February 2017 heavy glove options omnibus summary – feedback welcome and encouraged
I'm glove shopping and thought it might be fun/helpful to compile people's anecdotal thoughts on the various heavy gloves options out there (i.e. gloves suitable for steel longsword) as of now. I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to get, but maybe this could serve as a reference point for a while.
I'm going to try to start off the list with some of the general comments I've seen, but I was hoping we could get comments and criticism of the starting text. NOTE: I'm not going to get too deeply into the specific costs in EUR, USD, GBP, etc. because I'm providing links to each, and with a global market like this, the specifics of exchange rates and shipping are up to the buyer.
One note: People who think that lacrosse gloves or Red Dragons are suitable for steel longsword – I think you're wrong, and most people do too. If you're annoyed I'm not including them, noted, but this is why they're not listed here.
SPES Heavy Gloves
Moderate-to-highish price. Comes in multiple sizes. Highly protective lobster-claw/mitten gauntlets. Wide, flared, and jointed-plate cuffs make it relatively easy for the glove to work with a variety of different forearm guards. Flexibility/mobility for the thumb can be problematic, some people report their attempts to thumb the flat of the weapon are difficult or take longer than it should. Spotty reports of insufficient protection from the thumb-cap. Relatively easy availability from Purpleheart Armory in the States or directly from SPES in the EU.
Neyman Inigo Montoya Heavy Gloves
Highish price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. Solidly protective five-finger heavy gloves. Cuff is non-flexible hardened styrogum with a cutout to allow forward bending of the wrist. Tiny gap between cuff and hand protection; protection around the webbing between thumb and index finger is light. (I don't have reliable info on protection for sides of fingers, esp. outsides of index and pinky – can anyone help here?) Some reports of durability problems as the threads holding the finger plates onto the fingers get chopped or fray from hits, requiring a re-sew. Neyman customer service, and availability on most of their products, has historically been poor but late 2016 and 2017 seem to be going better, they have hired customer service reps, acknowledged their backlog, provided gift cards in some cases, and orders seem to be shipping out more timely.
Neyman Thokk Gloves
Not to be confused with the WeaponMaster Gauntlets that Daario "Thokk" Magnani is personally developing (mentioned below).
Moderate price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. Solidly protective "3-and-1 hoof" gloves intended to be functional for both longsword and styles where we put the index finger on the ricasso, e.g. sidesword. Cuff is non-flexible hardened styrogum, a type of hardened styrofoam used in automotive interior products, with a cutout to allow forward bending of the wrist. Tiny gap between cuff and hand protection. Haven't worn any, personally, but my understanding is there is not a lot that can really go wrong with these given the simplicity of the design – durability issues focus on the stitching coming loose, but generally Neyman's stitching on the seams is good quality and the material is solid. Some users report feeling very unpleasant sting from hand hits in these, but no serious injury. Neyman customer service, and availability on most of their products, has historically been poor but late 2016 and 2017 seem to be going better, they have hired customer service reps, acknowledged their backlog, provided gift cards in some cases, and orders seem to be shipping out more timely.
Neyman Pig Hoof Gloves
Moderate price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. Essentially the same design as the "Thokk" model mentioned above, but a "2-and-2" hoof design. See above.
Neyman Lobster Gloves
Affordable price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. Solidly protective lobster/mitten-style glove, made from the same hardened styrogum material as other Neyman gloves. Other than the mitten-style protection for the fingers, design is essentially the same as the above Pig Hoof and Thokk models – same cuff, materials, etc. See above.
Black Lance Gloves
Discontinued five-finger heavy gloves. Custom fitting was available when these were in production, but note the above link is to their former FB page, and the first post is from Feb. 2016, indicating they were shutting down operations. Not available unless you find someone who happens to still have some and is willing to part with them. I've seen people say they're great, but never seen them "in the wild".
Comfort Fencing Gloves
Can't find much info about price, but it doesn't matter (see below). Custom-fit is supposedly an option (but see below). Moderately protective five-finger lobstered aluminum plating, with metal-and-high impact foam protection for the hand and wrist. Numerous reports of durability issues – threading holding the plates onto the fingers wears down and they break off, or the plates get chewed up by a feder (i.e. sharp edges/burrs), and the integrated undergloves wear out. A friend of mine at the club has them from several years ago, but they are heavily patched-up with duct tape, etc.
SPECIAL NOTE: Comfort Fencing, by all indications, appears to be so bad at customer service and order fulfillment that it should be treated as a scam. It is standard operating procedure to take customers' money and not deliver anything for years at a time (in cases where orders actually get filled). There is a special Facebook group devoted just to CF's victims, trying to coordinate response and strategies for recovering monies paid – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1794051760836808/ – and a lot of it appears to revolve around suing them. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to beware of purchasing from this company. They're bad, and should feel bad.
St. Mark's Koning Gloves
High price. One size only at present, though plans are in the works for other sizes. Solidly (but not all-encompassingly) protective five-finger glove. Exterior is made from leather that was very stiff in Version 1 and required significant breaking in; it was also found to be a bit bulky by some. Version 2 (what you will get if you order now) is reportedly much better in terms of flexibility of the leather, easier to break in, and is physically smaller, allowing it to fit into complex hilts relatively easily (that is, you might be able to get some extra use out of these beyond longsword, e.g. sidesword, rapier, etc). Wide flared cuff mates easily with different forearm guard options. For those who are persuaded by the support of notable names, Axel Pettersson and Anders Linnard (makers of the glove) are both respected tournament fencers and use these when competing. There are reports of durability problems for Version 1 of the gloves, with seams in the leather coming loose after relatively light use (e.g. sparring once per week at moderate-to-high intensity). Since the design requires the leather exterior to hold protective plates in place, this is reported in some situations to compromise the protection, e.g. outside of index finger near where it may touch the crossguard. St. Mark's customer service is generally decent, with the caveat that they face high demand and there will be a waiting period before delivery.
Sparring Gloves – 5-Finger Special
Highish price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. High level of protection. Exterior is constructed from high-impact foam that encompasses the back of the hand and most of the sides with a clamshell-like shape; fingers are protected by high-impact, hardened resin. Version 1 dipped the entire fingertip of an integrated glove in the resin and resultingly had poor tactile feeling on the weapon grip since it was an enclosed "cap." Version 2 dips the top and sides of the finger in resin, but not the pad of the fingertip, providing good protection and better sensation. Weakest point of protection is the wrists, which have jointed protection that, at certain angles, can be hit through; however, some people report good results for modifying the protection on the wrist. The "extended cuffs" version of the gloves provides some forearm protection, and can replace same depending on what elbow/forearm protection you use. Reports of durability issues with the integrated gloves (fraying, etc.) Users with smaller hands may find their fingers forced apart by the inflexible resin on the fingers, making them less comfortable than other options. Customer service is experience is generally good and delivery times reasonable. Custom fitting is available, and limited customization options may be available (e.g. SG said on Facebook they could do velcro instead of string ties for one user). For U.S. customers, there is a reseller at https://www.facebook.com/HEMASupplies/.
Sparring Gloves – Fechtschule Gdansk
Moderate price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. High level of lobster claw/mitten-style protection. Exterior is largely the same as the above 5-Finger Special model, but the clamshell covers the fingers entirely. The thumb is not protected with resin as above, but instead with the high-impact exterior foam and a thick plastic/foam cap. As above, weakest point of protection is the wrists, which have jointed protection that, at certain angles, can be hit through; however, some people report good results for modifying the protection on the wrist. The "extended cuffs" version of the gloves provides some forearm protection, and can replace same depending on what elbow/forearm protection you use. Reports of the thumb cavity not being sufficiently snug and some peoples' thumbs coming out from under the protective shell of the glove – some users address this with modifications. This model of Sparring Gloves does not come with an integrated glove, and it is recommended to provide your own underglove to avoid your hands getting chafed/scraped up.
Sparring Gloves – The Hoof
Moderate price. Multiple sizes available, including custom-fit. High level of protection. (Shout out to /u/Wihglah for his huge, detailed review here.) Largely the same design as the Fechtschule Gdansk above, but there is a split between the ring and middle finger, and two pockets for the two sets of fingers. Also requires an underglove to avoid chafing/scraping. Since the design is so similar to the above models, less commentary here.
Absolute Force Gloves
Affordable price – one of the most affordable options on the market at present. Two sizes available, Medium and Large. Solid to high level of full mitten-style protection; high level of wrist protection. Unlike the other mitten-style options, AF's gloves appear to have an individual "slot" for each finger under the mitten. Unfortunately, the design is reported to have significant mobility problems with the thumb and fingers, and particularly in the wrist. Potentially disallowed at Longpoint soon – I'll update this section once I get confirmation. I have no information at present about customer service or order fulfillment, though I note Purpleheart Armory is generally excellent with both.
Models not currently available, but which may be available in the future
- Thokk Personal Armor – 'Pro' Weapon Master Gauntlets – https://www.facebook.com/thokkpersonalarmor/
Daario "Thokk" Magnani is developing a new five-finger glove solution that appears to use high-protection, modern materials (e.g. Dyneema thread, non-Newtonian foam padding, carbon fiber plating, etc.) for a highish price (ca. EUR 190), but lower than several other options. He anticipates getting mass production going in mid- or late-Spring 2017. There is a "training" version of the gloves also being developed that is not suitable for steel longsword, and appears to be intended to compete with products like Red Dragon gloves. Videos, strike test results, etc. are all still forthcoming and he has been regularly providing updates on the status.
- ProGauntlet – http://progauntlet.nl/
Maarten Kamphuis and Youval Kuipers are developing a new five-finger glove that appears to be relatively far-along in development, centered around an almost fully enclosing, hard-shell design with high-impact foam interior that provides overlapping, articulated protection for every part of the hand, fingers, knuckles, and spaces between knuckles. Their aim is to provide mitten-gauntlet level of protection for a five-finger design. Strike test videos are shockingly encouraging, and they are trying to design a product that can be easily repaired – the goal is to standardize the protection segments so that only segments needing repair can be replaced. This is, potentially, the vaporware of HEMA gloves – it's been in development for years at this point and they are not forthcoming about updates on the status of the project. (It may be they are simply not able to provide this, due to privacy issues with their financial backers – they are not aiming just at the HEMA market, they are also aiming to make their product highly desirable in industrial applications, and potentially also for police, security, and military markets.) They stated at the TaurHEMAchia event in November 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTZOe6RdF8k&feature=youtu.be) that they anticipate starting to take orders in 2017, but did not say when they anticipate shipping product. Price is not final as the design prototypes are not final, but they mentioned EUR 325 as a possibility, representing the most expensive potential option.