Featured Modern Classic: Mean Gene Leather Dave Merrill May 5, 2015 Join the Conversation People that carry guns or other heavy gear on their hips daily have always had a love/hate relationship with belts. An over-sized leather belt, sometimes held up with straps or suspenders, was the only viable option for centuries. Anything less would fold, stretch, or would otherwise be fouled. Later on, web belts and other similarly substantial belts took over—neither one looks particularly well placed when wearing a suit. Of course there are other options like riggers belts and police-style inner/out belt setups but they largely suffer from the same issues. Not so with the wares from Mean Gene Leather. I've been buying gear from Gene Higdon (“Mean Gene”) since you had to know a guy who knew a guy to get anything from him. Later, when HSGI was founded (and subsequently expanded), he hired some guys from my unit, and it became infinitely easier. Years later, Gene retired from HSGI but the company he founded continues to be among my ‘go-to' gear companies. So when I found out that Gene returned from retirement from HSGI to start a new company, I didn't get upset—quite the opposite. More great gear from a new company? No brainer. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mean Gene Leather (MGL) popped up last fall. With leather in the name, you knew it wasn't going to be another nylon company, but instead held the promise of a decidedly more old school craft. Not your grandpa's old Sam Browne belt, Mean Gene Leather puts out a sturdy, full-bodied belt with some modern quirks. Ever have fusion food? If you're ever in southern California doing some drunken taco truck trials, you'll quickly find that the merger of Korean and Mexican cuisine is either really really bad or completely fantastic. There is no in-between. MGL is definitely in the latter category. When viewing the Barbarian, for example, one can't help but think of well done steam-punk westerns (no, not that terrible Will Smith one) like Firefly. The classic leather belt, hand crafted, joined with an AustriAlpin Cobra buckle in the best possible way. Similarly, their Victory Aegis combines the modern Ares Gear Aegis buckle with double layered leather. MGL Barbarian with Cobra buckle I knew I would have to try one. Desiring a belt that would be just as at home with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on a lazy Saturday or a boardroom power play (not that I'm ever in a boardroom, but sometimes I have to dress up), the Victory Aegis in black with a brushed stainless buckle was an easy choice. Put another way: The MGL belts can go with a good port and dark chocolate truffles after dinner, or with a pint of Mad Dog 20/20 and pizza before noon. All of the MGL belts are double layered leather with a strip of nylon between to prevent stretching (I knew nylon would be somewhere). They are then sewn, riveted, burnished, and polished by hand. The main differences you'll see between models is the buckle used. You have an option of 1.5” or 1.75” belts with the Barbarian (Cobra buckle) and Shooters (traditional buckle), with the Victory Aegis only offered in 1.5” due to buckle restraints. The leather is offered in black, brown, or chocolate, and some of the belts have options for buckle color, and stitching type, pattern, and tone. We are advised to order the belts by our pants size. However, all of the belts sans the Shooters belt don't use traditional holes, so perhaps sizing up is advisable; you don't want to go crazy, but it'll give you some leeway if going from OWB to IWB, or if you have one too many cheeseburgers – as Reeder found out, to his chagrin. Being told an MGL belt is substantial is one thing but actually holding it is completely another. No one lied about how stalwart these are. It was to the point that I was concerned about how it would feel around my waist. While I have been known to trade a little bit of comfort for an advantage, I've never been much of a fan of predicament bondage. Any unease faded as soon as I began threading it through my belt loops. Even though it's about 1/4” thick, the leather still bends nicely while maintaining that ever important vertical stiffness. Will it Blend? That is the question. Fullsize handgun equipped with a weapon light, two reloads, and a cellphone like a 1990's gang banger? The MGL laughed at me. OK–Challenge accepted. Handgun, weapon light, 4 pistol reloads, 3 rifle mags, and any pouches I could find to increase weight? Well, my back may have hurt at the end of the day, but the MGL was still smiling (my wife wasn't as amused). I might have to get another for a multigun rig just to confuse and annoy people. I probably won't though, at least not unless I buy a bunch more Tek-Lok equipped gear, as items attach just as they would with a regular belt. Each belt is a piece of art, but unlike most of the paintings in the Louvre, you can bludgeon or beat someone to a pulp with one. Like the works of the Louvre, I anticipate that you'll be able to enjoy one of these for years to come. Here's to looking forward to more great gear from Gene. MGL Shooters Belt You can visit the homepage of Mean Gene Leather here, or give them a follow on Facebook or Instagram. Explore RECOILweb:Gear on the Go: Vertx Contingency DuffleRoam If You Want ToMossberg Introduces 12-Gauge Magazine Fed ShockwavePreview - Molot Vepr-12 - An AK Shotgun That Works? NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. 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