We’ve seen a few references to “tactical belts” popping up lately and started asking ourselves, “what is a tactical belt exactly?” There’s a few different types of belts that would fall under the “tactical” category. The type of belt you select should be based on your intended use. Since belts are part of your everyday carry, it’s important that you select one that balances style, function and comfort.
Trainer or Instructor Tactical Belts
A “true” trainer/instructor belt incorporates some type of clipping mechanism for a carabiner. Instructor/trainer belts are designed to clip into a secure system while "instructing" others in high places during mountain rescue training, although they can be used for emergency rappelling with proper training. Instructor or trainer belts typically feature triple-reinforced stitching and a heavy-duty tension-locking buckle that can withstand at least 5000 lbs of tensile strength to withstand a fall. Depending on your daily activities, these types of belts can be a bit of overkill.
Tactical Riggers Belt
A Riggers belt is designed for rappelling. These belts incorporate some type of ‘V’ or ‘D’ ring for a carabiner to clip into. Much like the instructor belts, they typically feature triple-reinforced stitching and a buckle that can withstand at least 22kN (5000 lbs) of breaking strength. Instructor belts and rigger belts provide an anchor point and are designed to hold up your pants during activities like zip lining, rock climbing, and fast roping. They are not designed to hold your gear, however.
Tactical Gun Belts
A gun belt is designed to hold up both your gun and pants. These belts are typically thicker and stiffer than your typical belt. Gun belts are designed to prevent stretching, twisting and sagging when a weapon is holstered. Gun belts require a great deal of rigidity, meaning manufacturer’s will typically incorporate internal stiffeners or double-reinforced leather to make the belt stiffer. While this may translate to less comfort for some, gun belts will ensure a proper everyday carry.
Tactical Duty Belts
Duty belts are designed to hold up to 15 pounds of equipment, ranging from flashlights, keys and handcuffs to OC spray, batons and duty weapons. These belts must also be compatible with holsters and daily accessories. Similar to a gun belt, duty belts require a great deal of rigidity and are designed to hold lots of heavy gear. They must also be comfortable, however, so as not to cause fatigue or soreness. When it comes to fashion or style, however, this is not a belt that someone would typically wear off-duty.
Tactical Magnetic Latching Belts
Magnetic latching belts are fairly new to the tactical belt world. These belts are certainly not designed for rappelling or fixing yourself into an anchor point. As far as holding up gear, it will really come down to the strength of the magnets. The question really comes down to this, can you trust that the magnets will hold up in a tactical scenario or will a magnetic latching belt leave you with your pants wrapped around your ankles?
Tactical Web Belts
Webbed belts are commonly referred to as “military belts”. These types of belts utilize webbing and a buckle that typically uses friction for tensioning. Web belts are distinguished by their lack of holes in the cord, as opposed to pins, which are commonly found on “normal” belts. This allows the wearer to adjust the belt to the exact size needed. Web belts vary in quality based on the webbing and buckle type used. They can be used for conceal and carry if the webbing is rigid enough and the buckle stays tensioned. Web belts are typically worn in a casual setting. They are not made for rappelling, anchoring or holding a great deal of gear. These belts are really meant for your average daily use (holding your pants up - no frills).
When selecting a tactical belt, the question really comes down to how you plan on using it. While there are all types of variations, the best tactical belt is the one that combines comfort, function and style.