The duty belt (aka: gun belt) is an incredibly useful piece of gear. It is usually an outer belt that holds the tools of the trade, that snaps onto an inner belt by way of belt keepers. The old, leather “Sam Browne” has been “standard issue” for law enforcement officers for decades and is American as baseball and apple pie. The materials used to construct modern duty belts, and the stuff carried on them have changed, but the function remains unchanged.
A well-organized duty belt carries the gear police and security officers need within easy, two-handed reach. The concept remains as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. This concept has even made inroads with military personnel as the battle belt. Military battle belts are more likely to have MOLLE webbing than belt keepers, but both are essentially the same idea.
This blog post will cover the importance of proper duty belt setup. We will talk about the components of a duty belt, and how that is influenced by the job you do. Next up: best practices for duty belt setups, and how to get the most out of yours. Finally, we’ll go over maintenance and care of your duty belt, and duty belt accessories available from Qore Performance.
Importance of a Proper Duty Belt Setup
Setting up your duty belt correctly is very important. Good duty belt setup can have a big impact on your ability to reach life-saving tools in a timely manner. Obviously, this is far and away the most important reason for proper duty belt setup, but not the only one. Certain items should be on certain sides, depending on which hand is most likely to access the tool in question. A duty belt can be optimized to improve comfort when doing things most police officers spend a lot of time doing, like sitting in a cruiser. Alternatively, they can be optimized for specific tasks, like riding a bicycle.
On the other hand, a poorly-organized (or completely disorganized) gun belt can be a liability. It can cause snag hazards as the officer tries to exit his vehicle or maneuver through a building. Improperly placed pouches and hard gear can cause a severe back injury should the officer fall or be taken to the ground. Poor equipment set up can slow the removal of life-safety gear like firearms or spare ammunition, potentially costing the officer his life, or the lives of bystanders. Make no mistake, duty belt setup is serious business.
Components of a Duty Belt
A lot of different items are carried on a duty belt. These items are selected based on the job one is expected to do, and the conditions under which they are expected to do it. Let’s take a look at the components typically found in a duty belt setup. Keep in mind that not every cop or security officer carries all of this stuff, and there is an element of personal preference.
Firearm and Holster: This is one of the most universal of items, and the reason the duty belt is often called a gun belt. This is carried on the shooter’s strong side, usually at the 3 o’clock position. This offers a smooth draw, and prevents the bottom of the holster from hitting the officer in the thigh each time he or she sits. Holsters worn on duty belts are almost universally retention holsters to prevent gun grabs. They also may be “drop-leg” holsters, which puts the gun high on the officer’s thigh (oftentimes these are seen being worn far too low). Drop-leg holsters are most useful for getting the gun out of the way of bulky body armor.
Magazines: Pistol mags are typically carried on the opposite side of the handgun, typically in the front. Bullets are usually pointed toward the belt buckle to support modern speed reload methods. Most officers carry two additional magazines in a double magazine pouch.
Flashlight: The days of the long, D-Cell Maglite are long gone. Cops today carry small, lightweight, high-intensity flashlights that dwarf the old Maglites in every way but size. These are usually carried forward on the belt because they are frequently accessed: when doing traffic stops, searching a building, etc.
Taser: Electrical, less-lethal weapons are usually carried on the side opposite the firearm. Placing it well away from the firearm greatly reduces the chances of the firearm being mistakenly drawn when deadly force is not appropriate…and vice versa.
Pepper Spray: Another incredibly valuable tool, less-lethal OC spray is generally kept close at hand, near the front of the belt.
Radio & Pouch: Though it seems as though absolutely everything is competing for front-row space, the radio is one item that makes no such demands. An officer’s radio generally has a corded microphone, so it can be put in the pouch and left alone. The volume may need to be adjusted, but this can be done without having to see the radio.
First Aid Kit: The first aid kit is largely being replaced by the tourniquet. Tourniquets are typically worn forward of the holster where they can be rapidly accessed with either hand.
Baton: If there is one item on this list that is still widely issued but that is falling into disuse, it is the baton. The baton is still a highly effective tool, but the optics have using one have been a big factor in its decline in popularity. Batons that are used are nearly universally of the collapsing, ASP variety.
Optimal Gun Belt Setup: Best Practices
As we can see, there is potentially a lot of gear on a duty belt. There is some art and science to setting up an effective duty belt. Let’s look at some of the best practices for doing so.
Life-Support Gear First: Before anything else goes on the belt, life-support gear, like the pistol, magazines, and tourniquet have to go on. The pistol should be optimized for a smooth, fast draw with no interference. The magazines should support a solid reloading technique, and the tourniquet should be accessible with either hand. Everything else will filter in around those items, with infrequently accessed items, like the radio, further back.
Weight and Balance: Obviously, you have to carry what your organization mandates. You may want to carry an extra item or two, but this stuff adds up really quickly. Make sure you’re not overloading the belt. Also, make sure to balance the belt. It will be very uncomfortable if one side is heavier than the other.
Keeping a Clean Back: Most cops spend a lot of time in their patrol cars. Keeping the back of the duty belt clean goes a long, long way making sitting down more comfortable. A big lump in your lumbar region that keeps you from sitting against the seat is supremely uncomfortable. It may also be a safety hazard, preventing the seat from supporting you if you are in a crash.
Maintenance and Care of a Duty Belt
Your duty belt is life-support equipment. It is a symbol of the job, the most recognizable tools of your profession. It is also a really expensive set of equipment. Keeping it well-maintained is important.
Inspect your duty gear regularly. Make sure nothing is frayed or wearing prematurely. If it is, it may be improperly attached to the belt, or mounted in a less-than-ideal position or orientation. Make sure your equipment stays clean. Grit in dirt creates friction points and wears your gear down, shortening its lifespan. Clean gear also presents a pleasing appearance to the public you serve, and tells anyone who might mess with you that you’re squared away. Replace items that are to worn to effectively perform their function, especially safety devices like retention holsters.
Duty Belt Accessories from Qore Performance
Qore Performance offers a number of products to make your duty belt more comfortable and functional. Comfort sounds like a secondary consideration, but when you are comfortable you are more alert, more patient…and able to make split-second decisions more quickly.
Qore Performance’s ICEVENTS® padding is a honeycomb pattern belt lining that keeps the belt away from the body, allowing airflow in and, just as importantly, heat out. This keeps the belt from trapping heat and sweat. It also renders the belt far, far more comfortable. ICEVENTS® padding is available as an inner belt. The inner or liner belt is worn as a regular belt with the outer, tactical belt going over it. or as pads that fit on a variety of outer belts. Not only that, ICEVENTS® pads are available for select holsters, as well.
And of course, there is the ICEPLATE®, the product that started it all. The Qore Performance ICEPLATE® turns your plate carrier into a hot- or cold-thermal mass device, as well as a water source. If you wear a plate carrier (in addition to or instead of) a duty belt set-up, the ICEPLATE® needs to be in your tactical toolbox.