Sitka Gear is the crème de la crème of hunting equipment. The only consistent knock on Sitka’s products I’ve heard over the years is the price. But the quality of the Gore-Tex®, WINDSTOPPER®, and Primaloft® technologies utilized across their products combined with the high level of craftsmanship have always been unimpeachable.
In preparation for this year’s waterfowl hunting season my my collection of Sitka garments grew to include a few pairs of pants. Given that Sitka’s products are designed to work as a system as well as stand-alone pieces, I picked up their Bomber Belt to hold up those pants.
The Sitka Gear Bomber Belt is touted as “beefy and substantial.” Compared to the standard grey nylon belt most Sitka Gear pants come equipped with, or even their Stealth Belt, beefy and substantial isn’t overstating the case one bit.
By comparison to standard carry belts like, say, the K Rounds Conceal Carry Tactical Gun Belt, the Bomber Belt seemed practically like a wet noodle.
So why are we comparing the Bomber Belt to a rigid EDC belt? Quite simply, because Sitka says that the Bomber Belt’s, “rigid 1-5/8″ construction is ideal for firearm and bear spray carry.” So we’re off to the races!
While I had no doubt the Bomber Belt is beefy enough to support a can of bear spray, the real question is whether it’s tough enough to support a sidearm through all-day backwoods carry situations.
By now I think we’ve all had, for lack of an official term, the “belt folding test” beaten into our brains. I find myself folding non-EDC belts all the time out of habit. It’s a fair indicator of rigidity. But where do we draw the line? How rigid is rigid enough to firmly support a firearm? With such a wide range of holster types, weapon weights, accompanying carry and garment options, there’s really no standard.
So the only real test, then is whether the belt firmly holds all the gear you regularly carry.
For IWB testing, I picked full-size and sub-compact sidearms, along with accompanying holsters. The full-size pistol was carried in a two-clip 1.75″ holster with wide clip mag carrier. The sub-compact was housed in a wide 1.5″ single-clip holster with a magazine carrier donning the same clip.
The P238 in the Ultimate Holsters Cloud Tuck Rapid holster and its accompanying IWB mag carrier worked really well with the Bomber Belt. I had enough adjustability to allow for comfortable of both the IWB pistol and the mag. I found it to be rigid enough to adequately and consistently retain the holsters during presentation and re-holstering, as well as during active movement (hiking, running, climbing, etc.).
SIG’s P226R EE and Clinger No Print Wonder holster also stood tall after the customary one-month testing period, working very well in conjunction with the belt. Providing consistent retention of the holster and magazine carrier, the belt allowed for more surface area contact and pressure due to its more-than-average level of flexibility. Of all the options tested, this one felt the most effective.
At either end of the spectrum – full-size or sub-compact – the Bomber Belt performed adequately for IWB carry. Its ability to quickly cinch-up tightly to seemingly any size sidearm and an extra magazine is a solid feature that allows for rapid adjustments in the field. In fact, given equal retention, I’d choose the Bomber Belt over a stiffer EDC belt for IWB carry because the belt conforms better to the curves of the holster and is extremely comfortable.
But the real test was yet to come. With the exception of a few specific circumstances, an outdoorsman’s best sidearm beltline carry option is OWB open carry. It doesn’t matter if a bear sees your sidearm or not. There’s no need to conceal when you’re out in the wild. And not many folks are keen on hiking with IWB carry for reasons of comfort, and OWB works better while carrying a pack with a waist strap.
OWB carry puts the most stress on the belt because there are no garments to assist with retaining the holster against the body as with IWB carry. The single or double point(s) of contact tasked with managing the weight of a loaded sidearm and holster must control the holster and firearm and keep it in the best ready position.
I’m currently testing K Rounds’ OWB Pancake Holster for a P226R with a Streamlight TLR-1 so, of course, on the belt it went. This holster features two rock-solid belt loops with prominent edges that locked into the Bomber Belt really well. The belt’s flexibility allowed to me to bring the holster a little closer to my body than with a traditional, thicker carry belt. I was very satisfied with the way this style of holster performed with the belt.
Pushing the limits of the belt, I slid on my normal backwoods carry rig, a G20C stuffed with fifteen rounds of 220-grain Underwood cast lead-bullet cartridges, and nestled in a G-code XST RTI holster with Optimal Drop Pistol Platform. That’s lot going on there, I know. The weight of the loaded pistol and holster rig is substantial and the drop platform puts all that weight a good distance from where the holster connects to the belt.
As I suspected, the belt took up hardly any space inside the single belt loop and even with the belt cinched as tightly as possible, the holster easily flopped around on my hip. Drawing the firearm from the drop rig proved exactly why most carry belts are extremely rigid; a consistent and reliable draw under stress is nearly unachievable with this combination. The extra magazine holster was slightly sloppy on the thin belt, but retained adequately.
Two exceptions I can think of would be if your drop rig had thigh retention such as a tie cord – or was an actual thigh rig like the Safariland model above. These styles of holsters keep the rig from flopping and also allow for a consistent and reliable draw by alleviating the tendency for the holster to cant outwards.
Finally, a quick word on the buckle. I’m a big fan of COBRA-style quick detach buckles and the version Sitka uses on the Bomber Belt is a win for several reasons. It’s light and has a very thin profile. More importantly, it’s designed so that you can feed the male end of the belt through your belt loops without having to remove the male half of the buckle.
After all that, I’m pleasantly surprised with how the Bomber Belt functioned for sidearm carry. I didn’t expect the belt to manage the weight of a 10mm Glock with G-code drop-rig and, well, it didn’t. Still, I’m satisfied with the other carry options I tested. For outdoors, backwoods type carry, I recommend an OWB holster with two belt loops to ensure adequate holster retention and alleviate the discomfort commonly found when hiking with IWB carry.
Just like all the pieces in Sitka’s various lines of hunting apparel, the Bomber Belt is a high-quality, very comfortable accessory that is backed by a great warranty and customer service. If you regularly – or occasionally – carry a sidearm on your hip, Sitka’s Bomber Belt is an option worth evaluating.
Specifications: Sitka Gear Bomber Belt
Price as reviewed (Large, Woodsmoke): $69.00 MSRP
Sizes (width): 1.5″ (buckle 2″ wide, 5/16″ thick)
Sizes (length): M, L, XL
Ratings (out of five stars):
Design & Sizing * * * * *
The Bomber Belt has a lot of thought behind it. It tapers where you need it to. It feeds through belt loops – with buckle attached. The lightweight quick detach buckle is rock-solid. And each size has sufficient adjustment range that should suit everything from no carry to full-size IWB carry with IWB extra magazine.
Quality/Durability * * * *
This belt falls right in line with Sitka’s reputation for providing high-quality products that last in the field. Plus, it’s backed by an outstanding warranty and great customer service. However, if you’re using a holster with hook closure material inside the belt loop, it will most certainly pill-up your belt.
Functionality * * *
A belt well-suited for hunting and the outdoors in general, it unfortunately falls slightly short where it counts most – supporting a large backwoods style pistol in a single-clip OWB holster due to its flexibility and thinness. However, it does work very well with the majority of IWB and double-clip OWB holsters. The ability to cinch the belt quickly, and pass the male end of the buckle through most belt and holster loops is a big plus.
Overall: * * * *
If I’m in the outdoors, there’s a good chance I’m wearing my Sitka Bomber Belt – especially if I’m carrying IWB. The high-performance belt fits a wide variety of field and day-to-day needs, and will also satisfy most sidearm carry options. It’s too flexible for large sidearm in a large, single loop holster without bottom-end or thigh retention. Yet, it is adequate to carry most OWB extra magazine carriers. The Bomber Belt is an excellent option for outdoor activities and worth a look for sidearm carry in general.