Nobody understands the urgency of plugging a bullet wound better than a soldier. Military personnel are trained to pack gunshot wounds as quickly as possible using gauze – it’s the only way to stop the bleeding in the crucial moments after a soldier has been hit.

But the process is often time-consuming and painful, and could certainly use an update. That’s why an Oregon startup company called RevMedx developed a pocket-sized syringe capable of closing up a bullet wound much faster than current methods allow. The small tool, called “XStat,” uses tiny sponges inserted directly into the wound that then expand and fill the entire cavity. According to the makers of XStat, the device can stop bleeding within 15 seconds.

"Gauze bandages just don't work for anything serious," John Steinbaugh, a former U.S. Army Special Operations medic who worked with a small team of scientists and engineers to develop XStat, told Popular Science.

Steinbaugh tended to injured soldiers during several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. When he retired in April 2012 after a head injury put him out of commission, Steinbaugh joined RevMedx.

“RevMedx is dedicated to saving lives by creating groundbreaking medical products designed specifically for combat medics and civilian first responders,” says the company website. “Our current efforts are focused on controlling hemorrhage in prehospital settings. We are developing a portfolio of wound dressings and bandages that we believe will revolutionize the treatment of traumatic bleeding.”

According to Design and Trend, the makers of XStat got the idea from the Fix-a-Flat foam used to repair tires. Developers experimented with various materials, including ordinary sponges from a hardware store that they cut up into 1-centimeter circles, but eventually settled on a material made from wood pulp and chitosan, a substance found in shrimp shells.

The syringe is made of a lightweight polycarbonate and comes in 30-millimeter and 12-millimeter versions. The XStat device is operated simply by inserting the syringe into the wound and injecting the tiny sponges as close to the soldier’s artery as possible. The sponges also contain X-shaped markers on them that can be detected by an X-ray machine so that none of them get left behind later on.

Discovery notes that one XStat could replace five rolls of gauze in a medic’s kit.

“I spent the whole war on terror in the Middle East, so I know what a medic needs when someone has been shot, ” Steinbaugh told Popular Science. “I’ve treated lots of guys who would have benefitted from this product. That’s what drives me.”

RevMedx received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Army to finish developing its product. The FDA is currently reviewing the final prototype.