A sturdy gun belt is the foundation of any holster system. Standard belts lack the necessary rigidity and stability to adequately support a holstered weapon. Just as there is a wide variety of belts on the market for fashion purposes, there are myriad choices of gun belts.
Belts generally fall into one of two categories: dress belts and casual belts. Dress belts and casual belts differ in the occasion for which they’re worn, as well as in size, materials, color and buckle style. Some dress belts may also work as casual belts, but casual belts won’t work as dress belts.
Dress Belt vs. Casual Belt
What’s the difference? Dress belts, also referred to as formal belts and executive belts, are typically worn with suits and more formal types of attire. Casual belts are wider. They’re typically worn with less dressy attire.
Dress belts are an essential accessory for every man. Selecting the right belt can be difficult, especially for the concealed carrier, who has extra parameters. To help you make an informed purchasing decision, here is a look at the specific attributes of and what you should keep in mind when selecting a dress belt for concealed carry.
A belt should complete and compliment an outfit, making it look polished. The general fashion rule of thumb is to match your leathers and match your metals (other than a wedding ring). And the color of a dress belt should match the color of the shoes being worn. Some belts are reversible with black or brown dyed sides to match multiple pairs of shoes. Matching the color of the metals is a less observed “rule.” The less formal the combinations become, the more leeway you have.
Dress Belt Criteria
A dress belt should always be leather. It should have a semi- or high-shine finish. Matte finishes are considered more casual. And not only should it be the same color as your shoes but have the same level of shine. The strap material should have a tight grain, smooth leather backing and be devoid of excessive decoration. The stitching should be recessed for a smooth look and match the color of the belt. The simpler the better.
The belt should be full-grain leather and vegetable tanned. Full-grain leather is the toughest and most durable kind of leather. It’s the entire hide of the animal once the hair is removed and the material is tanned. The terms “top grain leather,” “genuine leather” or simply “leather” often describe substandard grades of leather. Galco premium steer hide is vegetable-tanned full-grain leather. Although more labor intensive, vegetable tanning produces a more durable and stiffer leather.
Most leather gun belts are made from either bull hide or steer hide. You’ll also find belts made from exotic leathers, such as alligator, crocodile, elephant, bison horse, ostrich, shark and stingray. Exotic leathers are generally considered to be casual. Though they can work as formal in a darker color.
The buckle of the dress belt should be minimal, without any excessive styling. Dress belt buckles are smaller, flatter and sleeker than those found on casual belts. Most dress belts have a frame-style buckle. It should have a single prong and a shiny finish.
Choosing for Concealed Carry
Width is another important consideration. A dress belt should be between 1 ¼ inch (or a little under) and 1 3/8 inch in width. However, some larger individuals might get by with a 1 ½-inch wide belt. If a belt is any wider than that, it’s a casual belt and isn’t suitable for more formal attire. A 1 ¼-inch width has become the dress belt standard and will fit most dress attire.
After width, it’s time to think about thickness. Thinner belts are considered more formal. Dress belts are typically about 1/8 inch thick. This is insufficient to adequately support the weight of a gun. A dress gun belt needs to be around ¼ inch in thickness. Some dress gun belts feature feathered edge construction to hide the additional thickness and provide a proper dress belt look.
Many dress gun belts come with internal reinforcement for added rigidity and durability. The internal reinforcement can be nylon, Kydex or even spring steel. Leather will stretch and sag in time without reinforcement. The degree of rigidity and degree of comfort are inversely proportional. It’s a balancing act.
Internal reinforcement can be important if you are carrying a heavier handgun in an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster.
A Good Example of a Dress Belt for Concealed Carry
The Galco SB1 Dress Holster Belt 1 ¼ inch is a prime example of everything a good dress gun belt should be. Available in black, havana and tan, it’s constructed of double-thickness, reinforced premium steer hide (exotic leathers are available) with feathered edges. It has an extremely durable solid-brass frame-style dress buckle (nickel plated on black and havana belts). The belt has seven holes for a wide adjustment range.
To sum up, selecting the right belt and holster combination is as important as selecting the right gun. In addition to standard dress belt styling considerations, a dress gun belt must also be designed to support the weight of a handgun.
Galco Holsters: GalcoGunLeather.com