Full disclosure: I work for a company that makes and sells a gun belt or two. So I have a dog in this hunt, so to speak. However, I will also say that while I would love for you to buy one of ours – and frankly, they’re pretty damn good – you don’t have to.
Feel free to shop for a KORE belt, Hanks, Amish, 5.11 or whatever other brand of gun belt you like. If you feel like you DO like ours – which are Bigfoot Gun Belts – awesome! If not, that’s okay too.
I’m going to try to avoid shilling the product we sell and give you the rundown on why you need a dedicated gun belt for CCW purposes, as well as what you should look for in good one.
First and foremost, the reason you need a stronger belt to carry your IWB holster and handgun (maybe even some spare magazines or two in the bargain) is that the typical leather belt that you find in a department store just isn’t going to cut it. They simply don’t have the requisite tensile strength to hold an additional 16 oz or more of weight along with your pants, shorts, slacks, tactical kilt or what have you.
A lot of people experience this: they put on their pants, tuck in their holster, insert the pistol and head out the door. During the day, the gun is constantly sagging, requiring frequent re-tightening of the belt. It also gives you a fair amount of heartburn worrying if your pants are going to fall down.
It’s called “holster sag” and it can lead to your IWB or OWB-carried gun being revealed to the world. In the right (wrong) circumstances, it can even lead to you dropping your pistol.
You might eventually get the belt tight enough to hold the gun, but at this point it becomes incredibly uncomfortable to wear because it feels like you’re losing circulation to your feet.
The point is that in order to keep the pistol and holster on your waistband, and for you to be comfortable enough to carry it for more than a few minutes, you need a stronger belt. A purpose-made gun belt is stiffer, which means it will keep your pistol and holster in the position you want it to be in, meaning it carries more comfortably and more securely. You also won’t need to tighten the belt to a notch above “excruciating.”
The good news is that a good gun belt isn’t hard to find, nor is necessarily that expensive.
Before you start, however, know how much belt your belt loops will accommodate. Most jeans, shorts and pants will handle a belt that’s 1.5 inches wide. A 1.75-inch wide belt can be touch and go. If you wear slacks or suit pants on a regular basis, you may need to find a belt that’s 1.25 inches wide. All are widely available.
You have two basic choices in what kind of belt to look for. You can get a leather gun belt or a gun belt of nylon webbing. Both are excellent choices and will certainly tote a carry gun without issues. The question is what features you want and how much you’re willing to spend to get it.
A leather gun belt is a good all-around choice. They work with almost all outfits, last a long time and look good without looking “tactical.”
However, you want to look for certain features. Never buy a single strip of leather; your gun belt should have two layers of leather stitched together. Some belts feature a spring steel core for reinforcement. This guarantees the utmost in rigidity, which is what you’re looking for.
Make sure you check what thickness of leather is used.
For those unaware, leather thickness is given in “ounces” instead of in an actual measurement of width, where each ounce the weight of one square foot of leather of a particular thickness. A 1 sq ft piece of leather that’s 1/4″ thick would weigh 14 ounces, meaning 14 oz leather is 1/4″ thick.
If you’re looking for a leather belt for concealed carry, you want a double-sided 14-oz belt at minimum. This is great for most subcompact and lighter compact pistols. If you carry a compact pistol that’s a touch on the heavy side, or a full-size pistol for that matter, go bigger; 18 oz and 20 oz belts will carry everything from a 1911 to a Smith & Wesson 500.
Most are 1.5 inches wide, with a good number of 1.25-inch wide belts being made by various companies. If you need a 1.25-inch belt, get one with a spring steel core.
Most come with a steel buckle, but a few companies are making track belts, which feature a ratcheting buckle with a Kydex teeth track on the interior of the belt.
The biggest downside to leather belts is pretty much the expense. Good leather is not cheap. But if that’s your choice, know that anything marked “genuine leather” is scrap leather that’s thick enough to pass muster. Get one marked full-grain or top-grain. These are made from the top-most layers of skin, making them harder and stronger, but also more expensive.
Expect to part with $60 to $100 for a good leather gun belt, but it will look good, work well and last a long time.
Nylon webbing belts can give you the same strength and support. They are also lighter, and some people find them a bit more comfortable. However, they have their own set of drawbacks, which I’ll get to.
Nylon webbing is very strong, as some have a tensile strength of several thousand pounds. Some tactical belts can even do double duty as a climbing harness or even a tow strap. So yes, much stronger than leather.
Some are a single strap of webbing, others are dual-sided. Some are even double-sided and soaked in resin for additional hardness. 1.75-inch widths are most common, which means they’re a little more problematic when it comes to belt loops, but there are plenty of 1.5-inch belts are out there, too.
Many have some sort of trick buckle. COBRA buckles or knock-offs (a type of buckle used for parachute rigging) are common, as are simple cinch buckles. Most also feature a Velcro fastener as well. A few companies make a web belt with a G-hook fastener, which hooks onto a webbing loop on one side of the belt.
With a rigger’s or COBRA buckle, you won’t be able to get the buckle through most pant loops. The best practice is to leave the buckle fastened; you want to actually take the belt out of one end of the buckle to take the belt off. Re-insert and pull tight, and fasten onto the Velcro.
Some are dead simple, such as this web belt from 5.11 Tactical:
Some are a little more ornate, such as this 1.75-in Rigger’s Belt from SOE Gear:
A dirty secret about web belts, tactical belts, whatever you want to call them, is that A LOT of them are white-labeled. In other words, they’re made for pennies overseas (usually in China) and an extra tag is stitched on or a logo applied at the factory before shipping over to the stateside purveyor, who then marks it up to $50 or more.
Here’s a good example from Amazon:
It costs $14, it’s made of 1000 denier nylon, and has a COBRA-style metal buckle. It ticks all the right boxes. But if you do a bit of hunting, you’ll find some tactical gear outfit offering the same belt with “Wonday” crossed out and “Compensating White Male Tactical” written in in crayon for $60.
The tell-tale sign? Look at the buckle. If you notice the same product for a lot cheaper on Amazon or Wish.com with the same buckle just without the logo on it…you’ve got a white-labeled belt.
A few outfits, however, DO make these belts entirely in-house in the USA. SOE Gear and Volund Gear Works are two examples; both of those companies make their web belts fully domestically, so you’re getting the real deal from them.
Does it matter, though?
In my experience…not as much as you’d think. Build quality will be a bit better if you spend a bit more for a belt made by a company that makes the higher-end gear, but I’ve used the $10 tactical belts from Amazon and they work well as an EDC belt.
If I were a police officer on a tactical team or putting together a competition rig, I’d spend a bit more than one from Amazon or Wish.com belt just because, but for general everyday use they’re great.
As to what you’ll spend…well, you can part with as little as $14 through Amazon or Wish.com, or as much as $80 to $100. Again, it’s up to you.
Some people find they prefer one kind over another. I’ve used web belts and I find they’re a bit more comfortable since there’s less material on your waist, but just as strong as leather. However, I also found that since there’s typically a lot of Velcro on most web belts, I had to be really careful about how I seated my holster clips.
I went to the range wearing one and my holster came out on the draw! It didn’t happen again after I figured out my holster clips weren’t fully seated and after I’d adjusted the holster accordingly, but that was my experience. Other than that, stellar, but I just subjectively prefer leather, so that’s what I wear.
You may find something totally different. Again, it’s all up to you as to what you find comfortable and works best with your carry gear.
Have a gun belt you really like? Had a bad or good experience with one? Have you, through wind and rain and weather, become hell bent for leather? Or are you just so tactical that you wear Kydex underwear? Tell us in the comments!