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Gloves: What you should know before buying your next pair

By A. David Berman

Survival is what it is all about. Officers in law enforcement and corrections are looking to survive. First there is the physical survival: going home each day in one piece, all of your buttons still in a row; being on the job and doing what needs doing without injury to you and without needless injury to the suspect/prisoner. Second there is professional survival: doing the job properly and not getting “jammed up”. None of us wants to be the subject of an internal investigation or worse a civil or criminal complaint filed against us in court. Staying on the job requires some survival techniques. Thirdly, there is personal survival: getting through our time on the job without damage to our inner self-our inner self is our mind and soul. Don’'t allow yourself to be psychologically injured by the job.

Let’'s look at physical survival. Almost everything we do out on the street involves our hands. We drive the car, use the radio, write notes, and fill out reports. We pick things up and put them down again. We fight, defend ourselves, and take violent people into custody. Each of these tasks puts our hands at some risk, including cuts, scratches, and the possibility of a torn or ripped off fingernail(s). All of these possibilities create the potential for germs or organisms to enter our bodies and infect us or make us ill. How do we protect ourselves? Gloves!

When we first think of gloves for protection, the first thing that comes to mind is latex gloves to protect against blood or bodily fluids. However, latex gloves are notorious for tearing or ripping during an arrest or confrontation with a person. Latex gloves are hot and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. They can sometimes be difficult to get on. Also, some people have sensitivity to Latex that brings about an allergic reaction. Latex and other disposable gloves have a place in law enforcement but not as the primary protector of your hands.

What is required for law enforcement is a glove that can be worn all of the time while on duty. Except while eating or using the bathroom. Whether you choose leather or neoprene will depend on your personal likes and dislikes. The decision to go for gloves with Nomexa or Kevlara fabric components will depend on what you are going to do with your gloves on. Of most importance to some of you will be how much you want or need to spend?

My personal choice for a glove is high-quality leather with a very cut resistant liner. I get the most protection, function and versatility out of such a glove. Let’'s start on the inside and work our way out.

Gloves are available unlined. That means there is no lining in the glove at all. The inside of the glove is the underside of the leather you see on the outside. The upside here is the lack of bulk or the additional thickness a liner can create. The downside is that an unlined glove can be more difficult to get on and off because the skin on the hand and the leather inside want to stick to each other.

Lined gloves are readily available in a variety of styles and forms. Law enforcement gloves can be lined with a whole list of different materials depending on what the goal of the manufacturer was. Gloves may have a simple tricot lining. This type of lining does not add very much in bulk or thickness to the glove but makes it much easier to get it on and off. Linings may be used as insulation for warmth and may be of Thinsulatea, Hiporaa or Gore-Texa to name but a few. Linings may also have been added for cut resistance. This is my personal choice of gloves for crime fighters.

Cut resistant liners are usually made of yarns of Kevlara, or Spectraa, or specially engineered liners such as Razorneta(which is a special blend of Spectraa, fiberglass and polyester yarns). Of the three linings available for cut resistant gloves for law enforcement personnel, the most cut resistant is the Razorneta variety. If you set up the rating as good, better and best. Kevlara would be good, Spectraa would be better and Razorneta the best. Be aware the Razorneta will also be the most expensive of the three, but the performance of the Razorneta versus the others far outweighs the cost difference.

Now let’'s get into leather. Earlier in the article I mentioned high-quality leather as my choice for a duty glove. High quality, as compared to what? Low quality leather. Lower quality leathers are also colored different than better quality leather. Most gloves that are in your stores for purchase by security, police or corrections professionals will identify the shell as being made of “genuine leather”. This means that it is the dressed or tanned hide of an animal. Almost any kind of animal will do. Then the color is applied to the tanned skin. The quickest and easiest way to color a piece of leather is to spray the color on. Just like we spray the color on a car fender we can spray the color on leather.

What we frequently end up with is leather that has as much color “on” it as leather in it. This covers a lot of imperfections and blemishes in the leather. It also makes the leather less able to stretch. The glove that uses lacquered or sprayed on finishes can only give or stretch as far as the paint or color material will give or stretch. That is why cheaper leather gloves have a tendency to develop cracks and fissures. This is a failure of the paint covering to give and stretch with the leather. Here is where the holes will open up and the tears will start.

The best leather for a glove is Cabretta leather-a soft, kidlike leather made from sheepskin. The Cabretta leather offers us a very supple, very strong and long-wearing leather. That means the gloves made from it are very thin, giving us greater sensitivity and tactile sensation. The Cabretta glove will last a very long time. Thus, providing good value for the dollar spent. In so far as performance it will help you do your job better. It will help in affording a better grip and hold on an individual or an object. The color of Cabretta leather is usually dyed into the leather. As opposed to spraying it on the surface of one side, the leather is put in vats and soaked with the coloring until the color is absorbed through the leather completely. This process allows the high-quality leather to maintain its ability to give and stretch. This affords us the opportunity to get a better fit and to “break in” the gloves.

Lower priced gloves are traditionally sized in letter sizes for XSM (extra small) to XXL (double extra large). High-quality gloves are sized in numerical sizes typically for men in sizes 7 to 13. We wouldn’'t buy a pair of running shoes in M-medium or L-large but we buy gloves that way. You get a better fit by buying the proper size. The web site will explain how to determine the size of glove you should wear.

If you want to test what I have said you will need a pair of leather gloves and a spoon. High-quality Cabretta leather gloves like those in the Damascus Hand Armor EliteO line enhances your gripping ability as I said earlier. Test it by holding the bowl of the spoon between the thumb and forefinger or your gloved hand. Then slowly but firmly try to pull the spoon from the grasp of the thumb and forefinger. The leather should grip the spoon and will keep it form slipping out of your grasp. Try the same with a pair of low priced “genuine leather” gloves and the spoon should slip easily from the grasp of your thumb and forefinger. The paint or lacquer on the surface of the lower quality leather does nothing to enhance the gripping ability of the leather. Naked leather which is what you have with high-quality dyed gloves is naturally tacky or sticky thus enhancing our grip whether it is on a spoon, a handgun, a pair of handcuffs or the sweaty arm of a person we are attempting to take into custody or control.

There is very much of a “you get what you pay for” lesson in gloves. While you are out there working hard, trying to survive you deserve the best you can afford. The best cut resistance, the best quality leather, and the best fitting gloves available.

If leather is not to your liking take a look at the new Enforcera line of Neoprene gloves with either Razorneta, KevlarO, or Spectra linings. These are also available from Damascus.

Regardless of your choice in styles, protect your hands. They are some of your best assets.


Dave Berman started his law enforcement career in 1981 hired by the Wilkes-Barre Police Department in Pennsylvania. While a Police Officer he moved through work assignments in patrol, vice, narcotics, Emergency Services and training. He continued on to become an Instructor-Trainer for the Defensive Tactics Institute. Later after leaving Wilkes-Barre David accepted the position of director of training for a suburban police agency in Pennsylvania.

His training has covered a wide array of disciplines and programs including but not limited to courses up to and in some cases including Instructor Trainer level from ASP, Monadnock, DTI, PPCT, PepperBall, Bodyguard OC, Hiatt and American Handcuff Companies, Def-Tec and Combined Tactical Systems (CTS).

He co-authored the Tactical Glove Defensive Tactics Training Program and the Prevention and Management of Sudden In-Custody Death Training Program for Damascus Gloves and American Handcuff Co. respectively.

David currently serves as a part time instructor for Lackawanna College in the Police Academy, In-Service and Constables Training Programs.