I get asked this every week or two - so I thought I'd post it here where others can add their experiences. I can also point people to this thread to join the discussion. I'm doing this from my phone, so excuse any typos. PLEASE SEE POST 4 BELOW! (Mods - any chance of combining the two posts?)
*Question was (paraphrasing): I'm thinking about switching my Leather Gun Belt to a Nylong Gun Belt. What are your thoughts on this?*
Leather belts aren't as standardized as nylon belts are. I've seen some really good ones and really bad ones. The biggest pro with leather is it conforms a bit better to the body. The cons are it wears out much quicker, allows less adjustments to fine tune, can be harder to cinch down, can be harder to do weapon manipulations off of, and it SQUEAKS.
However leather can - when made correctly - have just as much ability to bear a load and looks more casual. There are also some beautiful and incredibly durable leather belts out there that will probably outlive their owners.
Nylon belts come in 4 flavors in my view. You have the shitty issued belt the military gets. Then you have the Wilderness / Galco Instructor belts made with a more proprietary blend of nylon. Next is the same D- Ring instructor belt made with scuba webbing. Finally you have Cobra buckle belts. This can be broken into 2 sub-groups. You have the style that threads the belt directly to the Cobra buckle and the style with an accent webbing sewed to the base belt and threaded through a 1" cobra buckle.
As far as nylon instructor belts go - the Wilderness is a nice belt but avoid the Galco. The stitching is awful. Same with the Uncle Mikes. Waste of money. The versions of these belts with the polymer insert add strength if you run a lot of stuff off your belt. Personally, I find the Instructor style belts made from scuba webbing with D rings to be the best. But you need to go to a custom shop for these.
The other group is the Cobra buckles. I think the 1.75" Cobra Riggers belt is the strongest and most durable gun belt available. You may want to opt for a 1.5" for compatibility with certain pant loops though. It's simple to run almost anything off these belts. They are load rated in the tens of thousands of pounds. You could tow a car in a pinch with one.
The new "cool guy" belt is the 1.5" with 1" accent webbing attached to a 1" cobra buckle. The Ares Ranger started this style. The nice part is you have a smaller buckle - since the Cobra buckles are kind of bulky. Because of the style though, you "tuck" both ends of the base webbing behind the buckle - usually held in place by Velcro or a spandex band Depending on Manufacturer. It can be bulky to some. That makes 4 layers of scuba webbing behind the belt buckle. Also some don't like having to fiddle with that much material and it can sometimes "break loose" or you forget to secure the ends - and you'll have a length of webbing running down your zipper line on your pants. The accent webbing either hangs loose or is secured - depending on maker. This also needs tucked or it hangs down the front of your pants. Some like the Velcro to secure it to the base belt and some don't. I personally prefer just tucking it between the pants and the belt.
Other things to keep in mind. Cobra belts click like a seatbelt so you don't need to adjust them constantly. There also isn't Velcro on them to wear out (there is velcro - you just don't expose it often like an instructor belt).
You must remove the buckle to thread gear on - which may be bothersome. The D Ring instructor style Velcros into place on the strong side - so it may interfere with your holster. Can be bothersome if you wear forward of 3 o'clock.
Instructor belts are easier to cinch down. Black webbing is always stiffer then Coyote or other color webbing. This only applies to the base webbing in the case of the Ranger style belts. Cobra belts are expensive and you have to wait for a custom shop to make them.
So what to buy if you go with Nylon? If for EDC I'd go with a 1.5" Cobra, a 1.5" with 1" Cobra buckle, or a D Ring instructor belt. For an instructor - get a nice custom one or a Wilderness if there is an immediate need. A nice custom belt will last forever. My personal preference based on being in a dirty shop and having a very hairy Golden Retriever is to avoid Velcro on belts, so I grab a Cobra Riggers belt more often then not. The Velcro stays captured when adjusted into place. Or in the case of the Ares Ranger - has no Velcro (hook and loop for all you cool guys).
Whatever you choose - leather or nylon - a nice stiff gun belt is a MUST for concealed carry. In my opinion it's just as important as a good gun or good holster. In fact, our Holsters will really shine with a good belt - as they depend on a solid platform for a good draw.
PLEASE SEE POST 4 BELOW FOR CONTINUATION!
I'm going to focus on Nylon belts. Leather belts are great - but there is just too much variety. Nylon belts are more standardized and can be objectively measured in quality by workmanship and specifications of parts. I am a fan of leather - but I do find I prefer nylon belts for serious and hard use belts.
In my opinion, the modern generation of gunfighters and concealed carry citizens will be best served by a plastic gun, plastic holster, and plastic belt. Everyone has their opinions though - and these are just mine.
The instructor belt is a timeless design for nylon belts. As stated above, there are two different takes on it. One is the traditional "Instructor Belt" (I.E. Wilderness 3 and 5 Stitch) and the other is what the custom shops are putting out using their own scuba webbing. An Instructor Belt is better defined as a "V-Ring Belt" - though there are different buckles and takes on this design.
First off is the Wilderness and its clones. The best part about the Wilderness belts are they can be found for immediate purchase and are plenty stiff for concealed carry. The nylon - as best as I can describe it - is similar to a seatbelt. They make a 3 stitch, 5 stitch, and reinforced model. My personal favorite is the 5 stitch. The reinforced model adds a strip of polymer in the center and it is a good choice if the user is planning on running AR mags from the belt - though not completely necessary. There are also different buckles - such as a plastic version that "will not set off metal detectors". My personal opinion is these double delrin buckles are inferior to the V-Ring - and getting through metal detectors is a solution looking for a problem.
The Wilderness Instructor Belt
Cost - Under $50 at most retailers
Pros - More cost effective, stocked at many different retailers, great for CCW.
Cons - Not as stiff as some of the custom shop belts. Velcro can wear out or get dirty over time. Velcro portion may interfere with holster.
You can see below how well a Wilderness instructor belt can hold up a fullsize high capacity pistol (10mm) even with a high riding holster. Also note its "casual" look.
Custom Shop V-Ring Belts
These are identical to form and function as the above instructor belts - only they use a thicker webbing.
Ares Backpacker's Belt (closest to a V-Ring) - $50
Jones Tactical - Riggers Belt Standard - $32
Endeavor Stitchworks V Ring - $30
Pros - Simple, classic design. Cost effective. Easy to cinch down.
Cons - Velcro can wear out / get dirty. Lead Times. Velcro portion may interfere with holster.
Instructor D Ring Buckle
Instructor Velcro Attachment
Cobra Riggers Belts - 1.5" - 2"
The Cobra belts are as strong a belt as you can find. The load ratings are etched into their Cobra buckles. All Cobra buckles come from the same place. All webbing is the same strength (within their Commercial and MilSpec catagories). The differences from company to company is the quality of the stitching. Keep in mind that colored webbing is softer then Black.
You adjust these belts via Velcro and then they are "set" in place. From there, you simply click the belt on. Think of buckling a seatbelt. This makes them very convenient for taking on and off. It also keeps the velcro on the belts contained - so they don't wear out fast. The buckle will be the size of the webbing. Therefore a 1.75" belt will have a 1.75" buckle. Keep this in mind when ordering a size. You will also need to remove the Male portion of the buckle anytime you thread on a holster with fixed belt loops (IWB soft loops or clip on designs need not apply). It's just too thick to fit through the loops.
For reference, I've linked the 1.75" variety below.
Ares Cobra Rigger Belt 1.75" - $75
Jones Tactical Cobra Shooters Belt 1.75" - $65
Endeavor Stitchworks Cobra Gun Belt 1.75" - $50
Pros - Extremely solid mounting platform. Makes a great inner belt for war belts. Cobra buckle is very convenient. Extreme tensile strength. Velcro doesn't need constantly adjusted after using the bathroom.
Cons - Threading gear can be difficult due to thickness and the need to remove the male portion of the belt. Costs more then other belts. Lead Times. Cobra buckle may be considered bulky by some.
Cobra Rigger Gun Belts - 1.75"
1.5" with 1" accent webbing / buckle - A.K.A. 1.5"/1" (as I call them)
This is the most modern take on the gun belt and is gaining a lot popularity. Much of it has to do with a recent handgun video. It takes a 1.5" length of double scuba webbing and stitches a 1" length of accent webbing on top. The accent webbing is then used to attach to the Cobra buckle - which is also 1". This allows a smaller buckle - but the tradeoff is the webbing doubles over itself behind the buckle. This means you have a whole lot of webbing right behind the buckle. Different companies use different means to secure the doubled over webbing. Some will find it simply too much material.
Ares Ranger - $79
Jones Tactical EveryDay Belt - $60
Pros - Lower profile buckle. "Cool Accent Webbing" for contrasting colors. Same stiffness as 1.5" Cobra belts. Many color combination options. Has NO velcro (some models).
Cons - Bulky around the buckle from material. Significantly less tensile strength from thinner accent webbing attached to a smaller buckle. Lead Times. Cost. Difficult to thread gear. Male portion of buckle must be removed to thread gear. All in all - a complex design to produce the same results as a 1.5" Cobra belt.
1.5" belt with 1" Cobra Buckle / 1" accent webbing.
1.75" vs 1.5"/1" Buckles
Different Cobra Buckles - 1.75" in middle
Different 1.5"/1" attachment / webbing tuck methods
2 vs 3 stitches to attach accent webbing
Cuts / melting to finish threading point
My CURRENT everyday carry Belt.
Tips, tricks, and things to keep in mind
1. Belts run smaller then your pant size. Measure your actual waist size WITH holster (if carrying IWB) before making an order.
2. If the stiffest belt possible is desired - get Black webbing.
3. Avoid the Galco (NYLON - their Leather is quite good) and Uncle Mike's Instructor Belts.
4. If running a 2" Cobra belt in a duty / war belt fashion - spend the extra money to add the inner velcro belt. It helps keep gear in place.
5. If you're having trouble threading with a tight riding holster (such as ours) - go through one loop, pull a good 6" of belt through, then bend it and go through the second loop.
6. If you're having trouble unthreading with a tight riding holster (such as ours) - remove the buckle (if a Cobra belt). Then hold the holster in your left hand to keep it in place while grabbing the webbing behind the holster with your right hand. Pull hard to unthread while still on the body.
7. Don't rappel with these belts. Or you will have a mean wedgie.
8. I consider ALL of the above companies good to go. Pick the one you find has the best price, customer service, product closest to your needs, and supports innovation in the tactical gear industry. Worrying about who made what first and who uses what will NOT necessarily equal a better product. These are things to keep in mind - but they shouldn't restrict one to a single company. Consumers shouldn't worry about those things. Leave it to those with a vested monetary interest.
9. If you want something that conforms to the body - it's best to stick with leather. These have been described like "wearing a cast around the waist".
10. KEEP YOUR VELCRO CLEAN SO IT CAN DO ITS JOB!!
**Pricing based on advertised price - not including shipping or options. Some photos are property of their respective company - while other photos are my own. If there is a problem with a photo being used - please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org . I have NO affiliation with ANY of these companies - aside from being a consumer of their products. I have also NOT received ANY monetary or product compensation for my thoughts listed above. Thanks for reading.