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How Stiff is Stiff Enough for a CCW Belt?

I received an email this week from a reader who purchased a belt that I have mentioned on this blog. He had not actually worn the belt yet when he sent the email. He was concerned when he actually put hands on it, that it wasn’t stiff enough (that’s what she said). It was a good reminder of an article that I have been meaning to pen.

Just how stiff does a CCW belt really need to be?

ares belt stiffness

The Superior Stiffness

If you could only choose that your belt be stiff one way, you should choose that it be stiff from top to bottom as shown by the red arrows in the photo above. It must be stiff in this direction to support the weight of the firearm which is key for comfortably wearing full size firearms all day.

Typically, if a belt is stiff from top to bottom, it will also be relatively stiff around the circumference (as shown by the green arrow) too but this is less important for how the belt handles weight. Remember too, that wearing the belt tightly will effectively “stiffen” it. That doesn’t mean that a sloppy belt should be made to work by wearing it tightly, just that there is not always that big of a difference between belts that possess varying degrees of acceptable stiffness.

How Do You Know If A Belt is Stiff Enough?

If you can handle the belt before you buy, put your forefinger on one edge of the belt, your thumb on another (like the red arrows show) and squeeze. If it collapses/buckles fairly easily, it likely isn’t stiff enough. It should resist crushing. In fact, I can not crush or collapse the webbing in the Ares Gear belt shown above… not even a little.

If you can’t handle the belt look for materials like double layers of thick webbing (especially scuba webbing), thick biothane, multiple layers of thick leather, or leather belts stiffened with HDPE or even spring steel. These will all typically exhibit acceptable stiffness.

You can also look for belts that are stiffened via rows of tight stitching joining two layers of belt material. Both vertical and circumferential stitching will very effectively stiffen a webbing belt. Snake Eater Tactical uses some very cool stitch patterns to adorn and stiffen their belts. Their belts are a good example of how belts can be stiff the right way, without being overly stiff around the circumference which makes them very comfortable.

A lot of the voices online will tell you that you need a “good” gun belt or a “stiff” gun belt but it isn’t always apparent what they mean. The above has been my experience and I hope it helps you more closely hone in on how stiff a gun belt must be… or rather how a gun belt must be stiff.

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10 Responses to How Stiff is Stiff Enough for a CCW Belt?

  1. John Lima (@JL_hk) April 29, 2016 at 14:13 #

    Great post. An interesting question I’ve had someone bring up is if AIWB holsters actually need to have stiff belts, particularly if the holster is designed to tuck the butt on the gun inboard.

  2. Morgan Atwood April 30, 2016 at 07:29 #

    An important consideration, particularly for AIWB, is that a belt can also be “too stiff”, specifically along the long-axis (green arrow). A belt that is too stiff lengthwise can fail to contour over IWB equipment, creating an increased bulge. The overly stiff belt lays over the IWB rig like a sheet of stiff paper lays over an object, with significant dead space on either side; Not only does this present as a larger bulge, potentially affect concealment, such a stiff belt can pull the holster out from the body, vs wringing it in against the body. This is especially apparent in AIWB, where having the butt of the gun tucked against the body (or not) can have the greatest impact on effective concealment.
    There’s also a lot of anecdotal information on overly stiff belts being significantly more uncomfortable for many wearers. Personally, I’ve found super-stiff belts to cause increased backpain after a full-day of wear with gun/etc. on them.
    Many of the commonly touted “ideal” gunbelts, Ares, Mean Gene, etc. are some of the most frequent offenders on the “too stiff”/poor concealment and comfort end of the spectrum.

    There seems to be a fairly delicate balance between supporting the weight of a gun and providing a strong, stable, platform for both weapons access and weapon retention in entangled fights, and having the right level of contour to get the best concealment and comfort.
    That resistance to vertical rolling/collapse seems to be the most important factor, and there’s a few ways to achieve that without having to put the equivalent of a steel-band around your waist; Biothane’s seem to offer a lot in that regard, and some of the two-layer belts that use slightly lighter materials in good combination (such as the Volund Atlas Slim).

    I’ve actually been meaning to write something on this very topic… but haven’t gotten around to picking up a super-duper monster belt yet, to get comparison photos.

  3. EzGoingKev April 30, 2016 at 12:45 #

    And then there is Arc’teryx’s riggers belt…

  4. Morgan Atwood May 2, 2016 at 10:38 #

    Thought I’d commented on this before, but apparently it didn’t go through, so I’ll try again.

    An important consideration, particularly for AIWB, is that a belt can also be “too stiff”, specifically along the long-axis (green arrow). A belt that is too stiff lengthwise can fail to contour over IWB equipment, creating an increased bulge. The overly stiff belt lays over the IWB rig like a sheet of stiff paper lays over an object, with significant dead space on either side; Not only does this present as a larger bulge, potentially affect concealment, such a stiff belt can pull the holster out from the body, vs wringing it in against the body. This is especially apparent in AIWB, where having the butt of the gun tucked against the body (or not) can have the greatest impact on effective concealment.
    There’s also a lot of anecdotal information on overly stiff belts being significantly more uncomfortable for many wearers. Personally, I’ve found super-stiff belts to cause increased backpain after a full-day of wear with gun/etc. on them.
    Many of the commonly touted “ideal” gunbelts, Ares, Mean Gene, etc. are some of the most frequent offenders on the “too stiff”/poor concealment and comfort end of the spectrum.

    There seems to be a fairly delicate balance between supporting the weight of a gun and providing a strong, stable, platform for both weapons access and weapon retention in entangled fights, and having the right level of contour to get the best concealment and comfort.
    That resistance to vertical rolling/collapse seems to be the most important factor, and there’s a few ways to achieve that without having to put the equivalent of a steel-band around your waist; Biothanes seem to offer a lot in that regard, and some of the two-layer belts that use slightly lighter materials in good combination (such as the Volund Atlas Slim).

    • Matt May 2, 2016 at 15:56 #

      Morgan,

      Thanks a ton for dropping in and dropping some knowledge. Your comments were scooped up by my spam filter for some reason but I rescued them.

      • Morgan Atwood May 2, 2016 at 17:09 #

        No worries, Matt. I figured that’s what happened, (or I had a fit of poor memory and only thought I’d hit submit) hence the re-submit.

        • Matt May 2, 2016 at 17:16 #

          I guess I should also mention that I have used the Ares Gear Aegis belt for AIWB and it has worked well for me. I think the key with it is how easily you can adjust how tight it is. I find myself loosening or tightening from to time to time to adjust the ride of an AIWB holster.

          • Jeff May 4, 2016 at 20:16 #

            Do you have the “standard” Aegis or the extra still belt? I think they call it the enhanced.

          • Matt May 4, 2016 at 20:28 #

            I have the standard one.

  5. T. Lima May 8, 2016 at 18:31 #

    I purchased an Ares belt about a year ago and found it a bit stiff for my liking. The belt is difficult to unfasten once you have it on. The belt must be pushed in a direction opposite of the belt buckle to disengage the friction bar in the belt buckle. I have since purchased a Nexbelt in black nylon. It is a bit more flexible and conforming but not soft to the point of edge bending.
    I have had problems with the Liger Belt as well. The rubber belt’s friction hold makes the belt difficult to adjust as well as the holes in the belt being round and the buckle’s retention pin is ovoid. This makes for a torturous event getting the belt on. I would suggest you look at Nexbelt, Slide Belts or Mission Belt as a reasonably priced alternative. They are all basically the same belt with different proprietary buckle designs.

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