Needless to say, a gun belt is extremely important to support your handgun. Some believe even more so than a holster. Others say at least as important as the holster. In any event, a gun belt is a “must-have” accessory for your handgun rig. You need the support for your weapon and accessibility that you can count on. There are literally hundreds of gun belt manufacturers and prices range from a department store dress belt that you might use costing from about $20 to custom exotic gun belt makers up to $260 or more. Some recognizeable production gun belt manufacturers are Don Hume, Kramer, Milt Sparks, Desantis, Bianchi, Fist, Galco, G&G, Mitch Rosen, 5.11, Tucker, D.M. Bullard, Comp-Tac, Blackhawk, Blade-Tech, and many, many more. Then there are more customized manufacturers like The Beltman, Bullhide Belts, A&G Belts, High Noon, Aker, Simply Rugged, Daltech Force, and Armour Belts, etc. Personally, I did not want to spend $80 or more on a gun belt, felt I did not need a higher-priced exotic one, and believed that I could get a good gun belt for my purpose at a price of between $60 and $80. Well, I want to share my recent process, my criteria, and my evaluation of the one I bought to help you.
So, here are MY 10 CRITERIA, worth 10 maximum points each on my scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest value for each criterion. The total possible for all 10 criteria then is 100 points:
- Minimizes Movement of my weapon;
- Quality Workmanship – Excellent Fit and Finish. Design and construction assists with keeping my handgun close to my body; Double-Stitching (and thick stitches) of two layers of leather;
- Offers superior Support & Stiffness (less sag) of my handgun & Distributes its Weight effectively;
- Comfortable – feels good over several hours of wear with just a little “give” flexibility;
- Durability – Full grain leather is the outermost layers of the hide & is the strongest, most resilient leather. All full grain leather belts will likely have some minor natural noticeable imperfections;
- Density & Type of Leather – Cowhide, Bullhide, or Horsehide. The basic difference among cow, bull, and horse hides is their individual density or thickness. Cow hide being the least dense, requires that the belt be considerably thicker than the other two for effectiveness, about 1/4″ thick. Bull hide will closely resemble cow hide when dyed, and GENERALLY does not require as much thickness for the intended purpose. Horse hide is slightly denser than bull hide and is much oilier than either cow or bull hides, and tends to be very shiny when dyed;
- Price – A quality gun belt averages in price from $60 to $200. A big spread and many factors above to consider. Given the average estimated lifespan of a gun belt to be about 5 to 10 years, when I average the cost over the time, it may be a small price to pay for the benfits I receive. So the average cost per year of continuous use of my gun belt for the very important role it plays in helping to protect my life could range from $6 to $20 or so. I wanted to pay between $60 and $80. I think the benefits outweigh the cost. It is worth it!
- Availability – Production & Delivery Time; Belt Sizes. Make certain that a 1.5″ belt width is available. Most holster loops come standard as 1.5″ but can be ordered with 1.75″ loops. The downside to a 1.75″ belt is having to ensure that your holster loops are sized to match. It makes a difference. Will it be ready for you to use in 1 week or one month or longer? I did not want to wait longer than one week to receive and use the gun belt.
Quality of Buckels, Sizes, and Colors – available screws, hardware, etc. Are brass and chrome, round and square, and big and small buckel options readily available, without extra cost. Are Chicago Screws available for ease of replacement and interchangeable buckels? Is there a quality appearance of the buckel that adds to the belt? Chicago Screws have threaded post that let you open and reattach different or replaceable belt buckles to the gun belt when needed, instead of rivets or snaps. You can put a dab of Loctite on the threads to prevent them from coming loose.
- Personal Preference – My ideas about appearance, quality, overall effectiveness for my purposes, and will I wear it regularly. Probably, the major criterion. I must live with it and wear it daily or often.
These criteria are very subjective and you must decide what YOU value and what are your priorities. Selecting a gun belt is very personal. Some like a balance among all the factors, while some prefer comfort above all other factors. Others may like an exotic leather (Ostrich, Lizard, Shark, Elephant, Alligator, Snake, etc.) and may emphasize appearance over function and fit. The prices of exotic leathers make them not prudent and not within the budget for a large number of shooters. Some believe just the opposite. Exotic leather hides vary from being very durable to some that are less durable than regular cowhide. So you have to know what you are doing. For example, hides like elephant, stingray, and lizard are amazingly tough and durable. I found that, properly cared for, they will last and function well for several years. The softer less durable hides like ostrich or snakeskin usually won’t last as long and have about the same life expectancy as a cowhide gun belt. One of the biggest concerns that shooters face with exotic gun belts is that they are so unique they do not match any holster, pouch, or accessory, except those made from the exact same hide.
To me the superior support and stiffness for less sag are very important for a gun belt, along with comfort. So how do you determine how stiff your gun belt should be?
Here are some factors to consider to help YOU determine how stiff your gun belt should be:
- Belt size: Generally, the larger your belt size, the stiffer you need it to be.
- Stitching: Double Stitching increases stiffness, but does not substantially decrease overall comfort.
What are the benefits of using two layers of leather Double Stitched together, instead of one thick layer?
- No matter what kind of leather is used, a single-layer gun belt will stretch. Leather is composed of fibers that have a grain-like quality. When you put two layers of leather together, with the grains opposing one another you get a hard “plywood” effect that helps eliminate stretching.
- Using two layers of leather allows the inner layer to be undyed, or “natural”. This prevents leather dye from “bleeding” on your clothes if you get wet or perspire with your active or outdoors life.
- Internal Stiffeners: Internal Stiffeners increase stiffness and rigidity, but usually decrease overall comfort.
Should you get an Internal Stiffener?
If you carry a heavy handgun or have a high-ride top-heavy holster you might want to consider an Internal Stiffener for the smaller, less wide inch-and a quarter belts. The stiffener is not usually necessary for the 1.5 inch or wider belts unless you just desire a really stiff belt which will be less comfortable for long-term wear. The stiffener provides a greater degree of vertical stability but still allows the belt to take on a natural curve that any leather belt will do after it has been worn for a while. In my opinion, a belt 36 inches or shorter generally DOES NOT need an Internal Stiffener. As a layman and non-belt maker, my opinion is that Horsehide belts and most double-stitched belts certainly DO NOT need an Internal Stiffener.
- Width: Wider belts increase stiffness and impacts comfort more than other factors.
- Weapon Size: Larger, heavier weapons require slightly stiffer belts.
- Concealed Carry Method: Outside the pants carry may require a slightly stiffer belt than inside the pants carry.
How Do You Care for Your New Gun Belt?
- Belt manufacturers usually say to NOT wrap the belt in a closed circle or NOT wad the belt up in a tight ball when not in use. This unnecessarily stretches the outer layer of the belt and compresses the inner layer. If you do this often, the belt will soon lose its natural stiffness and probably sag more.
- When putting your belt on, do NOT pull, bend, or drag it way over as if you were securing a load of cargo on your car. Dragging the belt through its own buckle will damage the edges of the belt. For a longer lasting gun belt, do NOT bend a dual-layer belt any more than 90 degrees when you are putting it on.
- Do NOT use leather softeners such as Neatsfoot Oil, vaseline, or Mink Oil on gun belts unless you want them to be very limp and flexible… which you usually do NOT want on a gun belt, but may want on your baseball glove or hiking boots. It may also stain certain leathers. Most leathers used today are of sufficient quality to last for many years without softeners.
- You can restore the surface appearance of most gun belts after hard use by using a thin coat of Neutral shoe polish or saddle soap, available at any discount or grocery store. But, be careful not to damage the leather if you decide to do this.
Recognizing that many factors and subjective opinions are involved, here is my evaluation of the Armour Gun Belt, after wearing it for a few days:
- Minimizes Movement of my weapon (clarification: all belts give some & body build is a factor)– 9.
- Quality Workmanship – Excellent Fit and Finish– 10.
- Support & Stiffness – extended wear time will be the genuine sag test, but stiff for now– 9.
- Comfortable – for only a few days wear- very comfortable– 9.
- Durability – Full grain leather, but not bullhide– 8.
- Density & Type of Leather – Cowhide-1/4″ thick– 10.
- Price – I paid $69. for the above belt- total shipped– 10.
- Availability – Production & Delivery Time- Received belt on the seventh day from my order date– 10.
- Quality of Buckels and Color Choices – Assortment; Chicago Screws used for switching buckels, appearance of the buckel was just slightly rough detracting from great belt– 9.
- Personal Preference— 9.
Total Score = 93 out of 100 possible. RECOMMEND. An excellent American-Made gun belt and glad I bought it.
See the belts at Armour Belts and Contact Mike there at 480-294-0368. Mike seems anxious to please his customers and says to contact him if any problem. Say Col Ben sent you.
I hope this review has given you some information you did not have about gun belts. Just remember it is so very important to measure for your belt size based on the particular manufacturer’s guidelines. Most say to NOT measure your waistline. They usually provide exact steps and what to measure on a belt you usually wear. Be sure to add an inch or two for Inside the Waistband Carry, depending on your body size and build. Some say add two inches to your usual belt size, others say add 4 inches. It varies a lot, so check with the maker. Some say measure to the end of the buckel and others say just measure to the end of the leather and not to the buckel. Also, I recommend the 7-hole option rather than the 5-hole option because you have more flexibility for adjustment. Decide up front what YOU want and what are your own criteria, based on your desired features, the belt’s workmanship, type of hide, stiffness, etc. and make your personal tradeoffs based on your use and needs. A very important personal decision that only you can make!