Almost everybody who wears pants has at least one belt. If not for holding their pants up, then just for fashion. But did you ever put much thought into what the belt has to do? We don’t just wear them for trouser support anymore. Now they’re used for support of all sorts of paraphernalia. Things like cell phones, cameras, flashlights, knives, tool pouches,and a lot more. And do you know what? These pouches are very commonly referred to as “holsters”. At least they used to be.
Belts have been a very critical part of everyday use for a long time. They need to be pretty substantial for a lot of us (like me) with a little larger girth.
Video: What to Look for in a concealed carry gun belt
Those of us who carry a handgun as part of our everyday dress know much more how important a good belt can be. Most of the carry weapons are held in place hanging from a belt. This belt has to be strong enough and wide enough to support the weapon completely free of any other device. Some of us, probably most of us, also carry at least one extra magazine of ammo on the belt in another ‘holster’ along with a flashlight. Many belts appear to be satisfactory for this purpose at first glance, but will they stand the test of time and use? Maybe not.
Leather has been used to make belts for centuries. They’re made with cow hide, horse hide, elephant hide, snakeskin, and lots of other animal materials. For the support needed, they are made quite thick and stiff. Some are double-layered and some have metal or plastic inserted between two layers of leather. Whatever it takes to make them strong enough to do the job. And they must ‘look good’.
Below, let’s look at a selection of leather belts. Some are specifically referred to as “gunbelts”.
Leather belts come in a great many sizes and styles. Some are suitable to support a gun but most of them aren’t. A good gunbelt should be at least an inch and a half wide and two, or even three, layers thick. Some gunbelts are an inch and three-quarters wide.
Ballistic nylon was first developed by the Dupont Corporation way back during WWII. It was used in making protective clothing for the military and was referred to as Flak Jackets. The fabric was quite thick and heavy and guarded soldiers from shrapnel and other fragmented material. However, it didn’t stop bullets. For this purpose, it was replaced in later years by Kevlar and a few other bullet-resistant materials.
In the late 1970’s, leather gave way to ballistic nylon and later other synthetic materials like Porvair and even plastics. Outfits like Michaels of Oregon… “Uncle Mike’s” made entire rigs out of nylon including the holster, gun belt, ammo pouches and all the rest. Very soon other manufacturers began to follow suit and many departments dropped their heavy leather belts and accessories in favor of lighter weight (and cheaper) nylon outfits.
For the past two years, I have been wearing a nylon holster made by Uncle Mike’s. I also have one from 5.11 Tactical and they both do a great job. I do prefer the Uncle Mike’s because it’s a little thicker and the velcro is wider and holds better. Both Uncle Mike’s and 5.11 Tactical make several belts of ballistic nylon and leather for differing duty requirements and personal preference.
Uncle Mike’s Deluxe Duty Belt
Uncle Mike’s Reinforced Instructor’s Belt
Uncle Mike’s Tactical Rigger’s Belt
Uncle Mike’s 3-Gun Competition Belt
5.11 Tactical 1.5″ Trainer Belt
5.11 Tactical 1.5″ TDU Belt
5.11 Womens’ 1.25″ Athena Belt
5.11 Sierra Bravo Duty Belt Kit
There are many other brands making both leather and ballistic nylon belts, as well as holsters in both materials. These are the two I am experienced with and I like them both. I also have a couple of Uncle Mike’s nylon holsters which do a great job. The main drawback to a nylon holster is that they don’t hold their shape after you draw the weapon. Therefore, it may take both hands to reholster.
If you’re looking for a sturdy belt that will support your gun and holster, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Blackhawk Instructor’s Belt – Inexpensive option for a nylon gun belt.
Ares Gear Ranger Belt – Crazy durable nylon belt with a Cobra QR buckle.
The Wilderness Frequent Flyer Belt – Nylon gun belt with a polymer loops instead of a traditional buckle. Won’t set off metal detectors.
Crossbreed Belts – A line of leather gun belts from the makers of the popular Crossbreed holsters.
Galco – One of the oldest holster makers in the country offers leather belts in several different widths.
Safariland – a rich heritage in the law enforcement and sporting markets for 50 years
Uncle Mike’s – We pioneered the use of nylon in holsters more than 20 years ago and truly revolutionized the industry.
5.11 Tactical – Makers of gun accessories as well as a clothing line and many other products.
What to Expect When Shopping for a Gun Belt
You can expect to pay no less than $30-40 for a quality gun belt used for concealed carry. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend a couple hundred dollars or more if you prefer a leather belt made from some exotic animal hide. Whatever your price range, just remember, the heavier the gun the more rigid your belt needs to be. You’ll definitely want to take comfort into consideration as well, and if the belt is too rigid, you may not want to wear it. After all, the more comfortable the gun belt, the less likely it is to become a hurdle that keeps you from carrying every day.
As always, if you have any recommendations on a good gun belt, I’d love to hear them and I’m sure other shooters would as well. Be sure to let me know in the comments below.