Gloves: Dexterity Vs. Protection

Why should you wear gloves?

The Argument

Why should you wear gloves in the combat or milsim environment? Most would say they wear gloves for protection. The combat world has very few of the rounded edges and soft surfaces that our fleshy hands like and without protection they can quickly get ripped to shreds. Cold is something else to watch out for as hypothermia will take you out of the fight in minutes. Another thing to consider is that the human eye is programmed to pick out human shapes from landscape (that’s why hunting camouflage is different from military camouflage) and your uncovered hands are easy to pick out.

So why do some people prefer not to wear gloves? The reason is that gloves hinder your dexterity. They prevent you from handling small items and from operating small latches, switches and buttons. Therefore, the search for the best glove comes down to a compromise between dexterity and protection.

The Thought Process

So how does one go about figuring this out? Well, first think about the environment you plan to use this glove in. Will you be in and out of vehicles (air or land) every day, or will you primarily be in the field? Do you need something fire resistant? Is it going to be extremely cold? Is it going to be extremely hot? Will you be underwater for any portion of your mission? While you be on rope at any time (fast roping, rappelling, etc.)? As you answer these questions, realize that no one glove will do everything. Get a set or sets of gloves that will fill the need in your upcoming missions and when they change, get another set for that set of missions.

The second thing you need to ask yourself is what is the function I must be able to perform while wearing the gloves that requires the most dexterity? Usually this will involve small items or buttons. Examples of this are reprogramming a radio, reloading a magazine or (for airsoft) opening the latch on a hi-cap magazine. While we could consider cleaning a weapon or using small tools to make repairs, these things take long enough that we should be able to remove our gloves to do so.

With these questions in mind consider this compromise; some individuals chose to purchase half finger gloves or simply cut some of the fingertips off their full finger gloves. This gives them 100% dexterity while still protecting the rest of their hand. However, this also provides a place for dirt and debris to get inside your glove. Also, if your hands sweat a lot, you may not get as good of a grip on surfaces with an exposed fingertip as you would with a gloved finger. While this is a great solution for some, it is not for all.

DO NOT SIMPLY BUY SOMETHING BECAUSE A SEAL/SOF/DELTA/OMFG HSLD GUY HAS IT. Yes, looking at what elite soldiers use can be a good place to start but realize that they purchase their gear to work best in their limited scope of missions and you most likely do not have those same missions. That said, what they use can be a good starting place but be sure to tailor what you purchase to your specific needs. If you are doing an impression, do your research. Most “special” units have a wide latitude in gloves and you can probably find a photo of your chosen unit using a glove that will fit your bill and not break your bank if you are willing to look.

One final note before I go into my own glove selection is do your best to try a pair of gloves on before you purchase them. An ill fitting glove is worse than a poorly made one because at least the poorly made one worked while it lasted. Same sized gloves from different companies often fit differently.

Ok, have you answered all your questions? If not, post up below. If so, read on.

My Decisions and Why

The first glove I purchased specifically for airsoft was from (above, left). It isn’t made anymore but it is a good example of what I would consider a medium protection and medium dexterity glove. It has a leather palm with extra layers in high wear areas. On the back is a more breathable fabric which does a decent job of wicking moisture from my heavy sweating hands. There are two Velcro closures, one on the back of the hand and one that goes around the wrist. They fit my hand well and do not come off even without anything secured and are still not tight on my hand. They have saved my hands from numerous thorns and rocks through the years. That said, I have to take them off to work radio buttons or open the lid on a hi-cap mag. I can reload a magazine with them with some fumbling.

Enter the Voodoo Tactical Intruder glove (above, center). I purchased this glove for my wife both as an airsoft glove and as a work glove. She was on her way to help clean up after the Joplin tornado and I knew she would need some sturdy protection. I would consider this glove to have medium to heavy protection and medium dexterity. It has leather on the palm and it is doubled where it counts. It also has padding along the ulnar nerve in your palm which will greatly reduce fatigue if you put pressure on the heel of your hand for extended periods of time as well as protect from falls. Just like the glove above, this has breathable fabric on the back of the hand and two Velcro closures. My wife has no problems manipulating a weapon with these gloves but she does take them off to take pictures (she’s an imbedded photographer most games) and mess with her radio.

Last is the venerable Mechanix glove (above, right). This is my current glove of choice, so naturally it is my favorite to date (until I find something better). My main reason for switching from the Opsgear glove to the Mechanix glove was that I needed better dexterity. That said, I did sacrifice a small amount of protection. That said, 90% of my airsoft play is in the field so I don’t need to worry about buildings or vehicles of any kind. I simply need to keep my hands cleanish, turn them a non skin color and ward off thorns and poison ivy. Unlike the gloves above, Mechanix gloves use a synthetic suede on the palms which dries quicker than real leather. This is good for me because in Oklahoma, rain and streams abound. That said, I have gotten them completely waterlogged and drying is by no means immediate. The back of the gloves are a breathable material which seem to do a decent job of ventilating the glove. I would consider this a medium to light protection and good dexterity glove. I say good dexterity rather than great because there are still some things I must doff the gloves to do such as eat and work with small tools. Finally, the Mechanix gloves have only a single wrist closure (which I find to be sufficient due to the good fit of the glove) and a small place you can mark your initials. My favorite part is that I pay $18 for these gloves on and they do everything I need them to. I got mine in December 2011 and they have yet to rip or tear as of this posting.

Hopefully this has helped you understand gloves a bit more and why you do or don’t need them. Feel free to ask any questions you may have. Thanks

2 Replies to “Gloves: Dexterity Vs. Protection”

  1. I’ve worn the same Wiley X CAG-1 gloves for 3 years and love them to death. They’re gone through all of my training and airsoft games. Excellent dexterity, knuckle protection, tight fit, etc. They trap some heat, but I don’t have a lot of experience with gloves other than nomex CVCs and those thick leather gloves the army issued me on day one. Blows both of them out of the water (obviously).

  2. I do fairly well with the VooDoo Intruder. For what we do (dirtpro is my team mate) I have plenty of time to rip a glove off to do things that require more dexterity. I used the Mechanixs gloves in the past and have several pairs that I use on the hotter days of the year as they breath better than the VooDoo.

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