A well made belt will cost as much as a holster, but well worth it.
I just got a Theis Holster and now I need a belt. Will a tactical belt do, seeing that my holster is an IWB? The leather ones cost more than my holster. What is the difference between a tactical belt and a gun belt besides what they're made of?
A well made belt will cost as much as a holster, but well worth it.
The holster is only as good as it's belt. Beltman.net. Two layers of *bullhide*. It'll seem stiff at first but you'll get used to it.
If you practice drawing with good bullhide, you'll see the difference over most anything.
I have a bull hide belt from bullhide.com and it is 1-1/2" wide and a full 1/4" thick and as far from "elegant" as you can get. Most holsters are set up for 1-1/2" belts and it will snug a high ride close to the body. My feeling is that an inside the waist holster is not nearly as demanding of the belt and a less bulky (and less expensive) belt should do.
Also note that the 1-1/2" width fairly screams "gun holster", and will not fit most slacks or suit pants. You need to go to 1-1/4" for those pants.
Even at 1-1/4" wide, the 1/4" thick two ply belt will never seem very dressy or elegant.
Pick a belt that will work for most of your apparel. I think you can use conventional belts for low riding holsters and inside the pants holsters. It is only the high rides that really stress the belt.
Conventional wisdom is that you should always get a heavy belt; my experience is that you only need that heavy belt for the high ride holsters, and even with those, perhaps a LC9 or something like that might not require it.
ozzy and tex70 are correct. Packard is not.
A well-made, 1.5"-wide pistol belt will look no different from a standard 1.5"-wide pants belt. A poorly-made belt will look awful in every case.
Many ordinary pants belts are 1.5" wide, and do not "scream" anything. Jeans normally take 1.75"-wide belts, and nobody notices.
A "conventional belt" will visibly deform under the pressure of supporting a gun and its holster, and may inform a knowledgeable observer that you are "carrying." You need a stiff, well-made belt.
Some "tactical belts" (What the heck is a "tactical" belt?) are stiff enough to support a gun, but you must wear them pulled quite tightly around you. I think that a thick, stiff belt is more comfortable than a tightly-pulled, thinner belt.
If you are retired, ignore the following.
If you are a salesman or a lawyer or in any occupation that requires a suit, a 1-1/2" wide belt will not work. In those cases you will need a 1-1/4" wide belt, and even then, the 1/4" thick double layer belts from Beltman or Bullhide belt may be too big to slide through the belt loops.
Even dress slacks will not usually accommodate 1-1/2" wide belts.
I am able to wear casual wear to work and I have a 1-1/2" wide belt from Bullhide belts. But from personal experience, I found that an inside the waist band holster rides fairly low and the barrel will prevent the grip from canterlevering outwards. You need only cinch the belt tight enough to have the entire holster snug up to your body.
But if you are carrying an outside the belt holster, especially a high ride holster you definitely need a really robust belt.
I guess it depends a lot upon where you buy your suits.
A belt holds the holster to your body using two aspects of its strength.
The first aspect is the tension. How tightly it holds around your waist.
The second aspect is torsion. The abilty of the belt to avoid twisting.
Consider an open muzzle holster for a Glock. It will accommodate either a Glock 27 (baby Glock) or a Glock 19, a full sized Glock by allowing the barrel to extend through the open muzzle holster.
If you are wearing a full sized Glock in this holster, the main thing that the belt has to do is cinch the holster to the waist. Torsion does not come into play in this case. The barrel extending below the belt line acts as a lever arm and the butt of the gun cannot pull away from the hip because the barrel is pressing against the body.
But switch to a Baby Glock and the situation changes. The barrel does not extend below the belt line and does not act as a lever. For that situation you need a very stiff belt, preferably 1-1/2" or wider.
On the other hand, if you have a very light weapon, like a LCP, torsion does not make much impact and a tight belt will keep things snug to the body.
In most cases, from my experience the inside the waistband holsters carry the weapon low enough that the barrel extends below the waist band. Exceptions exist. You have to make an intelligent decision based upon the gun and the holster involved.
A few holster-makers have postulated solutions to this OWB problem, and the best one I've seen is Bob Mernickle's PS6 design. Second best is Mernickle's paddle holster. These solutions are better than anything I've ever come up with, so I bought two of each from Bob.
• The PS6 includes a separate strip of leather that tucks behind the belt and inside the pants' waistband. Trapped there, it decisively keeps the holster-and-gun from rotating outward. In it, I carry an all-steel, .45 ACP, Officers'-Model-size pistol that is worn so high that its trigger-guard is above the belt. It doesn't move.
• Bob's paddle holster is attached to a metal paddle that is completely covered with leather. The paddle, of course, goes inside the pants, while the holster rides OWB. The metal paddle is so stiff, and dives so deeply into the pants, that nothing will move. That all-steel Officers' Model rides with its trigger-guard entirely above the belt, and it just will not rotate.
Sometimes even the stiffest, widest belt is not enough.
I carry IWB several smallish pistols (Shield, M&P 9c, SA XDs, etc) that work very well with my 1.25 inch "dress belt" that is not designed to carry a holster. However, I own a couple larger handguns and occasionally carry them; I am not considering a 1.4 or 1.75 inch dedicated gun belt, like a Bianchi B9. They are very casual, sort of "western" looking, and I figure they will go well with the jeans or other casual pants I normally wear. I will have to measure the belt loops on those pants however to verify the 1.75 width belts will fit...I suspect not all loops will be large enough. I am retired and don't wear suits, etc. If I were carrying in a "dress up" situation I'd wean a dress belt with a smallish pistol worn IWB where a stiff, wide belt isn't needed to support the gun and holster.
I suggest that a strong, stiff belt is useful even when carrying a smallish pistol IWB.
The strong, stiff belt holds everything in the accustomed position, all of the time. It also spreads the weight of your carry piece and its reload(s) over your entire hip area, rather than only at the place where the weight actually sits.
Galco makes several excellently stiff and strong, narrow dressy belts.
I have two of them, black and brown, and they work extremely well.
"..I suggest that a strong, stiff belt is useful even when carrying a smallish pistol IWB...."
I think you're right. My usual belts are not thin, but they are also not double leather nor 1.5 inch. I'm thinking of the "fancy stitch" models made my Bianchi and Aker, among others. Something about their looks just really appeals to me. Sort of a western-wear look without the huge buckle and imprinting. I've probably end up with one of their models, although Galco does have some nice ones also.....but I like that stitching! The largest gun I'd carry (off duty, concealed) will likely be a Glock 30, which isn't too large or heavy....but its bulk might make it better suited for OWB carry where a stiff gun belt will perform much better than what I have now.