There are pages of information out there on what makes a good holster for a concealed-carry pistol. Leather or kydex. Inside the waistband or outside. Appendix or hip carry. The list goes on. The surprising part is there’s little discussion about what makes a good belt to use alongside a holster. This is surprising because a good holster requires a good gun belt in order to be be effective. Without a dedicated gun belt, a gun in its holster doesn’t have the support it needs to stay in one place on the waist and will sag and flex during movement.
Most dress belts and work belts are not built for the purpose of keeping a pound or more of plastic, steel and lead stable and secure on the waistband, which is why a gun belt is literally the foundation of effective concealed carry. By not twisting around or shifting during daily carry, a good gun belt helps concealed-carry licensees stay more discreet as they move about with their defensive sidearm during the day.
There are plenty of “heavy-duty” belts available on the market, but those belts, while tough, are not designed with the needs of a concealed carry in mind. A work belt is built to hold up to the rigors of a jobsite are not really designed to keep a pistol secure on the waist. Also, while thick leather cowboy or dress belts may look great, they usually don’t have the rigidity needed to prevent the weight of a carry pistol from sagging and pulling pants down on that side of a wearer's body.
What makes a gun belt different from other belts is that gun belts have internal stiffener inside the belt. A internal stiffener, be it kydex, steel, or some other material is what separates out a gun belt from other belts. A stiffener stops the belt from twisting from the weight of a pistol, and it also helps spread the weight of a concealed-carry rig around the waist, making a gun much more comfortable to carry around for extended periods of time. A belt without that stiffener sags and doesn’t distribute the pistol's weight around the body, and weight that’s distributed is easier to manage; Holding a five-pound weight with both hands is an easy task, but things change once those five pounds have to be held up by just a single finger.
There is a version of the quintessential 9 mm vs. .45 ACP debate in the gun-belt world: leather gun belts versus nylon belts. I own both and use both on a regular basis, and there are advantages to each. Leather gun belts, like the Galco SB-2 sport belt, look terrific and because they look like any other leather belt out there, they are a good choice for people who conceal a firearm with an open-front shirt or suit jacket. Nylon belts, such as the Wilderness Tactical Instructors Belt, are typically more adjustable than leather and don’t show wear as much as leather does. However, they appear more “tactical” to the casual observer, making them good a option for using with an untucked shirt or as a range/training belt. An interesting hybrid of the two that I’ve started using recently is the Blade-Tech Ultimate Carry Belt, which is available in nylon and leather and has a ratchet system to make it adjustable to almost any size waist or carry position.
A gun belt is an essential part of a daily carry kit and is just as important as the holster for a pistol. If you’re unsatisfied with your current concealed-carry holster and aren’t using a gun belt, you probably won’t find a holster that works for you until you get a dedicated gun belt. Without the foundation support that a gun belt provides, you’re not getting an accurate impression of what your holster is capable of doing. Buy a gun belt, and then make your decisions about your carry gear items with confidence, knowing you have a solid foundation for all of them.