Your everyday-carry belt is the foundation of your whole EDC system. As the foundation, when your belt is solid, your carry experience can be solid: comfortable and confident. Yet when the belt is deficient in one or more ways, not only is your carry experience going to be bad, carrying, concealing, and deploying your handgun will be far more difficult, dysfunctional, and likely dangerous.
Here I’d like to touch on what makes for a proper everyday-carry belt—and what makes for an improper or negligence choice. Luckily, choices abound, but your choices should be relegated exclusively to the optimal sort of belt system. To further narrow the scope of this article, I’m going to deal primarily with concealed carry rather than open carry.
Note that I’ll not be discussing tactical belts or any that have cobra fasteners. Those are not EDC belts unless you’re a warfighter or a law-enforcement officer. Moreover, they do not work with normal pants’ belt loops and other accessory-pouch loops for quick and easy everyday donning and removal, which completely disqualifies them for everyday carry. Instead I’ll be dwelling here only on everyday-carry belts for ordinary citizens.
You can carry all day, every day only if your system works well, conceals well, and allows you to be comfortable and confident while wearing it. Carry skill aside (yes, it is a skill), the most important component in that equation is a quality EDC belt.
A quality EDC belt will help your one to two-pound+ gun feel lighter; will help keep your holster in position; will keep your holster in the proper orientation; and will not decline in function or comfort when several other items are also carried on the belt. Conversely, a belt that is not up to the task will prevent you from concealing well—no matter the holster you’re using—and will make the experience of carrying and deploying your pistol into uncomfortable drudgery. Not to mention dangerous.
A true EDC gun belt differs from a normal belt—even a thick leather non-gun belt—in many important ways. Let’s go over them!
EDC Belt Qualities
A belt for everyday carry of a gun and other items has to satisfy several important needs at once, elegantly.
Your EDC belt should be 1.5” wide. Unless you’re carrying specialized equipment that requires a 2” belt, you need to stick to the standard of 1.5”, which works perfectly. A bet that is less than 1.5” wide is unsuitable for EDC use.
Your EDC belt should be quite rigid. It must not just be hard to compress top-to-bottom, it should be impossible to compress top-to-bottom. A 1.5” belt that can be compressed with your hand into a curve is wholly unsuitable as an EDC belt. Never use such a belt. Additionally, when the belt is off your pants and buckled into a loop, you should be able to hold it up by the buckle without the loop of the belt drooping more than very slightly if at all.
But rigidity must be tempered by a wearable pliability. Note that competition-style gun belts that are entirely rigid are inappropriate for everyday carry. That degree of rigidity will quickly offer discomfort and will distort into unslightly shapes when you sit or bend over or move while going about your daily business. Stick with purpose-specific EDC gun belts. I’ll cite some examples below.
Your EDC belt should allow for very small buckle adjustments (as shown below). A typical belt with a prong and set of holes is not optimal as an everyday carry belt. These types of buckles do not allow for the necessary degree of adjustment. Instead, opt for an EDC belt that uses a ratchet system for closure. This is proven tech and is up to the job of daily carry of heavy items while at the same time allowing for important small degrees of adjustment that can make huge differences in comfort, confidence, and concealability. I advise you to completely avoid EDC belts that use a traditional buckle. Note that many proper ratchet-system belt buckles look exactly like a prong-and-hole-style buckle. It is an elegant deception.
Your EDC belt should look just like a normal belt for the type of clothes you’re wearing. This means it should typically be made of or covered in leather or nylon or fabric of appropriate finish and fashion. Nothing about your EDC belt should communicate “tactical”. A good EDC belt is one that looks appropriate with jeans and with dress slacks. Note that because leather and nylon and fabric are not rigid enough by themselves, true EDC belts have a rigid core material that turns them into useful kit.
An inferior belt is one that lacks a rigid core, so it is soft and floppy. Even when the belt is worn tight, your pistol (OWB) will cant outward because the belt lacks proper integrity. Therefore, it will never allow you to conceal properly. An inferior belt is either slightly too loose or slightly too tight when you wear your handgun holstered to it. With an inferior belt, when you go to draw your handgun quickly, it may have moved position slightly or changed its degree of angle because the belt cannot properly support it. This means that your draw will be slower, clumsier, and more dangerous than with a proper belt.
A tactical-style belt looks odd and draws unwanted attention to you when others see its incongruity with your clothing. An inferior EDC belt is not aesthetically appropriate for formal dress – or – a soft, formal-style belt is in no way up to the task of providing the proper foundation for carrying when you’re dressed up. Moreover, an inferior formal-style EDC belt gets marred and marked up too quickly by holsters and pouches to be aesthetically appropriate for formal-dress carry.
Examples of Proper Kit
Disclaimer: No belt manufacturer has ever given me any swag and every belt I own I’ve purchased with my own money.
Finding all of the imperative qualities of a proper EDC belt is not difficult. When citing examples here, I’m going to reference my own experience of trying different belts over years while carrying all day, every day. Therefore, it is going to be impossible for me to refrain from mentioning specific brands and models, citing both the good and the bad from those brands and models. So here I will be somewhat less than objective, because I don’t want to speak to brands with which I have no experience, and possibly mislead you.
The overall best EDC belt in my experience and opinion is one of the models from Nexbelt. Their core material is the best I’ve found and does not break or suffer the shortcomings found in other similar brands’ belts with ongoing daily wear. Nexbelt offers a variety of belt materials and buckle styles, and you can order belts and buckles separately, which is a handy benefit if you ever encounter a failure with one or the other (I have!).
One caveat I can offer is to avoid the buckle offered with the “Titan” model that has a dark, rough finish.* I had one of these buckles break after less than 1 year of being worn only at home every day. The metal for that buckle was of inferior quality and it broke at the perpendicular attachment pin area, where the buckle material was thin. It’s possible they’ve amended the design or materials lately, but I don’t know this for sure. However, I have had good luck and no problems with several other buckles that have a shiny finish.
The leather models look great and wear very well, showing little to no damage after years of repeated on-off of holsters and other belt-worn kit. The Nylon-webbing belts are excellent, too. Stiff and with the normal-looking buckle they don’t put out a “tactical” vibe.
The belt lineup from Kore is also pretty good—better than almost anything else on the market. I wore Kore belts for a couple years and they have many fine qualities that put them ahead of most other companies’ products. What I mentioned about Nexbelt is generally true for Kore too, with one important difference: the stiff-core material used by Kore is slightly inferior. I find that the belt core material tends to break in half right at the middle of my back after 1+ year’s wear. The belt is then still usable and this break doesn’t necessarily compromise the belt’s function, but it is a bit unsightly and I just don’t like having a broken belt. After paying ~$70 for a belt, I’d like to get more than 1 year out of it.
Why am I mentioning Kore here if they have inherent problems? Well, because they’re nearly as good as Nexbelt and companies typically work to continually improve. I have no doubt that Kore will amend their issues, if they haven’t already (I just haven’t checked in a couple years).
The point is that Nexbelt and Kore are at the top of the EDC belt game because they understand the actually important factors of successful daily carry and have created belts that, unlike those from other brands, can properly serve as the foundation of a daily carry system.
Surely there are other brands that make proper EDC belts, I’ve just never seen any and can’t report on them here. Just keep in mind that if their belt doesn’t have a rigid core material and/or doesn’t have a ratchet buckle, they’re not worth the expense or your time. They will not provide an optimal platform for your carry system.
Note that these gun belts come in many varieties of appearance, from slick leather to alligator pattern to suede to nylon webbing and more. Most manufacturers have lots and lots of buckle styles, too, so there’s going to be a proper gun belt to suit your preference and style and various needs. We’re not relegated to plain, chunky cowboy-leather or military cobra belts anymore.
For comfortable and efficient everyday carry of a firearm and other vital items, it is best that your belt be utilized for as many of those items as possible. At minimum, I’d recommend that your handgun, extra-mag(s) pouch, fixed-blade knife, and either phone or tourniquet (or both) be carried on your belt. This frees up pockets for other items, like folder knife, flashlight, etc… (for some good organization options, see my article on this topic). Only a proper belt can allow you to comfortably and confidently carry these items on the belt.
There several holster manufacturer companies that market gun belts, but I’ve never seen one that properly measures up to the task. If you prefer not to go with my brand recommendations, at least now that you know what to look for you can do your own scouting without wasting your money on inferior products.
Be safe, stay vigilant, and train hard!
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