We have seen a lot of new products hit the market in the belt kit category over the last year, with good reason. Starting from real development in the mid part of the GWOT, an assault belt has proven to be the way forward for many circumstances. For us, playing away games, an assault belt was a handy place to gain some real estate for all the tools of modern warfare. Not to mention, an excellent place for all the must-have survival tools, in case you had to drop your armor for mobility. For the civilian market, the belt kit has proven to be an excellent “one and only”. As in, it carries enough stuff to sustain you in even a protracted fight, with no need for supplemental vests/armor/etc.
Ex Umbris designs have stepped into this void with a fantastic new design. Founded by a retired Special Forces soldier, they have expertise on hand gained from real-world experience. Which is reflected in the product that comes out the door. The Ex Umbris assault belt is as close to a work of art in nylon as you are likely to find. (Marilyn Monroe fans, please, this isn’t that kind of website.)
This assault belt is a rigid 2-inch model, which provides plenty of strength without bulk. It has micro MOLLE loops to cut down on weight while remaining durable enough for whatever you throw at it. A 50mm AustriAlpin buckle keeps it secure, with a 4000-pound rating. If this comes apart, so did you. A 1.5 or 2 inch inner Velcro belt keeps the outer belt securely in place, no matter what kind of shenanigans you are up to. Available in a wide variety of colors, we opted to test Multicam Tropic and Multicam Arid.
For pouches to support our Ex Umbris belt, we turned to Esstac. I will readily admit that this was first done solely because they make pouches in Multicam Tropic, and we wanted a matching belt kit for once. But it proved to be fortuitous because Esstac makes some fantastic products. Now that I have one, I can easily see why their famous “Kiwi” pouches are so popular.
The Esstac Kiwi comes in either tall or short, depending on retention needs. Further, they use a proprietary Kydex insert to create friction retention. The result is a magazine that is readily accessible, yet retained well enough for all manner of crazy cardio events. They fit extremely snug to your belt, reducing overall width, and are very well built. I am a fan, and I can see now why they are frequently sold out.
As cool as the double stack Kiwi is, the 40 degree pistol mag pouch was the real star of the show from Esstac. This pouch takes two pages from the USPSA world and does so in spectacular fashion. Have you ever noticed that all the top competitors in pistol have their reloads angled, at least if their class allows it? That is because a 40-degree angle is pretty much ideal for grabbing a reload, in terms of how your hand naturally sets. The Esstac does this for you now in a tactical style pouch and can mount to either a belt like the Ex Umbris or a normal EDC belt. The second page? Esstac is the first to incorporate a magnet into the front of the pouch, another competitor trick. The magnet makes it very easy to retain a partially empty reload, for later use. It is not only faster than going to a dump pouch but keeps it handy in case it’s needed later.
Finally, we turned to our latest find in the world of custom Kydex holsters, Red Balloon Industries. Red Balloon has already been on our radar earlier this year, notably for their willingness to make holsters for odd guns. Chiappa Rhino’s, Desert Eagles, 80% Not Glocks, Hi Points- all that stuff. But they also make very good holsters for normal guns, like grown-ups carry. For our belts, we picked one normal setup and one custom.
The “normal” gun setup was for a SIG P320 X Carry. For this model, we picked a drop-off set belt slide, which is great for using a belt kit in addition to armor. We also chose the QLS option to not only push the gun away from the body for an easier draw stroke, but in case we want to change pistols later. The QLS plate makes it a snap to swap out the holster while keeping the belt slid in place. No disassembly is required. Red Balloons Coruda wrap is also available in Multicam Tropic, really rounding out the look. (Murphy’s law that the side with the most matching uniforms usually wins? I don’t know about that one, Chief. We looked like a rabble of mismatched camo patterns for most of the GWOT. Also, let’s pretend the fall of Afghanistan took longer than 5 minutes after we withdrew.)
For our Multicam Arid setup, I actually tried to give the owner of Red Balloon industries an aneurysm. You know how I am always saying that a P365 or a Hellcat is an acceptable substitute for a full-sized pistol? I mean it. So I had them craft a belt slide holster for my P365. Yes, to go on a real boy war belt. Because in most cases of “things are so real I needed to slap on a war belt”, that is plenty of pistol. It is smaller, lighter, and just as capable of doing the job in a war context as anything else. The only reason you would be using a pistol in a combat situation is either your rifle jammed, or you ran it dry at close range. In which case drawing a secondary is faster than reloading, for most of us. And for either of those, the 15+1 in the P365 is fine. Red Balloon will even make it with retention if you ask.
All in all, this is a pretty fantastic setup. If you have been looking for a war belt kit, this one will do it without breaking the bank. Tell them Clay sent ya, and if they hang up, call back and say you found them via Google search. I guarantee you won’t regret the purchase.