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Glove Buyer's Guide

Find the perfect pair of shooting gloves

With Recent Advances in Technology, Gloves Can Do More than Just Shield Your Skin. We Go In Search of the Perfect Shooting Glove.

You see them on soldiers, on cops, and on Hollywood actors all the time. Some come in camo patterns and some are black with knuckle protection, while others still run all the way up the forearm. So what's the big deal with gloves? Do shooters really need them? Won't they diminish your dexterity and affect your shooting ability? We recently asked ourselves those questions, too — when we unexpectedly experienced subzero temperatures while at an outdoor range in the Nevada desert. Our fingers were so numb from the bone-chilling, 25-degree-F conditions that we could barely wrap our hands around a pistol grip, let alone shoot accurately. Suddenly, gloves jumped to the top of our list of range gear. VIEW BUYER'S GUIDE Inspired by our brush with frostbite-induced gangrene, we went in search of the perfect shooting glove. And what we've discovered is that, if there is such a thing, it's much like the perfect handgun — it'll be different for different people.

When to Wear Gloves?

Gloves aren't necessary for all shooters, but there are times when a pair might be needed, says Charles Ferrera, president of Falcon Operations Group, which offers firearms training to military, law enforcement, and civilians. “You may need gloves given the outside temperature and [other factors],” he says. “But, keep in mind the type of glove you wear may impede your dexterity.” Therefore, he suggests wearing gloves only when they're essential for your specific mission. For example, Ferrera wears gloves when he teaches his carbine class due to the heat from the barrel of his weapon, but he's usually barehanded when he instructs his pistol class — unless it's on an extremely cold day. Shooters should balance their personal preferences with the safety benefits of gloves, says Greg Duncan, spokesman for BLACKHAWK!, which manufactures gloves and other tactical gear. “While some shooting enthusiasts don't like the loss of sensitivity and dexterity, gloves provide protection from burns, scratches, and the weather — and help with the effects of felt recoil,” Duncan says. “The goal of shooting is to have fun and become a better shooter, so go with what feels most comfortable. Ultimately, it is a personal decision.” Long-term damage on our paws is another factor when considering gloves, says Cory Houston of Mechanix Wear, which specializes in high-performance gloves for everything from shooting and emergency services to automotive and construction. “We use our hands every day and often take them for granted, leaving them unprotected from repetitive stress injuries, which lead to prolonged pain, swelling, and weakness in the shooting hand,” Houston says. “Recoil damage is most predominant, and big-bore enthusiasts are especially at risk. Gloves are certainly necessary for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who are exposed not only to repetitive stress injuries, but weather and environmental dangers, as well. A hand injury in any remote environment can have a major impact on survival.”  

What Type of Glove?

If you've chosen to glove up, it's important to pick the right type. Focus on the function, not the fashion. “Don't get a glove that just looks cool or because military guys wear them when working overseas,” Ferrera says. “Gloves are like shoes — you must have the proper shoe for the task at hand.” Clinton Hatch of HWI Gear agrees, saying that each type of glove is made for a specific purpose. “Make sure the materials used in the construction of the glove make sense for your application,” he says. “The military stresses flash protection, so 100-percent fire-resistant materials are used. Those materials could be costly for your weekend shooter. A flexible spandex knit, for example, might serve them better. Rather than be lured in by the bells and whistles of a glove, ask yourself before you shop, ‘What am I actually trying to protect against?'” Because there are numerous types of gloves available on the market today, here's a brief look at the types of gloves that have become more popular in recent years due to their technological advances. Let's just say we've come a long way from your standard leather duty gloves of the 20th century. Fire-Resistant: Made of synthetic materials like Nomex or Kevlar, these gloves have been proven to not melt under intense heat and offer thermal protection against things like flashbangs and flames. These gloves are best for those whose job exposes them to serious hazards. Cut-Resistant: These gloves are made with Kevlar, Dyneema, or similar materials, which are lightweight but have the yield strength of steel. It's no wonder these fibers are used in body armor, climbing gear, and marine sails. Some are also puncture resistant. These gloves are ideal for cops who have to do searches, for other good guys who might go up against edged weapons, and for hunters who might have to wade through thick brush. Hard-Knuckle Tactical: Built for protection while shooting off of barricades or breaching rooms, or other situations where you expect to get really banged up, they feature molded knuckles (usually made of Kevlar or polycarbonate) to shield against impacts. Some have leather over the knuckles to reduce one's infrared signature and prevent melting. These gloves are meant for those who need heavy-duty protection in the field. Soft-Knuckle Tactical: Much like their hard-knuckle siblings, these gloves offer back-of-the-hand protection, but do so with high-density foam or thermoplastic-rubber knuckles. Cold Weather: Sure, thick winter gloves will greatly diminish dexterity, but so does having your fingers freeze like useless icicles. Breakthroughs in cold gear have made it possible to wear well-insulated gloves that are relatively thin (or at least not super thick). These are ideal for hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and those stationed in chilly environs. Touchscreen: If you've worn cold weather gloves, you know the pain of having to take them off to operate your smartphone, most of which work off your body's static electricity. Touchscreen gloves have silver-coated threads or other conductive materials that let you control your phones, tablets, or monitors. These models are great for people who need to operate touchscreens in frigid conditions or who work in unpredictable situations and can't afford the time to take off their gloves.

How Should They Fit?

Once you've determined your need for a glove and picked the type you want to wear, you'll need to figure out the best fit. And the best fitting glove is one that feels like a second layer of skin: They should be both tight and allow for maximum dexterity, according to the experts interviewed for this story. Avoid bulky or loose gloves. “A correct-fitting glove should fit snug, with minimal space at the end of each finger,” says Dane Howell, the sales manager for Oakley's tactical division. “The additional fabric can negatively affect glove performance.” Drew Manese, a glove materials expert at Mechanix Wear, agrees. His personal gloves fit tightly (even if that means he wears a size smaller than he's used to wearing) and he makes sure that the closure secures around his wrist well. Manese also avoids any obstructions in the index finger. Hatch at HWI Gear urges customers to try on as many gloves as possible to find what fits them best: “The process is experiential. How snug a glove should be is largely a matter of preference. Keep in mind that some materials stretch, some will break in over time, and some will stay just the way they are. The same glove could therefore conceivably fit too very different hand sizes just as comfortably.” Ferrera at Falcon offers a parting common-sense tip: “No matter the glove you decide to go with, make sure you take the time to break the gloves in and train with the gloves on. If you train 98 percent of the time without gloves and then put gloves on, you may not get the same results while training. Indexing mags, reloads, trigger pull — just simple weapons manipulation will be totally different because your hands and brain are not used to working with gloves on.” VIEW BUYER'S GUIDE
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