Today’s tactical gear conversation: battle belts. What is a battle belt, some of you might ask and why do you need one? In this article, we will go over how to optimize your battle belt, and some preferred ways to set one up. Sometimes they are also known as war belts. For our purposes, we will call them battle belts.

The trade-offs that exist in the tactical world (as we’ve discussed before), most certainly apply to battle belts. There is no single “magic” setup that will apply to everything, and certainly not all the time. Not every piece of gear is always necessary. Some missions will require gear that is only necessary some of the time. The intent here is to establish a baseline or an optimal setup that will function for you, most of the time.

For most responsibly armed civilians, these are the basics to consider. Military units and law enforcement departments will have their own basic needs and requirements, based on their mission or operating procedures.

The basic rule of thumb is that everything is mission-dependent.

Battle belt setup
Battle belt setup example. (Courtesy of author)


Battle Belt Theory 101: Make Holes and Plug Holes

Every battle belt exists for the same purpose: make holes, and plug holes. This is the main foundation and applies to everyone, whether civilian, military, or law enforcement.

What makes holes? Guns and bullets. What plugs holes? First aid items like bandages and tourniquets. This means, of course, that every battle belt set up should have something for those two things: a holster for your pistol/secondary, mag pouches, and first aid kits. For the mag pouches, at the least, this will include pistol mag pouches. Often, it will include rifle mag pouches, as well.

First aid kits, or what has come to be known in recent years as Individual First Aid Kits, or IFAK, are essential. The idea with an IFAK is that it is first aid for YOU — not necessarily someone else. In combat, if you were to come upon a wounded buddy, you are using his IFAK from his gear, not yours. That way, each person is guaranteed to have at least the minimum needed to plug their own holes. If I were to use my first aid items on someone else, and then I get hurt later, plugging holes on me gets a lot harder, rather quickly.

At a minimum, an IFAK should include one tourniquet. I usually have two tourniquets on my battle belt at all times. Is this excessive? No freaking way. In addition, your IFAK should include bandages or a field dressing, tape, chest seals, and any other small item that helps with stopping bleeding. How big that IFAK needs to be is up to you. But remember — trade-offs. More gear and bigger pouches equal more weight, more bulk, and more stuff getting in the way.

Battle belt setup
Battle belt setup example. Notice the pistol mag pouches offset on the hip, and not in front. Every battle belt also needs an IFAK and tourniquet. (Courtesy of author)

Other Battle Belt Essentials

Beyond making and plugging holes, everything else might be tailored or adapted to your specific purposes. You can be as creative or as minimalistic as you’d like. Neither is necessarily wrong.

Experiment and see what works best for you. Keep in mind that you might go through multiple versions of a battle belt setup, and test out various configurations before you decide what works best. From there, making minor adjustments is normal and should be expected.

A battle belt might also include other utility items or tools. A knife, flashlight, or multi-tool, are common and certainly have their place. Being small, they are usually easy to fit on the battle belt, and you won’t need to sacrifice much space. You might choose to add a canteen pouch or a spot for a Nalgene bottle to carry water. Dump pouches for spent magazines or other items are common, as well. The number of mag pouches is up to you. Keep in mind, however, that all these items take up limited real estate very quickly. Trade-offs. Always trade-offs.

The Setup

To see what a (very) full battle belt looks like, check out my most common setup.

I have numbered this image to show what each of these items is:

  1. Small knife, from SOG;
  2. 5.11 belt, with Cobra buckle (this is the inner belt that runs through the larger, padded belt that everything else attaches to);
  3. Three pistol magazines;
  4. Esstac Kywi triple mag pouch;
  5. Two rifle mags (5.56mm);
  6. G-Code Holsters Scorpion rifle mag pouches (you might choose to run only one — I opt for two, to save space on my plate carrier, or, add more weight on my waist rather than my chest);
  7. Expandable dump pouch from High Speed Gear (HSGI);
  8. IFAK;
  9. Drop-leg attachment for the pistol holster from G-Code Holsters (this option is a mid-drop, which is a good compromise between having a holster directly on the belt, which tends to be too high with body armor, and not having a low-riding drop-leg holster on your thigh that tends to be awkward and too low);
  10. G-Code holster;
  11. Multi-tool;
  12. This is the actual battle belt, a padded belt option from High Speed Gear (HSGI). This battle belt is pretty much my favorite option and one I’d easily recommend. It fits right over whatever else you are wearing, and then you are good to go;
  13. Tourniquet.

You will notice that I tend to run a full battle belt; almost every inch is covered with something. And yes, I am ok with that. I can handle the weight, but I still keep things tight, and in a deliberate place. I also recommend not having anything on the belt directly behind your pistol. You want to be able to draw that in a hurry with nothing else in the way.

Be Strategic and Keep It Tight

One significant recommendation that I would make at this point, is to try and keep most of the belt slick or empty at the very front. Try not to put too much stuff, or anything bulky or protruding, right in front by the buckle. That way, if you have to hit the deck and stay low to the ground, you won’t have a bunch of stuff in the way making it hard for you to get as low to the ground as possible.

I also recommend not putting the mag pouches too far forward. If you crouch or have to squat, those pouches will get in the way and limit your mobility. They physically impede your ability to crouch low, and the first time it happens it will surprise you. Keeping a flat front also helps with this. In my photos, you will notice that I place the pistol mag on my hip, rather than more to the front, as you might see with competitive shooters or police.

Keep it tight. Everything on your battle belt needs to be tight and secure. You don’t want things flopping around or falling off. Test your configuration and make adjustments. If it falls off… that’s the worst. How many of us have ever lost gear in the field, whether in training or on an actual mission? It happens.

Make sure that the belt is comfortable. If you try to make a super cool Batman utility belt, but it’s heavy, cumbersome, or you simply can’t get used to it, then it’s no good to you. It has now become a burden rather than an asset. And that just defeats the whole purpose.

Notice the flat, “empty” front of the battle belt. (Courtesy of author)

Why a Battle Belt?

For the average civilian, this is a common question. I have two answers: You will need a battle belt for the range, and, heaven forbid, if the excrement hits the spinny thing.

On the gun range, you need to be able to make holes. That is the point, right? And a battle belt is just safer and more convenient. Where do you put your gun each time you walk around, are done shooting, reloading, setting up targets, etc? With a belt, it’s easier to keep control of your own gun, and everyone else’s, plus you’re being more responsible. This is usually assuming an outdoor range, of course. And what if someone gets hurt? It happens. Firearms can be a sport, but the safety considerations never go away. Those holes need to be plugged, too.

And the other part… maybe like me, you live in South Florida where hurricanes are common, and things might become a mess for a while. Or, if some other disaster or civil emergency occurs and police will have a hard time getting to you. A battle belt is a convenient way to protect your family and your property. (But do not assume you can walk around town or in the streets with this gear; be aware of your local gun and open carry laws.) Even more, let’s not perpetuate the myth that the Second Amendment protects hunting. That is not at all what it is for. While I am in NO way advocating any violence of any kind, a battle belt will help you just in case you find yourself in a mess one day. Let’s hope not.

While there are many options, the basics never go away. The essentials don’t change. What is your favorite battle belt setup? If anyone has questions or ideas to share reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay safe.