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For many who carry a sidearm, a tactical belt is a core element of the carry system. The holster supports the gun and the belt supports the holster. While you might be able to get away with a run-of-the-mill department store belt, they typically won’t support the weight of a loaded handgun and spare magazine without sagging or causing discomfort. The best tactical belt is heavy-duty enough to support your gear without compromising comfort or personal style.
In this article, we’re looking at tactical gun belts for concealed carry because we covered belts for overt carry — battle belts, gun belts, gunfighter belts, or whatever you want to call them — in our best gun belt article. Therefore, we’re looking at the best tactical belts for covert use, meaning you wear them in a way to conceal your gear.
All of the belts on this list were recommended and tested by Task & Purpose and our trusted experts. These heavy-duty belts are trusted every day by people who are serious about carrying a firearm for personal protection, or as part of a professional ensemble in plain clothes.
Buying a concealed carry belt doesn’t have to be complicated, and the 5.11 Mission-Ready belt is proof of that concept. It’s a simple leather belt that doesn’t stand out as much as a distinctly tactical nylon belt. What’s great about the Mission-Ready Belt is that it’ll offer good support for concealed carry, but it’s also simple enough for an everyday belt to wear around town. Additionally, the Mission-Ready belt is easily available from most retailers, so it’s not a difficult belt to shop around for if your usual outlet has them out of stock.
The 5.11 Mission-Ready Belt is a normal belt, and that’s that. There’s very little in the way of frills in terms of technology or materials, which is a great feature for many users who like to know what they’re getting. It’s also durable in its simplicity. Several friends specifically praised it as a good choice for concealed carry. A large part of their praise focused on the fact that the belt was comfortable and supportive to a wide variety of holsters and firearms, which is the ideal characteristic for a gun belt. Finally, if you don’t care for the admittedly utilitarian belt buckle, or if you’re like me and like to match your belt buckle to your watch, the buckle on this belt can be swapped for any buckle that’s compatible with a 1.5-inch belt.
Unfortunately, the key limitation of the 5.11 Mission-Ready Belt is that it’s just not a stylish belt. It satisfies the requirements of being durable, simple, and supportive, but loses out with its distinctly utilitarian styling. The tail of the belt is embossed with a 5.11 logo, immediately outing this as a tactical product to the trained observer, and features a utilitarian bevel to the tip. This is not a belt that dresses up well, and given that many people wear belts for stylish reasons entirely these days, a utilitarian belt stands out much more readily than an ornate one. There is also a limited range of colors and sizes, so you can have any color you want, as long as it’s one shade of black and one shade of brown, and if you can find it in your size.
- Material: Leather with stiffening layer
- Colors: Black or dark brown
- Fastening: Eye and buckle
- Size range: 32 to 40 inches
- This is the belt for the people who prefer simplicity because not everyone needs a belt made of exotic materials or fastened with an exotic buckle. It’s very easy to go from a standard belt to this, which just features a stiffening layer to help it support a holster better, and little else. It may not be pretty, but it does the job.
Good rigidity for improved holster support
Long-lasting and durable
Obvious 5.11 product
Limited size and color range
Doesn’t dress up well
For the value, the Kore Essentials leather gun belt will challenge your understanding of fit, style, and materials. This Kore belt is part of a larger ecosystem of products, and the value comes not only from the cost of initial purchase, but from the ease of adapting the belt to your needs. For instance, we linked to the leather belt, but you can buy a more supportive nylon belt and use the same buckle, or vice versa.
The biggest advantage of the Kore Essentials belts is its use of a ratcheting system. It ensures that the belt fits an array of common sizes, but also that it fits you and your gun with ease. The look of these belts is somewhat more flexible than other options, since they offer various shapes of buckles to fit a wide variety of styles, and this, combined with the flexible fitment, means that it will work well for many people. The leather belts are also reasonably supportive, especially when compared to similarly priced department store belts.
Although there are a variety of Kore buckles and they’re swappable, they’re all very modern in terms of style, so the belts end up looking like something a philandering waiter wears at the local midrange bar and grill. Long-term users have also reported that the belt buckles lose their finish after about a year of consistent use, which is especially true for the placard-type belt buckles with a lot of exposed metal. The buckles can be easily replaced for roughly $20, but the finish damage shows especially well on the coated gunmetal and nickel belt buckles. The belts have to be sized by the wearer to fit, which means that theoretically they can fit almost anyone, but be prepared to dig out some shears to trim it. A final disadvantage of these belts is that while they are more rigid than a standard leather belt, they are still not rigid enough for outside-the-waistband carry, or for users like plain clothes law enforcement who may be carrying a sidearm, handcuffs, magazines, and other tools.
- Material: Leather
- Colors: Black, brown, and tan
- Fastening: Ratcheting system
- Size range: 24 to 54 inches depending on style
- The Kore Essentials Dress belt was recommended to us by several readers who carry a handgun almost daily, and they spoke highly of it. If you prefer a modern-looking belt for a business casual environment, this is a great choice, and the adaptability of the system means that you can adapt to different colors or buckle designs without having to buy an entirely new belt.
Easy fit adjustment
Good leather material
Buckle options are goofy-looking
Needs to be sized by user
Not especially rigid compared to nylon options
Although the PHLster Enigma is a somewhat complicated carry option, it’s also the best tactical belt for women wanting to conceal carry. It came very highly recommended by all the women I know who carry concealed because it conforms to a variety of women’s attire, which is typically slim-fitting and lacks functional belt loops. This bizarre and aptly named belt — consisting of a belt, a mounting platform for a holster, and a leg lanyard — creates a stable platform for almost any handgun and is one of the best IWB holsters on the market (for women and men).
As you may have guessed, the PHLster Enigma fits around your waist and under your clothes, and you wrap the leg lanyard around your thigh for stability. If you search online, you’ll see most people wearing it appendix style, but you don’t have to. But probably the biggest advantage of this belt is that it’s completely clothing-agnostic, meaning you can wear it with anything and access your firearm as long as you have access to your waistline.
The PHLster Enigma is complicated, expensive, and largely proprietary, which are the big issues with the system in a nutshell. It retails for the price of some of the more expensive belts on this list and requires that you buy a PHLster holster to go with it, which leads to a higher price tag. Another complicating factor is that if your weapon of choice doesn’t fit into a narrow range of holsters, or if it uses a weapon light, you’ll need to buy the light-bearing Enigma, which requires hand assembly. Finally, putting the enigma on requires a more complex procedure than simply threading a belt through loops, as you have to get your leg through the leash, adjust the belt, and then put on your clothes.
- Material: Nylon and thermoplastic
- Fastening: Leg lanyard and cinches
- Size range: N/A
- For women, or anyone whose wardrobe largely lacks opportunities for external belts, the Enigma is the best choice for a women’s tactical belt on the market. It’s totally clothing-agnostic, and provided you have the patience and the know-how, you can make it work for almost any weapon.
Works in almost any clothing style
Works with many different weapons
Conforms to the wearer’s body
Very complicated to set up
Certain discerning users need to move between covert and overt very quickly, wanting gear that easily facilitates a day that can include serving a high-risk warrant or shooting a two-gun match, as well as a trip to the local mall to grab lunch without standing out too much. Other users want to be able to shoot using a Velcro battle belt without having to wear specific tactical pants with enlarged belt loops. In both hypothetical situations, the Ciguera Gear Emissary Velcro belt is the best choice. This is a heavy-duty belt that doubles as an inner belt for a battle belt or tactical gun belt, and features a loop Velcro outer layer in addition to a stiffened liner for added support, all joined by a brass buckle.
The Emissary is a competent belt that fits into any pair of pants that will accommodate a belt, freeing the wearer of the need to wear specific tactical pants to then later use an outer battle belt. This flexibility is a specific advantage for people who want to wear normal attire to the range, or for plainclothes law enforcement who want to be able to quickly put on a battle belt over top. The belt is also very supportive, able to hold heavy outside-the-waistband holsters without much flex. Finally, the fact that it uses a familiar belt fastening system rather than something like Velcro means that at a passing glance by an untrained observer, it looks like a normal cloth belt.
I did say an “untrained observer” though, and that’s because this is very obviously a tactical belt. Normal attire doesn’t usually feature a nylon belt, and so any hope of blending in is limited by how closely someone is looking at your wardrobe. Another limitation is part of wearing a belt with a brass buckle is that the plating will eventually rub off over time, and you’ll need to replace it, which is less of an issue with more expensive steel buckles. Finally, due to being a combination of two different purposes, and in an attempt to do them both well, the Emissary belt is pricier than most CCW belts or most inner belts for use with a battle belt.
- Material: Nylon and Velcro
- Fastening: Eyelet and buckle
- Size range: 32 to 49 inches
- Several of our readers identified the need to have a belt for concealed carry and more overt shooting, and this belt bridges that gap better than any other on the market. The Emissary still keeps a distinctly tactical appearance and enters into the territory of being a heavy-duty tactical belt, but that comes with the territory of pulling double duty.
Works as either a CCW belt, or inner belt for use with a gun belt
Easy to use
Obviously a tactical belt
Brass buckles lose their finish
Costly compared to single-use belts
Why you should trust us
For this article, I based my choices off my personal experience with concealed carry, as well as interviews with people who have concerns like using their belt for both covert and overt work, or making a holster work with women’s clothes. All of the choices today were recommended by name, and the users were able to show prolonged heavy-duty use.
Types of tactical belts for concealed carry
Within the family of tactical belts for concealed carry, there are three major groups of belts: pistol belts, inner belts for use with a gun belt or battle belt, and inside-the-waistband belts for use without belt loops. These definitions include variations on these themes, as with pistol belts that either use conventional eyelets and buckles vs those who use ratcheting systems.
These are the simplest belts of the group, often just a standard belt that has an added stiffening layer, which can be plastic, Kevlar, steel, or another material to support the weight of a pistol holster.
Inner belts are specifically designed to be used to support an outer gun belt, battle belt, or gunfighter belt. These belts may feature things like a stiffening layer, but the telltale sign of an inner belt is Velcro on the outside of the belt to bond to the outer belt, which carries the wearer’s equipment.
Until recently, inside-the-waistband belts for concealed carry were things like elastic “belly bands” that offered no support for the wearer’s firearm, no trigger protection, and were difficult to use. However, with the advent of systems like the PHLster Enigma, this is finally a viable option, especially for those who don’t usually wear pants with belt loops.
Key features of tactical belts
The three features of a tactical belt that determine its capabilities are its rigidity, or how much it supports your equipment, how it fastens, and what it’s made of. These three factors will determine things like how heavy of a pistol you can carry, what you can wear these belts with without looking odd, and what purposes you can use these belts for.
Often made of plastic, Kevlar, steel, carbon fiber, or scuba webbing, the stiffening layer is an interior feature of the belt that prevents it from sagging under the weight of a pistol holster or magazines.
How the belt fastens is fairly self-explanatory, and this can be a traditional buckle and eyelet, Velcro, a ratcheting system, friction buckles, or other systems. This is mostly user preference since most of these don’t affect much besides how easy it is to resize the belt when wearing a pistol inside or outside the waistband.
What the belt is made of determines how long it will last, how it looks in certain modes of dress, and how comfortable it will be. Things like top-grain vegetable-tanned leather will last a long time, age well, be more comfortable, and look great in business attire, whereas a steel-lined scuba webbing belt will support a pistol better, but make you look like a mall ninja in normal attire.
Tactical belts pricing
Tactical belts largely fall into one price range, which is $50 to $80 for most simple belts. Anything higher than this likely features some sort of exotic material like premium leather, an unusual fastening system, or is part of a larger system like the PHLster enigma.
How we chose our top picks
To select these belts, I turned to people who take concealed carry seriously, such as plainclothes law enforcement, tactical intelligence officers, shooting instructors, and those who carry due to ongoing threats against their lives. They gave me the brands they trust their lives to, and a lot of the same names came up repeatedly, which when combined with my own evaluation of these belts and their features, means that these are a solid choice no matter who you are.
FAQs on tactical belts
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q: Does a tactical belt go through belt loops?
A: Some do, as with most of the tactical gun belts on this list, but there are belts like the PHLster Enigma that go inside your clothes, and gun belts, which go over an inner belt and use Velcro to stay attached.
Q: Why are tactical belts so expensive?
A: Things like durability and rigidity are paramount with tactical belts, so greater care has to be taken to make them stand up to heavy use, rather than just look the part. Things like stiffening layers, durable leather or nylon, and dense stitching cost money.
Q: Can you put a holster on a tactical belt?
A: Yes, that’s the purpose.
Q: What tactical belts do the military use?
A: Belts specifically designed for concealed carry aren’t a common tool in the military, and many service members use battle belts instead. However, certain individuals like those assigned to various three-letter agencies who work in plain clothes have spoken highly of belts from brands like 5.11, Hanks, and Galco.