Western movies frequently show someone “slappin’ hot iron on a wound.” Was this common?

Jerry Chilton
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Yep, folks did use a hot iron, such as a heated knife blade, to cauterize wounds and stop the bleeding. Sometimes they put blackpowder on the wound and lit it. The alternative was worse; if the wound wasn’t cauterized, the victim could bleed to death.

I wouldn’t recommend cauterizing with blackpowder except as a last resort. You might wind up blowin’ your arm off.

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