This week’s video is fresh off the heels of Virginia’s Lobby Day.
Overall it was a positive showing, with great optics for the 2A community, and it allowed us to refute some of the stereotypes that are being painted about us.
That’s not to say there isn’t some room for improvement. I think there are a few elements that get missed when it comes to effectively tailoring a pro-2A message to an audience that doesn’t already think the way we do.
It’s really satisfying to go scorched earth on your opponent, and just burn them down with information and logic, but that rarely ever does anything to actually influence opinions.
There are some great resources out there that everyone should take advantage of when it comes to improving your ability to communicate, especially with someone with whom you don’t have common ground.
#2 Flashlight: I’m currently using the Fenix PD35. It seem to strike a good balance of cost and performance. Full Disclosure: I have not taken a formal low-light class yet, so my flashlight has not been formally pressure tested.
#3 Less Lethal: The Shivworks curriculum really highlights the value of OC. My 2 preferred are the POM and ASP offerings. Each has its own pros and cons, and I’ll go into those in a separate article.
#4: Intermediate Force: I’m partial to saps, even though I’m a relatively new adopter. It offers the ability to modulate the severity of the force applied depending on if you strike with the flat or the edge, and the area you choose to target. If you want to see if it’s right for you, Boston Leather is a decent place to start. They’re well built and not super expensive.
#5: Deadly force: While I generally don’t carry a blade for defense anymore (that’s it’s own story), if you are truly spread thin, I’d rather see you buy a decent quality knife than a dubious quality pistol. That being said, I’m not supremely qualified to really comment on budget pistols, so I’ll defer that over to Claude Werner The Tactical Professor, who’s done quite a bit of research on that subject. Greg Ellifritz over at Active Response Training also has some insightful commentary that I think everyone should see.
*DISCLAIMER* The links above are part of the Amazon Affiliate program. If you order through those links, I receive a small portion of the purchase price.
Today I dig a little deeper into a topic that came up on my Facebook page during the week: Just like your pistol, your clothing is a tool that has the potential to cause unintentional damage if it’s improperly used because you don’t have the right understanding. Check it out and let me know what you think!
What can Tom Givens teach you about defensive application of the shotgun? A whole truckload.
What can Tom Givens teach you about the shotgun in 4 hours?….. Still a significant chuck of that same truckload.
My first exposure to shotguns was my dad taking me trap shooting on my 13th birthday (since that was the minimum age at his shooting club. It’s Maryland….they’re goofy about gun stuff). I knew about shotguns, I’d been exposed to them, I technically had one that was configured for a role in home defense, but I’d never had any formal instruction. The extent of my understanding of the gauge was very reminiscent of Antonio Banderas learning swordsmanship in that first Zorro movie: “Do you know how to use that thing?” “Yes, the pointy end goes into the other man!”. So I took this class fully expecting to be the most novice guy there. My goal was to identify everything wrong with my gear and assumptions, so that I would work on correcting and improving them, and be better equipped to employ my shotgun in its intended role.
Spoiler Alert: I wasn’t a soup sandwich. I experienced 0 gear failures or malfunctions. I’m sure that has very little to do with my skill, and much more to do with Tom’s ability as a teacher. He’s definitely a salty old cop insofar as he has no tolerance for grab-assy bullshit. He doesn’t yell or try and play drill sergeant, he’s just gruff enough to maintain the pace of his coursework. There’s a good amount of humor and levity as well to keep people engaged.
This was a fantastic class for a complete newbie like myself. At no point did I feel lost, or like I was behind the curve. He started off covering the basics: manual of arms (separated out for the pump guns and autoloaders), ready positions, proper sight picture, preferred setups and ammunition, and patterning. In summary, here’s how he addressed each portion:
High Ready = buttstock resting on your hip bone with a full grip on the forend, looking over the muzzle at your target (area), safety on.
Mounted = shouldered, pointed down range, safety off, finger on trigger ready to fire
“The only thing the safety does is keep the trigger from working”
Proper Sight Picture: For a bead sight on a vent rib gun (which is how mine is set up), you don’t want to actually see any of the “table top” of the rib. You just want to see the bead sitting on a flat horizon to ensure the muzzle isn’t canted up. Red dots & rifle sights are pretty self explanatory.
Stocks: Adjustable is ideal. Generally a 12-12.5” Length of Pull is recommended.
Configure the gun for the smallest user in the household
Magpul is the hotness
You should be able to mount the stock into your shoulder without it hanging up on any clothing/gear.
If needed (for longer stocks) punch up and out, then drive the stock back into your shoulder.
Sights: Dots & rifle sights are generally better since they allow for a higher degree of precision.
Ammo Carriers: “You’re only going to get to use what’s in and on the gun” so it’s a good idea to have an extra source of ammo physically attached to the gun somehow.
Tom has fabric cards velcroed to the side of his receiver. Not because they can be reloaded quickly during a firefight, but because they’re easily replaced when the elastic wears out.
There was no appreciable difference between fabric shotgun cards, butt cuffs, or hard side saddles that I saw. YMMV.
Slings: Were never discussed. During the courses of fire we did, they only seemed to get in people’s way.
Ammunition: Buck. 00, 0, or 1 buck. Tom commented that typically 8 pellet seemed to perform better than 9, since he’s witnessed 9 pellet almost always resulting in one “flyer” when patterning.
Flitecontrol is your friend.
Regardless of what’s the new hotness, your shotgun may only like certain ammo. Find what patterns best out of your gun, or send your barrell off to someone (read: Vang Comp) that can make it pattern for you.
Manual of Arms:
For pump guns, the user is responsible for the entire function of the gun.
Running of the pump should be an automatically conditioned response after pulling the trigger.
Make sure your ENTIRE support hand is on the pump so you don’t mash/mangle/amputate your pinkie between the slide and the receiver.
Load the chamber first, then the magazine tube
Push shells past the shell stop
When loading/reloading, cup the shell in your ring/middle/index fingers, using the pinkie and thumb to secure it
This applies regardless if you prefer going over the top or underneath the receiver
I prefer underneath, since it affords slightly less risk of fumbling/dropping the shell.
Butt cuffs tend to be more conducive to reloading from under the receiver
Side saddles can work either way, however the brass up layout is more efficient with an over the top reload
Running the Pump:
Don’t be gentle
Try and pull the gun apart
I left the class significantly more confident in both my ability with the shotgun, as well as my chosen setup.
Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:
The top 3 things covered in the class:
– Manual of Arms for pump & semi shotguns
– Presentation & manipulation during the cycle of fire
– Dos/Don’ts, Pros/Cons
The top 3 things I learned from the class:
– I could benefit from a shorter LOP
– My setup isn’t nearly as suboptimal as I’d expected
– The underneath shotgun reload seems to be the most intuitive/natural for me
Top 3 things I’ll do differently:
– Re-stock/shorten my stock
– Pattern my gun to find what load(s) it likes best
– Improve the front sight & add some sort of shell carrier.
Shotguns are absolutely still a viable choice for home protection, and they do offer some distinct advantages over other long guns. That being said, they are not suitable for a novice, and have a much longer learning curve to master. The nice thing is that the gauge is seeing a resurgence of late, and there’s a bunch of great instructors offering shotgun classes these days.
Here’s some of those resources, in no particular order:
If you’re still here and reading my material, I’ll assume that you share my interest finding that balance of how to effectively dress for the gun. Either that or you’re being held against your will, in which case blink twice and we’ll send help.
Now before you go out and spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe (something I would never recommend), there are a few tips, tricks, and tweaks that you can apply to your existing clothing. The thing to remember above all else is that fit is king. The properly fitting garment can fall & drape exactly the way you want it. And that is actually the focus of my first to points:
Avoid clothing that’s too tight: This one should be pretty obvious. Over the last couple years the trend seems to thankfully be moving away from overly fitted, almost painted on looking clothing. I don’t think much needs to be said on why this would be detrimental to concealment. We all like to joke about the guy in his shmedium Grunt Style t-shirt trying to hide a duty sized pistol in a hip holster. If your clothing hugs every curve and contour of your body, then any additions made to those curves & contours, be it a firearm or tacos, will be immediately apparent. That being said, I doubt this one will be a real issue for a majority of the people that read my posts.
Avoid clothing that’s too loose: There are actually 2 major reasons for this one. Firstly, baggy clothing tends to look sloppy or careless. This can set a negative impression, and is unflattering. Aesthetics might not be the top priority, but that’s not to say it isn’t important. The second aspect is a little counter-intuitive. Baggy clothing can highlight a concealed firearm almost as easily as tight clothes can. How is that? Baggy clothing means there’s a lot of extra fabric flapping around, so your daily bending, twisting, and moving can result in that extra material settling on the shelf that’s created by the grip of your pistol. If one side of your shirt is bunching and gathering unnaturally, that’s the type of irregularity that can invite further scrutiny.
Belt selection is critical: Typically when you’re dressing up, that means a tucked in shirt, which in turn means your belt is visible. Even if you’re wearing jeans, a “tactical” belt like the Wilderness Tactical Instructor belt or the Ares Gear Ranger belt will look out of place. Even something lower profile like the Mastermind Tactics (formerly Graith) Specialist is too conspicuous in my mind. Ares Gear tried to get around this with the Aegis, but it’s still scuba webbing. Typically dress(ier) belts mean leather. Just make sure the leather you select is appropriate for the environment. If, for example, you’re in a button down shirt with jeans & boots, a beefier leather gun belt like the 1/4″ thick offerings from Mean Gene, but if you’re in chinos, slacks or suit pants, you’ll need something that doesn’t look like work wear. You may have already read my article from last month where I compared the Kore Essentials and Slidebelt, which are my previous and current go-tos.
Your pants play into the concealment of an IWB holster! Most dudes, especially dudes that have a less than athletic build like myself will be inclined to pick pants that are less constricting because that’s more comfortable. This unfortunately creates a problem. You want your waistband to help snug the gun up against the body. Additionally, I’ve found that pants that are a little more fitted in the crotch, seat, and thigh tend to keep the holster body in place and prevent shifting. I’m not suggesting that the waist of your pants needs to be so tight that it’s cutting into you and leaving marks or red spots, but there should be at least some notable level of pressure from the waistband against your body.
Pant rise is important: For those unfamiliar, “rise” is the distance from the waistband to the crotch of a pair of pants. “Wait, you mean to tell me they’re not all the same?!?!?”. Well no, in fact they’re not, nor is one type universally effective. Depending on your build and the length of your torso, standard (high) or mid-rise pants might be moppropriate for you. The most common mistake that most guys make (again, especially those with the “successful lifestyle body”) is that they wear their pants too low. This can negatively impact your concealment by causing the gun to ride too low and/or create hot spots and discomfort. Your natural waist is typically at the level of your belly button, possibly down an inch or two. Most guys wear their pants on their pelvis, which is too low. The other issue is that wearing pants with the wrong rise too low can impede movement. The crotch of the pant is now lower than it should be, which means your legs are joined further down than they are naturally.
Shoe selection matters! Dressier shoes tend to have leather soles. Leather soles tend not to have the best traction. Traction is kind of important if you’re having to physically manage another person. You’re probably thinking “Well that’s an easy fix. I’ll just wear nothing but rubber soled shoes then!”. While that will work, I’ve yet to see a rubber soled shoe that actually looked like it belongs with a suit or dress pants. Thankfully there are some hybrid options out there, where rubber studs or sections are built into a leather sole, giving you better traction without looking like you’re wearing orthotic shoes or a uniform duty oxford.
Get friendly with your tailor: Most clothing off the rack doesn’t really fit anyone all that well, it just fits a lot of people okay enough that they’ll buy it. A good tailor can help tweak and adjust any garment to serve a specific purpose for you, and make sure your clothing is working for you instead of against you. And, speaking of tailors, there are a few specialty adjustments you can have your tailor make to your wardrobe:
Reinforcing your waistbands: Most of us carry guns and other support gear on the belt line. Other than work wear and denim, most slacks and suit pants are more delicate and not well suited to supporting weight. Having your tailor reinforce the waists of your pants will help to prevent sagging, and have the added benefit of more material that will keep your holster clips and other gear from wearing holes in your pants.
Extra belt loops: Alongthe same line as a reinforced waist, you may find it beneficial to have extra belt loops added to your trousers. This helps more evenly distribute weight across your belt, and prevent the waistline of your pants from sagging. Very important for any tools carried along the mid-line or in the pockets.
Extra lining in your jackets: This is primarily for the hip-carry crowd. If you’re using a jacket as a cover garment, you’ll want to have an extra panel of material sewn into the coat where it rides over the gun. Doing it this way will allow you to only have to repair the panel instead of having the entire jacket re-lined after it gets shredded by the rear sights and/or cocking serrations on your carry gun.
Breakaway buttons: Generally, when a man is standing he should have his jacket buttoned. Well if he now has to access a pistol under that jacket, he has to either tear it open, unbutton it, or try to pull it high enough to clear the holster. There are some companies now that are doing breakaway buttons. Essentially, it’s a normal functioning button & buttonhole, but instead of the button being sewn directly to the jacket, it’s sewn to a snap so that it can perform normally, then in an emergency it can be pulled open without damaging the garment. I’m actually talking to my tailor now about doing this to all my suits & sport coats.
Weight in the hem of your coat: The old bodyguard trick was to keep a spare magazine in the strong side coat pocket. That way, when you went to clear the cover garment, there was enough inertia and hang-time that it would keep the jacket from floating back into the path of the draw. Personally I find a magazine in the pocket too conspicuous. I have heard of guys having weight sewn directly into the hem of the jacket under the liner to the same effect.
Beware of neckties! The fabrics that they use for ties have a pretty high tensile strength. Especially when you consider that good ties are 5 or 7 fold material. That’s a lot of fabric wrapped around your neck. If you’re not careful it can easily turn into a leash or a noose. That’s why all of the uniform neckties I’ve ever seen have been clip-on. It’s super difficult to strangle somebody with a clip-on tie…………..allegedly. I’m not suggesting you replace your Hermes ties with clip-ons, just making sure it’s something you’re aware of. Look at it critically, and ask yourself if there are any modifications you can come up with to make your neckties “safer”.
This was intended as a very high-level primer, and as something to spark more questions and dialog.
Do you feel that anything was left out? Which of these would you like me to go into more detail on? Please let me know in the comments.
The first time I heard the name Gabe White was actually at Spencer Keeper’s Essential Handgun Skills class. When a shooter as accomplished as Spencer says “check this guy out”, it’s probably a good idea to listen up. So when I had the opportunity to register for Gabe’s block at Tac-Con, I set numerous alarms to make sure I was one of the first ones signed up.
Gabe has an interesting way of approaching the technical mechanics of shooting that’s different than your traditional “fighting pistol” type of class. If you have the opportunity, it’s well worth your time. His methods and articulation really helped some concepts to fall in place and make sense for me.
Summary: I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up for Gabe’s “Translating Technical Skills into Tactical Success”. I honestly didn’t even know the name “Gabe White” until I took Spencer Keepers’ handgun classes last January. He spoke so highly of Gabe that I figured I’d be foolish not to avail myself of this opportunity. What really struck me about the class was that there wasn’t really any new information that was presented, but the way that Gabe quantified and contextualized his material just made a lot of pre-existing pieces fall into place.
One of Gabe’s big focuses is getting better by “reaching”. The idea is that if you’re shooting at a level where you’re able to reliably and consistently perform, then you’re stagnant. His analogy was “you can’t get to a 300 lbs deadlift by repping 100 lbs over and over and over again”. Several of the drills started off with the instruction to “shoot at the level where you WANT to be, not where you are now”. Basically you were encouraged to fuck up and miss. Now that’s not to say that he advocates shooting indiscriminately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What he DOES advocate however is pushing to a level where things start to fall apart, and consciously analyzing what felt wrong/different to better identify the areas that need improvement and gain an appreciation for what actually works for you.
Gabe stressed being PROCESS focused. The idea being that desired result is symptomatic of correct execution of the technique. Essentially, if you do XYZ, the results manifest themselves. This process focus also makes it DRAMATICALLY easier to self-diagnose errors. If you’re just gripping & ripping, without being aware of your grip, draw stroke, sight alignment, and trigger press, you’ll never be able to understand WHY your target doesn’t look like all those highspeed dudes you follow on Instagram (ask me how I know).
Another major focus of this class in particular was serial and/or non-shooting tasking. That’s Gabe’s fancy way of saying that you need to be focused on more than just shooting, because if you’re just pressing “play” on a pre-programmed subroutine, but for whatever reason at some point during that shooting process something happens that changes the circumstances and the target no longer needs to be shot (or something has interrupted or is about to interrupt your need/ability to shoot), you need to be in constant, conscious control. Going back to weight-lifting analogies, it’s like the old adage of “being able to stop the weight at any point during the lift”
There was a lot of dry work during the class, which I personally appreciated. Mostly because it allowed me to get a better idea of what my own dry practice regimen should consist of moving forward. There were several “Ready Up” drills where the focus was moving your finger from register to breaking the shot as quickly as possible, allowing you to understand the sensation of developing speed, and also an appreciation for the impact that movement could have on your sight picture. Gabe briefly addressed ready positions, and expressed his preferences. The short version of this is the primary goal is to allow for the most unobstructed view of the [potential] target, while minimizing the time/distance the pistol would have to cover to get on sights/trigger. He prefers low ready (gun extended, muzzle at the ground by target’s feet) instead of compressed high ready (i.e. Count 3 of draw stroke) for those reasons. (Context dictates)
“A deep confidence in your technical abilities helps to prevent over/premature reactions”
When it comes to drawing the gun, Gabe’s main focus in on hand speed. He teaches you to snap your hands into action “like you touched a hot stove”. Getting to the gun faster is where a lot of people can improve their time. As the gun presents to the target, he also teaches seeing the sights and working the trigger AS the gun is stopping, as opposed to reaching full extension before you initiate the firing process, and that the sights tell you when to shoot.
Transitioning from the Technical to the Tactical, Gabe quantifies Defensive Shooting as “the correct and responsible application of your existing skill level”. I’m not going to go into too much depth here because I don’t want to give away any of his secrets, but suffice it to say that he has a FANTASTIC series of exercises that allow you to practice modulating your level(s) of force and rescinding your decision to shoot, even on a square range that may not allow work from the holster.
Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:
The top 3 things covered in the class:
Ready–>Up Drills, focusing on acceptable sight picture (and maintaining that throughout the manipulation of the trigger)
Incorporating No-Shoot/Stop-Shooting drills into live fire practice
Segmented practice of different attributes (micro vs. macro)
The top 3 things I learned from the class:
My default “compressed high ready” is costing me time
You get better by “reaching”. I.E. shooting at the level/speed that you want to be instead of staying at the level at which you know you can comfortably perform.
Focusing on the process will yield the desired results (instead of focusing on trying to actively create the results)
Top 3 things I’ll do differently:
Stop “throwing down” my cover garment, instead letting it drop and keeping both hands at the same height.
More sectioned practice instead of trying to do everything at once (I.E. practice just establishing grip, just the draw stroke, just first shot on target, then join them all together)
Recently, and I mean VERY recently, I’ve started toying with pistol-mounted miniaturized red dot sights (MRDS). This is another very trendy topic, so I’ll do my best to avoid the aspects that have already been covered by other, more experienced folks in this space. The purpose of this article is purely to share the experiences of a pure novice, and hope to articulate some of the things that might interest you if you’re flirting with the idea of putting a dot on your gun.
In short, the dot frees up bandwidth. What do I mean by this? Well, for me at least, there was a certain amount of brainpower and focus that I had to dedicate to ensuring proper sight alignment; that is making sure the front sight post was in the rear sight notch as well as ensuring that whole package was where I wanted it on the target. When you’re a mediocre shooter like myself, and still need to focus on your grip and trigger, that’s a lot of different directions to pull your attention all at once. By reducing the number of things I have to focus on in the sighting process, I’m suddenly much more aware of what’s going on with my trigger press and grip.
For me personally, my eyes don’t work well together. Something about them both vying to be the dominant one. I dunno, I never really paid it much attention, but suffice it to say for me it takes some active concentration to stick with either front sight focused or target focused shooting. Plug the red dot into that process, and now it’s a lot easier to stick with threat focused shooting and the dot just kind of existing in between my eyes and the target.
There’s another added benefit, especially for newer shooters that are still trying to master their draw, trigger press, and recoil control. The dot is a lot easier to keep track of unconsciously than even a fiber optic front sight. That means that if you do an analysis immediately after a string of fire, it will likely be much easier for you to actually identify what you’re doing well and what you may need to correct.
Using myself as an example, if you look at my Instagram post from November 13th, this was literally my first day shooting the dot. And even though I didn’t shoot as well as I do with conventional iron sights (no surprise) I was able to better articulate why and what needed to be fixed. The dot gives you a ton of info as to what your gun is doing in recoil, if your grip is truly consistent, how good your presentation is, etc.
If you are going to go down this path, there’s 2 basic options you can go with: Either A) you get an MOS or other modular platform that takes mounting plates if you really don’t know what kind of dot you want to get or B) since pretty much everything other than the ACRO and Delta Point uses an RMR pattern, just bite the bullet and get a slide cut for an RMR type optic. I was fortunate enough to have purchased a gun that just happened to already be cut for a red dot.
If you find yourself struggling trying to improve your draw and presentation, or if you’re fighting yourself and just can’t seem to put a finger on what exactly you’re doing wrong, spending a little time with a dot gun might give you the necessary info to self diagnose. Before I shot those FAST drills, the only time I had behind the dot was maybe 30 minutes of just dry draws (no timer). I was able to pick the dot up about 90% of the time, without having to hunt for it.
Currently I do occasionally find myself searching for the dot on the draw, and alot more if I’m shooting from the high ready like in some of the CSAT drills. Mostly I think the thing that’s costing me the most time is over-confirming the dot on the target, but I’m not exactly sure yet. More experimentation is needed, and I’ll be making another IG post about shooting that CSAT course of fire (not at the actual class, a local range likes to use that series as part of their monthly skills & drills)
If you’re like me, you sometimes wrestle with the idea of “Do I really deserve to explore this upgrade, or am I just trying to buy the skill I don’t have?” Well the videos make it pretty apparent that just sticking a dot on your slide won’t make you a better shooter, but it just might give you the information to help you progress to being a better shooter.
If you’re interested in actually taking a formal red dot pistol class, the best ones out there that I’m aware of are offered by Scott Jedlinski of Modern Samurai Project (Whose class I’m hoping to get into at Tac-Con 2020), Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics who is basically THE industry expert (or at least keeper of data) for MRDS info, Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts. That’s not to say there aren’t other worthy instructors out there, those are just the 3 I’m immediately aware of that teach dot specific coursework.
What are your thoughts on the pistol red dot? Are you dot-curious? What other questions did I leave unaddressed? Let me know!
If you do want to get yourself some MRDS gear, you can get dot-ready slides and optics from Big Tex Outdoors. Use the promo code SUITUP and save 15% at checkout!
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!