Hey all, Julian Schuetze here on behalf of the collective.
I've been using my progauntlets for about 6 months now - almost every sparring session and sometimes even in general training. I wanted to use the gloves for a significant amount of time before sharing my thoughts on them, to avoid adding to the list of first impressions. So far, my opinions are mixed, but not for the same reasons as others who are dissatisfied with the gloves. Personally, I still love mine and feel that they were worth it despite the issues I've had so far. The protection is excellent and the dexterity feels amazing to me. I have a hard time going back to clamshell gloves after using these. They are well-constructed and the engineering behind them is impressive. However, it's not all sunshine and roses, and there are definitely things worth discussing. I'm not sure if I'm comfortable calling this a "review," so I'll use the term "overview" instead because it's more of an informal stream of consciousness than a traditional review. There's lots of little details that other reviews have covered very well (such as how do the gloves fit certain sword guards, closeups of the joints, mobility demonstrations, etc), so I'll leave you to go watch those because there's nothing I can say better than they can, and it would just be bloat. I will probably do a video to supplement this at some point when I have some time and remember to do so.
Before I get into anything else, I want to clarify that my hand dimensions are almost perfect according to Crossguard's standards, so I'm definitely within the intended demographic for these gloves. In my opinion, this means that I should be more picky about them since I can't use the excuse of "my hands are too big/small" for any of the issues. However, I do think my hands/fingers are a bit on the thick side for them. It took a bit for the glove and rubber straps around the fingers to break in a little bit because when I first got the gloves, it felt like there was a lot of pressure on my hands when I closed them - not so much anymore. So if you have some real thicc hands - but everything is the correct length, this may not fit you. It's really best if you can try a pair before buying, but that's not always reasonable.
One thing that's great about these gloves is the mobility. They offer just as much dexterity as lacrosse gloves. Protection is also excellent. I've taken some really hard hits on my fingers while using these gloves which didn't hurt at all. I've taken some of those same shots while wearing the Kvetun Xiphosuras, which are clamshell gloves, and they hurt more than they did with the progauntlets. But with these gloves, I didn't feel any pain and felt very safe and confident. So overall, I'd give them an A+ for protection & mobility. But....we all know that.
Durability - this is the hot topic, yeah? These are $480usd on Purpleheart Armoury, which is quite the investment. Especially since the HF Armory Black Knight gauntlets are $199usd and are the best clamshells you can get right now in my opinion (You can check my review of them here). I have seen countless reports of people's gloves breaking very quickly, with varying degrees of severity. Currently, my gloves lasted 6 months before any issues arose, where I had 1 strap break in the knuckle plates, and 1 screw fell out.
A very high quality, detailed explanation of how the rubber strap replacement went. Looped it around the bottom bit, both sides went through a singular hole in the fabric, and then out two holes in the knuckle plate at the top. The right strap I jammed in the hole that the left strap was poking out of (2), and then jammed the left strap into the hole that the right strap was poking out of (3). Everything was a very tight fit and was annoying to do (see below) but wasn't too bad.
It's hard to say if 6 months is an acceptable time frame for issues of this severity to arise with these gloves. They are more complicated than clamshell gloves, so more maintenance is to be expected. Personally, I'm not too bothered by these issues. Finding and putting the screw back in took me maybe 2 minutes. In the spare parts bag, I found a rubber strap that was identical to the one that broke. Common failure point maybe? It was far more annoying to replace - I had to use some of my very thin hex wrenches to help push the strap through and pull on the loops to pull them through, etc. It wasn't that bad, took me a few minutes. So, for me? No big deal, I was expecting to have to do these kinds of things every once in a while. If someone wasn't used to gear repair? This would have been much more difficult and frustrating. So your milage may vary a lot here.
That being said, I've seen other people's gloves fall apart far more catastrophically after being used far less. That, obviously, is less acceptable. So right now, it does feel like it's a bit of a gamble how durable your gloves are when you get a pair - and the severity of what breaks seems to also vary. It does seem to me though that the newer generations are lasting much longer than previous ones though. There was a while around a year ago when a bunch of people were saying their gloves were breaking badly within a week. Unusable within a couple months. But...my clubmates and I were on the same order (4 of us) and I'm the first one who experienced issues after 6 months - theirs are still going fine. So I'm not sure what to say there, other than I'm interested in hearing how future orders fare. Perhaps some early growing pains? Hard to tell...we'll see.
I am a little concerned about the durability of the underglove - especially on the thumb. Some areas are showing wear quite quickly. While it's not an issue yet, it's possible that a hole could start poking through in the future. A dead underglove isn't the death of the entire pair of gloves, in theory you could replace it, but it would probably be a nightmare considering the many little straps and tendon like connection points. I could see it taking a day for me to replace it since I'm not familiar at all with the full extent of the construction. At the moment, I feel like the material shouldn't show this much wear after only 6 months of use, but it's possible that the surface damage is just cosmetic and the material will still hold up despite it.
It's worth noting that part of the price of these gloves includes customer support. If you have problems, Crossguard is quick to respond and helpful in fixing the issues. Many people who have had issues with other gloves report getting a "damn that sucks" response from the manufacturer, but almost everyone I know who had issues with their Progauntlets got a quick reply and, if replacement parts were needed, they were sent out quickly and were given good quality instructional videos. However, it's worth mentioning that some repairs can be difficult and may not be suitable for people who aren't particularly crafty. If the prospect of difficult repairs doesn't appeal to you, then these gloves may not be the best choice as repairs appear to be eventually inevitable.
There are a few other issues that I and some of my clubmates have with these gloves. One issue is that the texture of the underglove is very soft and not grippy at all. Everyone in our group who ordered these gloves feels like they have a harder time holding onto the swords than they should, and one person actually sold their gloves because of it. It's definitely noticeable to me how much more I have to use my hand strength to hold onto the sword compared to other gloves. While it wasn't a dealbreaker for me, it's definitely an area that could be improved.
Another issue is with the wrist cuffs. Another club member and I have had quite a bit of trouble with these. They don't have the bell or hourglass design where the cuffs flare out and are rather sleek. Some of us found that this interferes with our jacket sleeves. If your sleeves are a bit long, there's nowhere for them to go. You can't really put them underneath the underglove because it's a tight fit and causes the sleeve of the jacket to jam up. You also can't put it over the cuff. Overall, this forces the sleeve material back, which bunches up on your arms and ultimately wants to push the glove off your hands. It's very uncomfortable. I had to tailor my jacket sleeves and cut off a couple inches specifically because of this. However, now when I bend my wrist, there is exposed skin on my arm. My friend hasn't had his jacket tailored for it and he doesn't use the gloves anymore because of it. For everyone else in the club, the gloves do push the jacket sleeves up, but it's not enough to cause significant annoyance and stop them from using the gloves, though they do find it annoying. I wish these gloves had taken into account the sleeves of our jackets because they don't work well with them for any of us.
Edit: Since I put out this overview, I've had over 3 people mention how they had this issue as well. There's nowhere for the jacket sleeves to go so they just gets pushed up. They never really mentioned it because they assumed it was just a bad fit on their end - but this does seem to be a general problem with the design. Depending on your sleeve length, forearm/elbow kit, this problem seems to range between mildly annoying, to literally unusable. I'd be interested in hearing from Crossguard about what their thoughts are about this - where are the jacket sleeve supposed to go? It can't go inside the glove...it can't go outside...soooo....
On a completely separate note, here are some issues that other people have had with these gloves that I personally do not have a problem with:
I want to emphasize that I'm not trivializing these issues, but just offering my perspective for anyone who is considering these gloves and looking at a variety of reviews to make a decision.
Finally I wanted to talk a little bit about whether these gloves actually are for you or not. The Progauntlets offer unparalleled dexterity compared to other gloves on the market. However, it's important to question whether that extra dexterity will actually make significant improvements in your fencing in the ways that you're hoping for. Factors such as measure control, wrist structure when blocking or cutting, decision-making during the handwork phase, and understanding of tempo and initiative - none of these require hand dexterity to do well in, and none are impeded by lack thereof. These gloves won't magically improve your fencing if you're still new and improving in these areas. While the gloves may make some techniques/guards easier to perform, they won't help you correctly implement them at the right time and place. These gloves won't boost your abilities - instead, think of these as reducing how much your gear inhibits your movement. If that sounds worthwhile to you, then these gloves might be a good choice. However, it's important to consider whether the price is justified for the benefits they offer.
I (poorly) made a very serious and completely inclusive flow chart to help your decision whether you should get the progauntlets or not:
When demonstrated this way, it does seem like the gloves have a lot going against them. But, I feel that's almost entirely due to the price. If these were $200, I wouldn't be talking about nearly any of these issues to the depth that I am. I would just say "hell yeah, go get them". But, as it stands, these gloves are pretty much the same price as flying out and competing at an event. They are objectively, a significant investment and might be the most expensive piece of your kit (sword included). For me to have the position where I can influence someone as to whether or not they should make a $480 purchase is a bit daunting because there IS room for these gloves to disappoint. I'm happy with mine, but I know others that aren't.
Edit: I totally forgot to mention that I ended up selling my left glove because I found the extra dexterity on the off-hand to not actually be that helpful. I sparred a few times with the progauntlet on my right hand, and HF gauntlet on my left, and found barely any difference. I decided that I'd rather have the $240 instead, so I sold the left hand to a left handed person so they could have the same setup. I'd honestly like to see Crossguard offer an option to buy 1, or 2 gloves. Although having both gloves is definitely cool, it's so much harder to justify $480 for two when $240 for one is basically the same.
I hope you found this very long ramble helpful to some extent and you were able to pick out some bits of information from the slog that you found interesting.
We acknowledge that The Historical Combat Collective operates on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Kwikwetlem, Sto:lo and Songhees First Nations Peoples. We are grateful to have the opportunity to gather, work, and train on this land.