*The Pistol Belt*
As a part-time firearms instructor and a life-long student of tactical and competitive shooting, I have observed that most people will spend their hard-earned money to purchase a quality pistol and then, in most cases, will purchase a good holster and belt for the range. Unfortunately, when purchasing gear for concealed carry, many will carry their quality pistol in a so-so inside the waistband (IWB) holster and will tie it all together with a cheep-A$$ belt. Concealed carry is not the time to skimp when purchasing gear. As holsters are very personal and varied due to infinite body shapes/sizes combined with the large number of different type of pistols all I will say about holsters is that the mouth of the holster needs to be rigid to allow for one-handed re-holstering. This article will focus on the belt.
I often see people using flimsy belts that they typically use for everyday wear for their concealed carry use. Examples of these types of flimsy belts I am referring to are pictured below. From top to bottom; a thin leather belt, a fake leather belt, a leather weave belt, and a fabric belt.
Please note, the thin leather belt at the top was my first attempt at purchasing a concealed carry pistol belt. Notice in the photo below that the thin leather belt has stretched and actually necked down at the notches after a couple of years of regular concealed carry wear. This belt is now relegated for general belt usage when I am working around the house. From my experience, I will not use any of these belt types for concealed carry use. They will all sag and stretch and will not firmly hold the pistol and IWB holster firmly in place.
The best belts that I have found are double thickness leather belts. They are quite stiff so they will not stretch or sag like the belts above. Because they are stiff, a very nice design feature that is found in high quality leather belts is a contour feature that makes them more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time,. You can see the slight curvature of the belts in the photo below. The bottom two belts are 1/2 inch thick belts (one black and the other cordovan) and the top is a black 1.25 inch thick belt.
These are high quality dress belts with good looking strong buckles and can be worn with your best suits but these belts are not low-priced. These belts are made by Milt Sparks and cost about $100 each and with a bit of care, will last for a long time. The belts pictured above are between 7 and 15 years old (I can only afford to purchase them every so often) and are still in very good condition, and I wear them almost daily. Milt Sparks also makes these belts with other decorative finishes and stitching for an additional cost. There are other high quality leather belt makers such as Mitch Rosen, Alessi, and Gould and Goodrich and others; just make sure that the belts are made for concealed carry purposes.
One other point, make sure you add an extra two inches to your waist size when ordering to accommodate the IWB pistol holster.
Another belt configuration that I have come across about two years ago is the Liger belt made by Maxpedition. This is a stiff, reinforced urethane belt that I like to wear in the summer heat because it will not soak up sweat. These are 1.25 inch thick belts that come in Black, Tan, and Brown with either a brushed stainless or black buckle. I have worn these belts often for the past two years and am very please with these belts. They do not have the contour shape but I have found them to be quite comfortable for all day wear. They are more supple than a well-made leather belt but have found them to hold the IWB holster quite firmly without sagging or stretching. Again these are not inexpensive and will run $70 but keep an eye out for special prices on "seconds." The Tan and Brown belts were purchased as "seconds" but for the life of me, the only flaw I could find was slight discolorations on the buckles.
The final type of belt that I use for IWB carry with very casual dress, and is also at home on the range, is the Wilderness 5-Stitch Instructors belt. It is a double thickness material used to make repelling harnesses stitched together with five rows of stitching and an incredibly strong buckle. It is designed to not fail under 8,000 lbs of static stress. It is quite rigid and will not sag nor stretch. I have noticed though that as I have gotten older, the belt is not as comfortable as when I was in better shape and did not have that spare tire around the middle for the belt to bite into. I now wear this belt on the range primarily but not as much now for concealed carry. This will run $40 and can be purchased from a couple of distributors.
These are a couple of lessons learned that I have gained over 20 years of regularly carrying a concealed pistol. The point of this article is that the pistol, holster, and belt are a system when carrying concealed. Like any system, it is only as strong as its weakest link. Do not make the mistake that many make and let your belt be your weakest link.
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