best materials for a quality leather gun belt

The Different Types of Gun Belt Materials

There are many different types of gun belts, and a number of different gun belt materials that are used by various manufacturers. Each has their benefits and can be completely reliable on a daily basis.

However, each has their drawbacks as well. Ultimately, which material makes the best gun belt is subjective, and everyone will have to make up their own mind.

Nylon Tactical Belts, Web Belts and Other Cloth Gun Belts

nylon tactical web belt

One of the most popular gun belt choices is a belt made from some type of cloth, synthetic or otherwise; nylon gun belts or "tactical gun belts" as they're often called, are very popular indeed.

Nylon is a synthetic fabric, available in many different varieties and applications, ranging from fabrics to hard plastics. Nylon gun belts run the gamut; some are incredibly cheap (for good reason) and some are not, also for good reason.

Some nylon gun belts are made from cargo strap material, giving them tensile strength of several thousand pounds. These can be used as a makeshift tow strap if necessary; that's how strong they can be

Canvas gun belts are also available. Canvas is one of the roughest weaves of cotton, highly suited to working applications. Canvas is breathable while still being water-resistant, which is why so many people favor cold-weather outerwear made from duck, a very similar cotton weave.

The most common canvas pistol belts are WWII-style pistol belts, available from many online retailers and military surplus stores.

You might also see "web belts" or "webbing belts." For lack of a simpler way to describe it, "webbing" is when a textile company weaves a fabric for something other than clothing, usually in a strap or rope-like manner. Canvas, nylon and polyester are all used to make webbing, so don't let the term throw you - look at the base fabric to see what it's made of.

Leather Gun Belts

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Naturally, there are also leather gun belts. Leather is the skin of an animal that's been treated and cured so that it becomes a durable fabric. The thicker the leather, the stronger it is.

Most leather is cowhide, made from mature animals. Both female cows (forgive the tautology) and steers are common for leather. Bullhide leather is, naturally, made from the hide of a bull, though not all bullhide is advertised as such.

Horse leather is also fairly common, as it has many of the same qualities as cow hide as far as strength and suppleness.

Other exotic animal skin is also popular for use as leather products, including ostrich, kangaroo, crocodiles and alligators, snakes and other reptiles, buffalo, deer, and so on.

Naturally, leather has been used to make belts for...well, forever. For use as a gun belt, the leather must be thicker than the typical department store belt, otherwise it will exhibit gun belt sag and wear out very quickly.

Purpose-built leather gun belts are thicker than the normal belt and usually a bit wider; the normal belt is usually around 1-inch wide to 1.25 inches wide. Leather gun belts very commonly have a 1.5-inch width. Many gun belts are two-ply, meaning two layers of leather have been stitched together. Some even have a reinforcing material between them, such as Kydex plastic or spring steel.

What to Look For In Belts of Various Gun Belt Materials

quality leather gun belt with steel core

When looking for gun belts, there are certain things to look for in belts made of the various gun belt materials. Some might note that materials other than leather carry a cheaper price tag and will gravitate toward them on that basis. While it MAY be true that one "gets what one pays for," it may also not. However, cheaper gun belts may wear out more quickly and thus may need more frequent replacement.

If you're looking at nylon gun belts, look for denier rating, or "D." Denier is a measure of linear mass density, or rather, how much material is present in a given length of fabric. A 1D fabric has a density of 1 gram per 9 kilometers, or 0.11 milligrams (1/1000th of a gram) per meter. The higher the denier, the better; 600D nylon is tough stuff; anything over that is practically industrial.

If the manufacturer gives tensile strength ratings, obviously bigger is better.

However, some manufacturers don't give any of this information and you'll just have to research it yourself. Furthermore, pay attention to width; many nylon and tactical belts are 1.75 inches and wider, which can be too wide for belt loops and are thus duty belts, which are different than gun belts. The former sit on the waist, independent of the trousers.

Canvas gun belts are typically 2 inches wide or more, and thus aren't usable in belt loops.

If available, look for the fabric weight. Canvas, like leather, is rated in ounces; the heavier, the denser and stronger. The aforementioned popular outerwear (a very popular brand name rhymes with "Farhartt") is typically made of 12-oz duck, which is pretty tough stuff; canvas made of 12-oz or heavier duck will hold better than lighter material. However, canvas will likely not be as stiff as nylon or leather.

Leather, like canvas, is rated by weight; 12-oz leather is fairly thick. Belts employing 14-oz or thicker leather are very stout indeed and make for very good gun belts. Look for full-grain leathers, as these are the strongest and among the supplest, if treated correctly. However, leather will be among the more expensive options. That said, a quality leather belt is an investment that can last a lifetime.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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