Do I need to draw a diagram?
Or, do we all agree that durability is inversely related to dexterity?
The trick is finding the sweet spot between these polar opposites. For me, fit and dexterity trumps all else which is why – since gen 1 – I’ve been a Pig gloves user.
Pig gloves prioritise fit and dexterity over all else. And, to be fair, I think SKD’s mantra has always been crystal clear on that. Indeed, one key section of their marketing spiel has never changed:
Pig gloves are a consumable.
Ironically, when I received this set of Pig FDT Alpha Gloves Multicam – a free sample from the good people at Tactical Kit – I was surprised at their beefed-up feel and construction.
However, to kick the next elephant out of the room…they cost more too.
Where working gloves are concerned, my thinking is that durability is directly proportional to cost. So, here’s where I’m at so far: the Alpha is a more expensive glove which is constructed in a way which suggests to me that it’s more durable. Increased durability means decreased dexterity – we agreed earlier, right?
So are these gloves noticeably less dexterous?
Barely, but yes – when compared to my favourite Pig glove, the Delta. But only in terms of flexibility, not in terms of touch sensitivity.
Now, today I will mainly talk about construction in comparison to my older Pig Alphas. I cannot, for obvious reasons, talk with experience about durability; but I can talk about the features which I think will make these gloves more resilient.
Before we get to that, a note on sizing.
Check the size chart before complaining to the retailer that these gloves are too small.
Pigs are designed to fit nice and close – tight even. If you choose the correct size, you should still feel comfortable and have full range of motion – regardless of this natural skintight fit.
That being said, Pig’s sizing has changed since I last bought a load. Their size chart delivered excellent results for me, however, so I consider it accurate and true.
Whereas historically I’ve been a solid large, I am now an XL.
I do have massive hands, so that’s fair enough. The ‘large’ label was an insult to their magnitude, to be honest.
If you want to learn something more about how an item of apparel is constructed, turn it inside out. Because that’s where the sloppiness – if it exists – is hidden.
I’m glad to report that the Alphas are a tribute to Vietnam (where they are made).
The gloves are excellent in terms of the cut of the fabric, the stitching, and the material selection.
Inside out, you can clearly see the conductive Clarino synthetic leather used on the thumb; and the super thin conductive Clarino synthetic leather used on the trigger finger.
This means that as well as shooting, you can use touchscreens with these digits. FDT means Full Dexterity Touch.
The rest of the underside is also Clarino and it’s fascinating stuff.
It feels like wafer thin suede but despite the tactile sensitivity it supports, it’s pretty tough stuff. Also, being synthetic leather, the gloves are machine washable and will dry lightning fast (I know this from previous versions).
One thing did catch my eye, however. Alpha gen 1 suffered from hanging loops which pulled out of the glove, if regularly and repeatedly used to don them. Gen 2 onwards remedied this with serious bar tacking.
The newer glove’s bar tacks (left) are not as long or as distinct as the older glove’s (right). I can’t imagine SKD has gone backwards on this feature, so I can only assume it does the same job but more efficiently.
Turning the glove right way out, I was pleased to see that Pig has introduced a bulwark against a problem I’ve experienced over time with the older gen.
Note the popped seam on the older gen glove:
Note the remedy:
With the newer glove, the designers have extended the Clarino palm and wrapped the site in question so it is suitably reinforced and wear resistant.
The corresponding area around the thumb has also been wrapped in this way.
Keen eyed readers will also note a fabric change on the back of the hand, with the Multicam version of the glove. Aside from being highly aerated, this more breathable fabric is plush and perhaps offers a greater degree of protection.
I’d wager it’s also more wicking than the non-Multicam fabric, transporting perspiration away from the skin faster and more efficiently; but I need to test that out.
However, the fabric change has a cost, because it does affect the glove’s flexibility. It’s not hugely limiting, just slightly more restrictive.
The abrasion resistance of the plush aerated fabric is a moot point at the moment, as I’ve not properly used the gloves. However, it’s similar to that used in training footwear, so should go the distance within the Alpha’s design envelope.
I’m unsure how it will affect things yet, but I used to really appreciate the suede finish on the top of the thumb – for wiping my nose. This has been replaced with the plush aerated fabric in the Multicam version, which I strongly suspect snot will just roll off – but it will be tested.
There are more similarities between new and older gen than there are differences, it has to be said.
A firm favourite of mine – rolled fingertips – is a feature still in situ. This increases fingertip sensitivity versus other methods of construction. It’s also more expensive to produce than most.
Furthermore, in this implementation it provides additional fingernail protection.
Similarly, the new gen continues to exhibits foam padded knuckle protection and a short, comfortable, Velcro cuff. The jointed finger design is also firmly in place.
The stretch ballistic nylon which covers the knuckle padding is contrasting black, which is both suited to the glove’s lineage and sympathetic to Multicam.
Proportions have changed slightly throughout and stitching has been reinforced in many areas, but these are tweaks rather than revolutionary change; because the latter simply is not required of such a mature design.
It’s early days yet and this is an initial overview of a pair of gloves I need to spend a lot more time with, to develop a more nuanced and experienced view.
However, potentially, the Alpha ticks boxes for those consumers who want a tiny bit more protection and durability than Pig’s synthetic gloves have previously delivered, but who accept the slight trade off with dexterity.
That’s not to say touch sensitivity is affected – it isn’t, as I said earlier in the article. What affects dexterity here is the glove’s flexibility. More padding and protection is a bit like wearing layers on a cold day – when compared to what you wear on a hot one. More robust seams and overlapping materials have a marginal effect, too.
That said, I know from conversations with retailers that some new users are surprised when their Pig gloves wear faster than anticipated. To be honest, Pigs have a lot more life in them after they pop a seam or lose a hanging loop. If users can’t reconcile that with the dexterity inherent in the design, then it’s fundamentally the wrong glove for them and they are looking at a sweet spot provided by another brand.
Nevertheless, if retailers are getting it in the neck after they and SKD have been at pains to point out – prior to purchase, in triplicate – that Pig gloves are a consumable, why not compromise the guiding principle to a small degree to give that segment a bit of what it wants? They may have done that with this iteration.
I’d go so far as to say that Pig has made the delineation between the Alpha and the Delta glove that much greater, by making the Alpha a little more resilient, a degree more protective and – yes – more expensive.