When a kit starts to come together one of the essential parts is the battle belt or duty belt depending upon the application of the end user. I am fortunate enough to be from both camps. We never did the battle belt setup in the unit I was in while I was on active duty, but following my time enlisted I start trying the setup. Now as a Law Enforcement Officer, the Duty Belt serves that purpose. The tactics, purpose and mindset are different, but the equipment remains the same at its core.
The duty or battle belt, referred to from this point forward simply as “The Belt”, is really just a chassis to carry the bulk of an operator’s needs. It supports the tools that need to be readily accessed for the job at hand, much like a carpenter or electrician carries a tool belt with pouches loaded with the things they need to do their job. As a soldier those needs are pretty simple: Weapons, ammunition, medical equipment. For my personal rig that is how I have my belt set up, but I also added a few extra tools. My personal belt also has a dump pouch, a multitool, and a pouch to carry a lighter. I also decided to add a compact breaching option to my personal belt in the form of a Winkler Stealth Axe LT. I chose it because it is very compact, but also very versatile as a tool. Aside from those things I carry three rifle magazines, three pistol magazines, an Individual First Aid Kit or IFAK, and my holster. For my duty belt that I wear all day at work I have a different set of needs and requirements. I still have my holster, but I also carry two sets of handcuffs, a collapsible baton, OC spray, a flashlight, and a taser. I do not have a medical kit on my duty belt for a few reasons. I keep my med kit on the back of my belt so I can access it with either hand. That space I have deliberately left unfilled on my duty belt so that when I am seated in my patrol vehicle my hips are all the way back against the seat and there isn’t a bulge pressing against my spine all day. I also carry a medical kit in my patrol vehicle so if I ever need them I have those supplies available. The last reason I don’t have a med kit on my duty belt is because they are expensive.
As for the belt itself, my person rig is set up on a belt system that utilizes a custom MOLLE system. The top and bottom webbing is thicker than standard, but also half width. This makes it so equipment can be mounted and will stay in place while still being narrow enough to utilize a belt slide holster. I will discuss my holster setup in a later article, but it will become apparent why the narrower belt was necessary when I go into that. The MOLLE system is nice because once you get all your gear placed where you want it, that is where it will stay. My duty belt does not offer that convenience. I currently use the belt my agency issued me. They issue equipment that can be used for duty or dress uniform, so it is all basketweave pattern. While it looks nice for dress use, it is not my first choice for duty equipment. My cuff and baton cases tend to displace themselves frequently. My personal belt also uses a reversed velcro setup from my duty belt. The duty belt came with the hook side of the velcro on the inner belt and the soft side on the outer. My personal belt is setup the other way so that I don’t have my belt clinging to a bunch of stuff and my shirt when I take off the outer belt. That is a really nice feature. I use my duty belt with belt keepers over a regular belt. Because there are no interruptions to the velcro on my personal belt because everything but the holster is affixed via MOLLE, I use my personal belt with the inner belt that it came with and no keepers.
There are a lot of belts out there that an operator can use to support their equipment. I specifically did not mention any of the manufacturers I use because I do not benefit from promoting any one particular brand or model. The key is finding something that suits your needs as an operator. I have used the battle belts of “old-school” design in the past and they worked for what I was doing at the time. They are wide and thick and offer a full 3 rows of MOLLE as well as a significant amount of padding, but really, I feel that less is more in this case. That is not to say they are bad, there are just options on the market now that are a better fit for me personally. Really, when picking a belt one should assess what they need the belt for, what they intend to carry, and how they will carry it. Will it be in pouches? Will they need a holster? How does the holster attach to a belt? Will that system work with the belt they have selected?
One last consideration is materials. Another issue I have with my duty belt is the materials. With all my equipment loaded onto the belt, it tends to stretch a little bit. I like my belt to fit comfortably, but for me that means it stays snug around my waist. Many of the modern belt options made with webbing are either reinforced or the base materials are not susceptible to warping and stretching. This is important for fit as well as longevity. It sounds dumb, like a belt is a belt is a belt, but these details matter in the long run. These belts are not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination and if they are…well, they probably should not be considered for any serious work. This is an industry where you definitely get what you pay for and dollars spent will save headaches and problems down the road. This really is the definition of the old saying: Buy once, cry once.
If you are looking to get yourself a belt rig for competition, duty use, training, or just for the range, do your research. Make an investment in your gear and in yourself. Any equipment you get, you are going to want to train with. Make sure you get the gear that will be able to hold up when you put it to the test. Read reviews. Find out what it is about one product that sets it apart from the rest of the market. Think about your equipment and if what you are looking to buy will actually work with what you have or intend to get. Be smart, make good choices, train hard, train often. Be hard to kill.