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Updated Sep 5, 2022 1:10 PM

In a tactical scenario, your body is exposed to a range of hazards, but your hands are the most susceptible to minor damage like cuts, burns, bruises, and breaks. Tactical gloves exist to protect you from those particular dangers.  

Tactical gloves are like work gloves in that they’re meant to protect your hands in specific environments — like working in the garden, shoveling snow, or fixing an engine — but they’re also designed for multi-purpose use. They’re equipped with materials and features that give you a greater range of motion and dexterity, so you can go hands-on with an unruly suspect or manipulate the controls of an M4 or M27 rifle.      

In this article, we list out our picks for the best tactical gloves and try to find the holy trinity of dexterity, protection, and comfort to keep your hands safe without affecting performance.

Best Overall

For those in the know about tactical shooting and military applications, their go-to gloves are made by PIG. That’s because they’re affordable, combat-proven, and deliver functional dexterity. And the PIG FDT Delta gloves go above and beyond. The FDT — or Full Dexterity Tactical — gloves are a family of products, and the Deltas are PIG’s minimalist version. They prioritize dexterity above all else without feeling paper-thin or cheap. I tested them at Integrated Training Exercise 4-22, and they performed exceptionally well. They protected my hands from my sun-scorched rifle and stood up to the rough boulders of Range 400’s Machine Gun Hill.

The PIG Delta FDTs were some of the best-fitting gloves that I’ve ever worn. They were comfortable and conformed to my hand perfectly. One notable design element is that the fingertips lack seams, which prevents hotspots and fingernail hang-ups. Still, dexterity is the high point of these gloves. They fit around the fingers without bunching up or feeling excessively tight. Wearing the Delta FDTs, I was able to manipulate small objects like the buttons on my Garmin GPS navigator and even manipulate touch-screen devices like my Target Handoff System.

However, the PIG Delta FDT gloves do have some drawbacks. I would characterize them as having intermediate durability and cushioning. While they’re capable of professional use, they aren’t necessarily work gloves. They lack padding and flame-resistant materials (but if you need flame-resistant gloves, check out the PIG Bravo FDT). Finally, other users have reported that their Pig Delta FDTs have frayed or split seams over long periods of time, which is definitely something to consider, although thankfully these are not expensive to replace.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small-2XL (PIG Charlie FDT available for people with smaller hands)
  • Colors: Coyote brown, carbon gray, ranger green, multicam, multicam black, black
Why It Made The Cut
  • The PIG Delta FDT gloves prioritize and achieve maximum dexterity and comfort, allow touchscreen usage, and stand up to the abrasions that are common with heavy use.
PROS

Extremely comfortable

Excellent dexterity

Touchscreen use

CONS

No impact protection

Long-term durability issues

Not flame-resistant

Cops and servicemen love StrongSuit gloves. They’re the right balance of price and performance. I know that because I’ve both sold them when I worked at a tactical gear shop and I’ve worn them. On the range, the StrongSuit Second Skin adequately protected my hands from my rifle’s hard Picatinny rail, and also allowed me to reliably operate my rifle’s controls. While you might hear that they aren’t warm, they’re not supposed to be. As the name implies, they simply add a second skin.

StrongSuit gloves are incredibly inexpensive. I’ve personally found them at prices as low as $15 per pair in local shops. Besides price, the dexterity they provide is hard to beat at any price. They’re great if you want to keep your hands safe, but also if you need to do complex tasks like type on keypads, tie knots, or manipulate a firearm. They work fairly well with a touchscreen as well, so you can use them with your phone in a pinch for that sick range footage.

StrongSuit gloves do have some drawbacks. Because of the thin material and lower-quality stitching, they’re not super durable. The pair that I owned failed after about a year of normal use (the stitching burst). Also, the fingers are cut weirdly short, so I had to go a size up, which caused excess material to bunch up on the palm.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small-2XL
  • Colors: Black, sage, coyote brown
Why It Made The Cut
  • StrongSuit Second Skins live up to their name, putting a layer of durable material in between your hand and your work, and nothing more.
PROS

Affordable

Ample dexterity

Touchscreen use

CONS

Finger-to-palm ratio is awkward

Poor stitching

Low durability

Kevlar gloves benefit anyone who handles sharp objects for a living, so it’s no surprise that they’d also be popular to wear while searching prisoners, some of which have been known to hide slashing, stabbing, and poking tools. The First Tactical Slash & Flash Hard Knuckle Gloves incorporate a variety of materials to ensure that no matter what, your hands are protected.

The Kevlar fiber makes them Level II slash-resistant, meaning that even with 500 pounds of force behind the blade, they won’t cut. This is complemented by the fact that these are comfortable gloves that fit the hand very well, so you can still do most fine manipulations. Finally, these gloves offer some touchscreen use for coarse gestures, although not for fine gestures like typing on a phone keyboard.

The reality of Kevlar-lined gloves is that they automatically lower dexterity compared to gloves that lack additional lining. These are protective gloves that are designed to defend from attacks, not gloves designed for maximum dexterity, but for those who want to type on a touchscreen or manipulate a weapon, they’re not optimal.

Kevlar is also just hotter, in general. It doesn’t breathe well, and there’s no amount of breathability panels that can make this protective fiber breathe efficiently without compromising protection. Finally, the Velcro closure on these is less than ideal, since it can easily become fouled by dirt and other debris.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small- 2XL
  • Colors: Black, tan
Why It Made The Cut
  • These gloves made the “cut” because they allow you to grab a knife without fear of laceration, which is a very real hazard when up close and personal.
PROS

Cut- and blunt-force-resistant

Comfortable

Some touchscreen use

CONS

Hotter than other gloves

Lower dexterity

Velcro closure can get easily fouled

In true Marine Corps fashion, Marine combat vehicle crews are issued flame-resistant coveralls as part of their loadout, but no gloves to match. When a lance corporal asked me for recommendations so he could buy his own, I suggested the Wiley X CAG-1 Tactical Gloves because they strike a balance of protection and cost.

The thought of materials melting your skin is terrifying, which is why CAG-1 gloves feature Nomex fire-resistant fabric instead of melting-prone materials like nylon. But what also makes these gloves great are the reinforced knuckles, so you’ll avoid hurting your hand when it smashes against objects inside an engine compartment. Despite all their fire resistance and protection, they fit excellently and therefore provide a great deal of dexterity for fine manipulations like flipping the direction on a ratchet wrench or hand-tightening a nut.

Compared to other gloves on this list, CAG-1 and other flame-resistant gloves will be warmer than even non-flame-resistant gloves of similar thickness. It’s just the nature of the material. Additionally, regardless of what anyone claims, these are not touchscreen-compatible gloves, so you’ll have to remove them to operate any sort of smart device touchscreen.

Nomex may be more resistant to burning and melting, but it’s no more resistant to other common hazards in a vehicle or motor pool, most notably corrosive chemicals like battery acid. DuPont claims that Nomex is corrosion-resistant, but anecdotally, mechanics in my unit have said that their issued Nomex flight suits and gloves burn through way faster than their nylon/cotton-blend uniforms. Whether that’s due to them being more reckless with exposing themselves to corrosive material due to being in their protective coveralls, or the material actually being more sensitive to corrosive material, these gloves will not save you from prolonged exposure to battery acid.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small-XL
  • Colors: Black, tan, foliage green
Why It Made The Cut
  • These flame-resistant Nomex gloves will not melt to your skin in case of fire, but don’t slouch in the departments of dexterity and impact resistance.
PROS

Fire-resistant

Good knuckle protection

Higher than average dexterity

CONS

No touchscreen capability

Fire-resistant material corrodes

Warmer than standard gloves

Best Cold-Weather Glove

In the old days, cold-weather shooting gloves consisted of a regular pair of tactical gloves with the index finger cut off. The inherent flaw was that it left your trigger finger exposed. Although you gained skin-to-metal touch, it also left your finger cold. Viktos addressed the issue with a simple solution. The Viktos Coldshot is equipped with a zippered-slot to release and cover your trigger finger.

The Coldshot gloves do a good job of keeping your hands warm if you’re sitting still. They extend past the wrist joint and onto the forearm, meaning that they’ll fit under your clothes and warming layers, ensuring that you don’t deal with annoying cold wrists. Overall, with insulation and wind protection, they give you greater ability to maintain control even in snowy and windy environments.

However, the zipper is as much of a hindrance as it is an advantage. It creates an unfortunate hotspot that will rub against your finger over prolonged use. In addition, the stiffer material means that the other fingers besides the index finger are less dextrous, so even simple tasks like tying your shoes can be a chore.

And, despite the fact that these are cold weather gloves, they’re not designed for extreme cold weather, so in cases where protection from the elements matters more than dexterity or protection from abrasion, consider something a bit more warmth-focused.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small-2XL
  • Colors: Nightfjall (black), ranger (tan), winterlochen (white)
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Coldshot glove is specifically designed to solve the issue of cutting off the index finger of your glove to fire a precision weapon, while still providing insulation from the elements.
PROS

Reasonably warm

Allows for index finger access

Long enough to slip under sleeves

CONS

Zipper creates hot spots

Not for extreme cold weather

Lower dexterity on other fingers

Best Hot-Weather Glove

The Viktos LEO Vented Gloves are specially engineered to protect your hands and fingers, but also feature generous venting and a low-profile exit. Though designed for law enforcement, these will serve anyone who’s not in a fire hazard environment, and make excellent summertime gloves for any tactical need.

What makes these gloves functional in hot environments is that all the material on the glove (minus the palm) is vented. The fabric on the outside of your hand is perforated, which greatly improves breathability and cooling. It also provides adequate protection against abrasions and hot surfaces. The dexterity is comparable to the PIG Delta FDTs in many regards. Finally, they’re surprisingly affordable, making these an easy choice for those on a budget in spite of their premium features.

The trade-off to using breathable and lightweight materials is there’s no padding or impact protection, and the perforation makes them less durable than solid material. The only other thing to mention is that they fit small, so you might need to go a size up. Still, you can return them if they don’t fit correctly.

Product Specs
  • Sizes: Small-2XL
  • Colors: Nightfjall (black), ranger (green), fieldcraft (tan)
Why It Made The Cut
  • These perforated gloves allow breathability and dexterity while not diminishing protection to the palms of your hands, making them essential for work in extremely hot environments.
PROS

Breathable

Exceptional dexterity

Affordable

CONS

No impact protection

Less durable

Fit large

Things to consider before buying tactical gloves

Glove material

The material of your tactical glove of choice is important. 

  • All-leather gloves are comfortable and stand up to abrasion very well, but cut easily and aren’t breathable. 
  • Nylon gloves breathe more easily, and stand up well to abrasion, but will melt on contact with flame, causing further burns, and they cut easily. 
  • Special features like Kevlar weave, thermal layers, windbreaker material, and others can add protection but can inhibit breathability and dexterity.

Touchscreen compatibility

A distinctly 21st-century issue, many gloves today are designed so you can wear them while operating the touchscreen on a mobile device. This has legitimate tactical uses, as smart devices become more prevalent on the modern battlefield, but is also useful for taking photos and videos or sending text messages, which is likely what they’ll be used for.

Impact resistance

Many gloves will feature padding or hardened knuckles to protect the wearer from impacts, whether sustained while working on machinery, or when dealing with flying debris or blunt force trauma. These pads will somewhat limit breathability and mobility, but for those who anticipate blunt force trauma, they’re a must-have, and many mechanics prefer them.

FAQs about tactical gloves

Q: What is the point of tactical gloves?

A: Tactical gloves are specifically designed to address the needs of those in combative environments, and prioritize things like abrasion resistance, durability, impact resistance, and fire resistance, all in colors that are considered acceptable by most military branches. They will often feature reinforced fingers for trigger pulling, hardened knuckles to prevent blunt force trauma, and other specific features that are designed for military or shooting applications.

Q: How tight should tactical gloves be?

A: Tactical gloves ought to be tight enough to ensure that there is no excess fabric to bunch up and cause hotspots or discomfort, but loose enough so that they don’t hinder mobility and circulation, or cause the seams to split. Don’t buy a larger size than you need as a way to prove something. For reference, I’m six feet tall, 200 pounds, and I wear size medium in Viktos, size large PIG. Hardly anyone will wear an extra-large or extra-extra-large unless you moonlight as an NBA star.

Q: Are tactical gloves good for fighting?

A: Many people think that the hardened knuckles on certain gloves are there to somehow amplify the impact of closed-fist blows in a hand-to-hand confrontation. This is not the case, as their primary purpose is to protect you from blunt force trauma of any kind. While these gloves may prevent you from splitting or abrading your knuckles when striking your opponent, they are not going to make you any better at punching. So-called sap gloves do exist, which feature metal weights in them, but these are gimmicky and can cause broken fingers if you strike a hard object. For those worried about their performance in a stand-up fight, I’d instead recommend taking up a striking martial art to build your confidence.

Q: What tactical gloves do SEALs use?

A: Whatever the hell they want.

Final thoughts

Tactical gloves are a fast-changing phenomenon, going from hide gloves meant for rappelling and cut down pilot’s gloves in days of yore, through the Mechanix and Oakley dominance of the Global War on Terror, and on into the future. Today’s tactical gloves maximize dexterity and balance that with durability and protection, ensuring that no matter what your application is, there’s a solution for you. Our top pick, the PIG Delta FDTs nailed this in a way that will work excellently for most people, and I won’t be replacing mine anytime soon. This list only scratches the surface, and I will likely revisit it sometime in the future to reflect this constantly-changing landscape and keep my readers informed.

Methodology 

The gloves today were selected based on my personal experience using and selling various tactical gloves for the better part of a decade. I’ve owned Mechanix, Oakley, StrongSuit, PIG, and Wiley X gloves, and only some of these gloves made the list due to their ability to stand above the pack. Other gloves, like those from Viktos, were selected based on recommendations by readers like you who use their gear every day in the profession of arms.

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