Gloves and Tabs for the Traditional Bowhunter

By: Dale Karch and Todd Smith
See Our Gloves & Tabs
See Our Gloves & Tabs

Even though there are nearly as many gloves and tabs available to the traditional archer as there are stars in the night sky, you don’t have to be an astronomer to pick out the right one. But you do want to be informed and educated so you get just the right fit for your style and preferences.

When you see someone shooting a longbow and recurve, 99% will be shooting with a glove or tab. It’s no wonder there are so many choices of quality finger protection. But which one is best? The answer is simple: both! Like the age-old “Ford vs. Chevy” debate, there are two schools of thought in traditional circles. “Gloves vs. Tabs.”

We’d never be able to end that debate in this column, and fortunately there’s no need to. Some folks go for the Chevy, and some the Ford, some for gloves, some for tabs. Neither is better than the other, only different. No two archers are exactly alike, so gloves and tabs are available in an almost endless supply of unique designs and varied materials.

We have found, however, that a high percentage of traditional bowhunters use gloves, while most target archers, like serious 3-D, FITA, and Olympic shooters, prefer tabs. Bowhunters do sometimes use tabs though. Dale is one of them. He prefers shooting a tab for everything, and anyone who’s seen him shoot knows he can shoot well in any situation.

Dale Karch shooting with his favorite Cordovan tab.
Dale Karch shooting with his favorite Cordovan tab.

When shopping for just the right glove or tab for you, pick out a couple that appeal to you and test-drive them. See what feels best and shoots best for you. We also suggest you pick up another one as a spare and that you break them both in by shooting them for a couple of weeks. There’s nothing worse than having your glove or tab all broken in and then losing it when you don’t have a back up. It always seems to happen at the worst time like during a big hunt or just before an important shoot. Having a “ready to shoot spare” is a wise strategy.

When it comes to shooting gloves there are plenty of choices. You’ll see; full palm Damascus, “open end” and “closed end”, nylon tipped, Cordovan tipped and specialty types like the Mesh glove. The choices are many!

Most beginners start with the standard “open-end” or “closed-end” gloves, like the ones from the Wyandotte Leather Company. They’re straightforward, simple affairs, single leather thickness with adjustable wrist straps. They work. They protect your fingers like they’re supposed to, and they’re affordable.

Full palm gloves, most often called a “Damascus” glove come in quite a few popular configurations. The official Damascus glove is one of our top sellers. It’s form fitting, comfortable, and allows a good feel of the string. The Berlin Glove Company has it’s own version of the full-palm glove. It’s supple deerskin with reinforced fingertips. A little thicker than the regular Damascus glove, it offers a bit more finger protection. For that reason it has become a top seller.

Ed at Alaska Bowhunting Supply is always thinking. He took the basic Berlin Glove and improved it by creating the Super Glove. It is a Berlin style glove with Cordovan leather on the face of the fingers rather than a second layer of deerskin, is designed for those shooting medium to heavier bows. Cordovan leather enjoys a reputation of being the best leather anywhere for slick, smooth releases.

James at American Leathers is another of those folks who thinks outside the box. His Big Shot glove with its nylon-faced finger stalls have created quite a stir within traditional circles. The nylon he uses is durable, slick and greatly reduces the amount of friction between glove and bowstring resulting in faster arrow speeds and cleaner releases for most archers. It’s one of those ideas that make so much sense you wonder why it took so long for someone to think of it. His “Big Shot” gloves are available in your choice of top grain elk hide or premium buffalo hide. They’re about as good as it gets in shooting gloves.

What about archery tabs? If you’ve been around bows and arrows long enough, you’ll remember when everyone who was anyone was shooting the good old “can’t pinch” style tabs. If longevity is a measure of success, the “can’t pinch” tab may be the most successful form of finger protection of all time. We still sell literally thousands of them every year. They’re available in both smooth leather, and clipped calf hair.

Clipped calf hair tabs are slick and very affordable
Clipped calf hair tabs are slick and very affordable.

If you’re new to the “can’t pinch” concept, you may be wondering why they call them a “can’t pinch?” There’s a rubber spacer attached to the tab that’s positioned between the index finger and the next two fingers. This pad allows just enough friction between your fingers and the arrow nock for you to hold it, but it also keeps you from pinching the nock during your draw and release. It’s an excellent shooting aid and helps eliminate much of the archer’s error as far as a clean shot sequence goes. These are the workhorses of the tab world. Wyandotte Leather offers excellent examples of the standard “can’t pinch” tabs. They’re very reasonably priced, they function well, and they’re readily available.

Very well-made and quite well known, the Black Widow tab evolved from the respected Wilson Brothers tabs of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Black Widow tabs are available in either leather or calf hair in regular split-finger or even a 3-fingers under style. These tabs enjoy a loyal target archery following and there are quite a few bowhunters switching to them now as well. They offer an adjustable Velcro finger strap for a custom fit and have unique leather spacer pads included in the design. We highly recommend these tabs for bowhunters and target archers alike.

Top shooters have used Black Widow tabs for years
Top shooters have used Black Widow tabs for years.

Cordovan leather has long been recognized as the most slick, most durable, and most desirable leather for gloves and tabs available anywhere. Tabs made from cordovan leather are available in a split-finger, “can’t pinch” style as well as a 3-fingers under version. Dale has been shooting one of the regular split finger models for about three years now. He switched to these because, as he puts it, “They don’t wear out.” It’s hard to beat cordovan leather for gloves or tabs, not only does it give you great releases, it lasts for years. The EW Bateman Cordovan tabs utilize an elastic band for keeping them where you want them and a “can’t pinch” spacer for even finger pressure on your nocks. Tough and long lasting, Cordovan tabs are becoming the tab of choice for those bowhunters who prefer tabs.

This Cordovan tab is the favorite of Dale Karch.
This Cordovan tab is the favorite of Dale Karch.

There’s one in every crowd! They’re called “SAM” tabs or “Super Archery Mitts”. They’re not really a true tab or a glove. SAM tabs are more like a tab than a glove, but your fingers slide through the fingerstalls, allowing them to wrap completely around your fingers. Then, at the shot, they travel with your fingers much like the finger stalls on a glove. They’ve been proven to increase arrow speed and they’re quite comfortable. This has made them very popular with traditional bowhunters. They can even be slipped over thin hunting gloves when out in the field for double protection. Super Archery Mitts are especially popular with bowhunters and the 3-D crowd.

The SAM tab is a hy-brid cross.
The SAM tab is a hybrid cross.

So which is it? Ford or Chevy? Glove or tab? Regardless of your personal choice, they’re all good. The journey to find the perfect glove or tab is actually quite enjoyable. There’s the test-driving part, and lots of it. That means lots of arrows are flying and after all, that’s the best part of shooting bows isn’t it? If you’ve been stuck with one style for a long time, do yourself a favor; try some of the new ones. You never know when changing something as small as your glove or tab might improve your shooting.

Good Luck and straight shooting!

Keep Hunting
Dale Karch & Todd Smith

For more information contact:

3Rivers Archery
PO Box 517
Ashley IN 46705

or check us out on-line at