The belt. When you think of it, more often then naught, you will think of something that helps you hold your pants up. However, when it comes to the tactical world or the airsoft world, the belt has become another important piece of gear. Evolving from simple stiff leather belts to rigger's belts, we are seeing something of a rise of specialty belts used to place different accessories on. There are several different styles out there from padded outer belts to the new "high speed" shooter belts that deploy inner/outer belt systems, we are here to see if all this talk about belts is worth its hype.
The whole concept of putting your pouches, holsters, etc., on your belt is nothing new and should not come as a novelty. But when you think back to when the concept of having a "battle belt" personally, the one company that stands out is HSG (High Speed Gear). With their system having a padded outer belt that you would wear around your waist (after you have put on the belt that keeps your pants up) allowed for the user to have preset load outs and quick deployment. This quickly caught on and many people started to take up the trend. However, what was quickly realized was that due to the wide size of the outer belt, it would at times get in the way of the user, especially when worn in conjunction with a plate carrier. Knowing this, a version 2 was launched, a SLIM outer belt system!! But, was this the BEST option out there? This meant you still had to wear TWO belts (kind of silly if you ask me). Then along came the shooter belt!!
Coming clean, at first I was not completely sold on the idea of the shooter belt. In my mind, I was thinking: Yes, threading on my holster through my rigger's belt is annoying but its not like its so annoying that I can't stand it. My second though was: Honestly, I don't wear so much stuff on my belt anyways. So when Max (Gambit) got his shooter belt from AWS, I was like *MEH*.
Let me stop here and quickly break down what this magical shooter belt is. The shooter belt deploys an inner/outer belt system. The inner belt is a relatively soft (compared to the outer belt) "belt" that is made to hold up your pants and is held in place with velcro (VERY. STRONG. VELCRO). On the outside of the inner belt is the "loop" side of that same velcro. You would then rig on your desired attachments to your outer belt such as holsters, mag pushes, IFAKs, etc., and you simply attach that outer belt on to your inner belt and away you go!
What actually started to turn me on to the idea of using a shooter belt was seeing how easy it was to use and get yourself ready. The ability of having a preset load out on your belt and doing nothing more than just wrapping something around your waist was way too attractive for me to not want to learn more about this. Thus after a little while, I ended up biting the bullet and bought myself an Esstac shooter belt.
The two main shooter belts that we will be discussing today are the AWS belt that Max owns and my Esstac shooter belt. We will go through some of their feature sets and what makes them totally worth the investment, even some of the cons.
Lets start with the Pros. Putting aside the ease of use both belts are extremely robust. The outer belts are very stiff and made with extremely high quality materials. Both outer belts are locked in the front with cobra buckles for optimum retention strength and both are multicam. Esstac actually offers their belts a wide range of colors, ranging from most of the different shades of multicam to the Krypteks, A-Tacs, and even a few digitals. Not to mention all the expected solid colors such as ranger green, wolf grey, OD, CB, and black.
AWS is a little more low key offering only CB, black, and multicam. The inner belt for Esstac, mine at least, corresponds with my outer belt so its actually multicam as well. AWS has a black inner belt.
Fashion aside, lets talk about the inner belts. The Esstac inner belt is softer then the AWS one and can be worn as an everyday belt, which I have been doing myself. While the AWS one is stiffer, its not necessarily unusable, just expect a stiffer belt. In terms of the outer belt, the hook side of the velcro is insanely strong and will keep your belt on your waist with ease, especially if you are running say AEG mags. It can also handily handle GBBR mags as well (I have tried running and jumping with a full load attached to my leg rig, can confirm, the belt held up nicely).
Both belts are 1.75" wide and most all pouches will easily thread on. Once you have threaded on all your pouches and holsters and what not and you wrap it around your inner belt, there's no shifting, so remember, every time you want to readjust your set up, you're taking off your belt.
Now lets move on to some cons. While the Esstac belt is nice, there could be some potential concerns here. With its relatively softer inner belt, it could potentially pose an issue with load bearing if you decide to strap on a TON of heavy stuff on your belt. Now, in airsoft, the chances of this happening is very VERY low. As the heaviest thing you will probably end up strapping on to your outer belt is a dump pouch full of empty GBBR mags. But if you are only rigging on several GBBR magazines to your belt, it will surely hold up. For the AWS, one of its best pros (the high quality and rigidity of its materials) is also its con. When you initially size your belt to your waist and you lock it in the fabrics deform around that shape. Once the fabrics are formed around a certain shape making small adjustments become rather difficult as with only small adjustments there is not enough space for the belt loops to reform its shape around, this causes the belt to slip back into the last shape it was deformed into. The Esstac shooter belt does not have this issue as it uses velcro to lock in the sizing of the outer belt.
The final little issue that some may have with it is also one of its pros. Repositioning your attachments. With shooter belts, the best thing is the ability to have a set up you like and you can put it on quickly and easily. However, if you are the type of person that likes to fidget with your set up, this will be come slightly annoying for you. The placement and replacement of pouches, holsters, etc., all can be a hassle no matter how little you may need to do.
Shooter belts seem to be the new trend now a days and its making its way around the waist of many shooters. While many different companies make them, the only ones we can actually say for sure that are of high quality are the ones mentioned here. But if you are a baller and looking to spend more money the Senshi War Belt system by Ronin Tactics might be the one for you. The Senshi is the Rolls Royce or Ferrari of the shooter belts.
Its got pretty much everything you need. Not only does it have everything both our AWS and Esstac belts have, it also has molle on the outer belt itself to make retention of your pouches even easier and more secure. The Senshi was also developed by former Special Operators so you know its a belt system you can count on. Finally the price, its a premium product, so don't expect anything cheap.
On the other side of the spectrum is the TMC Fighter Belt. While many of us may scoff at the idea of TMC, if you are considering trying gear out and not wanting to spend an arm and a leg, they are actually worth a try before you invest. The Fighter Belt is modeled after the perviously mentioned Senshi and has similar features. The main difference with it (and many other TMC products) are the materials used are not as stiff as you may want causing load bearing to be an issue if you decide to run heavy GBBR magazines (I'm looking at you KWA magazines). However, if you are only thinking of running your holster and a few mag pouches for your AEG, then its a good place to start.
However I digress, my question was "are shooter belts worth the hype?" As airsofters, we need to ask ourselves what takes up the most time when we are preparing for games. One thing that comes to mind is setting up. If there was a way for myself to cut down my own set up time so I can play more I would take it and for this reason alone, I think a good shooter belt is a piece of gear that is fast becoming an essential part of anyone's set up. What do you guys think? Do you think you will give one a try? Let's discuss this in the comment section below.
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