I learned, many years ago, that the best holster isn’t worth two cents without a good quality gun belt. This means thick leather and sometimes heavy-duty reinforced fabric. There is no shortage of leather that is too thin or lousy fabric offerings. I have several high-quality leather belts that have just the right look for me, as they have been around for more than 20 years.
The brass is shiny with wear, and the leather is well worn — even burnished. And they work just fine. I am not blind to change (or fashion). Recently, I have explored the world of ratchet belts and other types that offer excellent adjustment. The options are many, and the belts work well. They take time to set up properly, but no more time than setting up a shoulder holster, as an example.
Gun Belt Options
While I am hopelessly in love with quality leather, the modern tactical belt has its own advantages. As an example, the nylon straps that make up the body of the belt are stiffer than most leather, and the high-density microfiber material used in belts such as the Nexbelt are impressive in detail.
Ultra-fine polyester fibers make for a stiff, long-wearing belt. Some folks call ratchet belts the ‘belt without holes.’ A ratchet belt features a belt buckle with a track inside the buckle, rather than a series of holes punched in the leather belt.
Generally speaking, a belt buckle features a frame and a bar with a prong attached. The belt body is called the strap and there is a loop that serves to stabilize the overhang of the belt after it is secured in the buckle. Some belts tend to stretch each definition of the parts. Ratchet belts arguably have neither prong nor notch.
The old loop and buckle type military belt was designed to make for a secure belt that was easily adjusted to a wide range of body shapes. On the other hand, a drover or westerner would have his gun belt and riding belt made up by the local saddle maker often at considerable expense. Modern leather goods are somewhere in the middle, and the ratchet belt is a different proposition altogether.
The ratchet belt uses a belt buckle with an integral track. This is used to adjust the belt. This belt uses a track rather than belt notches, often simply referred to as holes. The typical gun belt for dress will feature seven to nine notches. They may be an inch apart, but sometimes a little less.
The ratchet belt allows perfect adjustment, as there may be 24 tracks only a quarter-inch apart. The buckle itself is quite sturdy. There is a small locking device on the belt buckle that is secure but easily manipulated. The belt is fast to don and make ready for concealed carry, if need be, and faster than a standard prong and notch type belt.
If you do not want any stretch or sag, these belts are excellent choices. Some require the user to trim the belt, some are supplied with sixty inches of belt space, and others are 48 inches. The strap end may be secured with two set screws, as is the case of the Nexbelt.
The setup takes a few minutes. When the initial setup is accomplished, you need only to set the belt at the proper comfort zone — a quarter-inch at a time. This is a great option with a perfect fit that is guaranteed.
The belt buckle is secure with a release lever that is easily operated after a few repetitions. When I wear the Nexbelt, the release lever is at the bottom of the belt. It takes a little acclimation, but after a day or two, you will have your muscle memory in place for successful deployment.
I have explored the world of ratchet belts, and along the way, I also looked at Galco’s 1.5-inch Cobra and 1.75-inch HD Instructor’s belt. These are easier to quickly don and set up than a ratchet belt and offer excellent fit and comfort. I have tested these belts extensively and find that they make an excellent modern choice.
Galco’s gun belts look professional when worn with crews and tactical gear. I have also used Crossbreed’s Crossover belt with good results. While Crossbreed offers conventional belts, the Crossover — I chose the Thin Line model — is a strong leather belt with a sturdy latching buckle. This belt is a sturdy .25-inch thick.
I have also tested several DeSantis belts with good results. A major supplier to agencies and institutions, it offers plain belts and a ‘fancy stitched belt.’ I would spend a few extra bucks for the fancy stitching. It is only $10 more. Of course, it’s your money and your choice.
A local Texas company that has been a fan favorite in the holster and gun belt arena is Versacarry. Although it was launched with very humble beginnings, the ingenuity of its initial designs and durability of the water buffalo leather used to craft its holsters and belts has earned the company a loyal following. Strap on one of its belts, and in 10 years you’ll know why.
When setting up your concealed carry rig, be certain to place the holster on the belt with the proper draw angle, and secure the magazine or speedloader carrier properly, as well. By contrast, the thin dress belt need only hold the trousers up. A gun belt carries the load of a handgun, holster, spare magazines, and sometimes a knife or cell phone carrier. This isn’t a chore for lightweights.
Which gun belt have you had success with? Share your top choices in the comment section.