• Red Nichols, Holstorian

The myth of 'get a good gunbelt'

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

I've been fighting this particular battle (G.A.G.) along with The Fight Against Belly Carry (F.A.B.) on forums for a decade now. When someone on a forum reports either good news ("look at my new holster") or bad ("my gun flops around") the self-styled cognoscenti say silly things like 'get a good gunbelt'. Some pretty big names in shooting schools today are among the worst about pushing back against any information that says otherwise.

First: none of these folks can define a 'good gunbelt' for concealed carry without saying 'buy xx brand'. That's wonderful news for the O.P. who only wanted to fit in with the crowd in the first place. A little virtue signalling by wearing only XX brand gunbelts and he or she is a member of the 'in' crowd already. The entire notion was spread by the competition shooters, ex-military at first, from the '60s and '70s whose entire world was only Alfonso or Anderson belts. These were wide gunbelts of 2-1/4" to 2-1/2" widths and slung around the hips; oh, and they also made trousers belts to complement these. And these belts are what competitors started putting their holster onto when the rules changed to concealed carry. And these belts are so thick and stiff -- and straight -- that they might as well be made of malleable steel alone.

Second: well, I can define a belt that's suited to carrying a well-designed holster and its burden. And so could any maker if they put their mind to it. But they haven't. Instead they, too, want to fit into the 'in' crowd so they follow a formula that's a winner in the money sweepstakes: make it thick and make it wide. Stitch it sturdily, too. Use an expensive solid brass buckle, too. Charge a lot. I have no problem with any and all of that; but even all these taken together don't represent a 'good gunbelt'. And you sure don't need a band of steel or even plastic between the layers! But buy one anyway if you feel you will ever be able to 'break it in'; because it's straight and your waistline isn't!

Here's Jan Libourel in Handguns on the subject of what he terms 'lodge pins'. 1996:

What we want in a belt that we use as a gunbelt, is no more than a good trousers belt. We want it to have good stiffness across its WIDTH vs. its length. That will usually involve some notable thickness for the leather. Does it need to be non-stretchy? Not really, there's little benefit to a belt that will last forever; we change waist sizes as we age, for goodness sake. Fashions change including belt widths, like men's ties and lapels. Our taste, or need, in color will vary and we'll likely want a brown and a black (hint, the cordovan color will work for both situations). Is your 'good gunbelt' going to end up hanging like a trophy on someone's wall someday, as a pristine, little-used 1969 Andy Anderson open-front set is hanging on mine? Big deal. This one is not mine but Bob Arganbright's:

Now we want that belt width to be the same as our pants loops. And we want it to also fill the loop or slots on our holster. Now where you settle between one inch wide and two inches wide doesn't matter because its an interactive system. Presently the 'standard' width for belt tunnels is 1.5". In the '60s it was 1". In the '70s it was 1-3/4" because we were surrounded by hippies in boot cut jeans and even a 2" belt fit into flares. What we need, is for the belt to fit into the pants and also fit into the holster. I wore a 2-1/4" wide Sam Browne belt in one pair of jeans back then :-).

Then what we need, and always needed from the outset, is less 'good gunbelt' and more 'good holster'. And despite all the caveats about 'what is a good holster', in this matter we care about carry angle (caster), twist (camber) and ride height (c-g). One could summarize all three as 'center of gravity'. When the designer puts more of the weight above the belt line, then he/she makes it top heavy when a 19 round Glock goes into it. He was a revolver designer! These have lightweight grip areas and carry as few as 5 rounds of say, .38 Spl. And the rear sight is well back of the grip frame so camber is a non-issue.

The barrel length supports a lot of the pistol weight. For that reason there are some makers who claim that a shorter barrel has to be top heavy. No, not when a simple formula is followed. One simply realizes that a LONGER barrel can carry the pistol higher than 'normal'.

And I'm going to define 'normal', or ideal, as for revolvers, the cylinder being coplanar (fancy USPTO word) with the belt. And for autos, the knuckle of the second finger (the thumb is not called a finger) is just rubbing the top edge of the belt. Very easy. When we do this we have accomplished all we can for c-g (center of gravity). And when the barrel is long, such as 6", one could carry it higher but why? Now it will be harder for the user to clear leather with his muzzle. In this image of Nelson, below, he is touting the Paris Theodore method: mag button above the upper belt edge. I prefer an even lower carry than we can see here:

So I test all my gunleather designs, quite literally, using a new Walmart belt that I bought when I was in USA last. Prior I used something similar but local. Using the Walmart brand resonates more powerfully because it does NOT fit the cognoscenti's definition of a 'good gunbelt'. But it is stiff across its width (while new), it is 1.5" wide, it's "thick enough", it has a sturdy-enough buckle unless I'm up against a kung-fu fighter; in which case I would've let him/her get too close. When it's old I could replace it anywhere in the world if needed.

I'll carry on about carry angle at some point (I use 24 degrees positive caster and have for a half century. It's an angle that began over 100 years ago with the Texas Rangers). The idea of this blog is to give you enough information that without having a protractor with you, or a leather gauge, or a certification from the tannery that supplied the leather, one can 'see' a great holster from its visual cues. In the meantime, when choosing a belt, first choose a holster with the ideal c-g, then choose one with a belt tunnel that fits the belt you've decide on because it fits your pants loops. I have customers who carry .44 Magnums, concealed, in my holsters ALL DAY LONG without difficulty -- because it's a SYSTEM.

But this. THIS doubled belt is ridiculous. And I hear it has metal inside it. Reckon this is made by someone who never worked out that the problem was the holster design all along?

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