Gloves have become part of a cop's daily uniform as much as a badge or belt. The reason for this is simple: A pair of gloves protects your hands from the elements, abrasions, cuts, and punctures from needles or other sharp objects.
Not only do they protect your hands from manmade items, but also from Mother Nature. In wet and icy conditions gloves give you a better grip on gear, tools, and other items we handle daily. All while reducing risks from exposure to the elements, which can cause as much or more harm than a sharp instrument.
What makes a perfect pair of gloves for duty is as unique as the person wearing them. Fortunately, it seems there are as many styles and manufacturers of gloves for duty as there are officers wearing them. As evidence of this, at the Shooting and Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show I have noticed more and more "tactical" gloves showing up and more vendors displaying their idea of the perfect glove. Also, uniform catalogs now devote several pages to gloves where they used to offer maybe only a dozen styles.
With all of these gloves it can be overwhelming to determine what is the perfect glove for duty. I realize one of the deciding factors in purchasing what might seem a minor piece of duty gear is the price, but I caution you against buying the flashing light special at your favorite chain store or uniform supplier. Nine times out of 10 you will get exactly what you pay for when you buy a cheap pair of gloves. This does not mean you need to take out a mortgage to pay for gloves; most decent gloves will set you back $30 to $60 a pair. Considering how many hours you wear them on duty, this works out to literally pennies a day.
There are many things to consider before purchasing gloves for duty. The following is an overview of what to look for when finding your perfect pair.
First and foremost is finding the right fit. Generally your shoe size and glove size are going to be roughly the same. If you order from a mail order supplier this will give you some guidance on what size you'll need. But you'll still need to verify the fit.
When you are trying gloves on don't just slip them on and say, "These will do." Manipulate your weapon, radio, handcuffs, grab the steering wheel, etc., while wearing them.
It might sound very simple, but how the gloves fit when you are operating your gear is not the same as how they feel when just slipping them on. You don't want to find out they're loose or uncomfortably snug halfway through your shift. Make sure the gloves' function is as good as their looks.
Another consideration that will sound overly simple is, What are the gloves for? Are these gloves to keep your hands warm, dry, or to protect them from punctures? Do you need the gloves to serve multiple functions? Are you operating in harsh weather conditions? Are you wearing the gloves as liners under mittens such as those worn by the military for extreme winter conditions?
When it comes to keeping your hands warm in extreme cold, you will give up dexterity. Sadly, 99 times out of 100 truly warm gloves do not lend themselves to allowing for touch/feel dexterity. Insulation is simply bulky. Because of this, in very cold weather I am a fan of shooters' mittens. You can simply flip back the finger area of the mitten so you can write, operate your weapon, and do other things for which you must be able to "feel" your way.
Like insulated gloves, waterproof or water-resistant gloves don't give you the best manual dexterity. The waterproof barrier is like insulation; it simply adds bulk to the gloves. The barrier also reduces your touch and feel, but not as much as a bulky winter glove because there is no loft to the waterproof laminate.
In all but the coldest of conditions, I find waterproof or water-resistant gloves will keep your hands dry and they will break the wind, which would otherwise make your fingers cold and stiff.
Puncture- and cut-resistant gloves have become a staple for officers on patrol. Fortunately, they are less bulky than other lined gloves, making them a good multi-season choice in most climates.
Puncture- and cut-resistant gloves use Spectra, Kevlar, or other proprietary liners to protect your hands from needles, blades, and other objects often stuck in people's pockets that can injure you when doing a search.
If I had to choose one pair of gloves for duty, a puncture- and cut resistant pair would be it, simply to protect myself from hidden or obscured items when doing a search and to protect my hands from broken glass, sharp metal, etc., that I may come in contact with on a daily basis.[PAGEBREAK]
Protection from Blood Borne Hazards
Another area of consideration with duty gloves is how well they will protect you from body fluids and various pathogens.
If you come upon a major trauma incident, will your duty gloves protect you as you perform first responder obligations? If you have Gore-Tex-lined gloves, this barrier will greatly reduce the risk of your skin coming in contact with blood borne hazards.
Gloves lined with Crosstech (a pathogen barrier by Gore-Tex) are an even better option. However, if I were to come in contact with vast quantities of body fluids that soaked my gloves, I would safely dispose of mine. No need to risk contamination.
If you do not have duty gloves that will protect you from blood borne pathogens, I suggest wearing a small glove carrier on your already crowded duty belt to carry nitrile surgical-style gloves. Nitrile gloves are tougher than their latex counterparts and few if any people are allergic to nitrile, while many folks are allergic to latex. These surgical-style gloves will protect you from liquids, can be worn under your duty gloves if need be, and you can use them to collect evidence without introducing your fingerprints and contaminating a crime scene.
Knuckle and finger protection is a feature that's appeared in gloves in just the last couple of years. These gloves come in a couple of different styles: hard or soft protection.
Soft protection is simple padding along the finger and/or back of the hand; this will soften most blows. The hard style is generally hard shell protection for your fist knuckles; you can literally punch a wall and not fracture your hand.
These gloves are designed to protect your hands from bangs and bruises of entries or other heavy-duty activities on your shift.
Another type of glove that is making an appearance in uniform shops is made for traffic duty. These gloves have various reflective materials on the backs and palms on high visibility bodies. This is intended to catch the attention of motorists so they will follow your hand signals while directing traffic. These gloves are also seeing more use by bicycle patrol officers to enhance their visibility when pedaling along the roads on patrol.
Search High and Low
Nowadays you can find gloves that will meet your seasonal, mission, and personal requirements; you just have to look for them. When looking for gloves for duty, don't limit your thinking to your favorite uniform shop. Many quality gloves can be found in big box sporting goods stores and catalogs that are known for supplying military gear. If you are a bicycle cop your local bike shop is a suggested stop, and even your local auto parts shop offers gloves that could serve you well on duty.
Most of the guys I go shooting with and/or work with have several pairs of gloves for duty. The gloves they choose are from 10 Zero, 5.11 Tactical, BlackHawk, Damascus, EOTAC, Franklin, Hatch Worldwide, Oakley, Mechanix Wear, TurtleSkin, and Wiley X. All of these manufacturers will serve you well and reduce the injuries to your hands. Don't go out on the streets without a pair or two; your hands will thank you.
Scott Smith is a former federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs and a contributing editor to POLICE.
FOR MORE INFORMATION