Concealed Carry

Choosing a Concealed Carry Gun Belt — Ratchet Belts and Other Modern Solutions

Six different gun belts from Versacarry

I learned, many years ago, that the best holster isn’t worth two cents without a good quality gun belt. This means thick leather and sometimes heavy-duty reinforced fabric. There is no shortage of leather that is too thin or lousy fabric offerings. I have several high-quality leather belts that have just the right look for me, as they have been around for more than 20 years.

The brass is shiny with wear, and the leather is well worn — even burnished. And they work just fine. I am not blind to change (or fashion). Recently, I have explored the world of ratchet belts and other types that offer excellent adjustment. The options are many, and the belts work well. They take time to set up properly, but no more time than setting up a shoulder holster, as an example.

Galco King Tuck holster with smith and wesson gun ghosted to show it under the pants and shirt
A modern inside the waistband/tuckable holster is a great design (Galco King Tuck) but absolutely demands a quality gun belt.

Gun Belt Options

While I am hopelessly in love with quality leather, the modern tactical belt has its own advantages. As an example, the nylon straps that make up the body of the belt are stiffer than most leather, and the high-density microfiber material used in belts such as the Nexbelt are impressive in detail.

Ultra-fine polyester fibers make for a stiff, long-wearing belt. Some folks call ratchet belts the ‘belt without holes.’ A ratchet belt features a belt buckle with a track inside the buckle, rather than a series of holes punched in the leather belt.

Generally speaking, a belt buckle features a frame and a bar with a prong attached. The belt body is called the strap and there is a loop that serves to stabilize the overhang of the belt after it is secured in the buckle. Some belts tend to stretch each definition of the parts. Ratchet belts arguably have neither prong nor notch.

The old loop and buckle type military belt was designed to make for a secure belt that was easily adjusted to a wide range of body shapes. On the other hand, a drover or westerner would have his gun belt and riding belt made up by the local saddle maker often at considerable expense. Modern leather goods are somewhere in the middle, and the ratchet belt is a different proposition altogether.

The ratchet belt uses a belt buckle with an integral track. This is used to adjust the belt. This belt uses a track rather than belt notches, often simply referred to as holes. The typical gun belt for dress will feature seven to nine notches. They may be an inch apart, but sometimes a little less.

Man wearing a black DeSantis gun belt with Kydex holster and SIG Sauer pistol
DeSantis offers good-quality gun belts that compliment any holster. Note the rigid, tight fit when moving.

The ratchet belt allows perfect adjustment, as there may be 24 tracks only a quarter-inch apart. The buckle itself is quite sturdy. There is a small locking device on the belt buckle that is secure but easily manipulated. The belt is fast to don and make ready for concealed carry, if need be, and faster than a standard prong and notch type belt.  

If you do not want any stretch or sag, these belts are excellent choices. Some require the user to trim the belt, some are supplied with sixty inches of belt space, and others are 48 inches. The strap end may be secured with two set screws, as is the case of the Nexbelt.

The setup takes a few minutes. When the initial setup is accomplished, you need only to set the belt at the proper comfort zone — a quarter-inch at a time. This is a great option with a perfect fit that is guaranteed.

Front view of a gun belt on a man's waist
A well-designed gun belt need not be plain, only businesslike.

The belt buckle is secure with a release lever that is easily operated after a few repetitions. When I wear the Nexbelt, the release lever is at the bottom of the belt. It takes a little acclimation, but after a day or two, you will have your muscle memory in place for successful deployment. 

I have explored the world of ratchet belts, and along the way, I also looked at Galco’s 1.5-inch Cobra and 1.75-inch HD Instructor’s belt. These are easier to quickly don and set up than a ratchet belt and offer excellent fit and comfort. I have tested these belts extensively and find that they make an excellent modern choice.

Galco’s gun belts look professional when worn with crews and tactical gear. I have also used Crossbreed’s Crossover belt with good results. While Crossbreed offers conventional belts, the Crossover — I chose the Thin Line model — is a strong leather belt with a sturdy latching buckle. This belt is a sturdy .25-inch thick.

Man wearing a Versacarry Underground Carry Belt with leather holster and pistol
Versacarry’s Underground Carry Belt adds a bit of style with all the durability and stiffness needed for concealed carry.

I have also tested several DeSantis belts with good results. A major supplier to agencies and institutions, it offers plain belts and a ‘fancy stitched belt.’ I would spend a few extra bucks for the fancy stitching. It is only $10 more. Of course, it’s your money and your choice.

A local Texas company that has been a fan favorite in the holster and gun belt arena is Versacarry. Although it was launched with very humble beginnings, the ingenuity of its initial designs and durability of the water buffalo leather used to craft its holsters and belts has earned the company a loyal following. Strap on one of its belts, and in 10 years you’ll know why.

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Final Thoughts

When setting up your concealed carry rig, be certain to place the holster on the belt with the proper draw angle, and secure the magazine or speedloader carrier properly, as well. By contrast, the thin dress belt need only hold the trousers up. A gun belt carries the load of a handgun, holster, spare magazines, and sometimes a knife or cell phone carrier. This isn’t a chore for lightweights.

Which gun belt have you had success with? Share your top choices in the comment section.

  • Versacarry Underground Leather Belt with a holster carried in the appendix holster
  • Matching DeSantis gun belt and holster
  • Leather belt with brass buckle coiled
  • Dual magazine carrier on a Galco gun belt
  • Brown Falco leather gun belt
  • Leather Falco gun belts showing the stitching quality
  • Galco Combat Master OWB holster and Galco gun belt
  • Close up showing the locking mechanism on the a Crossbreed gun belt
  • Galco King Tuck holster with smith and wesson gun ghosted to show it under the pants and shirt
  • Man wearing a black DeSantis gun belt with Kydex holster and SIG Sauer pistol
  • Falco nylon gun belt, black
  • Man wearing a Versacarry Underground Carry Belt with leather holster and pistol
  • Front view of a gun belt on a man's waist
  • Smaller Galoc der belt that is sturdy enough to support a holster and gun
  • Six different gun belts from Versacarry

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. Unfortunately I have a paunch. I wear suspenders. Bigfoot makes fine leather suspenders. I used an H pattern and riveted a piece across from the front strap to the back strap just at the beltline. Its a 2 section with middle plastic clip like a dog collar has. Have a loop on the holster top that the clipped piece goes through, and the bottom of the holster goes inside my stretch top pants Dont need a belt. Holster clip holds fine on the pant top. A magazine can clip onto the same piece with 1 on either side of the top holster strap. Very comfortable and adjustable.

  2. Relentless Tactical makes a wide styles of excellent gun belts and holsters with lifetime warranties. The Ultimate Steel Core Leather concealed carry belt has met my needs for various holsters including their Comfort Carry Leather Holster & Mag Pouch Combo.

  3. Believe it or not I’ve had the same leather belt since 1988. Got it back when Wally Word was still a decent place. They had a leather craftsman with a booth/kiosk that would customize a belt or other other leather goods while you did your shopping. Mine is 1.5″ wide, 3/16″ thick, worn with an brass, oval Red Man Chewing tobacco belt buckle. Edeges are stitched and my last name stamped across the back with some other embelishments/decorative stampings. It carries my phone holster, my Gerber Para-frame case, my Kobalt multi-tool case, a 550 paracord bracelet, my Streamlight Stylus Pro holster, and of course either my Cytac level 2 holster for my S&W SD40VE in open carry or my Gunmate IWB holster for my S&W Shield Plus. It’s been a fantastic belt for over 30 years and shows hardly any signs of wearing out any time soon and it’s been worn daily toting all that gear when I wasn’t on duty… gonna hate it when I finally do have to eventually replace it.

  4. I JUST WANTED TO PUT MY TWO CENTS IN , THERE ARE MANY A GREAT BELT OFFERINGS OUT THERE , AND FOR MANY YEARS I USED A FANCY STICHED BIANCH I#B9 AND IT SERVED MY CC NEEDS AND I LOVED THE LOOK AS WELL . FOR ACTION SHOOTING THE OLD WILSON – RODGERS BELT I USED WAS CUTTING EDGE AT THE TIME ( 1980’S ) . BUT AS MY OLD #B9 MUST OF GOTTEN SMALLER AROUND THE WAIST ” SOMEHOW ” , I LOOKED TO TODAYS MARKET AND BY CHANCE RAN ACROSS HANKS BELTS AS THEY CALL THEM OUT BEING 100 YEARS WARRANTY . I HAVE REALIZED THAT FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE IN A GOOD / BETTER BELT , IT WILL LAST YOU A LIFE TIME , AND HANKS CUSTOMER SERVICE IS TOP NOTCH , THEY HAVE ACTUALY BEEN IN BUSINESS MANY YEARS AND I AM THANKFUL I HAPPENED TO RUN ACROSS THEM . IF YOU TRY A HANKS BELT AND YOU DON’T FALL IN LOVE , THERE IS NO DOUBT YOU HAVE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU .

  5. Hanksbelts has been in business for 70 years and makes really high quality belts. I have been impressed with the toughness of the ones I have.

  6. A good single layer belt cut from a thick skirting leather will do the trick for most types of belt carry.
    They break in to your body type and then wear and age to a good looking part of your wardrobe.

  7. A very good belt is made by Groove Life, they are strong, stretchy just right, have a magnetic buckle, and I swear I could be picked by a helicopter by my belt safely.

  8. I have several belts mentioned. All give me a pinched area 180º opposite my holster. Have others this annoyance? I stick a piece of Moleskin on it, but would like to hear other strategies?

  9. I have had two Big foot steel core gun belts for over 10 years ! and just love them they do a fantastic
    job carrying a double stack 1911

  10. I have bad back and belts generally aggravate my condition because they don’t expand/contract with movement

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