There are two types of Tactical Belts, Molle (PALS) and non-Molle. We already covered some of these differences in Belts: EDC v. Tactical, so let’s dig a little deeper.
Securing your equipment is the primary goal with belts that don’t support Molle. You can use Molle attachments on non-Molle belts, and sometimes the other way around. But you will spend a lot of hard-earned pay for this stuff, so get into equipment that is versatile.
The PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) spec requires 2-1” webbing or straps separated 1.5” apart, and secured horizontally around your belt. Like two rows on top of your tactical belt. The straps are sewn vertically to the belt itself every couple inches, which keeps your attachments from sliding around. Interestingly, most tactical belt makers don’t comply with this spec. Is it critical? No. But if some of your attachments adhere to the PALS spec, they may not secure to the belt as you would expect.
Molle today is really a derivative of the PALS spec. Though Molle employs the same ladder system design as PALS, Molle belts today don't provide the minimal 3.5' width required by the PALS spec. And this can be a major disappointment as you start to attach your holsters and pouches to your belt.
If you add-up the 2-1” Molle straps and the 1.5” middle section that separates them (the PALS spec), you have a total of 3.5”. And if your belt is less than 3.5” wide, it does not comply with the PALS spec. Some very expensive brands suffer dissatisfied owners when the Molle straps stretch or bow as a result of attachments that are actually to Molle spec. Like 1.75” wide belts with 1/2” Molle straps and hardly 1” between them. This is commonly referred to as Micro Molle. As you can imagine, fitting a 3.5” Molle attachment to a 1.75” belt requires something to give. And this may not make you a happy camper.
What you tend to see when this occurs is mag pouches that pucker if they do not have a solid frame. Even the popular and expensive HSGI pouches with a plastic side frame start to look like bananas. Eventually this will strain either the belt or the pouch, and failure may occur. At worst, it makes mag insertion very difficult.
There are many different kinds of Molle straps. Some attachments like Dump Bags or Mag Holsters may already have the Molle permanently sewn or fixed to the back. And this is where the waste of time and money hits you. Literally none of the information you need to determine compatability is supplied up-front. So you can either spend your time buying and returning belts and attachments or simply follow our buying guides. We recommend clips that can be used wether you have a Molle or non-Molle belt.
MOLLE ON NON-MOLLE BELTS
The safest way to build a Tactical Belt without wasting a lot of money is to start with your attachments. There are two goals for attachments: retain the object safely so it won’t fall-out if you do roll in dirt, and provide for quick extraction without binding.
We recommend you start with mag holsters. There are a lot of different configurations out there, but generally 2-pistol and 1-rifle is our preference. And don’t get the stacked holsters unless you have experience with them, you may not like how far they stick-out from your belt. And if you are getting in and out of vehicles, you may find the additional mag makes it difficult to sit. If you need to carry hundreds of rounds, get a chest rig.
Next, buy an inexpensive, non-Molle belt. If you follow our buying guides, you won’t be disappointed. Sure, Molle attachments don’t exactly fit non-Molle belts, but as we revealed above, they don’t exactly fit many Molle belts either. If you employ the clips we recommend, your Molle attachments won’t slide around.
If you decide later you want a higher grade Molle belt, and you follow our buying guides, you will then know exactly what will work, and you won’t be out hundreds of dollars getting there.