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gun belts 101

6555 Views 23 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  gyp_c2
When I first started building guns I found that most had no idea what a gun holster was. The belt usually was a JC Penny's special. Sponsored by Gordie Davis I knew than either had to be servicable for honest hard use.

I took me another 15 years to finally get to holsters I feel confident enough to give with every full house gun.

In the meantime I have used holsters by some of the best and not the best makers. I have had belts by even more.

I am just as specific about my gun belts as I am my holsters but because they are such individual animals size wise, I can't give them away with every gun. Wish I could.

I currently have belts from Davis, AKJ, Wilson Combat, FIST, Delfatti, Kramer and Alessi.

Since we have the forum we can in fact change how things are done in the industry. When I spend a $100 or so I would like the product done right. Demand it, get it, or go else where and it will be done right.

What you typically get from a hoster maker is a half ass gun belt. Even the best holster makers seldon do it right as a group..

Here is how you tell. Look at the color of the belt. If the inside layer is anything but a natural leather (light tan) it was dyed after it was built. That is the CHEAP and lazy way to do it. You will also get bleed from the dye in the right conditions on your clothes, furniture and car seats.

How do I know this you ask. I geneally live and shoot in jeans. Not a big deal to stain a pair of jeans. With enough washings it usually fades enough to be ignored. Leather car seats on the other hand or your wife's new furniture isn't as easily "fixed".

Last week teaching a class I wore a AJK belt for 3 of the 5 days. No marks and no stains. The other two days I wore a Defatti belt and mag pouch. The pictures are the result of those two days on a new pair of $40 REI khaki pants. Add 95+ temps and high humidity and some water to the equation and you can see what you get. The pants had been soaked with stain remover twice for an hour and washed twice BEFORE this picture.

Not easily seen in the picture, (worse than my picture shows) the pants are stained, clearly noticable and beyond hope of cleaning.

My suggestions on gun belts? AKJ, Alessi, Kramer.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-05-05 17:45 ]</font>
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Dane, Good point, and well said. I know of some VERY expensive belts made by some of the holster makers that are dyed on the inside. Unless they are using a very light tan dye, and it is finished and waxed, the belt will usually bleed given the right conditions. We do all our coloring to the top layer of leather before it's glued to the liner. Then it's stitched, and the liner is given a light harness oil treatment to prevent the belt from becoming too stiff. This light treatment also aids to prevent cracking which can happen with a double layer belt. This process takes more time, and is more costly than stitching two layers of leather together in the natural state, and then dip dyeing the belt. We also 'skive' the edges of the top layer of leather to give the belt a 'domed' effect. It looks classy, but it also serves the purpose of not allowing the leather to 'roll' at the edges from the weight of the holster/gun..

Like you, I started out with Gordon Davis's leather in the early days. He regularly came to the Southwest Pistol League shoots at Wes Thompson's range in Saugus, CA, and made some superb gear.

I still have one of the belts Gordon made for me in the seventies and I must say that it has shrunk something terrible! :lol:

Maybe he used green hides? Any comment, Lou?

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: David Cosby on 2001-05-05 18:24 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: David Cosby on 2001-05-05 18:25 ]</font>
Never had a problem with Milt Sparks belts, and i live in hot humid Biloxi, MS.
Never had a problem with Milt Sparks belts, and i live in hot humid Biloxi, MS.
Have to agree about the Milt Sparks belts. I'm not a holster maker nor do I know diddly about leather or dying, but I've got two of them, one of which I've worn for the last six years without any hint of staining or any other unpleasantness. They are thick suckers, though. Even though I always wear 1-1/4 to accommodate dress slacks, they seem a tad "sturdy" for true dress wear. But I love the bias cut and figured that the holster loops/snaps would blend better with a belt from the same maker.

Re: Milt Sparks belts. You never will have a problem with anything from Tony Kanaley and crew. They know how to do it right. Tony's a good friend of mine, and we have discussed this very subject regarding belts. They take great pains to make sure that the finishing process of their belts leaves no residue. They also give their belts a coat of wax.
David, Gordon made (and still does) some beautiful belts. I have one from him dating back to the late 70's, and it too must have shrunk! :grin:
Aren't all belts capable of "bleeding" under the right circumstances?
Bleeding? Maybe. My point is if you are going to make a expensive gun belt and charge accordingly it would be nice if they were finished properly and only the outside layer was dyed. Much harder to wreck clothing if the inside layer of a gunbelt is natural leather, no dye, with a waxed or acrylic finish.

If it does bleed I doubt the results are going to be as dramatic as what happened to me.

You don't always get what you pay for. Sometimes you can get what you ask for, which is my point here.
I dye the inside of my belts, mainly for asthetic reasons.
The way I'm dyeing and finish this certainly isn't cutting corners or taking the lazy way out because I don't dip dye, I use sponges and daubers. This means taking the time to dye and finish two straps instead of one. I have never had a dye bleed or run-off problem myself or complaint from a customer. I wear my equipment exclusively and have been caught in downpours when teaching outdoor police academy classes.
As for rub-off on car seats and furniture, leaving the inner liner natural will not solve this problem as any transfer there is coming from the outter surface, and that's a problem. I have an idea what dyes Mr DelFatti may be using that could contribute to this, (and I think Lou will agree with me); they're obviously not what they're hyped to be. My Corvette's leather seats are dye free except for their factory saddle tan.
In case anyone is wondering, I dye the liner so the natural coloring doesn't show where the belt folds around the buckle.
Dane, just curious - did Matt DelFatti replace the belt? I would at least accomodate a customer with that - undyed on the inside at customer request.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Mark Garrity on 2001-05-08 13:38 ]</font>
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I have had several belts bleed. A closer look at my post will tell you who from. Paladin had the bleed problem from the outside on a Rosen belt which marked his Lexus seats.

The belt from Matt was a special order and I like the belt as Matt made it. Just not what he used for dye. So I would never asked that it be replaced.

The reason for my post is to make consumers aware of belts that are in fact dip dyed to save time and money for the maker at the expense of quality. Not every belt bleeds. I have enough of them and the time wearing them to know that.

I'll stick to the original comments. There is a better way to build a gun belt than dye both sides IMO. That of course comes only from a consumer of expensive belts not a belt maker. I prefer function over cosmetics. When the two can be combined you have a real winner.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-05-08 14:47 ]</font>
My Brother almost killed me after I talked him in to buying a Rosen belt and it stained the seats on his brand new Lexus.
I have 2 Rosen belts for 3 years now and stains on my car seat and at home too.
(3 years ago there wasnt a forum where you can learn)


Hey Dane, You where sweating at TEES? :lol:
Sweat? Naw, it may have something to do with the 3 or 4 gallons of water I poured over my head in that 6 hour session though:)

Either way, short of swimming, I don't expect the belt to bleed its color into my clothing. As a side note, although I didn't want this to be anything more than a educational post on how leather is dyed and belts are made I will note that a BRAND NEW ACP, made only 5 days before, was worn with the Delfatti belt and mag pouch on the same days. The belt and mag pouch ruined a set of new pants. The Alessi ACP left a very faint stain from bleeding. But you have to look darn hard to see it. The Delfatti parts of the rig were a slightly lighter brown in color.

This isn't a bust on Matt or a compliment or complaint to Lou. It is a educational comment to make sure it doesn't happen to YOU. Mark, Matt or Rosen may well make a belt the way you ask. But you have to ask to get it done correctly is my take.

I would prefer to have a maker who knows the difference, builds and charges accordingly.
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Dane, The next time you decide to pour water over your head, you better take your pants off! In all reality, I honestly don't know what kind of finish can be applied to leather that would be TOTALLY waterproof. We use a finish that is supposed to be waterproof but when it's freshly applied it's still suspect. I have tested holsters a few days after they were finished by throwing the holster in a bucket of warm water..The finish bled almost instantly. On the other hand, a holster that had been finished a few months earlier took about 1/2 hour to start to bleed. So I gues this says the finish will take some time to cure. Sometimes I will dye the inside of a belt if the liner gets
a spot of dye on it accidently, but we will do that with daubers, or sponges, like Mark said. Then buff it on a machine to make sure there is no residue. I know most makers who have been doing this for any length of time take great pains to insure that this doesn't happen, and Matt DelFatti is certainly no amateur to this business, but I think every maker has had this happen at one time or another.
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I love Galco belts.
I have had Sparks, Wilson, Safari, FIST, and love the Galco's the best.

They are by far the best looking. The silver option is nice as I do not wear gold.
Hey, Lou, count me as a test subject. Remember that belt you sent me in August in time for my Stressfire course later that month? It bled a little after two days of intense heat and torrential downpours, as well as the bucket over the head trick. But, the bleeding wasn't any big deal and the belt is still in everyday use.
The only two gunbelts I own are from Wild bill's and as soon as I got the I warmed them up with a blower and appplied paste nwax until it would not absorb anymore, and they both bled a little bit on the rag I used. After about a month I reapplied a light coat of the wax, they didnot bleed.so far no bleeding on light color pants , but again I sit in an air conditioned office.
I ordered a Milt Spark's with tapered ends and It should be here sometime next week :smile:
Hey Buzz. Now I remember that incident. I knew that happened, but I couldn't remember who it was..Thanks for reminding me,,,
well, not really,, :grin:
Dick Heinie was wearing a brand new DOJ at a match when it started raining hard, and the holster started to bleed..I told him next time to either get the hell out of the rain, or wear black pants!
After twelve years of wearing "gun" belts on "adventure" trips I came to a unique method of "curing" my holsters, belts, and mag pouches. It works for me and I did discover it by accident after preparing for a rafting trip with my girlfriend, now my wife. Anyhow, I place my new holster, belts, and mag pouches in a moist paper towel then seal them into large zip lock baggies (individually). The package is then left in the sunlight for three to five days before I open it. (Note-In the summer they cure faster).
Once I open the baggie the paper towel is usually maroon, brown, or black depending on item color. Then I wipe the inside with Collagen and unscented baby oil (secret formula for leather lightning?? who knows...) Once this is done I have never had a holster bleed on me and I've even gone swimming in tan cargo shorts on several occasions and last weekend in my khaki Dockers by accident with a brown Garrity belt, Rosen ARG holster, and Sparks mag pouch on. I have "cheated" at times and placed the same bag combo under a plant light to cure the holster quickly, be very careful as the bags will burn and melt onto your holster if the bulb is too close. Well I hope this helps and please evaluate carefully for your locale and daylight location as I do not want email blaming me for baking and cracking your $10,000 Rosen belt/holster/mag pouch combo, well ok maybe Mitch does not charge quite that much but it sure feels that way...... Alright you holster maker please ensure it is Di-capital Fabio on the royalty checks....hope it helps.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: David DiFabio on 2001-05-12 20:55 ]</font>
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Let me say that Alessi belts are the belts this fat boy has been looking for for the past 15 years. I've always worn belts in the interest of trouser retention and when I started wanting to carry a gun on my belt a couple years back the problem with regular belts once again rose to the surface. Lucky for me I "stumbled" across Lou ALessi via the web! For me belts cut on a curve DO NOT work because of my physique. Lou makes 'em straight and puts a good looking plain solid brass buckle up front so that it looks like a standard 'dress' belt.
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