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Outdoor Research (OR Gear) Gloves
12/20/06 - Outdoor Research is well known as a leading manufacturer of outdoor gear, clothing and equipment in the mountaineering/outdoor enthusiast arena. Expanding their market is the Outdoor Research Government Programs division, which has military/LE-specific items not offered on the civilian side, and also some crossover items from the civvie line. They offer a bewildering array of gloves and the models shown below are just the tip of the iceberg. Some of OR Gear's gloves are available at govt pricing through GSA Advantage for Federal buyers.
When it comes to gloves, there's always a balance to be struck between dexterity, tactility (sensitivity to manipulation by feeling), and insulation or protection. Just to give the reader a common frame of reference for how much tactility the following gloves have, I performed a simple test - loading 9mm rounds into a pistol magazine. This requires picking up the round, identifying the right end, inserting it into the mag etc, both by looking and then by feel only with eyes closed. The more durable and insulative a glove is, it's a good bet that it'll be less tactile. It's not good nor bad; it's just a matter of fact. It's up to the user to decide what tasks he'll be using the gloves for and which features are most important, the majority of the time. Sometimes, you'll just have to take a glove off to perform a certain task, like manipulating the controls on a camera or weapon in very cold weather, when a bulky glove won't allow it.
M's Gripper Gloves - The M's Gripper multi-purpose outdoor work gloves are one of OR's best-selling gloves. They're available at REI and other outdoor retailers. It's a fleece glove with a synthetic "toughtek" non-slip material on the palm and three fingers for durability and a secure grip. The fleece used is Gore Windstopper.These are made overseas, and are of slightly different design and materials than the U.S.-made Gripper shown next. Each glove has a little plastic triangle loop sewn into the side for attaching to the other glove via a plastic snap keeper (this has now been changed to a small buckle). The tapered wrist keeps wind and snow out of the glove. The glove is pre-shaped into an anatomical curve, to eliminate excess and bunching of material on the fingers and palms.
The M's Gripper is just a good, practical all-round chilly weather fleece glove with a lot of 'gription'. I'm still able to manipulate a handgun or rifle with it, but some of the finer controls like locking back the slide release etc might require you to look, instead of feel what you're doing. I did a quick dexterity/tactility test by loading 9mm rounds into a magazine. I was able to do it without problem when looking, and it was still possible by feel, but barely.
U.S. Gripper Gloves - The U.S. Gripper Glove is made in the U.S. utilizing Polartec Windbloc fleece instead of Gore Windstopper. The synthetic material used on the palm and three of the fingers is a stiffer more rubbery (stickier), but more durable material than that used on the M's Gripper. Because of that, you do give up some dexterity and tactility to the M's Gripper. Instead of the plastic triangle loop seen on the early M's Gripper, the U.S. Grippers are kept together with a small center-release buckle (subject to change). Other than that, the U.S. Gripper has the same overall features and performance as the M's Gripper.
The tougher and tackier material of the U.S. Gripper makes it more suited for tasks that don't require fine dexterity. I can manipulate and handle a weapon with them on, but I'd have trouble in darkness with the reduced tactility. I had a hard time loading 9mm rounds into a magazine, even when looking. By feel - no way. The M's Gripper gloves about would be better suited for that. But for rough and tumble, general tasks which require a very secure grip and added durability, the U.S. Gripper shines. Now, if you want a cold weather glove that still has the dexterity needed for weapons handling, look at the Vigil, Sentry or Argonaut gloves.
9/14/07 - Argonaut Gloves - The Argonaut Glove is a reinforced glove meant for cool conditions. The back of the Argonaut is made of breathable, water-resistant Polartec® Power Shield® fabric, which is quick-drying, abrasion and wind resistant. The palm, knuckle reinforcements and wraps over the tips and sides of the thumb, index and middle fingers are made of DWR-treated water resistant leather. The Argonaut incorporates MotionWrap™ construction on the fingers superior dexterity. The middle and ring finger have lapped, double-needle stitching to provide durability in high-flex areas.
he Polartec Power Shield fabric is lightly insulated and stretchy. The Argonaut is sized for a snug fit, and can take a little bit of effort to put on since there are no pull tabs or velcro on the wrist. However, once on, they're very secure and don't need any re-adjustment due to slippage. The feel is similar to golf or driving gloves I've tried on. The palm and fingers are smooth (no seams) and very comfortable when holding a pistol grip. For some reason, the leather used on the Argonaut seems to have better grip than most. It's not really 'tacky'; it just isn't slippery when I rub my fingers together. The grain texture isn't as smooth as the Crossbow or Longbow, nor does it have the digital texture of the Vigil or Sentry, but it has better 'gription' than all of those - go figure. I'm able to load rounds into a 9mm pistol magazine with the Argonauts on without looking - just by feel alone. Performance in cold and wet weather will have to wait as it's not exactly warm glove weather yet at the time of this writing. So far so good on dexterity, comfort and fit though.
Vigil Gloves - The Vigil is a pretty unique tactile, close fitting cold-weather FR (fire-resistant) combat glove in that it offers weather resistance and warmth, unlike most other Nomex gloves. As mentioned in my OR Gear headwear writeup, OR is collaborating with Massif Mountain Gear Company, who specialize in Nomex, fire-resistant (FR) garments to produce OR-designed garments utilizing Massif's proprietary Nomex fabrics. The fabric used in the Vigil glove is Massif's proprietary Elements Softshell fabric. It's a tri-layer laminate which combines Massif stretch Nomex on the outside for fire protection, a waterproof/windproof membrane, then a soft fleece layer for warmth and insulation. The outer Nomex layer is more abrasion resistant than standard Nomex and pills less. The glove has a 'digital texture' FR leather palm (in black or tan) with an additional FR fabric layer inside for insulation. Nomex thread is used throughout the construction of the Vigil. Another unique feature is the Polartec FR fleece cuff, for both comfort and added warmth in the wrist area. The fleece cuff also less likely to slip out when overlapped by clothing. A leather pull strip used when pulling the gloves on prevents the fleece from getting stretched out.
I put some water on the Vigil to test its water-resistance.
As expected, the water absorbed readily into the outer Nomex layer.
However, that's where it stayed, never making it through the membrane
and inside the glove. It's not water-proof, as the seams aren't
sealed, and water will eventually migrate through the seams, but I was
surprised at the ability of the fleece inner layer to keep the hand
feeling dry, even when water had penetrated. The fleece wicks away moisture
from the skin, and this was apparent when wet. It also seemed to dry
I wore it on a hike in chilly weather (mid 40°s) and they performed very well. Kept my hands warm and provided good dexterity.
6/15/07 Sentry Gloves - The Sentry Gloves shown below are essentially the short-cuff version of the Vigil gloves shown above and share exactly the same specifications and features. Actually, it IS the Vigil glove, but without the fleece cuff sewn to it. It's shown here with the tan 'digital pattern' textured leather and is also available with the black palm. Like the Vigil, it's made of Massif's Stretch Elements softshell Nomex fabric, which provides weather-proof protection against the elements. It's designed for cooler to moderately cold weather.
In the writeup on the Vigils, I mentioned the small gripe I had with the seam running between the thumb and the palm. Even though they're the same design and cut, the seam on the tan leather Sentry gloves doesn't feel as pronounced, and doesn't bother me at all when handling a weapon. The only difference in performance between the Vigil and Sentry glove is that the Vigil might keep the hands slightly warmer by providing more insulation around the thin wrist area. The Sentry gloves are also less bulky to stow in a pocket.
- The Prophet
Gloves shown below are from OR's civilian line. They're a weather-proof
glove designed for cool, wet weather mountaineering, skiing, etc at
near-freezing temperatures. The outside of the glove utilizes soft shell
fabric (black) and leather (grey). The soft shell fabric is stretchy
and allows freedom of hand movement. The finely textured leather covers
the palm and fingers, and wrap around to the back of the hand for a
non-slip grip and unique look. The same leather also reinforces the
area inside the wrist which is pulled when donning the glove. The glove
has a pre-curved shape. Elastic around the wrist and die-cut velcro
strap on the gauntlet secures the glove on the hand.
In my dunk testing, the soft shell fabric sheds water readily enough, but the leather will absorb water. No water gets through, and the hands stay dry. I found this glove to fit a bit looser than all the others, even though it was the same size, so I might use it with a thin liner inside. The suppleness of the leather gives it better tactility, and I was able to load 9mm rounds into a magazine by feel alone.
Carson Gloves - The Carson Gloves are designed as a waterproof stand-alone glove or as a shell over liner gloves. The outer shell is Cordura stretch fabric on the back of the hand and thumb; non-stretch elsewhere, making this a very tough and durable glove. The 'Alpengrip' palm is a non-slip material with a slightly rubberized feel that also wraps around the front of the fingertips. The Carsons have a pre-shaped curve to them. They're waterproofed with a seam sealed Gore-Tex insert which is low-loft fleece-laminated for added warmth. The wrist is elasticized, and the gauntlet is tightened with a one-handed elastic shock cord pull. There are also removable dummy/idiot cords with cord-locs which enable the gloves to be tethered to the wrist or forearm so that if needed, they can be taken off in a hurry but remain attached to you.
The Carson Glove is advertised as being able to layer over the Gripper Gloves, but I didn't find that possible if they're both the same size - the Grippers have too much bulk. The Carsons fit me just fine in the stand-alone mode, with just a bit of extra room left over for a liner like the PS150. I did a dunk test with the Carsons, immersing my hand in water just below the entrance to the glove for a few minutes. The fabric on the palm wet out before the fabric on the back of the hand, but no water penetrated the Gore-Tex liner. After waiting for about 15 minutes, I checked the glove again and found a damp spot just inside the opening of the glove - the fleece was damp. I was puzzled as I had ensured that no water had crept in over the top. Had the Gore-Tex liner leaked? I performed the test a second time, observing the glove more carefully, and the same thing happened. I noticed that the damp spot was just around the product labels sewn just inside the gauntlet. What was happening was that water, migrating through the outer fabric and seams, but not penetrating the Gore-Tex liner, had wet the ends of the labels sewn between the liner and the outer shell. The water soaked into the labels which wet through, bringing moisture inside the liner and wetting it. I solved the issue by cutting the inside labels off, eliminating that path for water to follow. Water is sneaky - it migrates against gravity and finds its way into places you think it wouldn't. Immersion is likely a worst case scenario, as I wore them out in heavy rain without any hint of moisture penetration.
I found the Carson glove to function excellently as a lightweight, low bulk waterproof glove that still provides the dexterity for manipulating the controls of a handgun and rifle. I was able to load 9mm rounds into a magazine without problem, with a bit more difficulty by feel, as the Alpengrip material is stiffer than the leather on the Prophet and VIgil gloves, but I was still able to do it, only slower.
4/4/07 - PS150 X-Static Gloves - The PS150 X-Static gloves are constructed of Polartec Power Stretch 150 with X-Static (hence the name), shown here in coyote (love the colour). The X-Static fabric prevents buildup of static electricity charges, and is also anti-microbial for odor control. The outside is a nylon exterior for abrasion resistance while the inside is bushed fleece for warmth and moisture management. The wrist is elasticized on the inside to keep the gloves secure on the hand.
The PS150s are very comfortable and form fitting, as the fabric is soft and stretchy. The fleece interior keeps moisture away from the skin very well, I found. Even with the exterior material of the glove damp with water, the interior fleece feels relatively dry, and subsequently the hand doesn't feel as cold. Stangely enough, the easiest path for water to enter the glove is actually through the embroidered 'OR' logo on the back of the hand. Water can soak through and enter the inside of the glove. I'd prefer it if the logo were moved closer to the wrist where it has better chance of being protected, but then, these aren't designed to be wet-weather gloves. The anti-microbial feature also works well, reducing that sweaty, damp smell that gloves always seem get after being worn for a while.
Even though these gloves are designed to be used as liner gloves, the outside of the fabric is more wear-resistant than I initially thought. It doesn't snag on hook velcro either. I fully expected it to get fuzzy very quickly when exposed to any abrasion on rough surfaces but so far it's held up better than I expected. Even so, I'd use these gloves by themselves only if I don't need to be handling or manipulating a lot of items, simply because the fabric is a bit slippery on smooth objects and doesn't provide a good grip. They're more suited for running in cold weather, hiking, and general use for warmth, instead of instances in which you'll need to handle a weapon often. Tactility and dexterity are great, as the fabric is soft enough for you to feel small objects through it.
6/2/07 - Longbow Gloves - The Longbow is a FR (fire resistant) glove with a convertible cuff. The Longbow has a soft, lightweight cuff that can be tucked inside to convert the glove to a 'short' glove, or worn outside, gauntlet style. The cuff is made of Massif HotJohns fabric, and is elastic enough to seal around the wrist. The Nomex fabric for the rest of the glove was specifically developed by Massif for OR Gear gloves, and is called Wolverine™. It's a 4-way stretch Nomex, with bonded double layers. The outside layer is the smoother Elements soft shell face fabric and the inside layer is the soft CoolKnit, described here. Flame-resistant cowhide is used for the palm and the rest of the leather details which include a knuckle protector on the back of the hand and a reinforced trigger finger cut-away. Kevlar thread is used throughout, with exposed seams being double stitched. The leather-protected wrist closure uses FR velcro.
For comfort and fit, the Longbows incorporate PrecisionGrip™
design for seamless contact between then trigger finger and thumb, MotionWrap™
construction to reduce finger seams, a set-in thumb for an ergonomic
fit, and lapped seam on the palm to reduce bulk.
8/29/07 - Crossbow Gloves - The Crossbow is a short cuff, vented version of the Longbow. Like the Longbow the Nomex fabric for the glove body was specifically developed by Massif for OR Gear gloves, and is called Wolverine™. It's a 4-way stretch Nomex, with bonded double layers. The outside layer is the smoother Elements soft shell face fabric and the inside layer is the soft CoolKnit, described here. Flame-resistant cowhide is used for the palm and the rest of the leather details which include a knuckle protector on the back of the hand and a reinforced trigger finger cut-away. Kevlar thread is used throughout, with exposed seams being double stitched. The leather-protected wrist closure uses FR velcro and keeps the glove secure on the hand without any danger of slipping off. The leather knuckle protector, web protector and base of the palm are perforated for ventilation.
For comfort and fit, the Crossbows incorporate PrecisionGrip™
design for seamless contact between then trigger finger and thumb, MotionWrap™
construction to reduce finger seams, a set-in thumb for an ergonomic
fit, and lapped seam on the palm to reduce bulk.
7/3/07 - Overlord Gloves - When I first saw the Overlord Glove prototype in November last year, the first thing that struck me was the unique look of the distinctively-shaped leather panels/components of the glove. The second thing I thought to myself was "I gotta have a pair of these". So began the process of bugging Mike and Michele at OR Gear every couple of months wondering when the Overlords would finally come out. In tan, too, of course.
The Overlord gloves are designed as a replacement for the summer flyer's glove - a lightweight, technical weapons-handling glove for patrolling and combat with the emphasis on 'weapons-handling'. The Overlord is constructed of Massif Wolverine™ 4-way stretch, double-bonded layer Nomex for fire-resistant protection, and digital textured leather on the palms, fingers and panels. Kevlar thread is used, with all exposed seams double-stitched.
The Wolverine fabric is used for the back of the hand,
and also wraps around the middle and ring fingers completely. The digital
leather covers and protects the knuckles, and back of the fingers. There
are cutouts in the leather over the finger joints and sides of the fingers
which allow the Nomex to stretch when bending the fingers.
Like the Longbow gloves above, the Overlords run about a half size smaller than normal, as they are meant to be very close fitting. For me, the smalls are literally like a second skin - very tight at first, but breaking in within the first couple of hours of constant use. It's apparent after putting them on that they're focused on enabling the user to pull the trigger without interference. I used the Overlords on the range for both handgun and rifle, and they provided very good dexterity for weapons handling. All the seams felt comfortable when handling the weapons. I never had to adjust them and they never got loose nor slipped down - the Overlords make excellent shooting gloves.
11/18/11 - Flashpoint Gloves - The Flashpoint Glove is a light weight Nomex® fabric and FR leather glove intended for breathability in hot conditions while providing FR protection, dexterity and comfort.
The Flashpoint glove is a short cuff design, with a leather tab embossed with the OR logo with velcro closure for a secure fit. On the inside of the wrist is a pull-on loop, which doubles as an attachment loop for hanging the gloves off a jacket, pack or rig. The Flashpoint is of hybrid construction, using both Nomex® fabric and FR leather. The palm is mainly leather, with additional leather reinforcements on the palm and heel of the hand. Note that there is no foam or padding - the reinforcements are just an addeditional layer of leather. The Flashpoint comes in coyote, and both the leather and Nomex® fabric are darker than those used on other OR gloves like the Overlords or Crossbow, which use Massif Wolverine Nomex. The photos on the OR Gear website aren't an accurate representation of the colour - the photos are probably of the prototype, instead of the production model. One of the listed features on the website is a 'sweat wipe on thumb', and the photo shows what looks like terry cloth material on the back of the thumb. Mine does not have this feature - it's Nomex® fabric on the back of the thumb.
The fingers have leather reinforcements at the finger tips and outer sidewalls for protection and abrasion resistance, while the Nomex® fabric inner sidewalls maintain dexterity, a snug fit and breathability. The fingers are pre-curved, with boxed construction for an anatomically correct fit. Leather strips on the back extend from the finger tips to the back of the hand, providing additional protection for the hand and knuckles.
The Flashpoint runs true to size for me - snug but not too tight. The Nomex® fabric back, and the lack of a solid leather strip across the knuckles allows the glove to expand when a fist is made, so it has a tad bit of a more relaxed fit than the Overlord or Crossbow gloves on me. The wrist adjustment tab is a bit large, and my personal preference is something lower profile like a die-cut rubberized tab (the kind used on jacket cuffs), but I didn't have any issues with it snagging on anything.
The leather used on the Flashpoint is the grippiest thus far on an OR Gear glove, for some reason. It doesn't have any embossed texturing or anything, but it's just more tacky feeling. My standard 'picking up a coin off a flat surface' test is performed easily with the Flashpoint - no problems picking up a dime off a table. I've worn the Flashpoint gloves for about four range sessions at the time of this writing - one of them was for a two-day AK class. They performed well; and were comfortable in the summer heat. While they aren't the tightest fitting or thinnest gloves I have, they provide good tactility and feel, and the tackiness of the leather gave me good purchase on whatever I was grabbing. The Flashpoint gloves are imported, instead of made in the U.S. like the Crossbow and Overlord gloves. Quality seems pretty good, with the U.S. made gloves having the slight edge, but it's reflected in the price - the Flashpoint gloves are less than half the price of the Overlords, making them more affordable to a wider customer base.
7/7/12 - Ironsight Gloves - The Ironsight Glove from the Outdoor Research Government Programs Division is a light weight, quick-drying, highly breathable, hot weather combat glove. It has non-slip grip pads on the fingers and palms, which is a feature I'd love to see on more gloves.
When I first saw the Ironsight Glove last year, I was very excited as they looked like they incorporated all the features I liked in a summer glove. The thing that most attracted me to them were the non-slip grip pads covering the palm and fingers. That's the one thing lacking from many of the summer gloves I've tried, and wished that more of them had non-slip pads like these. When I received my first sample back in July of 2011, the wrist closure tab stitching came loose. I sent them back to OR Gear for analysis, and it turns out that the overseas factory had not adhered to the correct design plan. OR addressed the issue, which took some months, and my currrent sample looks like it's free of any manufacturing issues.
Description - The Ironsight glove is made of a combination of synthetic leather and breathable stretch nylon. It has a short cuff design, with a molded rubber tab with velcro closure for a secure fit. On the inside of the wrist is a pull-on loop, which doubles as an attachment loop for hanging the gloves off a jacket, pack or rig. The palm and fingers are made from a single layer of synthetic leather; there are no seams or extra layers to affect comfort or feel. The sidewalls of the fingers are a combination of the synthetic leather and stretch nylon for unrestricted flex at the joints. The fingers are reinforced at the higher abrasion points.
Silicone pads on the palm and fingers provide a solid grip on weapons and tools. They're the darker, elongated spear-tip shaped shapes you see covering the palm. The sidewalls/finger tips on the little finger, ring and middle finger are also covered/reinforced with the silicone material.
The back of the hand is also a hybrid of the synthetic leather and stretch fabric. The back of the hand and fingers are the breathable stretch fabric, and synthetic leather reinforces and protects the knuckles and fingertips. There's also some injection molded rubber protection on the back of the hand and index finger for light impact protection.
As I've mentioned elsewhere before, I'm between an XS and S in gloves. The size small Ironsight gloves are consistent with the other OR Gear size small gloves I have - they fit true to size (which means 'slightly relaxed' on my hands. I could go a bit snugger, but the size small is the smallest size they make). Like the Flashpoint gloves featured above, the shaped wrist adjustment tab is a bit large, and my personal preference is something lower profile like a die-cut rubberized tab (the kind used on jacket cuffs) or something like the smaller tab on their Super Couloir Glove Liner. The issue with the larger, shaped rubber tab is that it always has to be lined up with the correspondingly-shaped hook velcro patch under it. If not, the tab will not have full engagement and any one of the corners will lift up (see photos above). That's why I'm referring to it as a wrist-closure tab, not an adjustment tab, since it's not suitable for tightening or loosening.
The grippy silicone pads on the palm and fingers are one of my favourite things about the Ironsight gloves - I wish most gloves had them, especially those made of slippery material like fleece liners. Most synthetic leather gloves aren't as grippy as real leather, so they could use some added grip. The silicone pads do lose some of their tackiness when they get sandy and dirty, but they can be 'refreshed' with a quick wipe with a damp cloth or wipe. Synthetic suede can be a bit slippery for my standard 'picking up a coin off a flat surface' test, so the silicone pads came in handy with the Ironsights. I had no problems picking up a dime off a table. Weapon manipulation, loading ammo in mags etc, all benefit from the grippy pads. In my experience, synthetic leather wears out faster than genuine leather, but it's also less expensive.
The Ironsight gloves are great summer gloves, and extremely comfortable in hot weather. They're completely unrestrictive, due to the stretch fabric, and the single-layer palm and fingers with no seam is what's needed for shooting a pistol or carbine. There's no seam between the thumb and palm to cause any discomfort in the back strap. Like the Flashpoint gloves reviewed above, the Ironsight aren't the tightest fitting or thinnest gloves I have, but they provide great grip and feel, and the silicone pads give me a secure purchase on whatever I'm holding. The Ironsight gloves are imported, instead of being made in the U.S. like the Crossbow and Overlord gloves, and that's reflected in its very affordable price - on par with gloves like Mechanix. Kudos to Outdoor Research for offering more options to the end user.
7/19/10 - It's been more than four years since Camelbak acquired SW Motorsports Gloves, and formed their Government-Military Glove division. Up until this year, the product offerings were pretty much what SWMS had before the acquisition. For this year, some of the models have been re-designed and a couple of new models added.
Note - Repeating what I've said in other glove writeups: When it comes to gloves, there's always a balance to be struck between dexterity, tactility (sensitivity to manipulation by feeling), and insulation or protection. Just to give the reader a common frame of reference for how much tactility the following gloves have, I performed the simple test of loading 9mm rounds into a pistol magazine. This requires picking up the round, identifying the right end, inserting it into the mag. However, this time I did it without looking and using only feel. I also picked up coins: a quarter, nickel, penny and dime from the hard, smooth, flat surface of a table.
The more durable and insulative a glove is, it's a good bet that it'll be less tactile. It's not good nor bad; it's just a matter of fact. It's up to the user to decide what tasks he'll be using the gloves for and which features are most important, the majority of the time. Sometimes, you'll just have to take a glove off to perform a certain task, like manipulating the controls on a camera or weapon in very cold weather, when a bulky glove won't allow it.
I brought all four gloves along with me on desert shooting/camping trips and range sessions to give them a go.
Vent - The Vent is the new version of the Vent CT, which was probably my favourite summer glove (see the SWMS writeup below) for light tasks/use. The new Vent is built on the same exact pattern as the Vent CT. Just like the Vent CT, the Vent is an extremely comfortable and lightweight summer shooting glove - almost like a golf glove. The glove is constructed mainly of 3% carbon conductive anti-static fiber air mesh fabric on the back and a Clarino (synthetic suede leather) palm. It's completely machine-washable.
One of the main reasons I liked it so much was that it was available in a medium gray colour, which went very well with most colours, especially Crye MultiCam. Much to my dismay, the new Vent is now only available in black. I asked Camelbak about this, and they said that the gray Vent CTs didn't sell well, and they blew them out at a discount on Sierra Trading Post (where I bought a couple of extra pairs when I found them).
There's a small terry cloth patch behind the thumb for wiping sweat away. The black breathable air mesh fabric on the back feels a little more durable than the gray stuff, and has a black Camelbak skull transfer logo emblazoned across the back. There's now a Camelbak label on the back of the wrist, and the velcro-adjustable wristband is molded rubber instead of mesh, with yet another Camelbak logo molded into it (provides some grip, so it's not just cosmetic). There's also the 550 cord wristband loop for storing the gloves on a D-ring, on the inside of the wrist.
Not surprisingly, the Vent gloves passed the 9mm mag loading test with flying colours as they are very dextrous gloves due to the thin leather. I was also able to pick up all coins with them on. The only con about the thinness is that it'll wear out faster than a thicker glove. It's a give and take. They're so light weight and compact that they're very convenient to stuff in a pocket or pouch if you need them. At the range, except for the colour, it's still the same great summer glove as the Vent CT. I'd like to see two things, if anything was to change. The first thing that I'd like to see is the same tacky rubber print on the finger tips and maybe on the palms for more 'gription', similar to the finger tips on the Impact Elite (below). It does make a difference. The other thing is to offer these in coyote.
Magnum Force - The Magnum Force is a rugged combat glove featuring hard knuckle protection reinforced with Kevlar for extra durability. It's designed as a CQB/MOUT glove for use under rough conditions and to protect the hands against impacts and scrapes better than a regular glove. It is only offered in black.
The Magnum Force shares the same Clarino leather as the Vent, except that it has extra layers on the palm for reinforcement. The fingers and back of the hand are made of two-way stretch spandex with 3% carbon conductive anti-static fiber. The most distinctive feature is the Kevlar-reinforced hard knuckle protection. It's not just a plastic cap sewn to the outside of the glove, but integrated into the glove, providing better fit and comfort. It's lined/padded on the inside, so that the knuckles are well protected. The index finger is protected by an EVA foam pad that does not interfere with its mobility. The three other fingers have Thermal Plasticized Rubber (TPR) guards, which flex at the finger joints.
The palm of the glove has additional panels in strategic areas to add reinforcement, and padding on the heel of the palm. There's also an abrasion-resistant, Kevlar-reinforced palm pad on the outer half of the heel, which is usually the first part to hit the ground during a fall. The fingertip and thumb are made of tacky fabric for extra grip and finger control. This isn't just an additional layer sewn on top of the clarino leather; it's a single layer to preserve tactility.
The Magnum Force has an elastic around the wrist with a velcro tab closure/adjustment. There's also a 550 cord loop for hanging the glove from a 'biner'.
While the tacky material at the fingertips is slightly thicker than the clarino leather on the Vent glove, they do facilitate traction, and are responsible for my being able to pick up all the coins from a flat surface. Loading 9mm rounds into the magazine by feel was also easy to do. I don't know why Camelbak chose the name 'Magnum Force', but I can't help think of Clint Eastwood's 1973 movie by the same name. Putting them on might well serve as a reminder that "A man's got to know his limitations."
At the range, I used these for for lugging around and setting up heavy steel targets (with sharp edges from bullet hits), and for the range session. I must have looked a little strange knocking my knuckles against whatever I could when the opportunity arose, to see how well the hard knuckle protection worked. It worked well, which wasn't really suprising. As far as comfort goes, I can definitely feel that there's something rigid covering the knuckles, but it's not uncomfortable by any means. I was concerned that the added bulk on top of the knuckles might get in the way, but they didn't for what I was using them for.
Besides knock-around tasks that necessitate the added protection, I wish I had these gloves when I did some simunitions force-on-force training. My hands (especially my support hand) kept getting nailed, since they were one of the only things exposed from behind cover, and people shoot at the gun. I was wearing some mountain biking gloves that had some knuckle and finger protection, but the hits still stung. With the hard knuckle protection, along with the TPR and padded finger guards, the Magnum Force gloves would have been perfect.
Heat Grip CT - The Heat Grip CT is practically unchanged from the original SWMS glove except for some cosmetic changes. It can be considered as a slighly beefed-up version of the Vent, but still very much a light weight glove ideal for all climates. The main difference is that the clarino leather is just a bit thicker and instead of mesh on the back of the hand, it's two-way stretch spandex with 3% carbon conductive anti-static fiber that adds thin padding and protection. It's available in black and coyote (shown here). The original was only available in black. It's designed primarily as a shooting glove or for activities requiring extra grip, and is machine washable.
The clarino leather palm and fingers are made from a single layer with no seams or sewn-on panels for a snug fit with maximum flexibility and dexerity. The smooth surface thumb and index finger provide excellent sensitivity and finger control. There are tiny vent holes alongside the fingers, not visible in the photos.
The wrist is elasticized with the same molded rubber velcro closure tab as the Vent. A rubberized, subdued Camelbak skull design is on the back of the hand, and a Camelbak label on the wrist. A 550 cord loop allows the gloves to be clipped to gear.
The Heat Grip CT also passed the coin test and the mag loading test, which I'd expect for this sort of glove. As with the Vent, I wouldn't mind seeing some rubber pattern applied to the fingertips and maybe the palm, to improve traction. It's pretty good overall, but purchase can be improved on slick/smooth surfaces. The Heat Grip CT is suited to light-medium tasks with its heavier construction than the Vent CT, and is comfortable for most hot to cool conditions (based on my experience with the SWMS Vent CT I've used since 2004).
Impact Elite - Just like the Heat Grip CT can be considered a slightly beefed-up version of the Vent; the Impact Elite is a versatile glove that takes the Heat Grip CT to the next level of protection. It's designed for tactical operations, shooting, driving in rough conditions or mechanic's work.
Instead of going the way of the Magnum Force with its hard knuckle protection, the Impact Elite utilizes Thermal Plasticized Rubber (TPR) padding to protect the back of the hand, knuckles and fingers from impacts without affecting flexibility and dexterity. These are the molded ridges that you see on the back of the hand in the photos. The ridges actually have a groove in the middle, instead of bring one solid piece. The groove allows the ridges to flex sideways when the fingers are bent. They're pliable and are bonded and sewn onto the back of the hand. They're strategically placed so that they make first contact with whatever the hand hits, most of the time. I was a bit skeptical of how well a thin ridge would work, but it actually does. Whether my hand is flat or in a fist, the ridges are usually the 'high spots' and make first contact with whatever surface my hand might come into contact with. Granted, they're not going to stop a pointed edge from poking in between them. They ridges in no way affect the flexibility of the gloved hand. The Impact Elite is available in black or coyote (pictured here).
The back of the hand is made of the same two-way stretch spandex with 3% carbon conductive anti-static fiber as the Heat Grip CT. The palm is clarino leather with double layers sewn on and lightly padded palms which provide some insulation for the hand from vibration in conjunction with the TPR ridges on the back. The thumb, index and middle fingers have tacky fingertips with rubberized skull designs, which increase traction when handling small objects. Right in the middle of the palm is rubberized 'Camelbak' wording that adds a little grip. In fact, I wouldn't mind it if this same print was applied to the fingers and palms of the Vent and Heat Grip CT models to improve grip.
The Impact Elite has an elasticized wrist with molded rubber velcro tab closure, and the 550 cord loop for attaching them to gear.
Like the other gloves, the Impact Elite passed both the coin test and mag loading test. With the thicker gloves, the tacky fingertips are what enabled me to pick up thin coins like the dime and penny from the surface. The thinner gloves like the Vent enabled it because the leather was so thin. Out in the desert, I used whatever opportunity I had to test the padding on the back of the hand. I did this by resting my hand against rocks while supporting my rifle. This is something that would scrape up an unprotected hand but the TPR padding on the back worked well to protect my hand, and also provided a non-slip interface to ensure that my hand didn't move on the rock while firing. The Impact Elite is a good hot-cool weather glove.
In summary - As far as tactility goes (sensitivity to manipulation by feel), the Vent still provides the most feel because of its thinness and snug fit. Weapon manipulation is good with all gloves, but is of course best with the Vent. The user must decide what amount of protection is needed, and understand that with increased protection (especially on the fingers and palm) comes a reduction in tactility and dexerity. Camelbak has helped reduce the amount of compromise needed by adding tacky fingertips etc, and by thinking of new ways to add protection.
Southwest Motorsports Gloves (now Camelbak gloves)
Motorsports Enterprises, Inc. (I'll refer to it as SWMS) is a woman-owned
small business, based out of Phoenix, Arizona. SWMS has a GSA contract
and have been supplying gloves to the U.S. Military (including Special
Operations Forces) and other government departments for the past decade.
(For more info, just visit their web site - I'll get on with the gear
review!) Their gloves are divided into two general categories - Ground
crew gloves and Flame-retardant gloves intended for pilots, crew chiefs,
tankers, CQB or anyone needing flame protection. I visited their web
site and was curious about how different their nomex gloves were from
the issue flight gloves, and whether their claim of providing 'maximum
finger dexterity' was valid, as almost every glove manufacturer claims
that, and not all of them deliver.
Max Grip NT Gloves (above) - Shown above is the OD
and black SWMS versions of the issue flight glove (note that the black
glove shown is from a first-production lot with the velcro wrist closure
on the underside. The OD glove is the current version). My initial impression
of these gloves are that they are not your everyday issue nomex flight
gloves. The palm is of black leather with a slightly rough grain that
provides a better grip than the smoother grain of most flight gloves.
Three of the fingers have leather 'caps' to provide more protection
and durability, while the index finger has a seamless design for better
sensitivity. An extra layer of leather protects the inside of the thumb,
which is usually subject to the most wear and tear, and another layer
covers the knuckles and outside of the hand. All the high-wear areas
of the nomex fabric are protected from abrasion by the soft but durable
leather. It's unlikely to bust the seam on the fingers (like I've done
on the issue gloves). A double layer sleeve/gauntlet extends up the
forearm and an adjustable velcro wristband with leather pull tab prevents
the glove from slipping off the hands. I've found the elastic on the
inside of the issue glove to be scratchy sometimes, and not very effective
in keeping the gloves from slipping - I'm quite often pulling the gloves
up on my hands. The Max Grip wristband is not just a strap, but a thicker,
elastic, slightly padded area surrounding the wrist which helps support
and protect the wrist without affecting flexibility. It's also much
more secure than the issue glove. The gauntlet can be folded over if
desired. Kevlar yarn is used for all stitching.
Max Grip NT Gloves w/Digital leather (above) - Here is a set of desert tan (the actual colour is a bit more brown and less yellow than the pictures came out) Max Grip NT gloves with an interesting texture on the leather that SWMS calls the 'Digital Leather' texture. The leather is 'embossed' with this texture, which results in a 'grippier' feel than the standard leather, and seems to add suppleness to the leather. I found that the leather feels slightly thinner and dexterity is improved somewhat. These are even more comfortable than the sage version with standard leather I tried above. On the right is the sage green version of the Max Grips with digital leather.
Friction FIghter NT Gloves (above) - As the name implies, the Friction Fighter gloves offer a higher level of abrasion resistance than the Max Grip NT gloves. It is designed for applications which require flame protection, and operations like emergency rappelling, hoisting, rope and cable work. The basic glove is the same as the Max Grip, but with the addition of extra leather layers on the inside of the thumb, on the palm, and on the outer area of the hand. The leather palm patch overlaps the wristband to shield the inside of the wrist. 3 of the fingers (except for the index finger) are lined on the inside of the leather with nomex. This provides more heat insulation and may come in handy for tasks like quick-changing hot machine gun barrels. For fast roping, I would hesitate to use them for anything but an emergency fast-rope as they might not be heavy enough (this is just based on my own rappelling experience. Even though it's a thicker pair of gloves, it didn't seem to affect the comfort, fit, or dexterity much. These are fast becoming my favourite gloves - I love these. The Friction FIghter gloves can be had with either nomex or kevlar fabric (known as the Hi-Tec FF gloves). Note that all new FF NT gloves now have a full leather pinky finger (as seen in the tan/brown ones on the right).
Heat Grip CT Gloves (above) - These gloves are one of the "Ground-Crew" product line which include the 'Impact CT gloves', "Impact II CT gloves' and 'Cold Weather gloves'. The Heat Grip gloves are basic work and field gloves made partially from Clarino (synthetic leather) with no padding in the palms, intended to light to medium tasks. The back of the glove is slightly padded, with Clarino reinforcements on the thumb and three fingers. The sides of the fingers have tiny vent holes that aid in cooling. I feel they'd make an excellent shooting glove, for people who do not like the added bulk of padding on the palms.
Impact CT Gloves (above) - Next in line are the Impact CT model, which is basically similar to the Heat Grip gloves, but with light padding on the palm and reinforcements added to all fingers. A neoprene band on the back of the knuckles stretches when you make a fist, adding flexibility to the back of the glove. Like the Heat Grips, there are small vent holes along the sides of the fingers. This glove is meant for tasks that require a bit more protection overall, and the padding in the palm can reduce vibrations transmitted to the hand.
Hi-Tech Impact II CT Gloves (above) - The Impact II gloves are a step above in protection from the previous two models. Entirely synthetic, made from a combination of Clarino leather, spandex (back), rubberized 'Clarino Zeus' pads on the fingertips, EVA padding in high-impact areas, and a Kevlar fiber shield on the heel of the palm for abrasion resistance. These gloves are designed for mechanical and tactical work requiring more protection on the palms and knuckles like combat training, maintenance, cargo loading, working with tools etc. I found the finger tip sensitivity to be slightly less than that of the Max Grip or FF gloves, but that shouldn't be a problem for all but the most delicate tasks.
Cold Weather Gloves (above) - These are not your bulky ski-type gloves, but a snug fitting glove for cold weather protection that still requires dexterity. I don't know what temps they're rated for, though. The palm is made of leather (not synthetic), and is lined with a layer of thinsulate. The nylon back is also lined with thinsulate, as are the fingers. The knuckle panel and back of the thumbs are made of neoprene for flexibility and warmth. I could feel an immediate increase in warmth when slipping these gloves on, compared to the other ones. I wish the weather were colder outside so I could try these out! Unlike other cold weather gloves I've owned, these are the most form fitting and least bulky. How well they stack up in cold weather against the others is something I'll have to test in time.
One thing I noticed (after a couple of other users mentioned it) is that the little/pinky finger on some of the gloves (the nomex models, and the Impact IIs) the gloves is a bit long, by 1/8" to 1/4". I've passed along this feedback to Martina, the owner. I also wondered about the durability of the digi-leather finish vs. the standard leather, as i thought that the addition of embossed texture could weaken the structural integrity of the leather. Martina answered, "So far the feedback about durability has been the same for the smooth and the digi leather. The tanning technology that makes the leather abrasion resistant, water and perspiration resistant is not a coating as many leather manufacturers do: it actually gets into the fiber structure of the leather and enhances the leather all the way through. So even if you scrape the top layer off the smooth leather or if you apply the digi texture the basic features of the leather will remain the same."
Overall, I'm impressed with the quality, fit, feel and dexterity. A lot of thought has been put into their design, and the construction is top-notch. I've found that I like the extra grip that the Pittards digi-leather version of the Max Grip NT provides.
2/18/06 - SWMS announced at the 2006 SHOT show in Vegas that they have now partnered with Camelbak to produce SWMS gloves. Congratulations, Martina! Along with that announcement are some updates to the CT models and a couple of new gloves. I received these pre-production samples a couple of months ago but waited until after SHOT to preview them - they'll be available mid-year.
Here's a summary of the updated features for the new versions of the current models:
I' d been asking Martina about non-black gloves, and she'd say 'that's in the works' and explain that the obstacle was getting anti-static material in colours other than black. Pre-production samples of two new models are shown below and I think they're very promising (note that changes might be made in the final versions):
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