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What’s on your battle belt?

A battle belt needs to hold everything in its place so that a trained response leads to the right tool without thinking

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Photo/Ron LaPedis

Every battle belt exists for the same purpose: it is a platform for your firearms, ammunition and a bleed kit. Like that drawer full of holsters, you might have more than one battle belt – some you still use and some you have tossed aside.

A battle belt needs to hold everything in its place so that a trained response leads to the right tool without thinking. The type and configuration of a battle belt depend on the mission it is built for.

While I am not a sworn LEO, I am a licensed firearms instructor and take classes taught by or for law enforcement because I believe their content to be valuable. I consider Range Master Sgt. Dave Weidner my mentor for everything RDS, battle belt and more. Even though he is busy training his own staff, his agency’s deputies and trainers from around the country, Dave still makes time to offer me advice, and some of the content in this article comes from his experience. Since I am not law enforcement, none of my belts include intermediate weapons, such as a baton or TASER, which would be the first go-to for any officer unless a real-life threat is presented or implied.

Types of Battle Belts

I have three active belts, shown in figure 1. The top belt needs an inner belt threaded through the loops of my pants, the second is designed to go over my clothing, with built-in Velcro keepers if needed, and the last is a traditional duty belt that I use when I am called up as a first responder for search and rescue.

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Figure 1: Top to bottom: G-Code contact series operator’s belt with D-ring and its required inner belt, T.REX Orion outer “belt sleeve” and a Bianchi 7960 Sam Browne duty belt. The Sam Browne is not a battle belt and in fact, its appearance is more “protect and serve” than any battle belt could be, helping with de-escalation. While most officers use separate keepers to secure it to their everyday belt, a properly-adjusted Sam Browne should not shift appreciably.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

While everything slides onto my duty belt, including the dedicated tourniquet, both of my training belts have built-in MOLLE slots. On the G-Code belt, they are sewn between the front and back layers so they cannot be seen from the front, while the T.REX Orion’s laser-cut MOLLE slots are visible.

The 3.25” wide Orion needs an “inner” belt threaded behind the MOLLE slots to secure it around your waist. You can use their belt or any other 1.5” to 1.75” single-layer nylon belt. I used the G-Code active response/shooter belt with no lining or D-ring. You can see that the inner belt is in front of the MOLLE slots where it is threaded through my holster mount.

My belts mostly have identical gear mounted on them. From strong hand (right) to support hand (left) these are:

If I taught patrol rifle, I would swap out one of the pistol pouches for an AR pouch. Since I usually am on a range, my bleed kit is carried on the back of my instructor vest, although I have a tourniquet mounted on a couple of my holsters using an Eleven10 hard case and Black Box Customs HAM.

Versatility

So that I can teach multiple weapons systems with different levels of retention, the Safariland quick disconnect system lets me swap holsters in seconds. I use their QUBL to adjust my holster from low-ride, mid-ride, or high-ride without tools. You can see my holster collection in Figure 2.

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Figure 2: The Safariland QLS allows me to swap holsters in seconds. The holster at the bottom left has a tourniquet mounted on the front. To the right is the Blackhawk quick disconnect system. While the gear shape allows you to change your holster’s cant on the fly, it requires fine motor skills to mount and unmount and might not be the best choice for your SHTF belt.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

There are multiple quick disconnect systems available including this one from Blackhawk. When selecting a quick disconnect system, you need to ensure that the hole pattern is compatible with whatever holsters you use. Some holster manufacturers, such as KT-Mech drill universal patterns in their products. While pattern adaptors are available, they push the holster further away from your body.

Choices

Why choose one battle belt design over another? Figure 3 shows how the G-Code (top) has Velcro on the backside, while the Orion belt is backed with non-slip rubber and has built-in keepers if needed.

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Figure 3: The back of the G-Code and Orion battle belts. Note the four built-in keepers.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

When I am working a range, the loop Velcro on the inner belt and hook Velcro on the outer belt of the G-Code allow easy on/easy off, so that I can leave the range to run errands or work in the classroom without worrying about live ammo – since it’s in the mag carriers or dump pouch.

The Orion belt allows for an impromptu instruction session; and a detective, plainclothes, or off-duty officer could have a fully loaded Orion belt out of their vehicle’s weapons locker and onto their person in seconds. If needed, the keepers could be attached when there is a lull in the action. Part-time SWAT team members could swap their duty belt for their battle belt, with the caveat that they also may need to update their trained response for the different gear.

If you are an officer who normally wears a duty belt but likes the flexibility of a battle belt when training, you also may have a trained response issue, trying to pull mags from carriers that only exist on your battle belt. In this case, you might want to keep your belts close to identical.

One reason for using the G-Code scorpion pistol mag carriers is the built-in bungee cords let them securely hold nearly any size magazine from 1911, SIG P320, SIG P365, and M&P Shield, all the way up to the huge Staccato 2011 P-series mags. Similar mag carriers are available from other manufacturers. Make sure to pull any bungee cord knots tightly to prevent them from becoming untied. I speak from experience.

If you’re buying a battle belt for Airsoft, where it comes from is no big deal. If you are using your belt for work, don’t cheap out. Tacti-cool is not tacti-cal and substandard products could give out on you when someone’s life is in your hands.

Mix and Match

While one manufacturer used to build a customized battle belt for you, they soon realized that part of owning one is building it yourself. A key part of buying a battle belt is getting the right length. Your waist size and your battle belt length may have little in common. If you already have a duty belt, you probably can start with that for length. If a friend has a battle belt, you might be able to use it as a starting point. Read the manufacturer’s sizing instructions carefully. Depending on the belt, you may be able to cut it back a bit if it is too long, but you are out of luck if it is too short. Like your ballistic vest, a large weight gain or loss may mean buying new gear.

Once you have decided on your belt, you need to choose what to put onto it. At a minimum, you will need a holster and mag carriers. An appropriate dump pouch will make life a lot easier on the line and a bleed kit somewhere on your person is a good idea.

You are welcome to mix and match brands all you like, but you need to ensure that your accessories are compatible with your belt. If you have a MOLLE belt, you probably want MOLLE accessories. If you have a standard-width MOLLE belt, some accessories may be able to slip onto it. Or you may find out that you are in a mix-and-don’t-match situation and need to go back to the drawing board. For example, G-Code has 8 different mounts for their mag carriers, so read carefully. Yes, I did order the wrong mounts the first time around, thank you for asking.

The Exception

There is one exception to mix and match. Try to standardize on one screw thread size and drive type. Most, but not all, manufacturers use black #8-32unc (unified coarse pitch) truss head, washer head, or oval head screws which attach to short, medium, or long female T-Nuts (also called Chicago screws). The length depends on the application, but I have seen 5/16, 1/2, and 5/8” screws. Drive types are Phillips, Allen socket or Torx. Oval head screws are recessed while truss head and washer head screws have a built-in washer to distribute the load. Since most gear and gear mounts are some type of plastic, ensure that fasteners are secure but not over-tightened. Since no one publishes torque specs you’ll have to learn from experience.

Putting it all together

Once you know everything is compatible, it is time to start assembly. Manufacturer instructions and YouTube are great sources of information. Some key points:

  • If the belt needs to be assembled, like weaving the inner and outer belts, this is the time to do it. Note that you may need to unweave the inner belt in a later step, so be ready for that possibility. If you are weaving a belt, make sure you do it in the right direction since there is a left, right, top, and bottom to most inner and outer belts.
  • Stand up and don the inner belt (if separate) and size it. This is where the manufacturer’s website can come in handy.
  • Don the outer belt and size it. At this time, you can leave the belt on or take it off.
  • Some gear and their mounts (figure 4) have multiple holes permitting different heights or angles. This may mean mounting and remounting a piece of gear and placing it on the belt to determine which mounting holes you want to use. Some people like their magazine carriers sharply raked forward well above the belt while others want them straight up at nearly the same height as the belt. It’s personal preference.
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Figure 4: Use thread locker when doing the final assembly of mounts to your gear and allow to dry overnight.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

  • When you have determined which mounting holes you want to use, securely connect the mounts to your gear. Todd Fletcher, firearms instructor at Combative Firearms Training, says you should not use thread locker at this time, because you want to run the belt for a while before making your configuration permanent.
  • If you didn’t already do this step when determining which mounting holes to use, figure out where you want to place each component, starting at one side. Place a part where you want it while wearing the belt then take it off and mount it following the manufacturer’s instructions. I started with my mag pouches and found out that while I could put two of them in contiguous MOLLE slots, I had to skip a slot before mounting the next two due to them being slightly wider than the slot center-to-center distance.

    As you can see in Figure 5, the G-Code mounts have locking tabs to prevent the carriers from being pulled off the belt. They also have a very small ledge molded into the plastic which catches on the bottom MOLLE slot to keep it from sliding up and down.

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Figure 5: Left to right: Inserting the mount through the top MOLLE slot – note the tab at the bottom which will be held in place by the locking collar, molded ledge which keeps the mount secure on your belt when pulled vertically, Locking collar which holds the front and rear pieces of the mount together once it is slipped over the belt or through the MOLLE slots.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

  • Continue around the belt arranging your gear. Depending on the belt style and your holster, you may have to unweave and reweave the inner belt like you can see in the middle belt in Figure 1. I had to skip MOLLE slots not only to mount the holster but so that the inner belt Velcro sizing loop was able to fold backwards to attach to itself.

After you have run your belt for a while and made any necessary changes, it is time to make the assembly more permanent. While many mounts already come pre-assembled, that might be so that you can see what they should look like. Take photos or make notes then remove everything from your belt, disassemble all the mounts, put purple 222 or blue 242 (but never red) Loctite or another thread locker onto the screws and reassemble them. G-Code ships a small tube of thread locker with most of their gear, even if it is pre-assembled. Let anything with thread locker dry overnight before putting it back onto your belt.

EDC as a Battle Belt

You don’t need to go “all in” on a battle belt. If you have a strong EDC (every day carry) that can hold the weight without sagging, you can build one using slide-on mounts. My first battle belt was a leather NexBelt EDC. I felt that the nylon versions were too floppy.

A lot of slide-on gun gear is designed for the standard 2-2.25” duty belt, while EDC tends to be 1.5-1.75”. You need to minimize horizontal and vertical motion of your gear. While sliding can be minimized through friction, that is insufficient to keep gear designed for wider belts from moving with you when you either draw your sidearm or pull a magazine from its carrier. Many manufacturers which sell only 2-2.25” slide-on mounts also sell belt width adaptors (BWA) which reduce the vertical size of the mount loops. You can see some examples in Figure 6.

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Figure 6: 1) Kydex holster with UltiClip XL, 2) G-Code standard universal belt slide with BWA circled, 3) Blade-Tech Tek-Lok with two snap-in BWA to the right, 4) G-Code belt loop with two reversible BWA to the right, 5) UltiClip 3+, 6) Safariland 567 adjustable belt loop and 7) A classic Gould and Goodrich double mag pouch.

Photo/Ron LaPedis

In my experience, a BWA from one company will not fit another’s gear. Figure 7 shows the brilliant design of G-Code’s BWA system – but it only works with one model of their loops.

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Figure 7

Photo/G-Code

Because they are so difficult to find, here are links to the BWA from Safariland, G-Code universal belt slide keepers and the G-Code belt loop hardware kit. Blackhawk does not sell BWA separately, but you can send a request to BH.Tech.Services@VistaOutdoor.com. George Wenstrom, Blackhawk technical support specialist, suggests running cable ties around an adjustable BWA after it is mounted, even if you use thread locker (see Figure 8).

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Figure 8

Photo/George Wenstrom

Final Words

Don’t become wedded to your belt, gear, or layout. You may need to move things around, buy different gear or a different belt. Periodically check the belt for wear, loose buckles/fasteners, and loose mounts. Check the instructions for cleaning. If your belt was put under severe stress, perhaps by saving you from a fall, ask the manufacturer if you need to replace it.

For more information on duty gear for law enforcement, check out this page and remember to watch for Police1’s 2023 SHOT Show coverage, which will tell you all about the latest and greatest products.

Ron LaPedis is an NRA-certified Chief Range Safety Officer, NRA, USCCA and California DOJ-certified instructor, is a uniformed first responder, and frequently writes and speaks on law enforcement, business continuity, cybersecurity, physical security and public/private partnerships.

He has been recognized as a Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute (FBCI), a Distinguished Fellow of the Ponemon Institute, Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP), and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Contact Ron LaPedis

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