A gun belt is an essential accessory for anyone who carries a firearm every day. Whether you are a civilian or a professional, carrying openly or concealed, you simply can’t do without a gun belt if your firearm rides in a hip (OWB holster) or IWB holster.
However, it can be hard to choose the right gun belt for you. Most gun belts fall into one of two categories: tactical or traditional, each with various options, including materials, buckle styles, thicknesses, and more. Learn the traits and differences between each type, and find out which is better for your needs.
What is a Tactical Gun Belt?
The term “tactical gun belt” refers to a general category of gun belts made of synthetic materials, with an appearance and elements reminiscent of (if not identical to) the duty belts used by tactical military and police units.
In a professional context, a tactical duty belt needs to be lightweight and highly durable, capable of withstanding the weight of several pieces of equipment (e.g., radio, utility pouch, drop-leg tactical holster, etc.).
These belts typically employ robust, high-density synthetic fabrics in their construction, such as high-denier ballistic nylon (typically 800D to 1000D) or Cordura. These materials are breathable, tear-resistant, and dry quickly.
For concealed carrying or general-purpose civilian EDC, you may, in theory, get away with lower-density belts, as you likely won’t need to carry as much equipment as a uniformed professional. However, there is no advantage in doing so.
High-strength tactical belts are already relatively inexpensive, and going with a lower denier rating will not help you save more than a few dollars at checkout.
Regardless of the application, a high-quality tactical belt should feature double. layering and possess reinforced stitching, giving it extra strength and durability.
Like traditional leather gun belts, a quality tactical belt is recognizable by its rigidity, eliminating the issue of sagging and keeping your gun and holster in the correct position and orientation. However, you must ensure not to choose an excessively rigid duty belt, as it will sacrifice fit and comfort. Too tight and rigid, and you won’t be able to move naturally, making your carrying experience miserable.
Tactical Gun Belt Hardware
One of the most noticeable differences with traditional belts is the lack of belt holes, often featuring hook-and-loop surfaces for fastening. In turn, these belts cannot use standard frame-and-prong belt buckles, relying instead on friction buckles or locking buckle systems made of plastic or metal.
The lack of belt holes means they can be adjusted nearly infinitely, letting you set your tactical belt to just the right fit and tightness level for your body.
One of the best tactical gun belt buckle styles are the Talon and Cobra buckles, heavy-duty, all-metal, side-release systems designed to bear thousands of pounds-force. Although relatively heavy, they are safe and robust, easily withstanding the weight of a holster, gun, magazine carrier, and other belt-mounted accessories.
Plastic side-release buckles are a common alternative and are often less expensive than their metal counterparts. However, you should avoid them, as they lack durability and are prone to fail when used as part of a typical everyday carry setup.
Tactical Belt Care and Maintenance
Materials such as ballistic nylon or Cordura generally do not require much maintenance. Although they are typically quite resistant to regular wear and tear, they are not wholly invulnerable. Even the best tactical belts may eventually develop signs of damage, such as fraying, holes, or tears.
Unfortunately, once a synthetic fiber belt shows signs of damage, it has reached the end of its life, and you should consider replacing it as soon as possible.
It is inadvisable to try and repair synthetic fiber belts yourself. Although there are ways to patch or temporarily repair a torn belt yourself, these are quick fixes that compromise the fabric’s ability to resist moisture. Don’t rely on a compromised belt for extended periods, as they will eventually rot or fall apart.
Tactical Belt Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of choosing a tactical belt as your EDC gun belt.
- Less expensive than leather gun belts
- Infinitely adjustable
- Lightweight yet high tensile strength
- Rarely available in belt widths under 1.75” making it challenging to find pants with the correct belt loop sizes
- Distinctive tactical look unsuitable for business or formal dress codes that may give away you are a gun person
- Repairs are impractical
What is a Traditional Gun Belt?
Historically, gun belts and holsters were made of leather. Therefore, a gun belt is referred to as “traditional” when it employs leather in its construction, although some modern gun belts may be made of synthetic materials.
Although these belts may resemble regular dress belts, they are stronger and thicker, giving them the rigidity and sturdiness to withstand the weight of a gun and other equipment without sagging.
A purpose-built leather gun belt should use the highest quality synthetic materials or top-quality full-grain leather (e.g., cowhide) and be at least 1.5” wide and 0.2” thick. Compare and contrast with the regular dress belt, which rarely exceeds 1.25” in width, is not designed to hold much more than the weight of your pants and often employs “genuine leather” materials.
Belts described as genuine leather may sound like they are good-quality products that could withstand your EDC setup. In reality, “genuine leather” refers to the lowest grade of leather products, reserved for items made from processed, sanded, and reformed from low-quality leather scraps.
Quality leather gun belts for gun holsters aren’t made solely of leather. They often employ additional reinforcing elements, such as double-stitching or a core made of a rigid material, such as steel.
Traditional Gun Belt Hardware
Leather gun holster belts allow you to carry a concealed firearm while preserving a traditional, business-appropriate look that fits both casual and formal wear.
One element of this look is the use of regular belt holes and frame-and-prong belt buckles, the same type you’d find on any other dress belt. Their simplicity and unassuming appearance do not draw attention to you, reinforcing the concealment of your EDC setup.
Some gun belts feature no holes, allowing you to use military-style friction or ratchet buckles, similar in appearance to those found on tactical belts. These belts bring together the business-appropriate looks of a standard belt with the convenience and near-infinite adjustability of a friction buckle. However, remember that friction buckles can slip or come undone if exposed to an excessive load.
Traditional Belt Care and Maintenance
As with all leather products, a traditional gun belt requires regular care and maintenance. Leather is, after all, animal skin; it is a porous material that fears repeated exposure to harsh elements (heat, sunlight, water, and moisture).
Without frequent cleaning and maintenance with products such as leather conditioner, your leather belt may develop cracks, tears, or unpleasant odors, putting it at risk of wearing out prematurely.
In contrast, a properly cared-for leather gun belt may last you between 10 years and an entire lifetime, depending on the model, leather type, and overall quality.
Traditional Belt Pros and Cons
If you’re looking at a gun belt for your concealed carrying setup, here are the pros and cons in a nutshell.
- More discreet, better suited for environments with a dress code
- Highly robust, especially with a steel core
- Properly maintained belts can last over 10 years up to a lifetime
- Heavy and rigid
- Top-quality leather is pricy
- Requires regular care and maintenance
Carry Your Gun Safely And Responsibly
The reality is that both tactical and traditional gun belts are suitable for carrying a concealed firearm. The best gun belt for you depends on your circumstances and personal preferences.
If you’re on a budget and need the lightest, most durable gun belt possible, or simply enjoy the tactical aesthetic, a tactical belt with a quality buckle system may be the best choice for you.
In contrast, if your main concerns for a gun belt are discretion, or a more traditional look, a leather gun belt is the way to go.
At wethepeopleholsters.com, we understand the needs of concealed-carrying citizens better than anyone else. Browse our selection of 100% US-made, hand-crafted Kydex holsters, tactical belts, and other accessories, letting you carry your favorite handgun every day in complete confidence.