If there is one thing that the EDC crowd obsesses over it’s belts, right after gun brand, caliber, sight type, carry position, shooting style, holster type, holster brand…point is we like geeking out over gear. We’re always looking for that thing that’s going to give us that little edge (as long as it isn’t dry fire practice or working with a shot timer).
There’s already tons of videos and articles out there about the best belt for XYZ, or the new hotness, so why would such a niche page like mine want to wade into such an overly saturated pool? Simple really. Dress belts are generally too delicate to effectively support a gun, and most of the purpose built gun belts out there, while wonderfully effective, can be so robust as to look out of place through the belt loops of dress slacks or a suit. Case in point, the Mean Gene Shooter’s belt is advertised at “just over 1/4 inch thick”. Well, when you’re going for a sleek, streamlined silhouette, that’s a lot of hide to have hanging off your hips.
When it comes to any inside the waistband carry, but especially appendix, most of the conventional wisdom on belts is actually counter productive. Super rigid belts make it harder to conform to the contours of your body. This means that the belt can actually be pulling the gun away from you, increasing printing.
With traditional belts with holes, usually most people find that one hole is uncomfortably tight, but the next one down is too loose to where the gun flops around. Before these ratcheting belts came on the market, the only options we had for micro-adjustability were either web belts or the Wilderness style, neither of which is really appropriate in a suit. Now there are options that give us the functionality we need along with a more approrpriate aesthetic, and at almost half the thickness of a leather gun belt, these ratchet belts are definitely worth considering.
I was first introduced to Kore Essentials by one of YouTube’s gun personalities. It seemed like a pretty great solution: a dress-looking belt that was purpose built for carrying a gun! What more could you ask for? So I ordered up a couple. Now this was about the time that I was also experimenting with appendix carry so, not knowing any better, I opted for the more rigid kydex-reinforced belt that they offered at the time. For those unfamiliar, these belts are cut-to-size, so you trim it down yourself and then attach the buckle. The micro-adjustability of the ratcheting system was not only convenient, but it also made appendix carrying much more comfortable. I even ran the belt through ECQC, and it didn’t fail. The leather was a little worse for wear, but that’s to be expected when you’re rolling around in the gravely dirt of Austin.
After wearing these belts daily for a few months, I did notice a problem. The release latch on the buckle was so pronounced that it was wearing a hole into the front of my pants. This was especially problematic with lighter fabrics like on my slacks and suits. My immediate solution was to not tighten the belt down as much, but that of course made the holster less stable. I’ve been told that Kore has subsequently updated the buckle design, but I cannot confirm if that redesign fixed this issue.
I have no reason to doubt that it has. Update: After looking at the website, the buckle design still seems to have the same configuration. This leads me to believe it would have the same issue.
The second thing that I’m not super fond of is that the leather started to de-laminate from the kydex and bubble up. It’s pretty unsightly, and so now the belt is all but unusable unless my shirt is untucked, or if I’m wearing a jacket all day. I’ve made do, but I found myself wanting a better solution. I tried a couple of their non-kydex reinforced fashion belts, but still ran into some of the same concerns.
I’ll be honest, I ignored Slidebelts for a while because I saw their ads for the “Survival Belt” with the integrated blade and fire steel, and pretty much wrote them off. It struck me as a ridiculous concept. I randomly decided to give them another look, and was encouraged that they specifically identified different quality tiers of their belts on the website (top grain vs. full grain). I ordered a set of their top grain belts, a black, a brown, and a walnut, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I got:
Firstly, the buckle design on the Slidebelt is far superior in my mind. It’s sleeker, and there are no protrusions to wear into your clothing. Also there’s a much wider selection of buckle options, which is nice. The next thing that struck me was that their belts come with a slightly more pebbled texture to them than the Kore ones, which I happen to like. Also, the smooth face of the Kore belts caused dimples and separation to be much more apparent, causing the belt to show its age much faster.
Now I’m not crazy that the inside face of the Slidebelt isn’t finished. Aside from the fact that it makes the measurements harder to read when you’re sizing the belt, it just feels a little sloppy. And for a product that’s ~25% more expensive (MSRP) than the Kore belts that do have a finished inside, it does feel like they cut a corner there.
Overall, they’re both perfectly serviceable choices. I can’t speak to how well the Slidebelt will hold up over time, but based solely on how they felt coming out of the box and the buckle design, they’ve unseated Kore for my everyday dress belt option when I’m carrying a gun. The construction is solid, and they’re a little more upfront about the materials they use. Kore does list the type of leather in the product descriptions, but you have to dig for it. I DO know some folks that are having belts made out of shell cordovan, and commissioning them from bridle/saddle shops, but at that point you’re essentially going bespoke, and that’s a little outside the realm of most of my audience.
Now will these products survive the rigors of a plain clothed executive protection detail? Something where you’re having to run rifle mags, a radio, and who knows what else on your beltline? No, probably not. They will however support my standard loadout until such time as I can get one of those snazzy custom cordovan numbers…which is probably going to be a while.
If you’re so inclined, and you wanted to pick one of those Slidebelts up, I’ve linked to both the Black Top Grain Leather, Brown Top Grain Leather, and Walnut Top Grain Leather belts that I own. Yes, these are affiliate links and I get a small percentage if you purchase. No, that in no way influenced my decision to favor Slidebelt over Kore. It really came down to the buckle design and finish. I’m hoping to explore more of the discreet gear & apparel, so any help towards that goal would be greatly appreciated!