What Is A Tactical Belt And What Are They Used For?
What is a tactical belt for? What ISN’T one for? You can get a tactical belt for…pretty much anything you’d use a belt for.
A tactical belt more or less means a belt that’s used in a military or law enforcement setting, with some connotation of configurable gear depending on the application. However, the term has come to mean a belt made with durable nylon webbing.
The term “tactical” has more or less become meaningless as almost everything has become “tactical,” and likewise “tactical belt” pretty much only means a belt of a particular style. With that said, what can you use one for?
Pretty much anything!
What Even Is A Tactical Belt, Anyway?
Basically, a “tactical belt” at this point is any belt that’s made with strong webbing and marketed to some segment of the gun community, basically any belt of that design.
In its original setting, a tactical belt would really just be a durable belt that was part of a person’s combat uniform. Various bits of gear could be added or removed for mission-specific uses.
Those various bits of kit could include things like mag carriers, a radio, handcuff case, a canteen, and so on and so forth.
In reality, “tactical belts” have been part of military uniforms for millennia. Previously it might have been called a sword belt, the Romans called it a cintus (although the more decorative cingulum was worn by soldiers of higher rank) and so on; it’s just a utility belt used by soldiers and law enforcement.
However, a key attribute is that the warfighter or SWAT officer’s tactical belt is really a duty belt; it’s worn over the uniform rather than as an actual belt. For civilians, it might be worn in that fashion or like a normal belt.
Today’s “tactical belt” can be loosely described as a nylon web belt, made with strong nylon webbing and durable hardware, typically either of a simple lock buckle or quick-release buckle.
There are a bevy of different design features that you can find, though you’ll also find that some belts have this thing and others don’t.
For instance, some have a V-ring used in cargo rigging, and others don’t. Some have a velcro liner belt, others don’t, and so on. Ultimately, it all adds up to the same thing; a military-style belt made of strong nylon webbing. How tactical it is…well, that’s up to you.
What Is A Tactical Belt For? What ISN’T One For?
What you can do with it is completely determined by what TYPE of tactical belt you get, rather than the mere tacticalness of a belt itself.
A tactical belt can be used for range and competition use. It can be used as an EDC belt. You could even get one for all of the above.
The Various Tactical Belts You Can Buy
There are many tactical belts on the market, and just like…anything else you can name…each has certain things that they’re good at and things that they’re not so good at.
The easiest way to classify them is by height/width, meaning how thick they are from top to bottom.
The largest of such belts, being 2 inches or larger, are pretty clearly duty belts. These are for carrying gear on the waist, outside of clothing, and don’t hold up the pants at all.
Such a belt is required for the uniformed officer; for the armed civilian…it’s more for range day, training, competition or outdoor use.
Then you have 1.75-inch belts, many of which are of the rigger’s belt style. These belts are something of a middle ground between a duty belt and a more typical belt in terms of strength, but can be worn in the belt loops of most pants.
A quality example of a belt of this type gives you something of the best of all worlds.
It can be used as a range/training/competition rig, replete with magazine carriers, dump pouch, shot timer and everything you could want. Then pare down and use it as your EDC belt, unless you’re wearing dress pants.
If you wanted one belt to rule them all, that would be the tactical belt to buy.
Those who prefer more minimalist gear are likely going to prefer a 1.5-inch tactical belt, which is more of a lower-profile tactical EDC belt. Quality examples are as strong or stronger than leather equivalents and reduce the overall footprint of the belt when wearing it, being half the depth from front to back.
A belt of this type is stronger than it might seem at first glance, as good examples of the type are perfectly adept for EDC and CCW purposes as they are as a training/competition/range rig. Many people will also thread a 1.5-inch tactical belt through a kidney pad for use as a battle belt.
The heavier the loadout, however, the more need you might have a larger belt. So if you find yourself putting a lot of gear on the waist, it can pay dividends by getting the wider (taller, rather?) of the tactical belts.
Not All Tactical Belts Are Created Equal
With that all said, be careful when shopping for tactical belts. Some are made well, and some really aren’t. So let’s discuss what the difference is.
Many tactical belts are budget specials, cheap made-in-China belts made of a bit of scuba webbing and a buckle that looks like real AustriAlpin hardware.
While such belts are probably stronger than the typical department store belt, and the rigger’s belts fitting that description are probably fine for a relatively light range rig, but you might not want to trust them beyond that.
What you want to look for is dual layers of webbing. It should be stitched together, rather than glued, and reinforced either with a hook and loop liner or better yet some sort of reinforcing material for added stiffness.
If looking for a quick-release buckle, look for genuine hardware. AustriAlpin, who make the COBRA buckles, make hardware for mountaineering; their frame buckles and quick-release buckles are tested and rated for climbing or rigging use. That’s what makes them so strong.
If you’re looking for a tactical belt to get the utmost of strength with a lower overall footprint on the waist than a heavy leather belt, you’ll have to spend a bit to really get it. However, once you have it…you have it.
Start by finding a belt maker that makes belts correctly and to last. That will ensure you get a quality belt that you can get years of use from. Then get the tactical belt that suits your needs for it.