Not every piece of range gear is a necessity. Sometimes, having too much kit can hinder your dexterity and feedback, making for poor discipline as you master the shooting fundamentals. But gloves provide protection and if you're shooting outdoors in a cold-weather environment, they're typically a requirement to prevent frostbite. Let's review the basics: Sizing up your gloves, the best materials to consider (with pros and cons), and features you may or may not want to invest in.
When to Wear Shooting Gloves
(Spoiler: It's almost always appropriate to wear shooting gloves). Gloves are entirely optional under most circumstances, but they can be necessary in cold conditions. Gloves also help to prevent injury if you're shooting handguns, and they'll insulate your digits against burns after you've ran that barrel and slide through a box or two of ammo. On a particularly hot and sunny day, a flat black metal frame or handguard can get hot enough to cause 1st-degree burns. We know from personal experience.
Preventing Slide Bite
The prime suspect and reason many shooters wear gloves, slide bite can turn a fun range day into a trip to the E.R. Yes, shooters have had to get stitches because their grip didn't agree with their handgun. If you're a new shooter or you're putting a new gun through its paces, gloves are a simple way to prevent some nasty injuries while you figure out where to keep your main hand and thumbs on the backstrap and frame.
Mitigating Felt Recoil
Unless you've ran 10,000+ rounds and mastered your weapon of choice -- or you're plinking .22 LR -- recoil will continue to be the #1 enemy standing between you and your target. This is especially true for the typical handgunner, and many modern pistols' polymer frames can increase felt recoil thanks to a lower density and greater elasticity when compared to a steel or aluminum frame.
Wearing shooting gloves provides insulation between your digits and that sudden release of energy, allowing you to maintain a better grip and follow-through. If you're the type who anticipates recoil (and most newer shooters do), a pair of gloves can mitigate this. More comfort and less anticipation equals greater confidence, and confidence is the key to accuracy.
In the Cold: 40 Degrees (F)
That's the minimum temperature required to induce frostbite in 30 minutes. With a mild wind - 5 to 10 mph - that temperature "real-feel" drops even more, which can quickly cause a loss of sensation. Keep in mind, this temperature induces cold injuries. Temperatures higher than this, with exposure, are enough to cause numbness. This contributes to poor grip and recoil control, discomfort while shooting, and even poor sight alignment and follow-up.
In the Heat: 86 Degrees (F)
That's the ambient temperature on a sunny day which can make a gun barrel or handguard hot enough to cause burns. At this temperature, a steel frame can get up to 140 degrees (F) with enough exposure. Black anodized and Parkerized gun coatings can absorb the sun's radiation and exacerbate this.
Shooting Glove Material Types
Material plays the biggest role in determing what types of shooting gloves you'll buy. Some are designed for high temperatures, others are made for maximum dexterity, and some provide touchscreen compatibility.
Nomex is a lightweight, cotton-like material that provides moderate to high dexterity and feel. Originally made popular by military pilots, this twill fabric affords high heat resistance and soft comfort. It's perfect for hot range days or handling a rifle or handgun for that "mad-minute" mag dump. It's relatively breathable so it suffers little in the sweat department. Durability is mild to moderate.
Nylon (Ballistic or Knitted)
Frequently used in heavy-duty range bags and soft rifle cases, nylon can be re-tooled to make for a durable yet incredibly flexible and tactile glove material. Knitted to stretch, nylon provides excellent abrasion and cut resistance and mild heat protection. As shown on the popular PIG Full Dexterity Gloves, this material is made to hug your fingers and palms, providing excellent grip and recoil control. Ballistic nylon has no stretch and provides the most protection, so it's typically used on finger tips and to provide coverage on the web of your hand. Knitted nylon is stretchable and makes for a form-fitting glove.
For maximum protection against heat, friction, slide bite, you name it, leather or suede gloves are the best option. This thicker material still affords some flexibility, but trades a minor loss in feel for better recoil mitigation. If you're handling a big-bore revolver or bench rifle chambered in magnum loads, leather provides excellent grip, control, and comfort. Suede and "soft" leathers generally work with touchscreens, too. Leather retains heat and is well-suited for insulating your hands on cold outdoor range days.
Features to Consider (Pros & Cons)
Many gloves will come with additional features that you'd expect, like rolled fingertip stitching, touchscreen compatibility, and ventilation. But other features might not be so beneficial. Or you may think they're not important when, in truth, they could make or break your range time and shooting habits:
Knuckle protectors are typically stitched directly into the outer-most layer of the glove and formed from carbon fiber (considered "premium") or a tough polymer. Knuckles can be soft or semi-rigid, formed from rough leather, too. While they provide excellent abrasion protection and offer a tactical look, they don't typically benefit the average shooter and can feel awkward or cumbersome. Knuckle protectors were made from deployed soldiers and tactical environments, not the standard gun range. They're nice to have if you're running and gunning, but they aren't required or typically beneficial.
Nobody enjoys a piece of hot brass falling into their glove, burning up their palms and fingers. An adjustable wrist strap like the one pictured on our Range Often Gloves (or one that stretches and is form-fitting) is a must-have on any good pair of shooting gloves. Adjustable wrist straps doesn't just protect your hands, they ensure your gloves actually fit properly. Like a shoe that isn't laced, a glove loose at the wrist will slide around or bunch up when you're gripping your handgun or rifle.
Draw strings might seem like a relatively minor feature, but they're particularly important on your shooting gloves: It's important to size up your shooting gloves so they're snug and perfectly fitted, lest you wind up with poor trigger control and a sloppy grip on your rifle or handgun. But without draw strings, donning and doffing your "snug" gloves by pulling on the fabric can stretch out, ruin that perfect fit, or even tear them over time. Draw strings (especially bar-tacked and reinforced like the one shown above) help prevent your gloves from stretching and tearing when you pull them on and off.
Our Picks for Gloves
We don't offer a huge selection of gloves, because unlike those "other retailers", we don't try to sell subpar range gear. We chose one of the most popular choices on the market (trusted by operators) and we developed our own pair of shooting gloves based on what we found to be the best combination of features, price, and fit:
Range Often Shooting Gloves
We shamelessly proclaim the Range Often Gloves to be a great combination of all the features you want (and none of the "extra features" you need). We took some customer feedback from shooters (including LEO and military) at the range, tested out various gloves ourselves, and came up with what we feel is the best combination:
- Touchscreen-compatible suede fingers and palms.
- Rolled fingertips prevent seam tears and improve touch.
- Bar-tacked pull string to prevent stretching when donned.
- Double-stitched seams prevent tearing and fraying.
- Elastic backhand improves fit and comfort.
- Velcro, adjustable wrist strap.
- Reinforced soft knuckle covers.
- Ventilated fingers reduce sweat.
We wanted to make the most "rugged" gloves while affording that snug, perfect fit -- the two primary qualities you want in a pair of shooting gloves. We humbly thing we've pulled it off, though you can judge from our dead-shot 1911 wielder's own grip, pictured above at the high-ready.
PIG Full dexterity Tactical (FDT) Utility Gloves
The PIG Full Dexterity Tactical Gloves are, simply put, probably the most popular shooting gloves currently on the market. They're most often seen being worn by spec-ops units in theater and are essentially a lighter, thinner version of our Range Often gloves. They pack most of the same features, sans the thicker leather:
- Touchscreen leather fingers and palms.
- Rolled fingertips for touch and seam protection.
- Breathable, stretchable backhand fabric for snug fit.
- Reinforced wrist straps with stretch-fit fabric.
- Double-stitched pull string for donning gloves.
- Neoprene layer over knuckles for basic protection.
These are the best-fit shooting gloves you'll find (alongside our own, of course). They're meant for maximum feel and will require from break-in when first donned and doffed. If you've got some real meat hooks for fingers (no one's judging), these gloves might feel a bit too tight. That brings us to our next topic!
How to Size Your Hands for Shooting Gloves
Glove sizes vary slightly by brand and material, though they're standardized well enough. With the proper measurements taken, you can easily figure out which glove size is best for a perfect fit -- not too tight or loose and frumpy.
- Measure around the widest part of your hand, excluding the thumb.
- Measure from the tip of the middle finger to the base of the hand, top of the wrist.
When measuring, keep the thumb and fingers aligned but spread apart as illustrated above. Always take measurements using your dominant hand, not your off-hand. Once you've measured both length and circumference, compare the two. Use the larger of the two measurements for your glove size. Reference the chart below: