If you are new to gun belts, or are thinking of upgrading your current setup, you may have researched belts on YouTube, Amazon, or the Internet, only to find there are too many options. Whatever you choose, the downside is your current or future attachments may not work as you expect on your new belt, and you may be forced to buy either new clips or all new attachments.
So before you buy a new belt, let’s review the three different kinds of gun belts on the market today: EDC, Tactical, and Battle Belts. We will also compare them to what the Military and Law Enforcement employ every day, under extreme punishment.
We already covered EDC belts in another post, Belts: EDC v. Tactical, but a few points are worth repeating here. EDC belts are made to fit like normal belts, using your 1.5” belt loop. They should be much more sturdy versions of a normal belt, because they will be supporting a heavy load and stress from your gun and holster(s).
The best EDC belts have multiple layers of nylon, we also recommend you look at real leather belts. The ones with laminated layers of vinyl, made to look like leather, will not work. Real leather will tend to curl over time, but it also won't really impact rigidity. A sturdy nylon belt will tend to hold its shape longer. The only downside is most nylon EDC belts have a buckle that is too big to fit through your loops. I prefer real leather, they can cost around $100, but I also make them myself, and nothing beats a belt that lasts 50 years.
Most cops or active military don’t employ EDC type belts for their gear. EDC belts are mostly a civilian thing.
We spend a lot of time on this site talking about Tactical belts because they are the most complex to setup and biggest opportunity for you to waste a lot of money. And there are so few standards. It seems like every manufacturer wants to corner the market with their own twist on Tactical. Fact is, it just makes it harder for you to find the best quality setup for your investment.
Tactical belts typically employ micro Molle, not built to the PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) spec, and generally come in 2 widths: 2” and 1.75”. The most expensive brands sell 1.75” belts, but we are not big fans of these belts, mainly because they make it not only difficult to effectively attach holsters and pouches, but because the width of your Tactical belt matters. That additional 1/4” may not seem like a major size difference, but given the pitfalls of attaching holsters and pouches, it’s not worth the hassle and extra expense.
And though most Tactical Belts will advertise Molle compatibility, you would assume any Molle attachment would work on them right? They don't. Molle is a derivative of the PALS system, and it is employed in a lot of different ways. Most belt manufacturers say they support Molle, but really only Battle belts are wide enough to employ the true PALS spec. In other words, Molle is good, but you need to know your measurements if you are going to attach holsters and pouches to it effectively.
Most Cops, Security, etc. use Tactical belts, although typically they are referred to as Duty belts. Many active Military also employ Tactical belts. The size is perfect for the bending, crouching, and sitting in vehicles, which is major requirement for professional Law of Military enforcement.
Battle belts are usually built to the PALS spec, which is at least 2-1” horizontal straps separated by 1.5”. This allows the Molle clip to both weave through the straps and secure the attachment so it does not slide or rise-up and down on your belt. Adhering to the PALS spec is why Battle belts are so wide.
If you install Molle attachments to a Molle capable Tactical belt, you need to weave the Molle from the attachment through the Molle of the belt. if you are employing a belt clip, ensure the loop is the same size as the belt.
Battle belts are typically constructed of 2 parts, an inner belt that provides retention and an outer liner designed to hold your attachments. Unfortunately, many of these inner belts - we are not referring to a Velcro belt liner that installs inside your belt loops - are weak, like an inexpensive EDC belt. You can usually install any EDC type belt inside the outer liner of a Battle belt, but be aware, outer liners do not provide much rigidity either. They are typically 3.5-5” wide, and are made to give when you sit or bend.
Battle belts are not really good for the Range or a Hard Trainer, they are simply overkill. They may look Tactical and all, but most Cops don’t use them, and though many active Military still do, their popularity has been diminished over the years due to improvements in Tactical belt design and Molle compatibility.