Part 2: Real v Fake – Identifying Fake CAT Tourniquets

In the first part of our series on the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT), we explored the identifying features to GEN 3, GEN 6, and the current GEN 7 CATs to better build famialirity with the legitimate product. In this, the second half of our series, we will focus specifically on the features that identify real CATs by North American Rescue, and fakes. The end-user should be aware that while these are the most common examples, it is not limited to them, and individuals should only purchase the CAT through trusted vendors.

Impact of Fakes

These features, while in many cases are minute and difficult to discern, can be a clear indication that the CAT is possibly a counterfeit. It takes a keen eye to spot most irregularities, and often the decisive factor that leads people to purchasing a fake CATs is the fact they are significantly cheaper. The appearance of fraudulent E-CATs peaked with the GEN 6, prompting Composite Resources to update the design in 2016 to the current GEN 7. And while the cheaper cost can be appealing to some, there are a number of documented cases where fake E-CATs have resulted in a casualty bleeding to death or complicating treatment. To date, little evidence is available to suggest efforts by overseas manufactures have matched the current GEN 7 design.

Identifying Features to Fraudulent CATs

Perhaps one of the biggest identifiers of fake E-CATs is the differences between genuine sonic welding and thermal bonding. This can be apparent throughout the tourniquet, specifically at the windlass strap and at the red tail end. The premise of thermal bonding is to take a heated elements and simply press it down on the nylon to melt any fabric and create a bond. This however is often unequal and ineffective in creating something that will withstand high stress.

In some documented cases, the windlass strap of GEN 6s appeared with a removable white sticker and/or “Time” in an inconsistent font, or is off-center.

The routing buckle in fraudulent E-CATs is predominantly squared as opposed to the more curved aspect of genuine ones. Additionally, the mold-marks are 4mm as opposed to 5mm and appear in different locations.

The rear of the stabilization plate may appear blank, or have an inconsistent font or iconography. Additionally, the mold-marks (not visable with straps on) are 4mm as opposed to 5mm and appear in different locations.

The windlass rod may be more pliable and susceptible to breakage than legitimate CATs. Additionally, the mold-marks are 3mm as opposed to 5mm and appear in different locations. The current GEN 7 windlass rod now includes raised “CAT” lettering as an anti-counterfeit measure.

Lastly, another element indicative of a fraudulent CAT is the absence of lot information printed near the tail end of the hook-and-loop band. Initially in GEN 3s this was merely the date of manufacture, but by GEN 6 NAR had increased it to include more information. In many instance of counterfeit tourniquets, this information is missing all together.

Justification to Avoid Fraudulent TQs

While it should go without saying, some people still need a reason to avoid purchasing, utilizing, or inspecting their equipment for fake CATs. Perhaps the largest justification to avoid (knowingly) using an E-CAT is centric to occlusion of the casualty’s extremity and blood flow. In the context of tourniquet application, occlusion comes as a tourniquet is tightened, applying direct pressure from all sides, to stem or cut off the flow of blood that is otherwise leaving the extremity unrestricted. Genuine tourniquets, properly applied, only require 2-3 rotations of the windlass rod to attain full occlusion. In contrast, E-CATs can take up to 10 rotations of the windlass rod before sufficient pressure is reached for occlusion—if at all. This can result in critical blood loss and risk to the casualty.

The second reason to avoid use of an E-CAT is due to easy breakage. There are multiple examples cited above that document breakage to various components, specifically the windlass rod, clip, and/or internal constriction band. These breakages stem from substandard components, manufacturing, or otherwise just poor design. You could unknowingly be trusting your life, or that of the casualty, to a product that will break once sufficient force or use is applied.

Where to Go

So where can you go to confidently purchase genuine CATs? While NAR is the recognized designer of the CAT, and Composite Resources is the manufacturer, there are a number of trusted vendors that offer legitimate CATs:

How to Stow

While the mannerism in which the end-user can stow a CAT are varied, be it pouch or carrier, it remains important to pre-stage the CAT so that is can be immedately deployed from the end-users choice of carry.

~Aptus Design Group; YouTube
~ Dark Angel Medial; YouTube

How to Apply

In 2017, NAR published a instructional video on the proper application of its CAT:

Disclaimer: The purpose of this series is strictly informational, much like our COVID Chronicles, body armor, or gear guide, this series is not intended by High Ground to sway or convince the reader that one specific brand of tourniquet is superior to all the others. In the end, this series is intended to provide the reader with a condensed and focused resource—nothing more. It is not to be considered medical advice nor instruction. For proper use of applying a tourniquet, end-users are encourged to receive legitimate training from a certified instructor.

All images and photos not taken by High Ground Media are taken using Google’s image search tool via specific keyword text, and under the “Fair Use” policy. Where applicable, image source citation will be provided. High Ground Media does not own the rights to any image or photo it does not take on its own.

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