CONCEALMENT 9 Get Belted Tamara Keel Photos by Dave Merrill If you’ll excuse opening this article with a bit of a purse dump, I’m so over a couple bits of industry jargon. My least favorite right now is “platform.” The Glock platform this and the AR platform that — someone will probably say that their favorite utensil for consuming breakfast cereal is the spoon platform. It’s past “tired” and well into “terminally fatigued,” or whatever the next level of tired is called. Second only to that one in annoying overuse is “weapons system,” which is why it’s embarrassing to use that one now, because this is an article about belts for daily carry. If you carry a holstered pistol every day, the belt and the holster are as much a part of the system as the gun. As a matter of fact, they’re the only parts of that … er, weapons system that are constantly performing their functions. The gun just sits there and may never even be called on to do its job. Belts are super important … it was the wrong belt that kept me from proper daily carry for many years … but too often the only advice anybody gives regarding belts is, “Make sure it’s sturdy enough to support a gun,” which is like telling someone they should make sure the motor starts when shopping for a car and then stopping right there. A thick, stiff beltwill help keep even the heaviest heaters in place. There’s so much more detail, and all sorts of nuances based on how and where your holster is positioned. As the late Todd Green noted when discussing belts at his site, pistol-training.com, and explaining why he favored the five-stitch Wilderness Frequent Flyer belt, “They’re infinitely adjustable, which is nice when you carry AIWB where a tiny change in belt setup can have huge effects on comfort and concealability.” This sort of location-specific detail gets left out of so much belt advice, and that’s what this article is for: to go into the weeds on belt details. Old-School Outside the Waistband The typical belt advice of, “You want a fairly wide, very super stiff belt,” is actually pretty well spot-on for someone carrying in a traditional high-ride outside the waistband concealment holster at or just behind the strong-side hip. Of necessity, holsters designed to be carried concealed in this manner tend to ride fairly high on the belt. One of mine intended for Smith & Wesson 3-inch N-frame snubbies holds the gun almost entirely above the bottom edge of the belt. A .44 Magnum snubnose Smith is a pretty substantial chunk of steel, weighing about 2½ pounds even before you stuff it full of anti-rhinoceros bullets or whatever else it is you do with a gun like that. Put that gun and holster combo on a typical canvas web belt, and it’ll be upside down faster than an Italian cruise ship. The NextBelt EDC appears to be a normal dress belt. But looks are deceiving — no holes here. A ratcheting mechanism is used instead. Sad to say, violating this rule actually put me off carrying daily for several years. When first starting out, I did like so many people do: I threw a little gun in the glovebox or my purse if I … stop me if you’ve heard this one … was going someplace I thought I might need a gun. (This is where y’all reply, “If you thought you were going to need a gun, why were you going there in the first place?”) Then, I got my first job working in a gun store and decided I should be carrying at work, so I bought a Glock 23 and a high-ride Bianchi leather holster. It was so uncomfortable, flopping around and thumping into my side, that I carried the holstered gun on the front seat of the car during my commute and strapped up reluctantly at work, looking forward to taking it off at the end of the shift. I’d repeat Clint Smith’s platitude to myself that a carry gun should be “comforting, not comfortable,” when the real problem was the belt. Oh, sure, it was a fairly thick leather belt, but it wasn’t reinforced and only about 1¼ inches wide, so the holster was free to rock back and forth as well as flop side to side. I only figured out what was wrong by accident, when I switched gun and holster and happened to buy a properly fitted gun belt. An outside the waistband holster favors wider belts; 1½ inches is common. Further, a single layer of leather generally won’t cut it in this application no matter how thick it is. Quality leather gun belts suitable for OWB use, like those from Mean Gene Leather or Galco, incorporate double layers of leather stitched together. Frequently, there’s a stiffening layer between the two leather layers to help prevent stretching and add further resistance to rolling over. Regardless of your sense of style or lack thereof, undoubtedly someone makes a belt that’ll work for you. 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