This article was written by Connor, one of our founding editors. Connor is a full-time travel and lifestyle photographer with extensive experience in the outdoors industry.
Snake tongs are ideal for grabbing and holding a snake from a safe distance, and are a particularly good choice for those with little to no experience handling snakes. They essentially act as an extension of the handler’s arm, which means that you must ensure you buy a high-quality product that gives you that range of motion you’re looking for.
Always look for tongs that are made of solid, yet lightweight materials that allow for optimal manoeuvrability. If you decide to go for a cheaper model, be aware that it will usually lead to quicker arm fatigue and you may also hurt the snake due to poor quality craftsmanship and materials.
The internet has plenty of terrible snake tongs out there, and it’s easy to see why. It’s easy to manufacture a low-cost tong, and to the untrained eye, tongs look pretty much the same. But they’re not. Unfortunately, the market is flooded with snake tongs that aren’t even good enough to pick up trash.
In this guide, we’ll point you to a few high-quality snake tongs that are worth looking at. We’ve added a few models that are a little kinder to the wallet, but we’ve purposefully steered clear of the bargain bucket items that may harm your snake and offer suboptimal performance.
When it comes to snake handling equipment, Midwest are undoubtedly one of the leading brands out there. This product is made in the USA, by a company that has been in the snake handling business for over 40 years. Let’s just say that they know what they’re doing.
We’re going to recommend the M-1 series as a solid go-to option here, not quite entry level pricing, but still affordable for most people. It’s built using aircraft-grade aluminum tubing; the tong just feels high quality, not like the many cheap imitations out there.
The jaw measures 1-inch in width, with the upper jaw featuring a nice rubber coating. There are no exposed springs or cables, and the mechanics are smooth. Some of the cheaper models can stick, and the springs don’t exactly look very reassuring. With the M-1, however, you’re good. You’ll easily be able to handle snakes without the risk of injury (on either side!).
When you buy a Midwest product, you can be sure that it’s a quality piece of kit, made of solid materials and with great craftsmanship. And in 2023, that’s not always easy to find when you’re shopping online. Sure, you may find cheaper models that look the same in photos, but they will not offer this level of quality.
This product’s length equals the M-1, but the difference is in the jaw construction, which is 2.25 inches wide, allowing you to handle larger snakes safely. The Gentle Giant has been tested with a range of larger species, and results show that, in general, snakes tend to be less combative and more relaxed when handled with these tongs.
This is primarily due to the grip materials and jaw width, which distributes the pressure applied on the snake. Further, the larger jaws are also safer, as smaller tongs can apply pressure to a snake’s ribs, often resulting in musculoskeletal injuries. If you want to handle a snake in the most humane way possible, we recommend this edition.
The Gentle Giant also makes it easier for the handler, making it far easier to apply and hold a grip. When handling faster snakes, such as water snake species, which are known to be very fast, these tongs are far superior to entry-level models.
It’s also made by Midwest, so the same points apply when it comes to craftsmanship and quality of materials. Bottom line, this is a fantastic product that won’t let you down.
These are one of the top-rated snake tongs on the market at the moment and are popular among handlers, pet owners, and herpers. At 47 inches long, they sit around average length which is what you want for handling most snakes. This provides you with enough length to stay at a safe distance as well as allowing you enough control over the snake.
The tube is sturdy and made out of aluminum alloy which helps to keep it lightweight. This is particularly useful if you need to carry the tongs around with you, e.g. when herping.
One of the best parts of these tongs is that the wire for the gripping mechanism is actually inside the aluminum tube, preventing you from snagging it on bushes. Many repairs on snake tongs are done simply because the wiring is external, rather than internal, and gets caught easily.
The ‘teeth’ on the jaw of the tongs are blunt so that they don’t harm the snake in any way yet provide good grip. The jaws are also wide enough not to cause any issues with hurting the snake.
Finally, the pistol-style handle is ergonomically designed to fit your hand well and not slip under wet or sweaty conditions. You will be able to feel in control and know how much pressure you are exerting.
This product is rated at five stars on Amazon with well over 100 reviews, suggesting that it is of high quality. Similarly, the tongs are 47 inches in length which are considered excellent for most snake-handling situations. Longer tongs would of course put you at a greater distance from a snake but would limit the control you have.
The tube is made out of lightweight aluminum alloy and is incredibly sturdy. Should you have any issues (which we doubt you will) then the product also comes with a repair kit, saving you from having to fork over for a new pair.
The pistol-shaped handle is comfortable and you will notice that the spring is smooth when you are gripping and releasing. Furthermore, the contoured grip means that it shouldn’t slip out of sweaty or wet hands very easily.
Serrated jaws are certainly becoming more popular in the tong world and that’s exactly what this product sports. The ‘teeth’, or serrated jaws, are designed to be smooth and not inflict any pain upon the snake while allowing you to move the snake with good grip.
These tongs come in a variety of different sizes which is perfect if you’re needing particularly small or large grabbers. They sit at a price range ($70 at the time of producing this guide) in between that of Midwest’s Gentle Giant tongs and the first ones we reviewed.
The anodized aluminum tube helps to prevent it from rust and is relatively lightweight. The fact that it is anodized also helps to thicken the aluminum tube, making it more durable.
These reptile grabbers have been designed to help you apply the most amount of pressure while still keeping the snake safe and out of any pain. A pistol grip handle means that you can operate it effectively single-handedly and can maintain a good grip.
Finally, the cables are contained within the tubing which is a standard we recommend you choose, simply because it means that there will be fewer issues out on the field and fewer repairs needed.
Although snake tongs are relatively simple devices, there are several considerations to take into account before adding them to your cart. They can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and some hold up far better than others. On top of that, some are much gentler on snakes whereas others can risk breaking a snake’s spine, which is the last thing you want to do.
In short, yes, size does matter but contrary to popular belief, longer isn’t always better.
Tongs in general can range anywhere from 24-70+ inches. If you’re not an experienced snake handler, you may believe that longer tongs are better. In truth, although long tongs increase the distance between you and the snake, the longer lever makes it much harder to control the snake. You may even have the opposite effect you desire because long tongs often mean that you need to use your other hand to handle the snake effectively, putting you at greater risk of being bitten.
Small tongs, on the other hand, make it far easier to control the snake but will put you much closer to the snake’s head, which is of course where the bite comes from.
There’s a good balance to be had, somewhere around the 40-inch mark for the average snake. Of course, be sensible enough to make your own decision. If you deem that you’re going to need more control and are happy to be closer to the snake, then opt for a smaller one.
Conversely, choose a long tong if you want to keep a distance for peace of mind or if you need to reach under a bush/ledge to reach the snake. Long tongs are ideal for reaching to places you otherwise wouldn’t want to with small ones or your hands.
The jaw, or clamp, of the snake tongs, dictates what the snake feels which makes it crucially important that you get one that isn’t going to hurt the snake. As well as keeping the snake safe, using tongs that don’t hurt the snake will make the whole handling process smoother. A snake in pain is a dangerous snake and they will be much more likely to strike out defensively.
So, how should you choose which jaw to go for? Your decision here can depend on the size of the snake you’re going to be handling. Narrow jaws, like Pilstrom ones, are better suited to smaller, slimmer snakes.
That said, often the smaller or thinner the jaw is, the more risk there is of injuring the snake because there is a more concentrated point of impact on the snake’s body. This means that if you’re not overly experienced, you run the risk of clamping too hard with this style of jaw.
Alternatively, there are plenty of high-quality tongs that sport a flatter and wider jaw. This style carries the least amount of risk of injury to the snake, ultimately leading to an easier handling process.
This style is suited to larger, thicker, and heavier snakes in order to cause the least amount of pain due to the increased surface area. The downside to using tongs in this style is that they’re a bit bulkier and not as easier to carry around.
In order to function, tongs need to have cables that run from the handle to the jaw. That’s what allows you to open and close them.
On some tongs, the cables are exposed which means that they can potentially be snagged in brush. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, however, it is worth considering whether you’d rather go for tongs which have their cables enclosed in the shaft.
Before we get into the technique of actually using the snake tongs, it is crucial that you remember a few golden rules.
Next, we’re going to talk about your technique. We actually produced a larger guide on how to use snake tongs, so if you want to read that, click the link. Otherwise, here are some of the key points to remember.
Your snake tongs can often be used more efficiently and safely alongside a snake hook. Firstly, aim to use the tongs to gain control over the head, as this is the part you don’t want to be struck by. Then, use your hook to control and support the snake’s mid-lower section.
Every movement should be slow and cautious, yet confident at the same time. A snake will sense if you’re moving too quickly and uneasily, putting it into a more defensive mode. The aim is to keep the snake as calm as you can, to cause it the least amount of distress and decrease the likelihood of it striking.
Top Tip: Whatever you do, never, ever pick up a snake near its head (did we say to never do this?). Go for the middle or thereabouts, as you otherwise risk serious injury to the snake.