Do you have load of different gloves in my drawer but none feel right for shooting? Chris Wheeler discusses which type is best at this time of year…
It’s tempting to focus on warmth, especially during the winter months, but a shooter’s glove has to do more than just keep your hands warm and dry. Essentially, you need both heat retention and tactility, but to make a glove provide enough warmth generally requires a thickness of insulation that militates against sensitivity or feel. Too much feel, and there’s no heat retention. Catch-22!
In place of thick insulation you can substitute wind-proofing, which pretty much rules out your wardrobe gloves with their fleece, leather or wool construction. But let’s consider some of the options…
Skiing gloves may keep your hands toasty-warm, but you won’t get your trigger finger into the trigger guard, let alone be able to load your ammo, so they’re a non-starter.
Knitted wool gloves aren’t so good either, because the construction process leaves gaps in the surface through which the wind can penetrate. They also soak up water like a sponge, and don’t have much in the way of grip on a smooth surface, like a wooden rifle stock, so they are ruled out.
Fingerless gloves with a fold-back mitten are probably your best choice of woollies for handling a gun, as you can bring a bit of skin into play. But they still lack feel: even though the tips of your fingers are exposed, your thumbs are covered.
Acrylic suffers from pretty much the same problems as wool; there are some acrylic gloves with printed on ‘sticky pads’, but these soon stop being grippy, and unless they are Thinsulate-lined they’re not usually that warm either. If they are lined, say goodbye to any tactility.
Technical fleece gloves are a bit better because there’s no knit to let in drafts: they can be warmer, but generally only if you buy the wind-blocker type, which has a membrane bonded inside. But then the glove becomes bulky – sometimes too bulky to fit inside the trigger guard – and there is little, if any, ‘feel’.
Leather gloves are not generally suitable in winter either. Very fine kid leather might be OK for grip and feel, but it won’t hold any warmth, and if leather’s allowed to get wet it will stay that way, drawing any stored heat away from your fingers.
Neoprene, meanwhile, had a been a favourite with scuba divers and anglers for a long time before airgun shooters caught on, and are now part of the shooting scene as well. This expanded synthetic rubber is excellent at wind-blocking. The encapsulated gas bubbles provide a heat-retaining layer, but at a thickness which, while useful, still lacks some ‘feel’. This is often overcome by making gloves with a removable or fold-back trigger finger held open either with Velcro or a magnet. Their tactile use is restricted to a pinching motion, however, and if your fingers get wet they tend to stay that way.
There are numerous different types of glove on the market, and I can’t profess to have used all of them. But any kind of glove that robs me of sensitivity is a no-no, so I have shot gloveless for a long time, cursing the cold and keeping one hand in my pocket until a target presented itself. All too often my trigger control was off because my finger was too chilled to register the pressure I was applying. Thank goodness we live in a age where there is always someone looking for a solution to our woes.
My current favourite glove is made by MacWet. These are made from a tightly woven, windproof polyamide fibre on the back with synthetic suede palms. While they’re not waterproof, they absorb very little moisture and dry out quickly. Though the grip when dry is excellent, these gloves actually have more grip when they’re damp.
I have the Climatec colder-weather version with longer cuffs; these have a thin layer of insulating fleece across the back of the hand and fingers that blocks the wind so well that your fingers stay surprisingly warm for such a light glove. The material on the palms is only about 0.5mm thick, but is tough enough that I can ignore pricks from brambles and nettle stings, but they still allow me to load .177 pellets from the tin with complete control.