Easiest Tourniquet to Use: The SAM XT

A couple of months back, we posted an article about the dangers of buying fake tourniquets. That was followed up a few weeks later with a discussion about what makes the SOFTT-Wide tourniquet one of our favorites. In both articles, I mentioned the SAM XT tourniquet, calling it one of my favorites. Today, we’re going to talk about why I said that.

Why Do I Even Need a Tourniquet

Fair question. As mentioned in a previous article, uncontrolled bleeding is one of the most common causes of preventable deaths. From household accidents to gunshot wounds, we are surrounded by things that could cause that bleeding. While we often think in terms of “911 is only 5-10 minutes away”, consider that a person can bleed to death in as little as 2.5 minutes if it is from an artery.

Short version: Tourniquets (TQ) can control life-threatening bleeding from limbs. They are easy to carry, easy to use, and not expensive.

The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) Gen 7

Previously, I described the CAT this way: The Combat Application Tourniquet, more frequently called the CAT, is the grizzled veteran of the tourniquet world. When the US military started making tourniquets part of their standard issue for soldiers, the CAT was one of the first. Currently, in its 7th generation, the CAT is still the most frequently encountered tourniquet in the civilian, law enforcement, EMS, and military sectors.

It is, by all objective standards, a good piece of gear. It has a proven track record, and both the 6th and 7th generations are on the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) list of recommended tourniquets. Honestly, it is the first tourniquet I will introduce a student to because it’s the most likely one they will end up using.

SAM XT Extremity Tourniquet

The SAM XT is one of the newer entries on the recommended tourniquet list. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care added it to the list in 2019 after testing and use data showed it to be reliable under combat conditions. It is made by SAM Medical.

Why I Love the SAM XT

  • Ease of Use: Simply put, the SAM XT is the fastest and easiest to use of the recommended tourniquets in my opinion. Once the user has put the strap around the limb, they pull hard and fast until there is an audible click. That tells you the strap is tight enough to start turning the windlass.
  • SelfApplication: The pull-to-click design makes self-application so much easier. Knowing that if you are self-aiding, you are going to be even more stressed (and perhaps less capable), making it simple is huge.
  • Aluminum windlass: The windlass is the rod that is turned to tighten the tourniquet. Some inferior tourniquets have issues with the windlass bending. The windlass on the SAM XT is made of aircraft aluminum. You won’t bend it.
  • Folds Easily: The SAM XT folds pretty well to store neatly. It has enough Velcro to help it, but not so much it becomes a hindrance.
SAM XT (L) and a CAT-style TQ from Rhino Rescue (R)
SAM XT and a CAT-style tourniquet folded as flat as possible

What Isn’t Ideal

The SAM XT isn’t perfect. It has a couple of things that aren’t ideal.

  • Bulk: The SAM is a little bulkier than the others where the buckle is. That’s because of the mechanism that clicks into place. That means it’s less comfortable in pockets or ankle medical kits. You can fold it to be flatter or to be shorter, but not both. Folding it to be shorter significantly increases the thickness. (See pics below)
  • Holder Compatibility: The bulkier buckle also makes finding holders a little more difficult. I’ve even had holders that claim that they are SAM XT compatible that simply wouldn’t hold it.

The Overall

Bottom Line: The SAM XT Extremity Tourniquet is a cheat code. It’s so much easier for self-applications that we don’t even show it to students until they’ve learned to use the CAT or one of the other recommended tourniquets.

Please don’t read this as a knock on the CAT or the SOFTT-W. Both are high-quality pieces of gear, and they will serve you well. There are just things about each that we like better or less. Pick what is comfortable for you and what is important for you. We just hope articles like this help you make more informed choices.

Regardless of which tourniquet you choose, carry it! Having it in your glove compartment on the other side of the mall isn’t going to help someone who has 3 minutes left to live. And get training. Stop the Bleed training is a short 2-hour class that will show you how to effectively address the most common cause of preventable deaths in the US. Contact us. We would love to tell you how you can learn these skills.


  1. Gordon Romeis on August 29, 2023 at 2:05 pm

    As usual, great content. Well thought out. It is good to have professional guidance on practical life saving devices and techniques.

    • Alan Hughes on September 4, 2023 at 11:58 am

      Thanks Gordon! We appreciate how your church has helped us provide some of that training.

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