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A Cut Above: Finding the Best EMS Shears

The patient on the stretcher has a clearly bleeding wound on his upper right leg. You know you need to get a visual, so you reach for your trauma shears, but your partner stops you: “Take my Raptors—those cheap things couldn’t cut paper.” You shrug and borrow his, but as you start cutting your patient’s pants, you wonder, is there really a difference between your partner’s expensive shears and the generic ones?

We wondered too, so we gathered five different types of shears—Leatherman Raptors, North American Rescue Trauma Shears, xShears, Ripshears, and standard generic shears—and tested them for performance, comfort, and durability with cuts on a t-shirt, pair of jeans, cardboard box, and penny. Our testers also rated the comfort of the shears in their hand while cutting and summed up the pros and cons of each product.


  • Made by: Leatherman
  • Price: $69.95 (a discount may be available if you join the Leatherman Pro program)
  • Weight: 5.8 oz.
  • Length: 5 inches closed, 7.27 inches open
  • Width: 3.5 inches
  • Colors: Black, orange, red, blue, tan, green
  • Material: Stainless steel, glass-filled nylon, carbide
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Features: Foldable medical shears with an oxygen tank wrench, strap, and ring cutters and a carbide glass breaker
  • Accessories: Plastic belt holster included

Performance: The Raptor was able to cut through all the clothing and cardboard with a medium level of effort. It made a significant cut into the penny, better than all the other shears.

Comfort: Our testers felt the Raptor was not comfortable on the hand while cutting.

Durability: No scratches on the blades during any cutting.

Coolness: As the only foldable shears and with a small holster, this tool looks pretty cool on a belt, in a pocket, or on a radio strap.

Pros: Good cutter, versatile tool. Durable. Foldable.

Cons: Not comfortable in the hand, especially for cuts that take time. Most expensive.

NAR Trauma Shears

  • Made by: North American Rescue
  • Price: $9.99
  • Weight: 2 oz.
  • Length: 6.25 or 7.25 inches
  • Width: 3.7 inches
  • Colors: All black
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Warranty: Limited, no date specified
  • Features: Rounded tip, oxygen wrench built into tip
  • Accessories: None

Performance: It cut the shirt and jeans easily and the cardboard fairly well, but struggled on the penny.

Comfort: Average.

Durability: A little heavier-duty than the generic shears and minor nicks on the blade.

Coolness: All-black ramps up the tactical look.

Pros: Price point is good, and the oxygen wrench in the blade is a nice touch.

Cons: Does the job, but not the best cutter tested.


  • Made by: 52nd Street Trading LLC
  • Price: $37
  • Weight: 4.5 oz.
  • Length: 7.5 inches
  • Width: 3.5 inches
  • Colors: Black, orange, pink, red, blue, green
  • Material: Japanese stainless steel
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Features: Patented blunt tip and curved design for gentler edge near skin and tight clothing
  • Accessories: Holster available for $27

Performance: Clearly the best all-around cutter of all the shears tested. Went through clothing very easily, no problems with the cardboard, and made a significant dent in the penny.

Comfort: Testers felt the xShears’ curved handle was the most comfortable.

Durability: Minor scratches on the blades after cutting.

Coolness: Interesting profile, different than common EMS shears.

Pros: Great cutting tool and very comfortable.

Cons: Just a pair of shears with no other features. Second most expensive after the Raptors.


  • Made by: Ripshear LLC
  • Price: $25.95
  • Weight: 3.1 oz
  • Length: 7.25 inches
  • Width: 5 inches
  • Colors: Black, coyote, OD green, orange, pink
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Warranty: Unknown
  • Features: Four tools in one: shears, attached ripper, oxygen wrench, and reflex hammer
  • Accessories: Kydex holster for $33.95

Performance: The Ripshears were excellent at cutting through clothes, especially with the “ripper” attachment, but struggled a bit with the cardboard and penny.

Comfort: Average.

Durability: The steel nicked a bit when trying to cut the penny.

Coolness: The ripper, while clearly the most effective part of the shears, also makes it look a bit visually awkward.

Pros: The ripper attachment is a great feature and cuts through clothes better than the shears themselves. It is versatile with four tools.

Cons: Bulky on the belt or in the pocket.

Generic EMT Shears

(Free giveaway for EMS Week from Envision Physician Service)

  • Made by: Unknown
  • Price: Free (but similar shears can be found for $5–$6 online)
  • Weight: 1.9 oz.
  • Length: 7.5 inches
  • Width: 3.5 inches
  • Color: Black handle, stainless blades
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Warranty: None
  • Features: Rounded tip, wire cutter in handle
  • Accessories: None

Performance: The generic shears were average across the board. They had no problem with the t-shirt but struggled with the jeans, cardboard, and penny.

Comfort: Average.

Durability: Minor nicks to the steel after cutting the penny.

Coolness: Like every other pair of shears. Meh.

Pros: Cheap, and you won’t get too upset if you lose them.

Cons: Only shears and average in every way.


They’re all pretty good shears. They all cut. If you want something inexpensive to handle day-to-day cutting, pick up a pair of the generic shears in your local EMS convention’s exhibit hall or buy a pair from North American Rescue if you like the built-in oxygen wrench. If you want great cutting ability and don’t need fancy features, invest in the xShears. And if you’re the EMS provider who wants the Swiss army knife of shears, get a nice pair of Ripshears or the more expensive Raptors.

At the end of the day, shears should help you “cut to the heart of the matter” and do your job.

Disclosure: Free evaluation copies were provided to the authors by Ripshears, xShears, and North American Rescue.

Barry A. Bachenheimer, EdD, FF/EMT, is a frequent contributor to EMS World. He is a career educator and university professor, as well as a firefighter and member of the technical-rescue team with the Roseland (N.J.) Fire Department and an EMT with the South Orange (N.J.) Rescue Squad. He is also co-owner of Jump Bag Training Company, LLC. Reach him at

Lea Bachenheimer, EMR, is a cadet with the South Orange (N.J.) Rescue Squad.


Submitted byyesineedmyhead… on 02/27/2019

I can't believe EMSWorld actually paid someone to publish an article on what are the best trauma sheers.....

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