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Discussion Starter #1
I've been wearing my current belt almost every day for the past five years or so, though only recently with a carry weapon. I tried my 2.5" S&W M66 in a Don Hume J.I.T. during my last range trip and had to cinch the belt so tight my bellybutton was kissing my spine. :eek:

There's a respectable weight difference between my 66 and 642 so maybe it's just more weight than I'm use to but I'm wondering if maybe the belt's useable "carry life" is played out. It works fine with my 642 but is it time to use it as just for casual wear? This is a 1.5" gunbelt from a very respectable holster maker and it still looks as good as the day I opened the package.

Considering my limited CCW experience I thought I'd ask how often you folks generally replace your belts. I've got a new one on order with Eric at HBE but it'll be a while before it arrives, Maybe I should wait for the new leather before I start carrying my 66?

Appreciate any input you folks can offer!
Jack
 

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My Belt

My gun belt is getting pretty "deformed" & I sure am due for a new belt.
I've used the same buckle & keeper through three different belts already.
When I carry a full weight firearm at the waist I pull my belt in super tight.
 

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Jack - I think most will agree a belt needs to not only be of good quality but also not too deformed thru long use.

That said - I have found it very acceptable, to me, to just ensure that my gun sits right!! That is my main criterion. In my case, without belt cinched to painful levels - I have a slight sag in holster area - with a heavy SIG stainless I expect that and it does not compromize me in any way.

I want the rig held tight to body - check. I want pants to stay up - check. I want gun to draw freely without rig and belt trying to follow! - check. Finally I want to be comfortable - check.

If these things are OK - for me - and of course YMMV as would anyone else's - then I am good to go. I do not feel myself that anyone should have to feel restricted by an over tight belt - if they do then some other component of their carry gear is not ideal - even the belt itself.

So - old belts can be good, as long as deformation is not too severe and support ability is still adequate. If in doubt tho - treat yourself to a new good quality belt.
 

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I have a few Bianchi belts from way back when. They are slightly deformed but they are sooo comfy. Guess I'm the type that hangs onto the good stuff for ages. I switch back and forth from them, as I also do for my common belts. I do however, notice the distinct different when I place the holster on a common belt Vs the Bianchi one...
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I appreciate the input. There is some warpage around the rear center loop and a bit on the sides so maybe it's done for. Finish-wise it still looks fine so I won't be able to trash it without crying. Maybe it'll be my outdoors belt after I get the new stuff.
Jack

BTW, does five years seem like a decent useable lifespan?
 

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Howdy!

Part of the problem stems from the fact that they ain't making' leather like they used to. Years ago, cattle were range grazed and allowed to mature naturally - that usually meant enduring two hard winters before going to the slaughterhouse. The hide from these animals was firm and dense as a result. (A harsh, cold climate tends to toughen up cowhide)
Most cattle today are stuffed full of steroids and hormones at feedlots and slaughtered as young as 16-18 months. These animals have reached their full weight, but they are not physiologically mature. As such, their hides are softer and less dense.
So, what does this mean to you the consumer? It means you will see your belts softening up sooner than they used to "back in the day". Holsters are also being made differently today. Many makers are compensating by employing steel reinforcements, doubled up mouthbands and even going so far as to laminate two layers of very thin leather instead of using a single ply. That's a big part of the reason that gunleather has gotten so expensive to produce.
The problem with using a synthetic liner in a belt is that the synthetics don't mold to the shape of your body like the leather does, so whle it may support the holster better, you do so at the expense of comfort.
About all I can tell you is that IWB's are more forgiving than OWB's regarding your belt's level of stiffness. I would therefore suggest that you wear your newest belt when using an OWB holster, and save the older, softer one for IWB use. That will at least extend the life of the newer belt somewhat.
Another possible solution (at least for casual wear) may be something like a Wilderness Instructors Belt. They look like crap with a suit and/or dress clothes, obviously. However, I believe that they should work well with jeans, 5.11's, BDU's and cargo shorts. I have a product sample coming now. If they turn out to be as good as I've heard, I will be carrying them in addition to the leather belts that make. I'll keep ya'll posted.
Horsehide may be helpful in belt construction, but it is available only in narrow, fairly short strips and makes (IMHO) a pretty ugly belt. I am experimenting with a cowhide belt w/ a horsehide liner. I'll also keep you guys up to speed on that as well. Thanks!
 

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Gary,
I have seen ads for synthetic belts that make exraordinary claims about comfort and stiffness and lifespan. Are any of these any good? Also I was in my local gunshop and saw some surplus or used police belts that looked to be in excellent condition. Would one of these be worth buying? Thanks.
 

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HollowpointHank said:
Gary,
I have seen ads for synthetic belts that make exraordinary claims about comfort and stiffness and lifespan. Are any of these any good? Also I was in my local gunshop and saw some surplus or used police belts that looked to be in excellent condition. Would one of these be worth buying? Thanks.

Hi Hank,

To be truthful, I don't know. I don't have enough experience w/ synthetic belts to be able to answer your question. If the LEO surplus belts that you mentioned are leather, just keep in mind that a proper gunbelt is made of two layers of full grain leather (smooth leather -suede does not qualify.) Most uniform type belts are only made to hold up your pants (they are designed to be worn under a duty belt) and are probably not up to use as a holster belt.

The Wilderness belts intrigue me as an alternative because multiple layers of nylon webbing are pretty stiff when stitched together (my sample is the five stitch model), but will soften up a bit and (to a degree at least) take the shape of the wearer. They also make one with a plastic liner that is intended for use as a duty/competition belt, but they advised me that it is too stiff to wear with IWB concealment holsters because it cannot bend enough to follow the contours of the gun. My guess is that would have to mean that they will not really be comfortable enough for long term carry as well.

I don't know if I've helped you or not. Good luck!
 

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Gary,
The police belts were about 2" wide or wider and probably 1/8" thick with basketweave exterior. I think they were used for holster carry. Would they still be useful?
 

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Hi Hank,

My guess is that they are 1.75" in width - that is the width of a standard liner or "garrison" belt. The next standard size up commonly found in LEO gear would be 2.25", and that is an actual duty belt.
In any event, 1/8 is too light for most holster applications. My belts (and those of most makers) are almost twice that thick.
Properly made gunbelts are just plain expensive, (and for the record, are a pain to make as well - I hate 'em.) However, they are also essential to making sure that your holster performs properly. It certainly is tempting to look for a good deal, but an inferior belt will probably come back to bite you. Most shooters have a "holster graveyard" - a box of holsters that somebody told 'em were great, but for whatever reason didn't quite work out. We also tend to shy away from gunbelts at first because of their price (which is understandable - these things are pricey). However, eventually most folks (myself included) also learn (the hard way) that, in the long run, just biting the bullet and getting good gear the first time is actually cheaper and works MUCH better.
I'm certainly not trying to lecture you here. I just want to share what I've learned in the hope of saving other folks the expense of aquiring a "holster graveyard" of their own. :)
Please let me know if there is any other way that I can help. Thanks!
 

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Gary,
Thank you for your wise counsel. I would much rather learn from someone elses mistakes than from my own. I take your words to heart. Your right, gunbelts are expensive. That begs the question, What about paddle holsters? They don't use a belt except to keep them snugged up tight against the body. I don't mean to be a pest, but I don't want a holster graveyard either. Thanks for any help you throw my way.
 

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If you get a holster that has wider loops then the J.I.T, perhaps a pancake style you will find that the gun rides better and you won't have to tighten the belt so much.
 

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Hi Hank,
My personal belief is that paddle holsters are one of the most useless things ever conceived of by the mind of man. But, that is only my opinion. Some guys love 'em.

In answer to your question, such a holster still needs to be supported by a proper belt - the waistband of your trousers certainly isn't up to the task.

The problem with paddles is twofold - first, they don't usually conceal worth a crap, and secondly, most designs can be ripped out of your pants during a forceful draw or in a scuffle.

I hope that my directness doesn't offend anyone. I'm just not all that diplomatic. I apologize in advance for any ruffled feathers. :)
 

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Thanks again for all the info. I look forward to gleaning more from you in the future. AMF!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Gary Brommeland said:
I hope that my directness doesn't offend anyone. I'm just not all that diplomatic. I apologize in advance for any ruffled feathers. :)

Gary,
I appreciate your honesty, it's always useful to get a professional's impression of things such as this - especially when they're willing to bypass the PC stuff and be direct about it.

I'd be very interested to hear your opinion of the Wilderness Tactical belts as well. While I don't get to the trout stream as much as I use to, it'd be good to have an affordable alternative to wearing my good leather (and maybe falling in with it ... again! :redface: ). I'm pretty much in jeans everyday anyway so the "ultra casual" look of the 5 stitch belt wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.
Thanks Gary and everyone else, this place is great!
Jack
 

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but they advised me that it is too stiff to wear with IWB concealment holsters because it cannot bend enough to follow the contours of the gun.
I'm not Mr. Brommeland obviously:), but I do have two Wilderness belts: one 5 stitch Instructor 1.5" non-polymer, and a polymer-lined Frequent Flyer 1.25". While the polymer insert does make the belt stiffer than one would expect, it's not like it stays in a straight line or something when tightened instead of following the contours of one's waist with holster attached-mine doesn't behave that way by any means, and if it did, I don't think they'd sell too many of them. Go figure though.

I've had the Instructor for 2 years now, with no meaningful signs of wear at all....same with the FF, and consider both of them some of my better firearm/CCW investments. As I mostly carry concealed and typically wear things over my waist area (sweater or square bottom shirt, etc.), my belts aren't normally seen anyway, so I personally prefer function over the nice looks of a good leather belt (especially including the infinite adjustment these kinds of belts offer).

I'm pretty much in jeans everyday anyway so the "ultra casual" look of the 5 stitch belt wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.
I use thier Frequent Flyer belt in tan (used two delrin rings for the "buckle" instead of the huge metal assembly of the Instructor) for just such occasions...despite being only 1.25", it still holds my 1911's up effectively if slightly less comfortably, and it makes a great jeans belt that doesn't scream "gun belt!" if you wear it when it can be seen.

FWIW, YMMV, IMO, blah, blah.

Chris
 

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I have had my Instructor belt since 93 or so. It was an everyday belt for years. I bought the plastic lined version and it is still one of my favorite belts.
Heavy leather or latigo belts are very comfortable too. They will take a shape after a bit. I got so fed up with trying to find a real leather belt several year ago and started making them for myself.
The biggest mistake I see folks doing with their belts is carrying too much gear on too little belt. Those 1" fashion belts are for just that: fashion. A 1.5"wide or better yet a 1.75" is far superior. It also needs to be the width of the slots or loop on your holster.
Rob
 

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HollowpointHank, while some garrison belts are too weak for holster carry, if you can find a new, thick garrison belt it can work. I have a Strong garrison belt from my uniform days that works well for OWB carry. However some belts I had before wore out quickly so quality is a big issue (as Gary said). I have found the trick is to get the stiffest belt ya can and wear it till it comforms to ya and your rig. No mink oil or anything to soften em up either.
 

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Gary,
How ya been?
How's the new shop???

My personal daily carry belt is sharkskin over horsehide that I made for myself about seven years ago and needs to be replaced mainly because my waist is outgrowing it, (or it's somehow shrunk). The horsehide is getting a little softer in the tongue area where the holes are punched, but still stiff throughout the belt. The shark-skin looks as new and scuff free as the day it was made. Gotta love shark!!

I've also tried the cowhide/horsehide combination in belts and it works well, provided you can get strips of horsehide long enough.

Widerness Tactical is only a few blocks away from me in Phoenix.
Nice group of guys and neat operation. they have a Juki sewing machine computerized just to do their rectangular box stitch. I've only bought accessories for my M16-M4 in the showroom and don't personally own any of their belts but other LE instructors I work with have them and they appear very stable and top-notch. I can say their rifle slings are excellent.
 
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