Building a Battle Belt: The Bare Necessities

When it comes to load-bearing gear, you have roughly three options. First, you have the classic chest rig, which is light, supportive, and easy to carry tons of gear. Second, we have plate carriers, which give you armor and most of the advantages of a chest rig. Finally, we have the battle belt, which is the oldest way to carry gear, but one that faded away but came swinging back into relevance in the last decade.

What’s a Battle Belt?

A battle belt is designed to carry all the gear you might need during a gunfight. Imagine all the gear that goes on a chest rig pushed down to a belt.

The original load-bearing gear of most military forces was the belt. Gear slowly started to move upward during the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese invented the first chest rig. As military forces adopted armor, the gear just moved upwards and stayed upwards. That is until the military moved to minimalist plate carriers. Then, the modern battle belt began its comeback.

SKS chest rig
The SKS chest rig would go on to be quite the inspiration.

When I got to Afghanistan, we did a hot spot with the unit we relieved for plate carriers. The USMC didn’t have enough, so you just got one from a guy shipping home. These were beaten-down, well-used carriers. Their small size and our required gear forced many of us to strip the belt from our tri-color 1980s LBVs and toss it on our waist.

man shooting close range
A battle belt is a simple, but effective tool.

These days, battle belts are purpose-built, well-made, and an excellent option for toting gear.

Pros and Cons of The Battle Belt

The battle belt provides a minimalist approach to carrying gear. It wraps around your waist and provides enough room for the basics. The biggest downside is that you can’t fit a full combat load onto a battle belt. A standard combat loadout is six rifle mags and three pistol mags, in most cases.

Battle belts are comfortable. You can toss ’em on and off with ease. That’s a big deal when you go out and start using your gear. Ever had to cross a stream or ditch full of water? Well, taking off your belt and throwing it over your shoulders keeps your gear dry. If you get injured, you can remove the belt and access your IFAK faster and easier.

gun and gear for qual
You don’t need a ton of gear to get shooting.

Battle belts tend to be more comfortable and easier to move with. They make it easy to run and typically easier to climb over obstacles. They offer a greater freedom of movement when on foot. Climbing into the prone isn’t an issue, and the gear is always accessible in any position. Where they suffer is in vehicles. The width and size of the belt make it a challenge to be comfy in your mom’s minivan.

What You’ll Need

Obviously, we need a belt. There are lots of great belts out there in numerous designs and styles. There are big, supportive, well-padded belts, minimalist belts, and everything in between. You typically want to locate a belt that fits your needs, as well as the style of pouch you want to use. Some belts, like the Wilder Tactical belts, utilize belt clip gear; others use MOLLE.

One simple option for a good belt with no hassle is the 5.11 Tactical Maverick belt. It’s my go-to belt for competition, and I’ve used it in multiple articles here. It’s very well made, easy to use, and durable. It carries all the crap I need to compete and shoot.

handgun and shotgun and eye pro and ear pro
Belts hold a little bit of everything.

The actual battle belt is one piece of the pie. The next two pieces can be optional but are typically a decent idea. The inner belt is almost a must-have as far as I’m concerned. These inner belts prevent the belt from rotating or sagging. They add a good level of retention that I can’t live without. Many tactical belts will have keepers built into them that allow you to attach your battle belt to your normal belt. Another option is the hook and loop inner belt that will secure the belt to your body.

The second is a belt pad. A belt pad can go between your inner and outer belt and is a comfort item. It keeps things from poking and prodding and keeps the belt from digging into your body. This is optional, but it can make a big difference at the range.

The Pouch Game

Your pouches will depend on the platform you’re running and gunning with. If it’s a PCC or subgun, then obviously, you aren’t using AR mag pouches. Determine which guns you want to use with your battle belt and go with pouches that fit. There are tons of great pouches out there, including 5.11’s Flex pouches are great, Blue Force Gear pouches, HSGI pouches, and so on.

Your pouches should fit your overall needs. Competition shooters will likely desire speed over all other characteristics. Shooters going for a duty role may value speed, but they also value retention and ease of use. Comp shooters may position their mag pouches at odd angles for a quicker draw, and duty or tactical users may invoke active retention options like flaps or bungee cords.

two AR mags and rifle
Mags matter, so carry lots of them.

Because belts tend to offer less support than chest rigs and plate carriers, double mag pouches tend to be less popular. They stick out too far and tend to sag.

How Many Pouches

How many mags do you need? Well, that tends to be a personal choice. For subguns and SMGs, it’s easy to fit more mags than an AR. It also depends on your goal. If you wanted to build a basic battle belt, you’d likely want at least two long gun magazines and two pistol magazines.

magazine on belt
Don’t forget your spare magazine.

If you are a police officer and more likely to use your handgun, then a single rifle mag makes sense, and extra pistol mags are a priority. I prefer to have at least three long gun pouches and one handgun pouch. If I go for a battle belt, things have gotten pretty bad, and I want as much ammo for my long gun as possible.

Beyond the Ammo Pouches

When you begin to build your belt, you have to consider more than just ammo. That’s why we don’t just cover the entire belt with ammo pouches. What else should you have? Here are a few extras that can be handy to have.

IFAK – IFAK stands for Individual First Aid Kit. It’s your medical kit because if you can make holes, you need to be able to patch them up.

Tourniquet Pouch – You can keep a TQ in your medical kit, but it’s wise to have a separate access pouch option. This allows for the immediate deployment of your tourniquet to stop bleeding without needing to access your IFAK.

The Responder IFAK has a CAT tourniquet which is an upgrade over the smaller Pocket Trauma's TQ.
The Responder IFAK has a CAT tourniquet, which is an upgrade over the smaller Pocket Trauma’s TQ.

Dump Pouch – Dump Pouches are where you can stash partially loaded or empty magazines when you reload. You can dump anything useful here, and modern versions can be folded up when they aren’t in use.

Tool Pouches – If you plan to carry something like a multitool, I would suggest a belt pouch. Sometimes, accessing pockets can be difficult when wearing gear, so a tool pouch becomes very convenient.

The Gun Bucket

You need a way to carry your sidearm, right? With that in mind, you need a holster. It needs to fit your gun, but there is more to it than that. I’d suggest a duty holster with active retention. You don’t want it to fall out while running and gunning. A good active retention holster is a great way to keep your sidearm ready and where it should be.

gun in holster and belt
A good gun bucket is a must-have.

The modern option is some form of polymer. It’s weatherproof, super durable, and the most common option to fit a battle belt. You’ll likely need a special attachment method to fit your larger battle belt, so be conscious of that. You’ll likely want the holster to ride rather low, not as low as a thigh rig, but lower than a standard belt holster. A thigh strap is also a great addition. The Blackhawk T series or nearly any Safariland holster is a great place to start.

Testing Your Setup

How do you set up all this gear properly? Generally, the mag pouches go on your support side. Your handgun will attach to your dominant side. Between the magazine pouches and holster, you’ll shove your IFAK, tool pouches, and quick-access tourniquet. The only real way to get a proper setup is to take your gear out there and train with it. It can be painstakingly slow and annoying to remove and adjust gear, but it’s the best way to get your gear set up properly.

Go practice reloads, practice drawing, and practice accessing your IFAK. Practice makes perfect and also tells you where you mount your crap! What are your battle belt must haves? Let us know below!

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap