agency’s entire force.  This model allows agencies with a sustainable program that can be adopted anywhere in the world.  It can be translated into any language.

International and cross continent/cross country distribution of the program will be facilitated by our associate training companies set up in geographical regions.  They will administrate and provide Train the Facilitator courses locally.

Launch date for the POD™ is anticipated winter 2013 with the Tactical Officer Down (TOD™) Survival launching spring 2014.

Contact CTOMS™ here with any questions or to have a POD™ Survival Program Statement of Capabilities sent to you.

The difference is in the delivery.  The difference is in the details.

June 5, 2013
by Chris

A Critical Look at ‘TCCC’

Sometimes there can be a fine line between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, and it takes a critical perspective to discern the difference.  This is my subjective, i.e. opinion, about what formal Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), meaning the Guidelines recommended by the Committee on TCCC (the CoTCCC) and published in Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS) has become, and the best way to use them.

Let me start by saying that these guidelines were revolutionary when they were first published in 1996, even though they weren’t fully appreciated until probably 2003 (10 years after they were conceptualized) when the GWOT created a tangible requirement for them.  They were the essential first step in changing the way medicine was conducted on the battlefield and creating an appropriate approach to casualties that was environment specific.  And, like all committees, the direction that it has evolved into has been a series of compromises, general consensus based on data and opinions available, sometimes selectively presented, and more than likely a myriad of hidden agenda’s, open agenda’s and biases.  Now I realize that is a strong accusation, unfounded, which is why I openly admit it is an opinion only.  But by biases, I do mean formal open biases relative to the end user.  What that means is that the CoTCCC produces guidelines and updates that are bias toward U.S. military operating in a combat environment.  At the end of the day, the guidelines are an excellent foundation, and extremely important in mass implementation of an appropriate, defined, structured combat casualty care approach, specific to the U.S. military.

With the hyper-demand for TCCC training, even as far on the periphery as in preparation in home defense and even the doomsday preppers, it has created a vacuum for competent instructors on the topic.  Everyone wants the training, and just about everyone is willing to provide it!  The training cadres have become, even recommended to be by the CoTCCC, civilian first responders without any necessary practical, real world TCCC application experience or even relevant training to put it into appropriate context.  Beyond that, for those with experience – just because someone is good at ‘doing’ it, doesn’t mean they are necessarily good a ‘teaching’ it.  Instructing is a whole other skill set.

TCCC also makes specific product recommendations, which in and of itself, regardless of the data supporting it (or not supporting it), is a bias.  Again the bias is particular to the audience it is intended for – the U.S. Military.  For example, the drugs, or brands of products recommended by the CoTCCC may not necessarily be approved for use by appropriate regulatory bodies in allied countries.  In Canada, this was one of the initial issues with adopting the guidelines verbatim.  That is why, as far back as 2003, Canada started developing it’s own guidelines and in 2007 the Canadian Combat Casualty Care Working Group approved ‘Canadian TCCC Guidelines’ for use by the Canadian Armed Forces.  Another example, was that the TCCC Guidelines (U.S. or CF) could not be seamlessly applied to domestic law enforcement.  Hypertonic Saline Dextran (HSD or RescueFlow) was the fluid resuscitation of choice for the CF and fentanyl lollipops were the pain medication of choice, accessed through special permissions granted by Health Canada for use on operational deployments only.  Law enforcement now has to make changes to the guidelines so that they are applicable to them.

But let’s take it a few steps further.  There are companies that offer TCCC training, which, remember, was designed for use by American soldiers on the battlefield.  How is that appropriate to apply to a domestic law enforcement environment in Canada, or any other country for that matter?  There are huge differences in mission profiles, OrBat’s, ROE’s, TTP’s, drugs and equipment.  Therefore, unmodified, they very quickly become inappropriate.

The CoTCCC will be the first to tell you that they are only publishing “Guidelines” and that it is up to the organization, including the Department of Defense in the U.S., whether they actually adopt them or should be modified based on specific requirements.  This is a great disclaimer.  A very interesting fact to consider is that after making the determination that the TCCC Guidelines no longer fit their mission profile appropriately, USSOCOM created their own version called TTP’s or Tactical Trauma Protocols, which were actually a relatively major modification to the CoTCCC TCCC Guidelines.

CTOMS™, being a training company with a broad spectrum of clients, has taken it a step further.  While our approach is considered Intellectual Property, and the only way to learn it is to take one of our courses, the approach we take is much more universal and at the same time, very specific to each client’s mission profile.  It allows for seamless integration of an agencies existing protocols, and in the absence thereof, offers CTOMS™ recommended procedures.  We actually don’t teach cookie cutter, ‘TCCC’ courses.  The foundation does remain to be TCCC, and the updates from the CoTCCC are always taken into consideration, but the content has evolved to be very different, and I would argue, much more appropriate in a universal fashion.  We’ve branded ours TTC™, or Tactical Trauma Care™ guidelines, and it is a unique approach, I would argue, in my very bias opinion, an extremely effective, universal approach to managing a casualty in the non-permissive environment.

So critically consider the guidelines that you adopt for your agency to use.  There are no rules that say you can’t modify them to fit your mission profile.  And be very critical about the content that companies are offering to train your agency in.  Not all ‘TCCC’ is presented equally.  Does this make TCCC irrelevant?  Definitely not.  The point I’m trying to get across is that it’s designed for the U.S. military.  If that’s not you, then you need to critically look at your environment and make modifications to fit your specific mission profile.

May 21, 2013
by Chris

Raptor™ Buckle – Put to the Test

We’ve been doing a lot of pull tests and drop tests lately, validating the operating parameters of our TRACE™ Comprehensive Capability Micro Rope Systems.  During a day of testing, I thought I would pull some Raptor™ Buckles to destruction and measure peak forces, just out of curiosity.  We’ve been using Cobra® Buckles on our X-Belts™ and M-Harnesses™ since the beginning and, keeping an open mind for alternative possibilities, I wanted to validate the Raptor™ personally.  There has been some controversy around them and I figured the best way to sort it out was to to see for myself.

It’s worth noting that the testing we did was completely independent.  The buckles were free samples from the sales rep, however when providing them, no one intended them to be used for testing.  We were not asked to test them, compensated for the testing, nor have we provided JBC Corp. or AustriAlpin directly with our test data.  This was strictly for our own information.

We pulled 2 x new, 1.75″ Raptor™ Buckles.   The first one we tested in non-adjustable configuration, direct pull, meaning the webbing was not threaded through the existing ladder lock bar, and the pull was directly on the buckle, not sharing the load on a second webbing leg of a loop.  For the sake of comparison, this is the same buckle configuration that J.H. Holland conducted the testing on (they also did not thread the webbing through the ladder lock, but rather placed it over the ladder lock bar).  They, however, configured it in loop configuration, meaning a second webbing leg supporting (theoretically, doubling the load capacity) of the total webbing loop, with the weak point still being the buckle.

Note that the ladder lock is not threaded.  This is not the configuration of function.

Note that the ladder lock is not threaded. This is not the configuration of function.

On the Raptor™ Buckle website they state they are rated to 18kN, though they don’t mention (and it is important to understand) that is in ‘loop’  configuration, meaning the buckle leg is only taking half the load.  In direct pull, which is how we tested them, the rating is 9kN.  They also state that the average peak force during destruction testing on the 1.75″ buckle is 24.4kN in loop configuration.  From that, one could extrapolate and hypothesize that a direct pull would have broke at ~12.2kN, or half the force.  These tests were conducted on contract by J. Henry Holland Corp for JBC Corp, the OEM Distributor of the buckle (manufactured by ADF).

Our testing broke the buckle at a peak force of 9.451kN, failing at the opposite side of the ladder lock (female side) at the corner rivet points, shearing the aluminum plates.  Which granted, is above the rated load of 9kN, though it’s not even close to the extrapolated rating from the J.H. Holland testing of 12.2kN.  So it begs the question, why such a difference?  Of note to mention, we did not pull the buckle to the rated load and hold it for two minutes before pulling to destruction as the J.H. Holland test did either, which is a more aggressive test.  We also pulled ours with webbing wrapped around the frame not the ladder lock bar, however the buckle broke on the opposite side of the buckle, so that factor becomes irrelevant.

The next test we did was in ladder lock configuration, which is actually the configuration of function/operation and, in my opinion, how the buckle should be rated.  It is worth noting that the J.H. Holland testing did not test the buckle in this manner.  I had anticipated the webbing being cut because of the sharp edges of the bar and frame in the design.  To my surprise, the webbing did not break, but rather the buckle broke by the ladder lock bar bending the frame and the frame failing at 6.981kN.  This is well under the 9kN rating.

Ladder Lock Pull Configuration

Ladder Lock Pull Configuration


Raptor Buckles After Pull Test

What we didn’t do was an apples to apples comparison yet.  I’ve referenced the Raptor™ Buckle claimed strength, so I’ll reference AustriAlpin data.  They actually have data from internal testing in ladder lock mode where they did 12 test samples.  The weakest of those samples in ladder lock mode broke at 10.8kN, well above the 9kN rating.

Other differences that we noted that contributed to our decision to stick with the Cobra® Buckles included the fact that the springs of the release tabs are visible in the Raptor™, thus exposed and prone to corruption.  When we compared that to the Cobra®, they had much tighter tolerances in their fabrication and assembly noted and no visible springs or ‘wiggle’/’play’ in the tabs, resisting foreign corruption from fowling the mechanism.  And fairly obvious, the riveted plating gap on the Raptor™ also allows for debris to collect inside the buckle between the two plates.  The Raptor™ also had a much wider profile, most likely due to the hollow plate design, making threading through belt loops much more challenging.  The Cobra®  aesthetic is more appealing to us, and AustriAlpin Inc. has been making the Cobra® Buckle for a very long time, making them tried, tested and true.

We encourage critical thought when evaluating components of any life support system, including scrutiny of this testing.  We only pulled one test sample in each configuration without a direct comparison test to the Cobra® Buckle, so take that for what it’s worth.

If you’d like us to test buckles or micro rope systems in configurations that have not been done, and are relevant, we’ll certainly entertain your ideas.  Please send them to us and we’ll see what we can do, and let us know what you think about this or other testing that we’ve conducted.