I think that the complaints I hear most among those who carry a firearm regularly are all focused on concealed carry belts. These complaints come from both new concealed carry holders and many who have been carrying concealed for years. Finding the right combination of belt and holster can be a trial and error sort of situation, which is the main reason many of us have a drawer full of holsters.
I discovered that I also have a shelf in my closet with almost as many belts, neatly coiled and stacked, as a testament to my trials with belts of various kinds. I understand the frustration that many concealed carry holders feel when they try to find that perfect belt to hold up their trousers and keep their concealed carry firearm safe and secure.
The Concept of the Belt
Adding a concealed carry holster to your everyday carry changes a lot of the dynamics of your wardrobe. One of those dynamics is the role that your belt now plays in the full picture of carrying concealed. Your belt is no longer just a decorative item reflecting your style and maybe to help keep your pants up around your waist. Your belt now has the important task of securing your concealed carry holster and gun. That belt must also perform this vital task in a way that is comfortable and, hopefully, stylish enough that you don’t stand out.
I am a huge proponent of the gray man concept. I want to blend in with my surroundings. This is not camouflage. The gray man concept centers more on becoming invisible to those who seek out targets. I don’t want to attract attention to myself or my family. I want to look like the average guy to whom no one gives a second thought.
I certainly don’t want a belt that draws attention or makes it apparent that I am carrying something out of the ordinary. That means choosing a belt that can deliver on my needs without becoming a distraction. The challenge is to find a belt that meets those needs and does it in a way that remains stylish and unassuming.
What to Look for in a Concealed Carry Belt
When I start choosing a belt with the knowledge that I am going to use it as part of my concealed carry system, there are certain things that I look for, such as:
- The material from which the belt is constructed
- The method of construction
- The type of buckle
- The style of the belt
Let me note here that I don’t wear the same belt every day or for every occasion. I have several belts in my collection that get regular use depending on what the situation demands. I have dressier belts that I can wear with dress clothes, casual belts that go with anything from jeans to khakis, work belts that get used when doing physical or manual work, and range belts.
They all perform the same basic functions and they all meet the same basic criteria.
For me, there are only two materials that should be considered when choosing a concealed carry belt – leather and nylon webbing.
Leather is my choice when it comes to almost all my concealed carry belts. There are several reasons for this opinion.
- Leather is the traditional material for men’s belts. This goes back to the gray man concept. People, in general, expect to see a man wearing a leather belt. Any other material tends to draw attention, which is the last thing I want.
- Leather tends to “learn.” It may sound strange, but as you wear a leather belt, it stretches here and there and begins to conform to your body. The leather becomes fitted in a sense to you, which can make it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
On the downside, leather does require maintenance. A good leather belt needs to be cleaned and treated to keep it from drying out and cracking. Leather also stretches over time, especially if the belt is worn every day.
Belts made of heavy-duty nylon webbing, typically called SCUBA webbing, are becoming more and more popular. This material is not my favorite for concealed carry belts, but I must admit that I have several in my collection of belts. Nylon does have its advantages over leather.
- Nylon webbing tends to stretch less under normal use. You won’t notice the nylon webbing losing its shape.
- Belts made of nylon webbing don’t require as much maintenance as leather.
- Nylon web belts tend to be cheaper than a good leather belt.
There are some disadvantages as well. Nylon web belts don’t meet the needs of someone who must dress above the casual level for work. You just can’t slip a great tactical web belt into your Armani suit and go to the office without someone noticing.
Quality construction is paramount, no matter what material I chose for a belt. When I look at a belt that I plan to wear as part of a concealed carry system, I consider the following.
- Stitching – A good leather concealed carry belt should be double stitched. Most leather belts are made up of a series of sandwiched layers stitched together to form the belt. The inner layers may be nylon or some other material to give the belt the required stiffness. Double stitching ensures that the layers will stay secure and act as one unit in daily use.
- Thickness – Part of the stiffness factor is the thickness of the belt. Here you want to practice a bit of moderation. There are concealed carry belts on the market that get very thick, trying to bring stiffness. You must also remember that the belt must pass through the belt loops on your trousers easily. Thickness can be important, depending on the style of pants you wear most often.
- Width – Here again, the style and type of trousers you wear is the controlling factor on the width of the belt. The width of belt loops varies, and you should make sure that your concealed carry belt width is compatible with your wardrobe.
The buckle is where everything comes together. You can have the best leather available in your belt, but if the buckle is not up to the task, you are going to be uncomfortable and insecure in many ways. There are some styles of buckles that work very well, and some you should avoid like the plague.
- Traditional buckles are, in my opinion, the only way to go. The metal buckle with a prong that fits through an eyelet on the opposite end of the belt is the most secure and least likely type of buckle to slip or fail. It is also less conspicuous than many other types.
- Tension style buckles are great in some applications. You see these a lot on nylon web belts, especially those in the tactical genre’. You need to be careful when purchasing belts with tension buckles as the quality of the manufacture can make a difference in whether the belt will stay secure or not. This style of belt is most seen on nylon web belts.
- Track or Slide buckles are usually seen on a dress or fashion belt. They are also quite common in western-style belts. The buckle, or shield, has a prong on the back that slips into an opposing eyelet. These are almost as secure as a traditional buckle but can put a lot of strain on a small area of the leather that can lead to excessive stretching.
- If you have any tactical or military-style gear, you are familiar with the cobra style buckle. This buckle has a male and female end that snap together and will not release until you manually push the release tabs of the buckle. This design feature is the problem of wearing a belt with a cobra style buckle every day. The buckles just don’t fit easily through the belt loops on most pants.
We are back to the gray man concept. We all want to be stylish. Stylish doesn’t mean that we must be flashy or ostentatious. It also doesn’t mean that we must give up the features we need in a good concealed carry belt. In fact, if chosen carefully, a well-chosen and constructed concealed carry belt becomes part of the overall concept of concealed carry by not being noticed as anything other than a belt.
Best Concealed Carry Belts
Let’s get on to the list. If you are like me, life demands different choices almost every day, even for the most mundane issues like what belt to wear. Here are my choices for the best concealed carry belt, based on their potential uses.
Best Everyday Concealed Carry Belt – Relentless Concealed Carry Gun Belt
Made in the USA of full grain 14 oz. leather, the Relentless concealed carry belt is my choice for an everyday wear belt. The quality of the material and the construction are top-notch, giving the belt gives a fine balance of stiffness and thickness.
- Made in the USA
- 1.5’’ wide
- Lifetime warranty
- #1 Amazon Best Seller
- No plastic inserts or internal parts
When paired with a meticulously designed holster, the Relentless concealed carry belt works for inside the waistband or outside the waistband equally well. Style isn’t a problem either. These are good looking belts built to last.
Best Dress Leather Concealed Carry Belt – Crossbreed Holsters Executive Concealed Carry Belt
Sometimes the occasion calls for a more polished look, and the Crossbreed Executive concealed carry belts meet those needs perfectly. These belts are made of top grain cowhide in the USA and have a classic, stylish look that will work on any occasion.
- Made in the USA
- Top Grain Cowhide Leather
- 1.5” wide
- Nylon core liner for extra durability
Crossbreed has made a reputation for building top-quality holsters. Their belts follow this example. In fact, pairing a Crossbreed holster with a Crossbreed belt can be a great way to build your concealed carry system in a way that is made to work together.
Best Dress Nylon Concealed Carry Belt – Aegis Gear Black Concealed Carry Belt
If you need a dressier look for your outfit, then the Aegis Gear concealed carry belts provide a sleek, stylish look with the stiffness and comfort that are important to carry concealed daily. No one will give this belt a second thought as anything other than a fashion belt.
Despite my preference for leather, the Aegis is made of nylon web. The buckle is a unique design that combines the features of a tension buckle with a slide buckle. A tension bar in the buckle housing spreads the tension force across the face of the belt material eliminating the single point prong of most slide buckles. This makes a much more secure and easily adjustable buckle arrangement.
The functional yet stylish design won’t give itself away and the webbing is stitched to make it appear to be a fashion accessory instead of a piece of tactical gear.
- Made in the USA
- 1.5” wide
- SCUBA nylon webbing
- Aegis buckle is constructed of bead-blasted stainless steel with a black finish
This belt is rugged enough to wear under almost any circumstances. Stylish enough to go formal yet rugged and built to take the most extreme conditions. If you only want one concealed carry belt, this would be my choice.
Best Tactical Concealed Carry Belt – 5.11 Tactical Trainer Belt
I am a huge fan of 5.11 gear overall and their Tactical Trainer Belt is no exception. This is my go-to belt when I am headed to the range or doing training. The belt is stylish enough to wear with casual pants or even with a pair of cargo shorts if the temperature calls for that sort of thing.
The downside is that this is a 2” wide belt and may not fit into the belt loops of many pants, which can limit its usefulness. On the other hand, the nylon webbing and the stainless-steel tension buckle make this belt a perfect choice to wear if you are headed out for a week in the wilderness. As an emergency backup as a tie-down, carry strap, or even an emergency harness, the 5.11 Tactical Trainer belt is a great addition to your collections.
- The stainless-steel buckle is rated to 6,000 lbs
- Extra heavy-duty nylon webbing construction
- Double reinforced stitching
- Economical and durable
When you aren’t as concerned about the gray man factor and you need a solid piece of gear that you can depend on for much more than holding up your pants and keeping your gun in place, the 5.11 Tactical Trainer belt is a perfect combination of design and functionality.
Whatever your needs in a concealed carry belt, you should choose carefully. The better your choice, the more comfortable you will be and the more secure your concealed carry firearm will remain. I hope that the information I have provided in this article helps you make a good choice for your concealed carry belt. Don’t forget, in addition to a good concealed carry belt, you’ll also want to round out your entire wardrobe with clothing that is friendly for concealed carry.