Using Shooting Gloves
August 19, 2016
The question often arises: Should I wear shooting gloves? The argument seems to be that if you are a civilian or law enforcement officer who does not usually wear gloves during your daily escapades, why would you wear them to train?
The fact of the matter is this: If you never shoot with gloves, and one day you pull your firearm to eliminate a threat when you just happen to have gloves on, you will be behind in the quest to reach the end of your OODA loop before your enemy does. If you have never trained with gloved mitts, you will most likely feel uncomfortable handling your firearm and lose some manual dexterity when trying to manipulate it while wearing them.
First of all, you must train with shooting gloves. If you shoot every day with gloves and at the last minute of the last day I ask you to perform barehanded, you will be fine. You will shoot a little better without gloves even though you haven't been training this way. However, if you always train barehanded and now are evaluated after adding a pair of gloves, you will be a little slower.
The quest for great shooting gloves continues. You should try to find a large-enough pair of thick shooting gloves to fit over your shooting gloves to make the transition from thick to shooting gloves relatively quickly.
Shooting gloves are expendable. Shooting gloves can be expensive, and they don't last forever. I typically wear out a pair in one or two months. Whenever I am on the range, I wear them (about 35 hours a week) to protect my hands during shooting, moving targets, stapling, clearing malfunctions and moving barricades.
Gloves are for protection. As a Special Operations shooting instructor, I was surprised to see 18 students show up on the second day of gloved shooting instruction with gloves that had no fingers. These students had shot for a couple of weeks without shooting gloves to refine technique and toughen their hands, and next they were to wear gloves.
The day prior, their flight gloves looked like they should, with fingers. Day two, no fingers. I was pissed. It seems that one of the other instructors had made a statement that he cut all the fingers out of his gloves. What the students didn't understand was that JP had Kevlar skin and was strong as two oxen. After that day, all of the students went back to the Central Issue Facility (CIF) and turned in the wrecked gloves.
If your gloves are too thick for shooting, get different ones, but never compromise the integrity of the glove.
Types of Shooting Gloves
When I talk about shooting gloves, I am referring to tactical types, not revolver or padded gloves that are used to protect your support hand during service rifle matches.
I break down tactical gloves into these categories:
Pistol Gloves: These require less padding and thickness. Too much of either and you will have severe shooting difficulty, especially if you are shooting a pistol with small levers and buttons such as a 1911 or any pistol with a thumb safety. If your shooting gloves won't allow every movement required to shoot a pistol, dump them.
Carbine Gloves: These allow me to operate my carbine. I have enough dexterity with these gloves to know what is what on the rifle or carbine. Having more padding or tougher materials isn't an issue since the movements with the carbine are simply turning the safety on and off, squeezing the trigger, reloading and possibly adjusting a scope.
Warm Gloves: These give you the warmth to stay operational, but they must also allow manipulation of the pistol. Their downfall is the bulkiness associated with insulation and the slipperiness that often comes with warmth-giving materials. There is also the issue of durability, as many are made for winter sports, not shooting.
Pistol gloves should allow for easy manipulation of not just the pistol's controls but any associated thumb breaks and devices. A light is a good example. Can you get to your handheld or pistol-mounted light? Can you turn it on and off? Since I shoot a carbine as much as if not more than my pistol, I need gloves that work with both systems. Changing gloves in the middle of a shooting string isn't an option.
I have tried shooting gloves that are beefed up in certain areas, and they just don't seem to cut it for pistol shooting. Thinner is better, but again, with a thinner glove comes less durability. If a glove has numerous seams, they tend to bind, come loose or get in the way. I prefer a slick glove.
You also have to decide if you prefer a Velcro closure or an elastic cuff. The old-school aviator's flight glove is just a long glove with no elastic or Velcro. I prefer a glove with a Velcro closure in order to adjust the feel to the exact specification I want.
I have several sets of go-to pistol shooting gloves. PIG gloves from SKD, $43, are minimalist and allow for the finest feel I've found. The only feature they are lacking is the hard-knuckle detail. Hard Time gloves from 5.11 have a protected knuckle, and the leather is soft once they are broken in; they cost $70. Another new glove is Kryptek's Gunfighter hard-knuckle version, at $80. They are a little on the hot side but fit well and have a tacky feel, which is great when shooting a pistol. I use one of these three types of gloves constantly.
Carbine and Rifle Gloves
If your primary firearm is a carbine or rifle, you may want a slightly different glove. Most gloves allow for the manipulation of an AR, but you could lose some trigger-finger sensitivity. Try the 5.11 Station Grip gloves. They cost around $28 and work well. I haven't yet worn out a set. They are too thick to use when shooting a pistol... that is, if you want to shoot fast and accurately.
I am not sure what the final finish on these shooting gloves is, but they seem indestructible. I would lump most so-called "tactical" gloves in the category of working with the carbine simply because you don't have to feel the gun as well as you must with a pistol. If you are having a hard time deciding on a tactical glove, head to Lowe's and check out the Mechanix gloves, which are good but not very durable.
Wool is fantastic since it still maintains warmth when wet.
The two gloves I have found that work extremely well for shooting and keeping the digits toasty all the way into the high teens are Smart Wool Stagecoach gloves, $80, and Kryptek's Norlander gloves, $80. The nice feature of both is that they are wool. The Stagecoach glove has wool as the primary ingredient and leather palms. The Norlander has wool as the base, and the grippy leather palm and fingers do the trick.
Both of these gloves are a little heavy for pistol shooting, but they work very well for any kind of rifle or carbine work. Wool is fantastic since it still maintains warmth when wet. This is where standard fleece gloves start to fail. As soon as they are wet, they lose their ability to protect you from the elements. The Norlanders cut the wind better than the Smart Wool Stagecoach.
Kryptek has introduced a soft-shell version of this glove called the Rogue, which retails for $100. This is a healthy price, but the gloves work great. Also, if you are a hunter, you may be able to get away with a simple leather glove that you can find at most feed stores.
If you prefer performance materials, flame retardant isn't for you. If you want to have hands and fingers after a severe IED fire, I would definitely get a set of shooting gloves that won't immediately melt to your skin. This may not be a prerequisite for your selection, but if you are operating in the Armed Forces, put this at the top of your list.
Don't dismiss the good old flight glove. It's not the best, but it does afford a little protection. Most units issue this to their operators. If you want Nomex, there are many choices, from Blackhawk's Fury, which will set you back around $95, to Wiley X's TAG-1 with Nomex and Kevlar, which covers more area and costs $150.
When it comes to cold-weather gloves and flame retardant, stick with wool. It works, and it deals with fire and flash well. Just make sure the shooting gloves are entirely wool and leather. Polyester is used in many wool gloves on the market, and it does not survive fiery situations at all.
Manufacturers seem to change designs frequently, so if you find shooting gloves you really like, buy several pairs.