Anyone that carries a pistol on their waistline knows or certainly should know, that a dedicated gun belt is important. A regular belt, be it leather, nylon, or some other material, simply does not have the rigidity needed to securely and comfortably hold the weight of a gun, holster, and supporting equipment. Gun belts are purpose-built to do exactly that.
While investing in a gun belt is important, you may be overwhelmed with the number of options available. The fact is, gun belts vary significantly in their construction and their intended purpose, so choosing the right belt for you is a bit more complex than simply buying any belt made by a gun or holster company. Here are some considerations:
How Rigid Does the Belt Need to Be?
The overall benefit of a gun belt is that it is stiffer in construction than is a standard belt. This gives it the rigidity and strength to support the weight of the handgun without flopping outwards or sagging. While much ado is made over how rigid a belt is, the need for maximum strength is dependent on how you carry your gun. Carrying a pistol outside the waistband on strong-side hip may benefit from a different design than carrying appendix position, inside the waistband. While thicker and stronger belts provide maximum support for a heavy load, they may not be ideal for good concealment of an inside-the-waistband gun.
Any good gun belt will be rigid in that it does not flex or buckle when squeezing it. This strength makes it better at holding the pistol securely than a belt that easily crumples. Where the maximum rigidity might not be wanted, though, is in the belt’s ability to flex around your body. A very thick and strong belt is ideal for the open carry of a heavy pistol with an out-side-the-waistband holster with a lot of support gear, such as duty or dedicated range belts. A thickly made double-layer nylon belt is good for this, or a thick leather belt with a steel core. The maximum weight-bearing potential may be needed in this particular role.
OWB vs IWB: Does it matter?
However, if you wear a gun inside-the-waistband, particularly if you do so in the appendix position, you may find that you need a more flexible belt so that it will more easily lay into the contours of the body. A belt that is still stiff is good, but one with less thickness and less rigidity pertaining to the way it shapes around the body is ideal for inside-the-waistband carry.
The thickness of a belt also factors into concealed carry. A very thick, heavy duty belt that is ideal for range use or open carry may not be well suited at all for concealment. The belt itself can print a lot through light garments. A heavy duty gun belt can appear like a noticeable band around your waist, thus drawing attention to your waistline. A thick belt will also tend to stand further away from your waistline, thus drawing attention to an inside-the-waistband holster. A thick belt may also pose problems in making a substantial and noticeable bump standing off your waistline where it must go over the holster. Therefore, when you need good concealment under light clothing, a stiff, yet fairly thin and flexible belt, is ideal.
The Buckle Design is Important
One of the most important considerations for a gun belt is the design of the belt buckle, and the mode in which you carry is a primary factor. A traditional leather belt, with a typical metal buckle, may not work well for appendix carry, but may work fine for strong-side-hip carry. The buckle can interfere with the holster itself, and it can also cause issues with printing. Belts with large buckles may work fine for those who carry a gun on the strong side and wear open front concealment. If the buckle is exposed in the front of the body anyway because you wear an open front shirt or jacket then the concealment issues it can pose is a non-issue. However, if you carry inside the waistband with an untucked shirt for concealment a large buckle will be problematic.
If carrying appendix, you may find that the belt buckle needs to be worn off-center on your waistline. This could be because it might sit right where it interferes with the holster. Or it may sit in a spot that adds bulk to the holster outline. If you put the buckle off to the side to accommodate the holster, you may find that the buckle itself becomes a printing issue. For this reason a number of manufacturers have begun making EDC belts with purposefully small and low-profile buckles. Buckle designs that lay very flat and are minimal in design may be your best bet for every day carry. Below is a video review of the NexBelt Supreme Appendix Gun Belt that has a minimal buckle.
Does the Buckle Fit Through Belt Loops?
Another thing to consider when selecting a buckle is the ability of the buckle to fit through your belt loops. Heavy duty buckles that may work well for dedicated range belts are often too thick to feed through belt loops. Some of these belts necessitate that you take the buckle off the belt, feed the belt through the loops, then put it back on the belt. If you need to do that on a daily basis, it gets old. A low-profile design that allows you to easily feed the buckle through the loops may prove much more convenient.
Leather vs. Nylon
Nylon in belt design seems to be akin to kydex in holster design; it is the modern and prevailing alternative to leather. The truth is, either option can be sturdy enough to carry even a heavy gun and accessories. If you choose a leather design, look for one that incorporates a steel core. The metal within the belt design ensures that it stays rigid. Nylon designs usually rely on utilizing a double-layer of nylon weave, making the belt stiff.
The most obvious difference may simply be appearance; if you wear an open-front garment, you might want a nice looking leather belt. Do you utilize a tuck-able holster that hides under a tucked-in shirt but still relies on attaching to the belt? A nice-looking leather gun belt is probably what you need. If the belt always hides under untucked shirts, however, nylon may be the way to go. A dedicated nylon gun belt that is designed for EDC will be plenty rigid and strong. But it will be lighter than any leather belt, and some designs incorporate a lower profile buckle.
Are you are serious about carrying a gun but haven’t acquired a dedicated gun belt? You don’t know what you are missing. Your gun will carry more comfortably, more securely, and will conceal better with the right gun belt. Consider these suggestions, however, when you make your choice.