Gun belts just might be one of the most overlooked and neglected pieces of gear among gun owners. There’s no shortage of guys holstering up with low-quality, droopy cloth belts or skinny dress belts and there is also a multitude of women showing off their supposed EDC on social media, clipped onto their shorts with no belt whatsoever. The end result is predictable: the weight of the gun drags the wearer’s waistband down. Oddly enough it seems the wearer is oblivious to the issue. It is a problem, though. The use of a proper gun belt is vital. A good belt keeps your holstered gun close to your body without allowing it to slip, shift, fall or otherwise fail. Isn’t keeping your gun secure your responsibility?
So, which gun belts are the current frontrunners – and why? Read on to find out which manufacturers are leading the pack and what belts they make that might best fit your needs.
No, you can’t just go to the store and grab a random belt. Belts created for heavy-duty use outside the gun world are rarely going to handle a gun. Belts designed specifically for carrying tend to have stiffeners such as ABS, steel, or Kydex; belts made for not-a-gun use are often just thick, not properly reinforced. Stiffeners do it all including stopping the belt from twisting or sagging while also distributing the weight of your holstered gun and spare mags evenly. That leather Walmart belt is going to collapse around your gun at increasingly worse levels (and it can happen fast, even immediately).
Thickness is something to consider with gun belts. Those designed for heavier loads – think competition or LE – are wider, thicker, and reinforced. Remember, they are not one-size-fits-all. The loops on your holster will fit certain belts but not necessarily every belt. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear narrow belts ever again; companies like Galco Gunleather offer well-made dress-style gun belts that work well.
Material is something the gun industry loves to argue about amongst themselves. Leather-versus-nylon gun belt debates are never-ending. Here’s the thing: each has its uses and can work well. Personally, I prefer quality leather but I do have nylon belts in my collection. Leather often helps you blend in a bit more; wearing leather doesn’t scream “gun” it simply says “belt.” Nylon gun belts tend to have a more tactical look. That is not to say you cannot or should not wear them but only to be aware the design might call more attention to you. The Gray Man concept might seem cliched but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Things to look for in a leather belt include internal stiffeners or double-thickness designs, rugged stitching or reinforced stitching, and full-grain or top-grain leather. In nylon, check out belts that are rigid, double-layered, and have stiffeners. Stitching for nylon should be like stitching in leather: uniform with zero fraying and, ideally, double-stitching. The belt should be stiff enough to keep its shape.
A word on hardware: yes, it matters. Buckles and fasteners aren’t all created equally. The metal used for your belt’s hardware must be tough enough it can’t be bent by hand – yes, I’ve seen a few metal buckles and prongs I could bend with minimal effort. It’s rare, but it does happen. As for the different buckle styles, there are a lot of them out there and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Prong-style buckles should be long enough to stay in place; cobra-style or similar buckles shouldn’t be too easy to open. Your buckle shouldn’t pop open at the tiniest bit of pressure or twisting. It would be great if your belt stayed in place during force-on-force, grappling, and a fight for control of a gun, wouldn’t it?
Adjustability. Leather belts should have a minimum of half a dozen holes; nylon should be adjustable at significant length beyond just an inch or two. Nylon belts are made ratchet-style and with Velcro. Both options work, although, for me, ratchet-style has proven more secure. Necessary length is going to depend on how you carry, too. For IWB carry you need a longer belt than you do for just walking around with no gun tucked in your waistband. Galco Gunleather advises you measure a belt you already have from the end of its buckle to the hole you use then round up to the closest even size. Oh, and you need a little more length if you carry not only your gun but a magazine holster IWB.
This is a two-fer. Galco Gunleather is often seen as the purveyor of all things leather – it’s even in the company’s name – but they do make good quality Kydex and nylon products. Their Heavy Duty Instructors Belt is one such option. It’s 1 ½-inches thick and constructed from SCUBA webbing with a drop-forged parachute-spec buckle with a Robar Roguard finish. You could say it’s made to last. It maintains its shape and rigidity well and is offered for up to a 49-inch waist.
The Galco Gunleather Cobra Tactical Belt has, as the name suggests, a Cobra-style buckle. These buckles are both secure and tough enough to withstand heavy use. The Cobra Tactical Belt is made using Type 13 nylon webbing for durability, has five independent rows of stitching for superior rigidity, and is 1 ½-inches wide (so it fits most holster loops as well as the average belt loop on your pants). Galco makes it in the same sizes as the aforementioned Heavy Duty Instructors Belt.
On the leather side, Galco Gunleather makes the SB5 Sport Belt, a belt I’ve used for years (it is possible I own several of them). The SB5 Sport Belt is made with fully-lined premium cowhide, is 1 ¾-inches wide, and features a solid-brass casual-style buckle. This belt has stood the test of time for me through a number of high-round-count classes, force-on-force work, and countless hunts. It’s well-made, sturdy, and has yet to fail. (If you want a dressier belt there’s always the Galco Gunleather CB3 Concealable Contour Belt. That one is also made using a fully-lined premium cowhide and has a nickel-plated solid brass buckle. It’s 1 ½ thick but tapers to one inch at the buckle for a dressier appearance.)
Crossbreed makes the belt I favor for my Glock 48 (the gun I also carry in their Supertuck holster, among other Crossbreed designs). The Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt is the company’s basic-yet-tough leather belt featuring a woven nylon webbing strap stiffener. The core not only makes it sturdier, it prevents it from losing its shape over time. I can attest to its efficacy considering I’ve had one of my Crossbreed Classic Gun Belts for more than five years. The Classic Gun Belt is made using precisely-cut, premium seven-ounce leather with recessed 277-thread stitching. The belt is also available with double stitching as an add-on. It’s ¼-inches thick and made in either 1.25-inches or 1.5-inches (you choose). It features a prong-style buckle and has seven holes. And if you want something a bit different there’s the Crossbreed Quick Ship Founder’s Series Crossover Gun Belt. Rather than the prong buckle of the Classic, the Crossover has a slide buckle which eliminates the need for holes and makes it highly adjustable. It can be nice not to be forced to use a specific hole for sizing.
Of course, there’s also nylon. Crossbreed’s Cobra Nylon Belt is another one that’s found its way into my regular rotation. It’s made from two layers of 1.5-inch nylon, making it crazy rigid, and it has a 1.5-inch slim-style cobra buckle. Slim is good for buckles because it reduces bulging beneath your shirt. In addition to the cobra buckle, it also has Velcro. It’s easily adjusted but firm; I’ve never had issues with this belt slipping.
There are a lot of good gun belts out there. These are just suggestions.
Simply Rugged Holsters
Simply Rugged is a company founded and owned by Rob Leahy, a gun guy I’ll forever associate with Gunsite Academy. Leahy lives near Gunsite in Arizona and is a boss so awesome that he takes his employees to the renowned academy for training on a regular basis. His leatherwork is both functional and beautiful. You’ll find Rob makes more traditional leather belts – and there are naysayers who claim they absolutely must be more firmly reinforced to function as gun belts – but his belts have stood the test of time and serious use. Leahy knows his way around belts and holsters. If you’re in the market for a custom belt, whether one made of the expected cowhide or a more exotic leather, you want Simply Rugged. His work is stellar.
For a heavy-duty tactical belt there’s the Blackhawk! CQB Riggers Belt. This belt is made to serve as a blend of superior security and easy use, and it does get the job done. It’s made from uber-tough web nylon and the hardware meets PIA-H-7195 standards. The hardware in question is a Cobra-style quick-detach buckle and adapter designed so your belt can be tightly secured but also easily unbuckled throughout the day. A hook-and-loop secures the long end of the belt. Solid-colored Blackhawk! CWB Riggers Belts are made from nylon with a 1.75-inch 7,000-pound tensile strength and MultiCam belts are 1.75-inches with a 5,000-pound tensile strength.
The 1791 Gunleather gun belt is, unsurprisingly, leather. Their Gun Belt 01 is crafted using high-quality leather and heavily reinforced. 100% American full-grain, a 14-ounce cowhide is used for durability along with a steel prong buckle and Chicago screws. The belt measures 1.5-inches wide and sizes range from 32/36 to 48/52. 1791 produces this belt in Stealth Black and Classic Brown. If you want a basic-yet-sturdy leather belt from a reputable company, take a look. 1791 Gunleather manufactures quite a few great holsters, too. If you’re unfamiliar with this manufacturer you definitely want to check out their site.