Not all gun belts are created equal. Not even close.
In the world of defensive handgunning, handguns, holsters and ammunition get the most attention. Gun belts are usually considered an accessory, when in reality they’re a necessity. So, why don’t gun belts get more attention? Partly because most people don’t understand the importance of a good gun belt, and partly because humans try to save money any way they can. Any belt will support a holster, right?
Yeah, for sure. Just about any belt will support a holster. But the job of a gun belt is not to just support a holster; a gun belt needs to support a holster, a handgun and maybe even a reload. Not only does it need to support those things, but it also needs to hold them securely so that access to the handgun and the reload can be conducted swiftly and efficiently. Have you ever looked at a policeman’s duty rig? The belt is more than 2 inches wide, very thick and very stiff. Sure, cops put a lot more stuff on their belt than you will, but the concept is the same; your gun belt needs to be rugged and dependable.
Gun Belt Length
First and foremost, a gun belt needs to fit you. What exactly does that mean? Well, it needs to go all the way around your waist and should have some notches still available in both directions. The adjustment is there for when you decide to go with an inside the waistband holster as opposed to an outside the waistband holster. And it’s also there for when you eat too much, or for when your time at the gym starts working and you’ve shed a few pounds. Most gun belts have five holes, and your gun belt should fit you best when the prong goes through the middle hole.
To measure the correct belt length, lay a belt that fits you flat on a table. Then take a measuring tape and stretch it from the end of the buckle frame, where the prong rests on the frame, to a hole that fits you snuggly. This should give you your belt size—belts are usually sized in full inches—to the center hole. This measurement allows for that in-and-out adjustment you’ll need.
Thickness And Width
The proper belt width is a combination of two things. First, the belt should fit the holster perfectly. In other words, if your holster has a 1¾-inch slot, your belt should be 1¾ inches wide. This helps to hold the holster firmly on the belt and against your body without any movement. Secondly, the belt should be comfortable for you to wear. Some folks don’t find thin belts comfortable, especially after a holster and accessories have been added. I’ve found that the wider the belt, the more comfortable it is to wear. If you like a wide or thin belt, make sure you purchase a holster that’s compatible.
With regard to thickness, in most cases avoid gun belts that are only one-layer thick. Unless that single layer is extremely thick—say about 2/10ths of an inch—it won’t have the stiffness necessary to support a full-size duty handgun. Even with ultra-compact handguns, remember, the belt isn’t just supporting the handgun and holster; it should also provide some resistance for the draw and when holstering. As a minimum, with leather belts go with at least two layers thick unless you wear your belt very tight and the holster fits the belt perfectly.
In the big scheme of things, one belt is generally not enough. We don’t dress the same all the time. The average guy could probably get by with three different belts, including one gun belt for everyday wear and another for dress wear. The makeup and look of both would depend on what your everyday and dress lifestyles are. The third gun belt would be a belt you wear when you’re knocking around the outdoors, doing chores or some other activity where looks aren’t that important and where the belt might get some rugged use.
You might also have a different belt for different holsters or handguns. I rarely carry a synthetic holster, but when I do I’ve found I like a synthetic gun belt. In fact, the belt I most often use with a synthetic holster isn’t marketed as a gun belt at all. I have a Slide Belt Survival Belt that utilizes a 11/4-inch-wide strap made of two layers of polymer that sandwich internal webbing. It has a tensile strength of 1,500 psi. The buckle is kind of cool; it has an integrated knife, fire-starter, LED light, and bottle opener. But what I like most about this belt is that it’s easily and infinitely adjustable with ¼-inch clicks to perfectly fit me, regardless of how round I might feel.
A good gun belt will set you back between $75 and $150. Versacarry’s Underground Belt is a very rugged three-ply belt that retails for $85. With its basketweave stamping, the Safariland 1¾-inch B4 Ranger Belt is suitable as a dress belt and retails for $66. Galco’s Casual Holster Belts are made of the highest-quality leather and retail for around $100. And, while they might pass as a dress belt, Galco also offers exotic holster belts made from alligator, shark, and ostrich hide, that are sure to please those who dress way nicer than this hillbilly ever will. Be selective when choosing a gun belt; if it doesn’t cost as much as your holster, you probably picked the wrong one.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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