outdoor research tactical gloves
From the Karuta armor worn by Japanese Samurai warriors to the Roman Legion’s galea helmets to the chainmail armor of the middle ages to modern Kevlar vests and composite helmets: the concept of combat armor has existed for millennia. And while today’s weapons systems and battle gear have hugely evolved, the basic premise of armor remains the same: aiming to provide its wearer with protection from bodily harm without overly compromising range of motion and dexterity. Today’s tactical gloves carry on this tradition while bestowing the space with a host of modern materials, construction techniques, and technologies.
And, considering your hands are used to manipulate and operate the controls of just about any weapon, military vehicle, or missions system, it’s absolutely vital to protect your fingers, palms, and knuckles. Modern tactical gloves do a stellar job of shielding your hands from potential harm while also affording additional grip, without coming at the cost of tactile feel. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to distinguish the genuine battle-tested military mitts from the sea of cheap imitation iterations, so with this in mind, we’ve patrolled the landscape for the finest in combat-ready palm and finger fortification to bring you this guide to the 10 best tactical gloves.
Prior to the rise of modern, purpose-built tactical gloves, a great many of the world’s most elite combat forces — such as the Navy SEALS — relied on Mechanix Wear’s Original Mechanic Glove. Offering solid protection without coming at the expense of dexterity, these gloves were seen as extremely conducive to military and tactical applications, and after being produced for several generations in its regular form, the company eventually released an all-black “Covert” version. Sold in five different sizes, this mil-spec stealth variant retains the Original Mechanic glove’s TPR wrist closure and TrekDry lining, while also gaining TAA-certification/approval, as well as the option for coyote, monochrome gray, and camouflage colors.
Since the company’s inception in the early 2000s, 5.11 Tactical has earned a solid reputation amongst first responders, military, and law enforcement personnel for producing rugged and dependable gear that can be trusted out in the field. The California company’s Hard Times gloves are one such item that has been engineered to withstand hostile climates and conditions, boasting hard, articulated thermoplastic armored knuckles, reinforced finger joints, kevlar-knit fabric back panels, and hardwearing goatskin leather palms with Tactical Touch fingertips. Also offered in a coyote color, these tactical gloves are secured via a heavy-duty neoprene hook-and-loop closure system with a reinforced pull-tab that sports debossed “5.11” branding.
Where Mechanix’s Original Mechanic glove just happened to lend itself particularly well to tactical applications, the M-Pact 3 is the result of the California brand setting out to engineer a tactical glove from the ground up. Fortified behind a pair of anatomically-shaped, one-piece TPR knuckle guards (which meet EN 13594 impact standards) and equipped with 3mm EVA accordion padding and two-piece palm reinforcements, the M-Pact 3 offers robust protection, as well as abrasion-resistance, largely thanks to internal fingertip reinforcements. Machine-Washable, these gloves also feature TPR wrist closures, nylon carrying loops for easy attachment to vests and bags, and 0.8mm synthetic leather fingertip inlays that enable the M-Pact 3 to be touchscreen compatible.
The PIG Full Dexterity Tactical (FDT) Delta Utility Glove is undoubtedly one of the most popular battle-ready gloves currently on the market, offering an incredibly thin and dexterous item in a package that still affords ample protection. Constructed around a two-way stretch poly material, these ultra-dependable military mitts pack paracord wrist-pulls anchored via TAD-branded TPR pieces and an ergonomically-shaped wrist opening that maximizes freedom of movement. This particular version of the FDT was done in collaboration with top-shelf tactical gear brand, Triple Aught Design, and features special topographical-inspired screen-printed graphics and TAD and PIG logos and branding. Further differentiating these special, limited-edition versions of the FDT is their palms, which replace the glove’s regular construction with carbon impregnated leather palms with touch-screen compatible trigger fingertips and thumbs.
The result of another collaborative effort, this time between German firearm outfit, Sig Sauer, and military gear brand, First Tactical, these tactical gloves offer an upgraded take on FT’s flagship mitts, bestowing the glove with numerous upgrades, along with some subtle Sig branding. This means stretch-mesh backs with reinforced leather palms that boast touch-screen compatible fingertips, TPR and Velcro wrist closures, and subsurface-material neoprene padding across the knuckles. Designed specifically with fire-arm use in mind, these gloves also feature leather reinforcements around the inside of the thumb, enabling its wearer to squeeze off hundreds of thousands of round without the glove’s thumb wearing down.
Oakley is another brand that became incredibly popular with military personnel, prompting this California-based brand to start producing purpose-made offerings for the armed forces. In addition to tactical combat boots, goggles, and backpacks sold under the firm’s SI (or “Standard Issue”) label, Oakley also churns out tactical gloves for military and combat applications — the best of which, in our opinion, is currently the Factory Pilot. The glove is equipped with backs and wrists made from a four-way stretch material (comprised of 53% nylon, 19% polyester, 12% elastane, 11% neoprene, and 5% polyurethane) paired with Airprene joint panels, and full-grain leather palms that are heavily perforated to provide ample breathability. But it doesn’t end there, as these also come with padded knuckle guards, and rubber exhaust ports on the fingers that double as supplementary finger protection.
A highly-protective tactical item made from a host of high-tech and hardwearing materials, Vertx’s Breacher Glove was specifically designed for use in hostile locales. Remarkably dexterous considering the level of protection offered, these gloves achieve this balance through the use of anti-static Goatskin Suede, fabric interlaced with NOMEX — a flame-resistant meta-aramid developed by the same outfit behind Kevlar — and reinforced with Kevlar thread throughout. Also equipped with Hammer bite protection, the glove’s middle finger and thumb tips are adorned in a conductive material that enables them to be touchscreen-compatible. There’s also pre-curved, articulated fingertips for natural movement, and armor across the knuckles and at the back of the hands.
Though best known for its battle-tested sights, stocks, and magazines, Magpul Industries also makes some stellar tactical accessories and wearables, and after its seriously top-notch smartphone cases, our favorite of which is the new Patrol Glove 2.0. Building on the foundation of Magpul’s popular original Patrol Glove, the 2.0 model features bolstered freedom of movement and revised articulation at the wrist openings, along with added protection in multiple areas. Like the Vertx Breacher, this glove features articulated goatskin palms supplemented with touchscreen-compatible thumbs, while the back of the hands boasts corded nylon reinforced with closed-cell foam around the fingers and knuckles. Available in two colors across five sizes, these gloves also double as a great pair of mechanic gloves or general work gloves.
For those times when missions have to be carried out regardless of how far the needle drops, it’s best to be armed with a proper winter-appropriate glove, like Outdoor Research’s Sensor Gloves. The Convoy Sensor model boasts a fully windproof and waterproof (yet breathable) membrane underneath a stretch-woven shell and reinforced goatskin leather palms. Touchscreen-compatible, these gloves also feature pre-curve boxed construction, a Velcro-backed hook-and-loop cuff closure set up, and lightweight yet extremely warm Tricot insulation. And, despite their rugged and robust nature, these gloves are able to break-in over time, allowing them to be more comfortable and form-fitting after each use.
Though Arc’teryx’s Alpha SL Glove is technically made for alpine mountaineering applications, its protection from the elements, decently-rugged construction, and immense tactile feel enables them to function as a superb set of tactical mitts. The gloves are also remarkably warm considering how thin and lightweight they are — an area that’s thoroughly helped along by the use of a full windproof membrane. On top of a Velcro wrist closure system, an even more snug fit is provided by the glove’s loop and strap tightening arrangement, while prolonged dependability comes from ample reinforcements and overlays at the fingertips, inside of the thumb, and other areas that are most prone to wear and tear. And, considering the fingers and palms of this glove were designed for climbing, this wildly-dexterous glove is perfect for handling weapons or mission systems. It is, however, worth noting that, while these gloves are extremely packable, in our experience, they aren’t quite as hardwearing as some of the other entries on this list.
Looking to further compile your tactical loadout? Our recent guide to the best military tactical backpacks is rife with the latest and greatest battle-tested bags and is sure to feature a spec-ops-ready vessel that meets your needs.
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