If you carry a handgun for self-defense you’ll need something to carry it in unless you are an inveterate slob or stereotypical gangbanger. That means a holster is required equipment. For the majority of holsters, you’ll need to carry them on a belt. If you are smart, you’ll choose a proper gun belt.
A gun belt, at least one for concealed carry, has little in common with a police officer’s duty belt or a soldier’s equipment belt. What they do have in common though is the strength, stiffness and rigidity needed to carry a pistol, spare ammunition and other support equipment and do so while fitting standard pants and trousers belt loops.
A gun belt is not some mere accessory for gun enthusiasts and sportsmen. No, a gun belt is an essential piece of gear, part of a system comprising also the gun and holster that works in tandem to allow you a better degree of concealment and comfort while you go about your day out in the world.
When the time comes to draw, the gun belt lends the necessary support to your holstered pistol, keeping it solidly upright in its usual place so that you will not fumble.
In today’s article, you’ll be presented with an overview and guide to gun belt features, as well as a list of the 10 best on the market as of 2018. So strap on that smokewagon and read on.
Why a Gun Belt?
As explained above, a gun belt is an absolute necessity for anyone who carries a gun on a daily basis, for any reason, concealed or not. Without it, you can expect plenty of trouble and eventually embarrassment, even an accident.
This eventuality is likely because for most holsters without active retention systems, a floppy, flimsy weak belt will allow the holster it is supporting to list and roll away from the body, especially when worn OWB.
Yes, you can forgo a belt entirely when carrying a tiny pistol in a pocket holster or on an ankle rig, obviously, and might be able to get away with a lesser belt and holster in combination under certain circumstances. But make no mistake: you can never have enough support and security when you want your pistol secure.
Not everyone feels this way. Some shooters will be quick to tell you they have been shooting their whole life, and used their everyday belt with no problems.
Sure, in fact they might even be the go-to gun expert in their family, or whatever tiny corner of the nation is their domain. I can promise you they care little for what is best and likely care less about true self-improvement and realizing their potential.
Do not believe the false gospel and testimony of mall ninjas, flea market purveyors of cheap-ass Pacific Rim knock-off gear and the cries of “it’s just as good” from the witless and unwashed.
The only thing a gun belt has in common with your average department store casual or dress belt is its basic form. That’s it. The anatomy of a gun belt, from materials to fasteners and construction, is drastically stronger than its mundane relative.
What Makes Gun Belts Different?
Simply put, gun belts are built to withstand hard use and abuse, and rigidly hold a gun, holster and support gear upright the entire time. It sounds like a small thing to justify what is often an expensive piece of attire compared to common belts, unless you are accustomed to buying luxury brands.
The cost is reflected not by brand alone however: gun belts utilize heavy, long-lasting materials both man-made and natural in conjunction with hardened steel and alloy bucks, large-diameter fasteners like screws, shanks and loops, and most often have more of all of those than basic belts.
Gun belts are usually thicker in most regards than regular belts. Not enough to tell the difference at a glance unless you know what to look for, but if you pick up and compare one of each the differences will be readily apparent.
Stiffness is one of the most essential characteristics of a gun belt, and you can tell immediately which belt is likely to cut the mustard by trying to twist it along its length. Some new carriers often report feeling like they are wearing a solid hoop or band around their middle compared to more usual belts, and they are not far off!
This stiffness is usually accomplished by either constructing a belt from very rigid or thick leather, which when chosen with care and treated properly will resist bending against the grain somewhat, but is more commonly achieved by inserting a core of material into the center of the belt itself.
This core is often a hard plastic, but is sometimes metal. Good gun belts will take into account user comfort, to a degree, but few are the good makes who will sacrifice rigidity and stiffness to ensure a belt will be more comfortable when worn.
Why Are Gun Belts Important?
Simply put, only a gun belt will have the strength to keep your pistol in position over a long period of time, and do so in a way that is not only reasonably comfortable, but aesthetically acceptable.
Consistency and repeatability is a fundamental element of skill, and that consistency begins before you ever draw the gun off your body. It begins with the belt and with the holster.
You may scoff at aesthetic quality, but I am not just referring to simple fashion. For most of us, we are not what we carry, meaning we do not enjoy the luxury of working or living in an environment where obvious firearms and the people that use them are taken for granted as normal. Thus we will want to at least appear to be a part of our work and community environments, and even if you don’t, you should.
Additionally and of no less importance, should your fight begin or end with you and your attacker grappling with you over the gun due to you being surprised or having your draw stuffed, a strong belt that will not break or otherwise fail is essential as it is one less failure point in the system that may give advantage to your foe.
Choosing a Gun Belt
So long as the prime objective is met- keeping your gun, ammo and other gear supported- you have much latitude as to what gun belt will suit you best. After performance, most users care, obviously, about the material, color and style of the belt, at least if the belt will be a visible part of their attire.
Some gun carriers may need a belt that compliments a more formal or business-appropriate attire. Others want a belt that is decidedly trendy and casual. Some will want a belt that can be dressed up or down depending, and other folks may have no concern for appearance and simply want the belt with the best performance, looks be damned.
There is no wrong answer and many shooters wind up with two or more gun belts for different occasions and modes of dress, same as with regular belts. More than a few belts accommodate interchangeable hardware like buckles, screws and so on, allowing you to match the metal to watches and other jewelry.
Aside from that, your only concerns are getting one in the right width for your holster and belt loops (usually 1 ¼” or 1 ½”) and in the correct length which is often chosen by your regular belt size. So keep in mind though you will need to add a couple of inches to accommodate holsters and so forth (consult a manufacturer for help).
Aside from those few items, selecting the right gun belt is simply a matter of personal preference, thought with all of the exemplary options on the market today that is easier said than done! But that is enough for now about what’s what, let’s get to the belts!
1. – Maxpedition Liger Gun Belt
The Liger by Maxpedition was a fairly revolutionary belt when it was introduced. Instead of leather or nylon webbing, this belt was a composite unit formed by molding a tough, rubbery material called Biothane over a solid core over a resin-impregnated fabric core. This was finished with a one-piece buckle machined from a solid piece of aluminum billet that is then permanently riveted to the belt.
The result is a remarkable belt: it looks like leather, is nearly impervious to the elements, a cinch to clean and extraordinarily strong while remaining very comfortable.
As far as appearance goes the modern, semi-industrial buckle is not out of place in casual or business casual settings, but cannot quite be worked up to boardroom attire. This also so happens to be your author’s favorite gun belt he has ever tried. I only go through one about every 5 years or so.
These are made to last, and modestly priced.
2 – 5.11 Tactical Apex Gunner’s Belt
Another synthetic gun belt, similar to the Liger, this heavy-duty offering from 5.11 boasts a ludicrous 1,500lbs of tensile strength. It seems if you ever had cause to put that strength rating to the test in a live situation you would have bigger problems than holding your gun up but I digress!
Compared to the Liger, this belt series features an ergonomic curvature that better fits the shape of the human waistline and is said to feel already broken-in. The buckle is cast aluminum, not machined like the Liger, but also has dual retention hooks for an even more secure closure.
Overall, this is another great looking casual belt that can be dressed up a little bit. Well-suited to light duty or concealed carry.
3 – Mean Gene Leather Victory Aegis Belt
A rising star in the world of leather gun-carrying goods, Mean Gene does indeed turn out one mean gun belt with holsters, mag carriers and “coin purse” leather saps. The Victory Aegis is a leather belt your granddad wishes he had: two layers of leather laminated, sewn, burnished and edge-dyed. By hand. No shortcuts.
The signature feature of this sturdy belt is the Aegis buckles, which allows an infinitely adjustable fit for ideal retention and comfort. Optional stitching, laser engraving and dyes abound, so you can get yours tailored to suit any taste or outfit.
This belt is noticeably thicker than competitors’ leather gun belts, but that is ok: the specialized construction assures strength while minimizing stretching over time, a common problem even for the best leather belts.
4 – Mean Gene Leather Barbarian Belt
The tagline for this badass belt is “Where Old Meets New.” Yeah, it sure seems so, looking like is fit for a Mad Max sequel! While the aesthetic won’t (or definitely will, depending on your style) be for everyone, the Barbarian Belt combines the best modern hardware with one of the best makers of leather gun belts in the game today.
The Barbarian starts life as the Aegis belt above: two layers of Top Grain leather sewn together with 277 bonded thread, but it is here the Barbarian belt departs the routine. Added to that already immensely strong belt is 1” webbing crowned by a super secure Austri-Alpin Cobra buckle that looks like it belongs on a post-apocalyptic hot rod harness.
The finished product is phenomenally strong and durable, and the aesthetic is decidedly tough-guy or rogue survivor. If you dig the appearance, you will have one unique belt that is much more than a novelty; this is serious gunslinger gear.
5 – First Spear Line One Belt
First Spear is renowned for making dead to right tough tactical gear, and while they do not specialize in low-profile items for concealed-carriers, their Line One belt is a happy exception. The Line One belt combines purely traditional styling and buckles with modern, low maintenance materials for a great all-season gun belt.
The Line One is made from Biothane, the same super tough synthetic the Liger is made out of, and a nylon core. It is weather and moisture proof and almost impervious to wear and cracking, unlike leather. But like leather, it flexes and gives juuust enough to add comfort when you need it, in that way that makes leather so beloved to some shooters.
This is a great belt for those who want the benefits of modern materials in a classic and reliable style.
6 – Galco Sport Belt
Galco is the Coca-Cola of gunleather products; a long running, iconic and legendary company. There is not a shooter alive who has not heard of them, and before the advent of kydex and other synthetic materials started to dominate the holster markets they were one of the premier names in holsters and belts.
Their quality has not wavered with the passing of the torch, thankfully, and for those who want a traditionalists gun belt, look no further. Premium steerhide, a solid brass traditional buckle, and heavy-duty screws all stitched together into one stiff, sturdy gun belt that will look better and better with age.
No gimmicks. No cool-guy features. Just an elegant belt from a more civilized age.
7 – KORE X4 Reinforced Gun Belt
One of the most innovative and odd belts on this list, KORE has nonetheless produced a remarkably nice gun belt for a newcomer, and probably the single best one for concealed carriers who must maintain a sharp and professional appearance at all times.
The biggest departure from the traditional with this belt is the fact it uses no holes, and does not even utilize a friction-fit clamping buckle as with the Victory Aegis above.
Instead, the KORE belts all employ as their signature feature a track of detents on the back face that mate with corresponding teeth in the buckle, forming a ratchet. This ratcheting system makes the belt literally a cinch to put on and provides significant adjustability.
Aside from that, the belts are synthetic cores sheathed in sharp-looking high-quality leather, available in a multitude of finished and tones with “buckles” to suit every taste, but most of them being sharp, refined designs suitable for upscale wear. Combined with a glossy, thin belt, these are ideal for concealed carry anytime you need to dress sharp.
8 – Ares Gear Aegis Enhanced Belt
One of the best gun belts for no-nonsense reliability and wear characteristics is the Aegis Enhanced Belt by Ares Gear. This tank of a belt is 1 ½” wide and made from two layers of extremely rugged SCUBA webbing. This is no plain nylon webbing. Far from it, as its stiffness and near imperviousness to wear make it a prime choice of material for hard-use applications.
This belt is secured by the now-standard Aegis buckle (natch), which is machined and stonewashed stainless steel for strength and great long-wearing life. It also looks a fair bit cleaner than straight-up military and tactical style buckles.
This is not to say this belt looks like anything except what it is, though: a heavy duty pistol belt. If not concealed completely, only the hopelessly naïve or unaware would mistake this hoss for any belt aside from what it is. But, if you are planning to wear it concealed full time or in a guns or shooting related environment you can hardly do better than this one.
9 – Magpul Tejas El Burro Gun Belt
You knew Magpul would somehow, someway make an appearance on this list. Not content to rest on their acclaimed laurels for designing paradigm-shifting rifle magazines in addition to pistol magazines, stocks, accessories and even clothing, Magpul has introduced in the past couple of years a line of belts that are worthy of their livery.
Their “all purpose all the time” belt in the line is the El Burro, a traditionally configured belt that is made from 100% reinforced polymer. Natural materials are great if made well, but even the finest leather is still flesh and suffers as all flesh does in extremes.
This translates to more care from you and possibly a shorter life compared to mad-made material. Magpul is famous for the durability of their polymers and their El Burro belt is no exception.
Additionally, the hardware on the El Burro is corrosion resistant aluminum to give you the strongest possible attachment while reducing maintenance concerns even more.
Magpul also assures that this modern belt will be completely stretch and sag free. If you know you are going to work your gear as hard a mule and then put it away wet, give this belt a look.
10 – Magpul Tejas “El Original” Gun Belt
In sharp contrast to their El Burro built, the El Original embraces a classic aesthetic and construction with a Magpul twist. The exterior of this classy belt is top-grade bullhide that conceals a polymer reinforcement that does two things: one, it provided the necessary rigidity for a holstered pistol and two, it keeps this belt from stretching over time.
Sure you have to care for the leather as you would any other to maintain its suppleness and appearance, but this is still a belt built to take a beating, no doubt about it. The 1 ½” wide El Original features eight adjustment holes to mate with its chrome plated buckle, allowing plenty of fitment range to accommodate growing or shrinking loads. Or bellies…
Magpul proves once again that they have the chops to push the envelope in nearly any sector, and proving further that, for all our materials advancements, quality leather will never die.
What about Budget Concealed Carry Belts?
Good gun belts can be pricey, or downright expensive. Together with so much of the other necessary gear required to carry a pistol and its support equipment effectively these costs can really add up. It is an easy affair to spend $150 just on a holster and belt.
Add in mag pouches and you are well over $200. If you choose to buy top-tier gear, your complete rig alone will run you $300 no problem. That’s just for stuff to carry your gun and ammo!
Sheesh! That’s fine for the financially bulletproof and for sponsored or professional shooters, but what should an average joe gunhand look for to help allay some of these costs and still get a sturdy, functional gun belt?
As it turns out, there are several companies making stiff, rugged gun belts that offer plenty of security and a comfortable-ish ride for your favorite blaster, and can do so at a fair price.
The one thing you usually give up with belts in this category is appearance, as many of them are made from stiff nylon with military style buckles or other clasps, or are themselves descended from other types of duty gear.
This is not necessarily a problem; most people carry a concealed pistol on their belt or inside the waistband with either a shirt untucked or some other outer garment over the pistol and this obviously covers the belt.
Considering the belt is “for your eyes only” its looks make no difference. About the only time you might be hampered by an overtly “operator” belt is when you are running with your shirt tucked in or are carrying in a non-permissive environment where even a glimpse of such a thing from the wrong party could lead to trouble.
So long as you are willing to sacrifice an appearance that could pass as just a normal belt, you can still get good performance at a good price. I have adopted this as a rule because the huge majority of inexpensive gun belts that are made of leather to appear normal usually just suck. It turns out making something look good and be strong is a tall order for a low-cost offering, but making a strong but ugly one is a cinch. Who knew?
Looks aside, there is nothing inherently wrong with a cheaper offering if it is made from good materials and assembled with care.
The Best Budget Belts
The following are all belts that I have used and can recommend in their price range. Most of them would be good at twice the price and all are great values. If you are bangin’ on a budget, be sure to check these out.
5.11 Operator Belt
The Operator belt from 5.11 is made from heavy-duty nylon and features a massive stainless buckle for rock solid attachment and adjustment. Designed from the ground up as a gun belt, this one will not bend, sway or sag when hauling your pistol, spare mags and other goodies around. It is easy to adjust and is tear resistant. This belt does run small so make sure you order one size up, per 5.11’s recommendation.
Of interest to our hardcore preppers out there, the Operator belt can also be used as a tie-down, strap or even an emergency harness in a pinch. The buckle itself is rated for 5,100 lbs! I would not want to shuck the accessory holding my gun up but it is nice to know you can in extremis!
The Wilderness Frequent Flyer Belt
One of the best known and most loved gun belts of the last few decades is The Wilderness’ Orginal Instructor Belt, instantly recognizable by its overlapping buckle rings and heavily stitched nylon.
All of the features that made the OI belt so great- namely durability, stiffness and easy fitting- have been carried over into the less expensive but great performing Frequent Flyer belt, so named for its custom machined Delrin buckle rings that, in theory, will let you get past those bastards at the TSA checkpoint without removing it for the metal detector.
The Frequent Flyer belt is easily and infinitely adjustable and more than rigid enough for hauling your pistol, spare ammo, light and more. If you need even more strength you can order an upgrade to additional rows of stitching or even a polymer liner for a small added cost, making it the equal of belts more than twice its cost. This fine belt is available in three different widths for any application and loop size.
DeSantis E25 Belt
Originally designed as an underbelt for NYPD officers patrol belts, the E25 is a no-frills standard design made from bonded leather over a synthetic core. One of the only traditionally styled gun belts in its price category that I can recommend with no hesitation on account of its durability, stiffness and overall quality.
The E25 offers great performance and passably good looks if you are into the “murdered out” black on black colorway, but I do have one gripe: the powdercoated metal buckle is prone to flaking.
Aside from that minor quibble, a great belt that you can get under $30! Sizing can be a little iffy with these belts, so make sure you get an accurate read on your waist and adjust for any gear your carry (especially IWB!) before buying.
CrossBreed Rigger’s Nylon Belt
A familiar design to many in search and rescue and certain military professions, CrossBreed has brough t this standby to the market at a great price. If you like or need a wide pistol belt, this one will do the trick at 1 ¾” of super tough nylon and a security buckle for assurance that your load will not droop or slip.
This belt is infinitely adjustable all the way out to 46”, so you will have plenty of precision adjustment capability if you change guns or holsters, or if you just gain a few extra pounds. Ideal for those who need a dead-hard belt for not a lot of money.
For the serious concealed carry disciple, an equally serious gun belt is a necessity. Do not trust the outcome, and perhaps your life, to a floppy, weak $10 big-box brand pants belt.
Quality, specially made belts have been a part of any shooter’s necessary equipage since firearms were young. That statement is as true today as then.