An antibacterial hydrogel wound dressing was successfully synthesized by the gamma irradiation method. A gelatin solution was mixed with a poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) solution of similar concentrations at different weight ratios of 100 : 0, 80 : 20, and 60 : 40 w/w, and irradiated at 30, 40, or 50 kGy. The testing of physical properties showed that the addition of PVA could improve both durability and mechanical integrity. The 60 : 40 hydrogels irradiated at 30 kGy were optimal, and chosen to add silver nitrate at 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, or 1.00 wt % (based on the solid content) to improve the antibacterial properties. After gamma irradiation, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) were formed. The AgNP/gelatin/PVA hydrogels were characterized for physical properties, cytotoxicity, and antibacterial activity. The AgNP/gelatin/PVA hydrogels could be used as antibacterial wound dressings because they exhibited appropriate physical properties, noncytotoxicity, and could inhibit the growth of tested bacteria. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 41138.