about western gun belts

Western Gun Belts Compared To Modern Gun Belts

Believe it or not, one of the most popular Internet searches for gun belts is for Western gun belts, which are different from the typical gun belt. Chances are you already are familiar with them, and they still have a place in the world.

Western Gun Belts Are Exactly What You’re Probably Picturing

Imagine a Western movie. Lawman squares off against bad guy in black hat, both wearing leather gun belts with holsters, holding Remington or Colt revolvers. Iron is slapped, bad guy goes down, Ma and the ranch are saved. (Hooray!) The holster and belt rig you’re likely picturing in your head are what Western gun belts are.

western gun  belt vs ccw belt

Today’s gun belts are trouser belts that also hold up a (usually) holstered firearm. There’s not much difference between a gun belt and a regular belt; it’s just that a gun belt is engineered and overbuilt for a much stronger vertical and horizontal hold.

Western gun belts, on the other hand, are (usually) a combination belt and holster. Instead of being worn through belt loops, western gun belts are worn over the trousers, and usually sit just below or possibly above the actual trouser belt line, not unlike a duty belt for law enforcement or military personnel.

Typically, they are also wider than an ordinary belt, spreading the retention force over a larger surface area and thus should be very comfortable to wear.

Types Of Western Gun Belts

some western gun belts

Basically, a western gun belt is a western gun belt, but there are some variations. The prototypical western gun belt is a belt with an attached holster, though there are models available that allow the wearer to add the holster they prefer instead of one being attached.

There is also the Bridgeport rig, which attached a pistol to the belt via a screw mounted the pistol and a slot on the belt. While this was great for quick draws at short range, it found limited adoption and today is rarely seen outside of Cowboy Action Shooting events and museums.

Military-style western holsters - some might be tempted to call them cavalry holsters but they aren’t; cavalry holsters are mounted on the saddle and infantry had them as well - have a flap on the holster covers the grip. Military holsters from the era were typically black leather; today’s western-style gun belts are almost universally brown.

Regardless of the format, another difference from other gun belts and holsters is that western gun belts are leather. “Tactical” - which means something is made from black nylon and plastic - wasn’t a thing until a few years ago; holsters and all other accessories were made of hide.

Buying one would certainly be a good investment, if you have a use for it. Quality leather gun belts will last a lifetime if properly cared for.

The Original Open Carry Rig

cowboy belts

Western gun belts were how people open carried, since that was more or less the only viable holster option for a full-size pistol. That doesn’t mean people didn’t conceal; pocket pistols in the 19th century were certainly extant but concealed carrying was not as widespread as today. (Largely because it was illegal.)

That said, western gun belts still have a place. Obviously there are frivolities such as cosplay, and the actual sport of Cowboy Action Shooting and so on.

Additionally, these belts and holsters can be made for almost any firearm; you aren’t limited to revolvers by any means. Thus, a western belt is a perfectly good open carry rig, and definitely classier than many other open carry systems.

However, since they are worn over the pants and incorporate a holster, they are also single-purpose. A quality leather gun belt can be useful for formal attire and daily wear even if the carrier isn’t carrying a gun, since it will last longer and hold better than a typical department store belt.

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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