If you’re in the medical field you know how nice it is to have a high-quality pair of trauma shears. They’re an essential piece of gear often used when treating seriously injured patients who are immobilized or unable to remove their clothing in a timely manner.
In these types of situations, seconds can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s important to choose a professional grade pair that that won’t jam, fall apart, or not be able to cut through a material a good pair of shears should be able to.
Trauma shears are often used to cut away clothing, bandages, and other materials when treating patients or responding to an emergency. They are also useful for survival and military applications where standard scissors just won’t cut it.
Design: Trauma shears have a curved design (usually 150-degrees) and durable build that allows them to cut through much thicker and tougher materials than standard scissors. They are rounded on the ends instead of sharp. This is a deliberate design feature that allows them to be dragged across a patient’s skin without cutting or damaging the skin in any way.
They’re an essential piece of equipment for EMTs, paramedics, nurses, military medics, and other medical professionals. They are also popular among survivalists and hunters, and can be an invaluable addition to a household or travel first aid kit.
It’s important to understand that there are many different types of trauma shears and that each type has strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to selecting the best trauma shears it really depends on your preferences and needs.
Trauma Shears vs. Medical Scissors, Is There a Difference?
Now, you may think that medical scissors and trauma shears are the same thing but they are not.
When referring to “medical scissors,” we are covering a broad class of tools used in everything from cutting medical tape to removing organs. There are many types of medical scissors, including Metzenbaum scissors, Mayo surgical scissors, tenotomy scissors, and Iris scissors. Some are straight; some are curved; some are delicate instruments; and some are durable and rugged shears, such as a set of trauma shears.
A simpler way to explain this is that, while all trauma shears are types of medical scissors; not all types of medical scissors are trauma shears.
Rather, trauma shears are a specialized type of medical and/or emergency shears that are used to remove hard to cut items such a clothing that cannot be removed due to patient immobilization. A good analogy in understanding this comparison would be the equivalent of stating that all members of the US Armed Forces are soldiers; however, Special Forces are specialized types of soldiers trained to perform missions that are otherwise incapable of being carried out.
Now that you know what trauma shears are and are not, it’s time to understand what you need to look for when purchasing a set of trauma shears, no matter if you are an EMT, hospital staff, survivalist, law enforcement officer, or soldier performing a mission in a remote part of the world.
Tips to Find the Best Trauma Shears for You (Things to Consider)
Durability: This is important because the shears could be used to potentially save someone’s life. You don’t want them falling apart. This is especially important if you’re an EMT or are going to be using these shears out in the field versus in a hospital setting.
Generally, trauma shears used in a hospital setting are mass-produced and only have very basic features. This is because hospitals have much more capable tools at their disposal, and their trauma shears are likely to be used mainly in removing clothing from an accident victim, such as cutting the pant leg off of a patient with a compound fracture. In this situation, durability is not the most important feature, because if something happens to your shears, you can simply grab another pair. However, an EMT or combat medic would definitely need a more durable set, as they are out in the field and may encounter any number of variables that may require the use of higher-end shears.
Materials Used: Now, this is where it can get interesting and really depends on your preference. Most shears are going to be made of surgical stainless steel. However, some specialized shears, for example, come with the blades coated in fluoride. These are specially designed to be “nonstick shears”, and are better suited for cutting through tape.
Shears meant for field use are often have a titanium coating on the blades so they can cut through harder material encountered in the field without damaging the shears.
Also, if you plan on using your shears in a medical setting, you may want to buy a set that can withstand the temperatures of autoclave sterilization. Titanium shears are generally well-suited for re-sterilization, and after sterilized can be used on multiple patients without fear of cross-contamination. This is a very important point to consider when selecting your pair.
The price of trauma shears can vary greatly, ranging from under $10 all the way up to around $100 for a personal set of engraved Leatherman trauma shears. Again, unless you are out in the field, you probably will want to consider the ratio of durability to price when making your selection. For instance, if you are using them in the emergency room, a place where there are many pairs of shears, you can buy a cheaper set, or the hospital may even supply you with your own pair.
On the other hand, EMT shears are meant to be used in the field under high-stress and unpredictable conditions, so it’s a good idea to buy a high quality pair, and even a pair with a carabiner if you prefer being able to attach them to your belt for quick access.
1. EMT Trauma Shears with Carabiner (Best Value)
These are basic EMT trauma shears that have a carabiner mechanism on one of the handles for easy attachment, detachment, and deployment in the field. This is a nice feature if you want to attach them to your gear pack or belt loop, so you know where they are and have them within an arms reach at all times, while also securing them to prevent loss.
They are standard sized shears (7.5 inches in length), which is the same length as most shears found in hospitals. They are a “no frills” set of shears that are autoclave sterilization compatible, crafted from Japanese surgical stainless steel. They are one of the most affordable sets of trauma shears on the market, coming in at just under $10.00. If you just need a reliable pair of shears without all the “bells and whistles” that some of the more pricey shears have then these are a great option.
Here is a a video that shows these shears, so you can get an idea of what they look like in person. As you can see they are much more quality than the cheap pair of shears they’re compared to.
The only cons I see:
- Lack of features: If you are looking for shears that are packed with features and are more “tactical” you probably want to look at a set more like the Leatherman Raptor shears below.
- Serrated blades make these a bit more difficult for cutting through bandages, but this is a double-edged sword, as the serrated blades make it easier to cut through clothing and other thick materials that straight-edge blades may not handle so well.
2. Madison Supply EMT Trauma Shears
These shears’ stainless-steel serrated blades come coated with fluoride in order to keep them from sticking to bandages and other adhesive materials. They are a great value, with a price tag only $3.00 more than the cheapest pair reviewed on this list, coming in at just under $15 dollars. They have a super-durable handle with large finger openings and are standard-sized (7.5-inches in length) The black-on-black tactical appearance is sharp and aesthetically pleasing. These shears have consistently received high ratings on sites like Amazon, and are currently some of the highest-rated EMT trauma shears on the market with only a small handful of critical reviews. Some users did report that the central pin rusted, which could weaken the shears and lead to failure in the field.
The only cons I see:
- Serrated blades may be more difficult to work with. This is more of a subjective “con,” though, as you may find that you actually prefer the serrated blade if you are cutting through clothing more than bandages, for instance.
- Several users have reported product failure due to rusting central pin.
3. Prestige Medical Scissors
Coming in under $10, these black-on-black trauma shears are some of the cheapest out there. They are crafted from 420 stainless steel and are autoclavable. They also come with the same nonstick fluoride coating as the previous pair, and are almost identical in design, function, and features, but are an average of 33% cheaper. The blades are not serrated, and as such, are easier to work with if your main function will be cutting through bandages and not through thicker materials such as clothing.
The only cons I see:
- Lack of features
- Purported design flaws come with the same risk of catastrophic failure in an emergency situation.
Bottom Line: A cheap pair of trauma shears that may be well-suited for cutting off bandages, but buyer beware if you need them for field use, as your patient’s life may be dependent on shears that fall apart in the middle of the job.
4. Leatherman Raptor Trauma Shears (Best Multi-Purpose)
The King of multipurpose tool brands, Leatherman, sets the bar high with their Raptor trauma shears.
Packed full of features, these are easily the best trauma shears on the market today in terms of multi-functionality, durability, and design. They come with a Molle compatible holster so you can easily attach them to a pack or your belt loop. They are essentially 6 tools in one and include a strap cutter that will cut through a seatbelt like warm butter. They also have an oxygen tank wrench, high end shear blades, a ring cutter, and a carbide glass breaker.
Here is a good video review I found by an ER Nurse if you want to see what he thinks of these shears.
They come with a 25-year limited warranty, meaning that they will likely last throughout your entire career. If you ever experience an issue with them all you have to do is to send them into the manufacturer for a no-questions-asked repair or replacement. They are around 8-10x the price of the other shears reviewed here, but when you consider this will likely be the last pair of shears you ever have to buy it’s not so bad. The 25-year warranty and multi-functionally make these shears worth it if you can afford the additional up front cost.
The only cons I see:
- Initial high-cost of investment means that these could be out of the reach of those on a budget and could really hurt if you have to replace due to loss or theft.
- Those used to standard single-function trauma shears may initially have a slight learning curve when using these for the first time.
Bottom Line: Hands-down the best trauma shears on the market.
5. Prestige Medical Nurse Utility Scissors
A smaller version of standard-sized shears, these hot pink shears are a popular choice for nurses. They are designed to be used in hospital settings for lighter-duty purposes than some of the other shears reviewed on this list. The hot pink handles have smaller finger openings than other shears used here as well (they are mostly used by girls so it’s fine).
They do a good job cutting through thin clothing or bandages, and are much like standard trauma shears found in medical supply rooms in most emergency departments. With a price tag of under 10 dollars, they’re a good value, which is their major selling point. They have lower ratings than some of the other shears reviewed on this page but will work just fine in a hospital setting. If you misplace them, they are easy and affordable to replace. If you do decide on these, you won’t be disappointed, but don’t expect to get the performance you would get from a pair of shears like the Leatherman or XSHEARs.
The only cons I see:
- Not very durable. Many users report that after through hard materials like casts just once or twice the shears quickly dulled
- Cheaply made with low quality plastic handles and blades are thin compared to higher quality shears.
Bottom Line: You get what you pay for. These shears are best suited for situations where lives are not on the line, such as bandage cutting or thin clothing removal. They are good trauma shears for nurses but are not recommended for EMTs.
6. XSHEAR Heavy Duty Trauma Shears (Recommended)
Xshears are some of the most respected trauma shears on the market and are perfect for nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and any type of healthcare provider. They are designed to be tough and durable. With these shears, you won’t have to worry about them falling apart or not being able to cut. The blades are titanium coated, and the lower blades are very finely serrated for extra grip of the material and better overall performance.
Note: You can also find these shears in red and other colors here.
These shears are not designed to be multi-functional or “tactical” like the Leatherman Raptor shears, but as far as shear cutting ability these shears are as good as it gets.
If you work in a hospital setting or are a paramedic, these shears will not disappoint and they will cut through just about any material that you throw at them. These shears are a great value and I don’t have much bad to say about them. If all you need is a high-quality pair of shears to cut with this is the is the pair I would go with. If you do work in the field and think you would use the features/tools that come standard with the Leatherman trauma shears I would go with them instead.
Here is a great YouTube video review I found on these shears.
Bottom Line: Extreme heavy-duty construction means that these are some of the best trauma shears that you can buy in terms of durability and range of materials that can be cut. They are probably the best all-around trauma shears on the market and will not fail in life-critical applications. However, because they are only single-function shears, it is a bit difficult to justify spending almost as much on these as you would on multi-function trauma shears.
7. Ever Ready Bandage Shears (Cheap)
Rounding out our list is this set of titanium-bonded shears from Ever Ready. At first glance, because these are literally the cheapest pair out there in terms of price at around 7 dollars, you may think that they have a shoddy construction, but these are surprisingly durable trauma shears. They are composed of materials identical to the XSHEAR pair above, but don’t have quite the warranty or reputation backing them. Although they are very durable and will definitely last a long time, I wouldn’t recommend them over some of the other pairs on this list. That said, if your main criteria are price and value, then these are a pretty good pair of cheap trauma shears.
The tactical stealth black color is also aesthetically pleasing, and with a 7.25-inch length, they are just slightly shorter than the standard length size of 7.5 inches.
The only con I see:
- There appears to be some discrepancy of the advertising claim by end users that these trauma shears are titanium-bonded, leading to charges of dishonesty in advertising against the manufacturer.
Bottom Line: A true exception to the rule of “you get what you pay for,” these Ever Ready shears are durable and functional, making them some of the best trauma shears under $20.
Products Wrap Up
Those are just some of what I think are currently the best trauma shears on the mark. Each of these shears has their pros and cons (even if it’s just price), but the real evaluation should again take place dependent on the capacity for which you expect to need them.
Some of the shears have a lot of great features built into them including carabiner clips, multi-tools, ring cutters, and all can be used in an emergency setting as a type of medical scissors.
It’s important to evaluate all possible features to find the best trauma shears. Once you have evaluated all the features, you next need to evaluate your needs when it comes to what these shears will be used for.
Which pair of trauma shears should I buy?
This depends on what you need them for and your budget. If you are a medical professional working in a doctor’s office or hospital, you can likely get away with a single-function set under $10.00. However, if you are EMT or paramedic working in the field or are planning on placing these in a survival or trauma kit, you may want to look for a multiple-function set of trauma shears such as the Raptor series from Leatherman.
Are trauma shears the same thing as bandage scissors?
No, but they are similar. Bandage scissors are all-metal, much smaller than trauma shears, and cannot cut through much other than bandages, paper, and tape. Trauma shears, on the other hand, can definitely be used as bandage scissors, but are larger, more durable, have thicker blades, and can cut through a variety of heavy-duty materials that bandage scissors would not be able to cut through.
What Are Trauma Shears Used For?
Trauma shears are used to remove items of clothing or jewelry that may interfere with a patient’s treatment in the emergency room or in the ambulance. They are also a priceless set of a field medic’s medical bag and can possibly be used to save the life of a comrade in need of emergency field care. However, you do not have to be a medical professional in order to find a good use for trauma shears. In fact, it is advisable that anyone building a first aid trauma kit also includes a durable set of quality trauma shears in their kit, especially one for travel use where other tools may not be available such as on a hiking or camping trip.
What Are the best pair of trauma shears on the market today?
This depends on what you’re using them for and your budget, but I really like the Raptor series of Leatherman trauma shears. They are truly unique in their available features, combining functions such as oxygen tank wrenches and ring cutters, there are literally hundreds of different scenarios in which such a set of shears could save your life or the life of a loved one or wounded comrade on a field of battle.
What is the most important thing to consider when shopping for a pair of trauma shears? Durability versus cost. For instance, if you are looking for a pair that you can use heavily every day in a variety of functions for an entire career, going with an offering from Leatherman or XSHEAR
How do you know if a pair of trauma shears can be heat sterilized in an autoclave?
If the handles are made of standard low-melt plastic, they cannot be autoclaved. There are many different types of plastic that can withstand the autoclave process, though, examples of such include polycarbonate, polypropylene, and acrylics. Look for handles made of these materials if you plan on using an autoclave chamber for sterilization of your new trauma shears.
If you are looking for a set that can be safely placed in the autoclave without damage to the handles, specifically look for the world “autoclavable” on the manufacturer description. If they are listed as autoclavable, the maximum temperature will also be specified, and if they are advertised as such but are damaged by the process anyway, you should be eligible to have them replaced at zero cost to you.
Wikipedia: Trauma Shears
Encyclopedia.com: Medical Scissors and Surgical Instruments
When it comes to finding the “best trauma shears” it really comes down to what you’re using them from. An EMT, nurse, and navy corpsman will all need different capabilities and features on their shears.
Anyways, this was a lot of information. Let me know if you have any questions.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines. As an outdoor enthusiast, he has been testing outdoor and tactical style gear for over 20 years. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. On this website, we only write about things within our range of expertise like tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. Check out the “About Us” tab to meet the team.