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Midwest sells a pair of heavy-duty gloves, lined with ballistic Kevlar that I use for snake handling purposes. And while Midwest doesn't guarantee them to be puncture proof, I have on many occasions (hundreds) had various species to chew on them while my hands were still inside. However, I didn't start doing this without some extensive testing of their puncture resistant capabilities. When I started testing the gloves, I suspected that vipers would not be able to get through the leather, but that elapids would. This was based on the fact that, despite vipers having longer fangs, they are more likely to snap in half and also that vipers don't have much jaw power to begin with. However, the stubby elapid fangs combined with incredibly strong jaws meant that they probably could, given enough chewing time, penetrate the gloves.

To test my theory, I took double layered surgical gloves, filled them up with water and froze them overnight. I then took the gloves and let them defrost a little so that there was a thin water layer. The feel was then approximately the same as the human hand. I put them in the gloves and tested them against very large adult specimens of rattlesnakes, monocled cobras and even king cobras. The results were as follows:

Rattlesnakes - I used 2 western diamondbacks with the usual "friendly" temperament that makes these snakes so loved. Both of them were very aggressive and really went for it. After well over a dozen full on strikes, I took the surgical glove out of the Midwest glove and gave it a squeeze….Incredibly, there were no punctures at all in the surgical glove. However, I do suspect that the gloves probably shouldn't be used to continually deflect full speed strikes. After all, the needle was able to puncture the gloves to sew them together. And it is possible that a fang traveling 220 feet per second could directly hit a seam, and then your finger or hand.

Bryan FryMonocled cobra - they initially "snap bit" the gloves a number of times, and there were no punctures. Then they had a good chew (approx twenty seconds), also with no punctures. I then held the Midwest glove and squeezed it so that the latex gloved was pressed very very hard against the inside, and placed the cobra's mouth right up to it and let it chew to its hearts delight. It took a full thirty seconds before it was able to work its way through and puncture the latex. This scenario of course would not happen in an actual bite. If the snake was chewing that long, the keeper would have plenty of time to remove his/her hand and let the snake chew away on the glove.

King cobra - the snake really had a go at the glove a half dozen times, but it couldn't find the perfects angle so wasn't able to make it through.

Thus, I would say that these gloves work like a charm and are quite likely to stop just about any strike that would occur. Given enough time, however, an elapid would be able to work its way through. This is unlikely to result in an envenomation to a keeper due to the time delay.

My career requires that I handle large vipers and elapids on a regular basis, and I do take much comfort in knowing that the gloves are highly puncture resistant. But I always keep in mind that they aren't guaranteed to be puncture "proof", and so should you!

Bryan G. Fry, Ph.D.
Australian Venom Research Unit in the Dept. of Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne