gun belts
 

Do I Really Need a Gun Belt?

If you spend some time reading most shooting or handgun forums, you'll probably eventually see a post or question asking if a true gun belt is really needed.  Having carried concealed for 15+ years, and worked in a gun store that specialized in concealed carry for a number of years, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard this question asked.

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The next question was usually something like "Well what's wrong with my belt from _________?" The blank was usually filled in with either Wal-Mart, Sears, or some other similar store.

Let me answer both questions separately.

"Do I really need a gun belt?" - If you carry a handgun or shoot a handgun on a regular basis, then the answer is a very strong YES. I'll get into why you need one below.

"Well what's wrong with my belt from _________?" - Nothing at all.  I'm sure it does a fine job of holding up your pants, carrying your cell phone, etc.  The problem is it's not designed to be a gun belt.  Most belts from a Wal-mart or other comparable store are designed as a standard belt for your pants.  This means that they are usually a single ply piece of leather. Unfortunately, no matter how nicely they are made, single ply leather will stretch over time.  The stretching is even more noticeable under the weight of a loaded handgun and/or other related gear (mag carrier, light carrier, etc.). 

A true gun belt is going to be specifically designed to support the added weight of all that gear.  Most all true gun belts will be produced from two strips of leather so that they are significantly thicker and stronger than a standard belt.  As a result, a true gun belt has the following features:

  • It won't stretch like a standard belt will over time. The two strips of leather will resist stretching far better than just one strip.
  • The added thickness and additional strength will bear the weight of the gear without sagging or rolling over under the weight.  Rolling over occurs when the belt lacks rigidity, and the belt actually turns over or splays away from the body due to the weight of gear. 
  • Provides a solid foundation so the holster and other related gear will perform to it's fullest potential.

While all the points listed above are important, pay especially close attention to the point about providing a solid foundation for the holster and gear. This is a key point that really has to be experienced to be realized. I experienced it firsthand as a rookie Detective.

When I was promoted to plainclothes Detective, department policy required that all the officers carried the same weapon, which was a full size Sig 226 at that time.  In the beginning, I was carrying a department issued plainclothes holster supported by a nice 1 1/4" dress belt. Notice I said a dress belt.  Just like the one you would typically wear with a suit. After 6 months or so of carrying this set-up, I noticed two things:

  • The holstered weapon was starting to sag downward some on my hip.  Even though I wasn't gaining any weight, I was forced to snug the belt up another hole to compensate for the sag.  Although I didn't really realize it then, this belt I was wearing had started to stretch under the weight.
  • At weapon qualifications, I noticed the holster wasn't staying stationary on my hip during the draw, but was moving upward as the draw was executed. While this wasn't preventing me from drawing the weapon, it was noticed by one of the dept. firearm instructors. He politely pulled me off the line, pointed out the issue, and was kind enough to let me borrow a spare ballistic nylon gun belt that he had. 

When I returned to the line to complete the qualification, I literally could not believe the difference.  The holster sag had been completely eliminated.  The holster no longer moved at all during the draw.  The draws were far more crisp and clean.  Why?  Because the nylon belt he had loaned me was specifically designed as a gun belt. It was more rigid and thicker than the dress belt I had been using. The experience was a real eye opener for me, and I haven't carried a gun without a gun belt since.

Based on the reasons above, when people ask if they really need a gun belt for their holster, my answer is: Try a gun belt yourself and then make your own decision. I honestly don't think you'll be disappointed.