Snake bite poof gloves: A clarification

This is an excerpt from a larger article published on my website: Snake Bite Protection Gloves.

I found out that not only the information from dealers but even from the manufacturer are the cause of this confusion. The following pictures are screenshots from the online catalog of HexArmor (see http://www.hexarmor.com) where two models of Hercules gloves are presented. The first, called R8E, is cut, puncture and also needle stick resistant, the second – 400R6E – is only cut and puncture resistant.

The original “venom defender” gloves by HexArmor, USA (Screenshot from http://www.hexarmor.com)

The current model of gloves with long gauntlets by HexArmor is not needle puncture resistant. (Screenshot from http://www.hexarmor.com)

Not only the product image is the same but also the use purpose: Both these gloves are recommended for use in animal handling. The flyer about HexArmour Hercules 400R6E is telling us: “These gloves are no stranger to dangerous applications such as handling razorwire or protecting from animal bites.” (see it here). Indeed, the 400R6E seems to be more popular because it does what the manufacturer promises in most use situations and costs less than a half of the cost of the other model. According to the product flyer, the gloves R8E are designed for use in animal handling and veterinary as well (see here). The only difference is the needle stick resistance. Apparently, the R8E gloves were not so frequently ordered as 400R6E, and HexArmor stopped their regular production a couple of years ago. Now, they are distributed by the UK company Polyco and manufactured in small quantities on request.

HexArmor Hercules R8E (or model 3180) were those gloves that became famous as snake bite resistant. They were the gloves that king cobras, puff adders, black mambas and many other highly dangerous snakes are biting and chewing on hundreds of photographs and videos throughout the Internet. Hercules R8E are now rare and very expensive. I do not know exactly how their production and distribution is organised. The gloves are still labeled as HexArmor but it looks like Polyco (that distributes many kinds of protection wear and even has own brands) currently has exclusive rights for their worldwide distribution. Therefore HexArmor is saying on the website that the interested buyers should contact Polyco for pricing and availability. Apparently zoos are the main market niche for the R8E gloves. Another UK company 121 Animal Handling Products supplies them to end customers and sells online via the website snakeprofessional.com as “Venom Defender Gloves”. There is a number of small dealers in other countries who resell the gloves to a little higher prices. For instance, in Germany it is zooprofis.de.

The so often rising question about the “right” gloves, quality concerns, and even rumours about accidents may indicate that some people bought and keep buying wrong gloves, i.e. the model 400R6E. Not only the manufacturer who stopped production of R8E (3180) but also the dealers do not sufficiently explain the differences and never point at a possibility of a mistake. Some newer dealers may even not know that another very similar looking model of gloves has been produced and sold some time ago and that it was so different. They just praise the 400R6E as protection from almost everything without any warning that they are not designed for use with venomous snakes. Even some specialised suppliers of tools for reptile keepers and herpetologists were offering 400R6E gloves. When I bought mine in 2010, the same gloves could be ordered in the online shop of Midwest Tongs, in zooprofis.de and even on shows in Hamm and Hauten. Priced at 180 – 220€, even these, “cheaper”, gloves were expensive in Europe. I got my 400R6E gloves from a supplier of industrial protection wear. I knew that they were not needle stick resistant. However, no better options were around, and I even did not know that better gloves may exist. Apparently many reptile keepers did not know it too and were buying 400R6E gloves regarding they as a better protection than welder gloves anyway.

I used my 400R6E gloves with viperids up to 60–70 cm long. The snakes were biting the gloves but the teeth were never getting through or even into the fabric. I suppose that the teeth never got in the spaces between armour plates. A 400R6E glove is very well lined and padded inside, hence a short tooth may even not reach the hand if it gets through the SuperFarbirc® layer. When I was holding a large and 15 kg heavy cactus Carnegia gigantea some of its long and hard needles got through the glove and pricked my hands a little but did not puncture the skin. I assume that a 400R6E glove would prevent a snake tooth from sticking into the hand as well. However, there is, of course, not so strong confidence in that as with a glove that is designed for needle stick protection.

Meanwhile, Midwest Tongs stopped selling 400R6E gloves and seems not offer any bite protection gloves at the moment. Some other suppliers of herpetological and reptile keeping tools still sell 400R6E. The prices in Europe increased to as much as 360 € in some shops. The cheapest offer that I recently saw in one online shop was for 170 €. The price increase can be explained by currently low exchange rate of the euro, but also by the offers of much more expensive R8E (3180) gloves that appeared recently again. It seems like some dealers are again trying to sell their 400R6E for the price of R8E (3180) making use of confusion of buyers and not emphasising the difference.

Of course, 400R6E are great gloves. They provide adequate protection for handling of small mammals, birds with sharp claws, small crocodiles, monitors and other large lizards, as well as most snakes. However, the users should be cautious and not expect from them as high level of protection as from R8E (3180) gloves. This should be always clear to everyone, and someone who buys 400R6E should know all the limitations and try not to go beyond particularly when handling large and aggressive venomous snakes. He or she should not be mislead by pictures of snakes viciously biting HexArmor gloves because those gloves are different! Unfortunately too few people seem to know this. Thus, every new bite accident or just a report of someone whose glove, but not hand(!), got punctured by a snake tooth causes a next wave of discussions and doubts in usefulness of gloves.

It is strange to see how the policy of the manufacturer and the dealers who do not sufficiently inform the customers harms the image of a product. HexArmor knows, of course, that the Hercules R8E became standard gloves for snake handling and that they are often confused with Hercules 400R6E. To see this, you need just to search the Internet for “HexArmor Hercules R8E”: At least a half of search results would be showing HexArmor 400R6E. Yet HexArmor could avoid this confusion if they would make one of these models look clearly different than the other: It may be colour, overall design, labels, product name, etc. This would not only further improve the image the product but also prevent potentially life threatening accidents. It surprises me that HexArmor has not done it in so many years.

For me it was also difficult to distinguish the two HexArmor Hercules models till I got both and could compare them side by side. By the way, my confusion and poor availability of better alternatives on the market made me purchase Hercules 400R6E in 2010.

The best way to ensure that you have got real HexArmor Hercules R8E (3180) is to order them from snakeprofessional.com. Currently they sell the gloves for 249 £ plus shipment under the name Venom Defender Animal Handling Gloves (Hercules™ 3180 R8E) Most probably you won’t find a lower price for new gloves elsewhere because 121 Animal Handling Products and snakeprofessional.com are the primary retailer of this product. The prices in other stores are at least the same, but often even higher.

If you come across a good offer elsewhere, first you should ensure that what you are buying are really the gloves R8E (a.k.a 3180). The seller may even not know the difference himself and have just Hercules 400R6E. I have seen offers of 400R6E gloves on Amazon and eBay for 500 $! To distinguish between these two models, look at the description of the offer and find the following information:

  1. The model name should contain the code R8E and 3180, or at least one of both.
  2. The description should contain the statement that the gloves are “needle stick resistant”
  3. If it is an official HexArmor dealer, there may be one of these pictures:

The gloves provide needle stick protection over the entire hand and forearm, i.e. are of model R8E

The gloves provide needle stick protection over the entire hand and forearm, i.e. are of model R8E

The gloves provide no needle stick protection, but only cut and puncture protection all over the hand and forearm, i.e. are of the model 400R6E

The gloves provide no needle stick protection, but only cut and puncture protection all over the hand and forearm, i.e. are of the model 400R6E

“Orange” means “very good”. “Blue” is still “good”, but it means that the gloves are Hercules 400R6E, and you should not pay more than 200–250 euros for a pair. Someone who is requesting more wants to cheat you.

If the description reads like of real venom defenders, take a look at the gloves. Even if it is a photograph, you should recognise that they are black and not dark grey. See a comparison on these pictures:

HexArmor Hercules 400R6E (left) and R8E (right) - palm side compared

HexArmor Hercules 400R6E (left) and R8E (right) – palm side compared

HexArmor Hercules 400R6E (left) and R8E (right) - back side compared.

HexArmor Hercules 400R6E (left) and R8E (right) – back side compared.

In older versions of both models the cuffs had a blue border, and the HexArmor label was hexagonal. Now, the company has a different design of the logo, and the label is rectangular, as shown on the pictures below. The border of the cuffs is now black (at least in R8E): Even if it is shown as blue on product photographs, it will be most probably black in the gloves that you receive, unless you have purchased an older model. Note also the difference in the fabric structure that is clearly recognisable in the photographs below.

Label on a Hercules R8E glove.

Label on a Hercules R8E glove.

Label on a Hercules 400R6E glove.

Label on a Hercules 400R6E glove.

The model name can be found on tags inside the gloves. The information that the tag provides is also different in each of two models.

Tag inside a Hercules R8E glove.

The tag inside a R8E glove.

Tag inside Hercules 400R6E glove.

Tag inside Hercules 400R6E glove.

Even if the first HexArmor Hercules gloves might be manufactured in the USA, all other were in Asia. The tag in my older 400R6E is telling that they were manufactured in China. The newer R8E are from Pakistan.

Read the whole text of this article here: Snake Bite Protection Gloves.

About Arthur Tiutenko
Nature Photographer and Illustrator

7 Responses to Snake bite poof gloves: A clarification

  1. Raz says:

    Great post, thank you

  2. Gary Brown says:

    Hi Arthur, I have been going through many posts and sale sites, trying to understand why some sell the 8, and Hex only the 6, why the one with the better test scores was not the better glove etc you have calirfied exactly what I was asking. It also looks like the label has also been changed on the 6, and even the cuff, so even more confusing on some posts, The manufacturer should add a red band to the venom defender. Did you look at any of the other models thye make (Hercules NSR 3041, also Orange rated), with needle stick properties, and also the needle resistant arm guard (Yellow rated) they sell? very informative, thank you

    • Gary Brown says:

      an update to this, the R8 label showing needle stick, is showing it to be blue, and not orange, http://www.safetygloves.co.uk/hexarmor-hercules-r8e-3180-venomous-snake-handling-gloves.html , there is no longer any reference to the R8 on Hex’s own site, an error perhaps? I will be emailing this seller for a comment

    • Hi Gary,
      I had ordered NSR 3041 but sent them back. They seem to be just like R8E but short. A big advantage is that they are “cheap”. For someone who isn’t afraid to be bitten in the arm they may be just fine. Of course, such risk is relatively low. Among people whom I know who were bitten by captive snakes all were bitten in a finger or the hand. So I think for snake keepers/breeders such short gloves may be good enough. I use my gloves for catching snakes and handling them in wilderness. Therefore I got the R8E, for imporved safety.

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