When it comes to carrying a handgun, without a doubt a strong, high quality belt makes a major difference. Some even suggest that it is even more important than the holster. I believe that both are certainly important for effectively and safely carrying a handgun, especially concealed. So my goal is to use a high-quality gun belt that provides strong support and security for my handgun and which is comfortable to wear for a long time throughout the day. Also, I prefer the qualities of full grain and top grain leathers and do not want to pay over $80 for the gun belt.
Recently, I had a “leather experience” I want to share with you so you can learn from my mistake. About 3 years ago I purchased a very nice looking “leather” chair for my office from a reputable, national chain store at a very low steal of a price deal. (I forgot you usually get what you pay for and appearance is just one factor to consider.) The first year it looked great and worked well for my routine use and did not have any problems with wear and performance. The second year I started noticing a few slight imperfections began to appear. Well now three years later as I sit in it, the leather on one chair arm and the leather on the seat is deteriorating very badly with small rips. There is a noticeable sag in the seat and support has lessened. I should mention I do not practice cliff diving off the arms of my chair, nor do I stack 50 gallon drums on the seat. Really, below average use. Some parts of the chair were vinyl and not leather at all. This week I will replace it with a full grain or top grain leather chair, but it is going to cost me. Once a rip gets started, you cannot prevent it and the space grows larger, looks bad, and does not give you the required support. I mention this experience because it directly relates to selecting leather for your gun belt. I learned some lessons and have refined my criteria about leather. I want to share them to help you with your gun belt selection.
Basically, there are 4 types of leather. Full Grain is top-quality and one of the best leathers money can buy, comes from the top layer of the hide, lasts a long time, and costs more. It is tanned with high-grade oils and preservatives to keep it from being destroyed by dryness and moisture. Top Grain leather is very good, strong and durable, is usually split from the top layer, then sanded and refinished, and has many strong qualities and features with some of the grain left on the top after grain was sanded off to get rid of the scars and character. It is more reasonably priced for the features, but MAY not age as nicely with use as Full Grain. Genuine Leather comes from the bottom half of the hide, does not have any grain or very minimal, and while it generally looks good and the name sounds great, usually performs at an average (or sometimes below) acceptable level, but it is lower priced and absent certain qualities. Suede is an example of Genuine Leather. Bonded Leather (e.g. my office chair) is pressed or bonded together bits, pieces, shavings, and dust particles of leather glued and pressed together flat. A very low-quality pressed leather with not many durable and natural features. Genuine and Bonded leather is usually spray-painted to look good like Full or Top Grain Leather. The difference between high and low grade leather is like the difference between a Porsche 911 and a Dodge La Femme. Be careful and choose wisely.
So here are my criteria and then my evaluation of the USA Carry gun belt.
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; enhances stability and gun security;
- Quality Workmanship– Excellent Fit and Finish. Looks great and sturdy. Design and construction assists with keeping my handgun close to my body; Double-Stitching (and thick stitches) of two layers of better 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 or Top Grain leather with strong and resilient leather showing some grain. All Full Grain leather will likely have some minor natural noticeable imperfections with much higher costs. Top Grain leather usually has higher resistance to marks and blemishes than Full Grain leather;
- Density & Type of Leather– Cowhide, Bullhide, or Horsehide. The basic difference among cow, bull, and horse hides is their individual density or thickness. I want a thick gun belt for extra support. Cow hide being the least dense, requires that the belt be considerably thicker than the other two for effectiveness, about 1/4″ thick. Cowhide is very durable. Bull hide will closely resemble cow hide when dyed, and GENERALLY does not require as much thickness for the intended purpose and strength. 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 or more. A big spread and many factors above to consider.Generally, I want to pay between $60 and $80 for my gun belt.
- Availability– Production & Delivery Time; USA Made; Belt Sizes. Make certain that a 1.5″ belt width is available for more hostler and pants loop options. Will it be custom made and ready for you to use in 1 week or one month or longer? I do not want to wait longer than one week or so to receive my gun belt.
- Quality of Buckles, Types, Sizes, and Colors– available screws, hardware, etc. Are brass and chrome, round and square, and big and small buckle options readily available, without extra cost. Are Chicago Screws available for ease of replacement and interchangeable buckles? Is there a quality appearance of the buckle that adds to the belt?
- Personal Preference. My ideas about appearance, quality, overall effectiveness for my purposes, and will I wear it regularly. Probably, the major criterion & subjective. I must live with it and wear it daily.
These criteria are very personal, subjective, and you must decide what YOU value and what are your priorities. To me the superior support and stiffness for less sag and minimal movement are very important for a gun belt, along with quality workmanship and comfort. So two layers of double-stitched Top or Full Grain leather is mandatory for me.
Recognizing that many factors and subjective opinions are involved, here is my evaluation of the USA Carry double-stitched, double-layered Gun Belt, after wearing it for a few days:
- Minimizes Movement of my weapon (clarification: all belts give some & body build is a factor)– 10.
- 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– Top Grain cowhide leather, but not Full Grain or bullhide– 8.
- Density & Type of Leather– Cowhide-1/4″ thick– 9.
- Price— Double-Layered from $64-$79 and Double-Layered-Double Stitched from $74-$89– 10.
- Availability– Production & Delivery Time- Received belt within 7 days– 10.
- Quality of Buckles and Color Choices– Assortment; Chicago Screws used for switching buckles, appearance of the square buckle is nice & a little dressy for versatile use– 9.
- Personal Preference— 9.
Total Score = 93 out of 100 possible. RECOMMEND. An excellent double-layered, American-Made gun belt with double stitching.
This custom-made, handcrafted belt has two pieces of Top Grain leather which are glued and stitched together with strong nylon threads for strength and stability and are approximately one-quarter inch thick. You can select between black or brown leather colors, roller buckle or square buckles, and choose either smooth leather or an embossed pattern.
I hope this review has given you some information and help for selecting your gun belts. Remember, with all belts it is so very important to measure for your belt size based on the particular manufacturer’s guidelines. This varies among manufacturers, so follow their exact steps and measure properly for best fit. Also, I recommend the 7-hole option rather than the 5-hole belt 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, leather, stiffness, etc. and make your personal tradeoffs based on your use and needs. A very important personal decision that only you can make!
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you establish your own criteria based on your personal needs, goals, purpose, and priorities. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2015 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.