One of the most egregious gear errors consistently popping up on social media is the lack of a good gun belt. You either see a guy holstering up with a low-quality cloth belt (or a skinny belt) or a woman showing off her supposed EDC in shorts with no belt whatsoever. The results are always the same: The gun sags and drags the waistband of the person’s pants down. Apparently, the wearer is oblivious to the problem. And it’s definitely a problem. The use of a proper gun belt is important for a slew of reasons, but — most importantly — a good belt holds your holstered gun close to your body without allowing it to slip, shift or fall. Keeping that gun secure is your responsibility, after all.
How do you choose a gun belt? I’m glad you asked.
Gun Belt Selection
If you’re thinking you can just hit the store and grab a work belt, stop right there. Supposed “heavy-duty” belts for use outside of the gun world are rarely right for carrying a gun. Belts meant for carrying often have stiffeners such as ABS, steel or Kydex to make them tough. Those other belts tend to be thick but not properly reinforced. Stiffeners have a lot to offer, including stopping a belt from twisting or sagging. They also distribute the weight of your holstered gun and mags more evenly. Basically, a leather belt grabbed from Walmart is going to crease and collapse around your gun at increasingly worse levels as time goes by (and it can happen fast).
Thickness is certainly a factor with gun belts. The belts designed for the heaviest loads — think competition or law enforcement — are wide, thick and reinforced. You’ll have to match the width and thickness of your belt to the loops on your holster because holsters are made to fit specific widths. They are not one-size-fits-all. Don’t think that means you can’t wear slimmer belts ever again. Companies such as Galco offer stiffly reinforced dress-style gun belts that work quite well. That brings us to the next debate: material.
Those in the gun industry love to argue among themselves, and the question of leather versus nylon gun belts is a favorite topic. In reality, each has its uses and can work just fine. Personally, I prefer good leather, but I do have a number of nylon belts in my collection. Leather lends you a certain ability to blend in a bit more. Wearing leather doesn’t scream “gun;” it simply says “belt.” Nylon does have a far more tactical look. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t wear nylon belts. But be aware they call more attention to you as a gun owner. Whichever material you choose, make sure it’s a basic color (think black or brown). There is no reason to call attention to your belt … or what’s on it.
Leather Gun Belt
When selecting a leather belt, look for one with either an internal stiffener or double-thickness. There are some good single-thickness belts on the market, but you will find double-layer designs are sturdier and have a definite boost for longevity. Good stitching matters as well, and many manufacturers offer belts with double stitching — a fantastic option. Stitches should be uniform and without fraying. Full-grain and top-grain are the two grades to look for in leather.
Nylon Webbing Gun Belts
Nylon webbing gun belts should be rigid and double-layer and ideally have internal stiffeners. If you’re looking at a nylon design that includes stitching, the same rules apply as with leather: uniformity, no fraying and preferably double-stitched. It should be stiff enough to hold its shape.
Gun Belt Hardware
Believe it or not, the hardware on your belt matters. Not all buckles and fasteners are created equal. The metal used should be tough enough that it cannot be bent by hand. There are a ton of different buckle styles, and one is not necessarily better than another. If you get a prong-style buckle, be sure the prong itself is long enough to stay where you want it. If you get a cobra-style or similar buckle, it should not be too easy to open. You do not want a buckle that will pop open at the slightest pressure.
Related to buckles is adjustability. Leather belts should have at least half a dozen holes, and nylon should be adjustable at significant length — not just an inch or two. Nylon belts are offered ratchet-style and with Velcro. Both options work, although I’ve found the ratchet-style to be a bit more secure. Depending on whether you’re carrying IWB or OWB, your needs for length are going to vary. It’s nice if your belt can handle the differences. Keep that in mind when ordering too.
For IWB carry, you’re going to need a longer belt than you do for just walking around with no gun tucked in your waistband. Galco advises measuring an existing belt from the end of its buckle to the hole you’re using and rounding up to the closest even size. Galco’s belts are sized to the center holes. The company also suggests that you’ll need more length if you’re going to carry a mag holster IWB.
A Few Gun Belt Suggestions
So you have some ideas to get you going. Here are a few of the better belts currently available. There are quite a few good manufacturers out there, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick to Galco and CrossBreed. That doesn’t mean other brands aren’t good. It simply means I’m trying to be succinct.
Galco Gunleather tends to be thought of as the purveyor of all things leather (it’s in its name, after all), but the company does make a ton of Kydex and nylon products. Of its nylon options, the Heavy Duty Instructors Belt is one I do like. It is 1.5 inches thick, constructed from SCUBA webbing and has a drop-forged parachute-spec buckle with a Robar Roguard finish. The Heavy Duty Instructors Belt maintains its shape and rigidity extremely well and is available for up to a 49-inch waist.
I’ve also used Galco’s Cobra Tactical Belt which has, as the name suggests, a Cobra-style buckle. The Cobra Tactical Belt is made with Type 13 nylon webbing, has five independent rows of stitching and is 1.5 inches wide. It’s offered in the same sizes as the aforementioned Heavy Duty Instructors Belt. Both of these are great nylon gun belts.
On the leather side, Galco has the SB5 Sport Belt. The SB5 Sport Belt is made from fully lined premium steerhide, is 1.75 inches wide and has a solid-brass casual buckle. Mine has stood the test of time and use with a ridiculous number of guns in a number of classes and on hunts. If you want a dressier belt, there’s always the Galco CB3 Concealable Contour Belt. That one is also made using fully lined premium steerhide and has a nickel-plated solid-brass buckle. It’s 1.5 inches thick but tapers to 1 inch in front for a sleeker look.
CrossBreed Belts for Concealed Carry
CrossBreed makes the belt I’ve been wearing a lot lately for carrying my Glock 48: the Classic Gun Belt. It features a woven nylon webbing strap stiffener. Not only does the core make it sturdier, it also stops it from losing its shape and stretching with use. I can attest to this considering one of my CrossBreed Classic Gun Belts is 5 years old and holding its own.
The Classic Gun Belt is made from evenly cut, premium 7-ounce leather with recessed stitching using 277 thread. You can get it with double stitching, which I highly recommend. It’s a quarter-inch thick and comes in widths of either 1.25 inches or 1.5 inches. The belt has a classic prong-style buckle and seven holes for full adjustability. Another fantastic leather option is the CrossBreed Quick Ship Founder’s Series Crossover Gun Belt. The Crossover is similar to the Classic, but instead of a prong buckle, it features a slide buckle. This eliminates the need for holes and gives you serious options for adjustability.
CrossBreed’s Cobra Nylon Belt is another one that’s found its way into my regular rotation. It’s made from two layers of 1.5-inch nylon, making it crazy rigid, and it has a 1.5-inch slim-style cobra buckle. Slim is good for buckles because it reduces bulging beneath your shirt. In addition to the cobra buckle, it also has Velcro. It’s easily adjusted but firm. I’ve never had issues with this belt slipping.
Take the time to find the right belt. Don’t assume whatever you have hanging in your closet will work (it probably won’t). You spent a chunk of change on that gun, right? You can spend a much smaller amount on the right belt (and holster). Don’t be that guy whose gun clatters to the floor in the grocery store or the woman exposing her midriff and sagging waistband. Get a proper gun belt. You’ll be glad you did.
About Kat Ainsworth
Outdoor writer Kat Ainsworth has been carrying concealed for 15 years and hunting for more than 20 years. She writes for a variety of industry publications, covering hunting, ballistics and self-defense, though she has a background in K9 Search-and-Rescue and emergency veterinary medicine. Kat calls Marshfield, Wisconsin, home, but she enjoys traveling as part of her gun-related lifestyle. She has yet to find a firearm she didn’t want to fire.