The most important fact you should know about your holster/belt relationship:
A great holster can not function to its peak on a lousy belt, nor can it improve the functionality of a lousy belt.
A quality gun belt will make a great holster perform correctly, and it can make a lousy holster perform better!
We have made belts from cow, bull, horse, exotics and every combination of these materials.
What we have learned over the years is that every one of these materials begin to soften from the very first time you put your belt on.
How can you beat the aging/softening process?
If you purchase a non reinforced belt that is thicker and stiffer than your needs, it will be an effective piece of equipment for a very long time. However, it will need time to soften before it becomes as comfortable as it could or should be. Eventually, it will soften past the point of effectiveness and it will be time for a new belt.
Look into a belt with an internal stiffener. A suitable internal stiffener can keep your belt operating like new much longer than a non-reinforced belt. We recommend Nylon 6/6 as an internal stiffener. I'm sure there are other suitable materials, but we've found Nylon 6/6 to be the absolute best for both stability and comfort.
Materials To Be Avoided
Kydex - Kydex is a great material for heat forming, but breaks down quickly from flexing. Kydex holsters that do not flex will last a lifetime. Belts flex, and WILL result in broken Kydex.
ABS Plastic - ABS is generally used for molding, and can be very brittle.
Steel - Too stiff to ever give any comfort. Spring steel will not likely break, but could eventually cut though your stitching. Any other steel will eventually break from flexing.
Mesh - For a plastic mesh material to give suitable stiffness, it must be much thicker than any of the above listed materials. Mesh reinforced belts will either be very thick, or the leather layers much be thinner than normal which could cause cosmetic problems.
Do you have a special need and want some guidance? Call us or email, we're always happy to help whether you are buying from us or from someone else!
Additional Information (if you've got some extra time)
Things to consider when shopping for a gun belt:
- Any material pliant enough to wrap around your waist comfortably, will stretch. Stretch a material too much or too often and it begins to lose its tensile strength. That’s why cheap belts have to be replaced frequently.
- Two pieces of material (dual layer), bonded and sewn together, will stretch much less than a single layer.
- Two layers of 6-7oz. leather is approximately ¼” thick.
- Belts should be comfortable to wear. Too stiff means pinching and or chafing. Not stiff enough means you have to wear it too tight. Both too stiff and too soft can lead to serious hip or back pain.
- The longer the belt, the less stiff it will be (easier to break a long pencil than a short one).
- Double stitching will add stiffness to most belts (we compensate for this with the width of the stiffener).
- Internal stiffeners will add stiffness to any belt. Suitable internal stiffeners will GREATLY extend the lifespan of a belt.
- Beware of Kydex or metal stiffeners. Bending these materials can possibly weaken them, and lead to breaking.
- Pictures of belts tied into a knot or wrapped up like a pretzel means the belt is not likely stiff enough for ultimate IWB carry, and certainly not suitable for OWB.
There are many posts about gun belts on the forums. Most are completely true, but there are a few claims that are exaggerated or simply not true. I’ll break these down as best as I can. Please accept my apologies in advance if I’ve left anything out.
1.) A personal defense system needs a solid foundation. Any structure built on unsteady ground will eventually fail. A good gun belt will “lock” your holster, and by default your weapon, into a permanent position. A department store belt may give this type of performance, but it will be very short lived. The weight of your gear will quickly render a lesser belt inadequate. A seemingly good quality, non reinforced gun belt will last longer than a department store belt, but it will begin softening with your very first wear.
a.) In tense and/or emergency situations, individual motor skills can deteriorate. Repetition and practice of firearm presentation can develop muscle memory to overcome the “fumble fingers” often experienced in an emergency. Muscle memory cannot help you if your weapon is not where it’s supposed to be.
It’s easy to see that a good gun belt will keep your firearm from wiggling and/or “flopping” on a horizontal line. What many don’t consider is the vertical line. Not only will a department store belt sag, it will stretch. If you’ve ever had to hike your pants up during the day, you’ll know what I mean. A belt that will stretch will become loose. A loose belt could change the position of your firearm by up to three or more inches. As a non reinforced gun belt "breaks in", you will start to notice the same effect.
Here’s the bottom line.
If you are serious enough about your safety to practice your presentation skills, you should be serious enough to own the very best belt available.
1.) Many claim that a gun belt will offer better concealment than a department store belt.
This claim is only partly true. A good gun belt will minimize movement of your weapon, and assist with keeping your firearm close to your body. These two factors greatly reduce the possibility of printing. However, it cannot make a lump disappear. In fact, the added thickness of a gun belt could add up to ¼” to the bulge you already have depending on your specific gun belt material.
Proper attire, equipment and positioning will always be the main factors for effective conceal carry. Each of our body shapes and sizes are different. Firearm sizes, holsters and optimum position of carry, will differ with each of us as well.
Claims that a good gun belt will always be more comfortable than a department store belt are slightly exaggerated. While it is true that a gun belt will offer superior support of your firearm, and distribute the weight much more effectively, added stiffness must be factored into the equation.
Department store belts are flexible and offer much more “give”. They are by default, (with out a firearm attached) a more comfortable piece of attire. The difference is weight distribution. The advantage of a quality reinforced gun belt is that you should not have to cinch it as tight because it will not stretch throughout the day. If you find regular gun belts uncomfortable, perhaps you should try one of our "Perfect Fit" belts
Here’s the rub. While a stiffer belt will never be as comfortable as a more flexible belt, the flexible (department store) belt can cause serious discomfort at and near the point of carry. Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula to determine how stiff your belt needs to be. There are some options that you can consider to help with your determination:
1.) Belt size: Generally speaking, the larger your belt size, the stiffer you need it to be.
a.) Double stitching increases stiffness with most gun belts (not ours, we compensate with slightly wider reinforcement) – does not substantially decrease overall comfort
b.) Internal stiffeners increase stiffness – will slightly decrease overall comfort - some internal stiffeners could render a belt unwearable, which is why we selected Nylon 6/6/
c.) Wider belts increase stiffness – impacts comfort more than the other two
2.) Larger, heavier weapons require slightly stiffer belts.
3.) Outside the pants carry requires a slightly stiffer belt than inside the pants carry.
The most commonly sold width of a gun belt is 1 ½”. This width is likely the most suitable for the majority.
Durability and Price
This is likely the most controversial debate about gun belts. I must offer a little insight into the basis of this argument. There IS a difference between a well constructed gun belt, and a lesser constructed gun belt. Is it a dual layer belt that is bonded and stitched together, or a simple single ply belt?
Some man made material belts (mesh) make a very functional gun belt. Unfortunately, they could never be considered suitable for dress wear, and may not fit your idea of conceal carry. Man made material belts that are suitable for dress wear usually are too stiff to be comfortable and/or simply do not last with extended usage.
Genuine leather, which is found at most discount stores, is the inner layer of leather left over from skiving or splitting off the outer (full grain) layers of leather. This is the softest part of the hide. As with human skin, the inner layers are not as resistant to trauma as the outer layers.
We hope this information helps you in your search for the perfect belt. Of course we'd prefer you try out one of ours. If you elect to buy elsewhere, take this information with you. And thanks for visiting A Better Belt USA!