By: Chris Tran
A ways back, when I first started carrying concealed before my career as a police officer, there were a few maxims that concealed carriers followed:
1. Pick the best pistol/caliber for you. Use “enough” gun that you can shoot well, and accurately.
2. Dress around the gun, wardrobe sacrifices must be made in order to conceal your CCW appropriately.
3. If you just spent $600+ on a quality defensive firearm, don’t slap it in a $20 holster.
4. Get a good belt – keeping your CCW close to your body assists in concealment as well as draw and placement consistency.
When I first started carrying as a private citizen, I did what most new concealed carry folks do – scour the Internet for knowledge and tips/strategies for carrying lawfully and discretely. Being a really small-statured guy, “dressing around the gun” was a very important factor for me, as carrying something as small as a Sig Sauer P239 9mm, my first concealed carry pistol, would print if I didn’t dress appropriately.
I realized very early on that a good holster belt, a belt with stiffeners, or double/triple stitched was crucial to keep my CCW tight to the body. I still have and wear mass-produced leather Galco holster belts; but over the past 10-15 years or so, they’ve stretched and worn to the point where they’re not as serviceable as they used to be. Like many others, I also dabbled with nylon belts with stiffeners sewn in; I’ve gone through a few 5.11 trainer belts in my time – I used them usually as underbelts to my duty belt for work.
As time and technology progressed, classical riggers belts became popular, but for a CCW carrier, issues would arise with the tail of the belt – typically velcroed down – would get in the way of pistol mag placement on the offhand side, especially for someone as short and small-statured as me. I really like a few of the more popular branded cobra buckle belts, but because they are so stiff, sometimes it is like pulling a square peg through a round hole to mount holster and mag pouches to them.
The good guys at Blacksheepwarrior.com recently introduced me to Snake Eater Tactical, an upstart company based out of Oregon City, OR run by Chris Calvert. I had an email exchange with Chris, who describes his background and design philosophy as such:
I joined the Navy in 1998 as an Aircrew Survival Equipmentman, or PR for short. I was assigned to an F-18 squadron and I maintained all the gear and survival equipment that our pilots wore. I learned how to sew in “A” school and since about 80% of my job was sewing repairs and custom fabrication, I got really good at it. When I got out of the service in 2002, I moved to Long Beach, CA. I spent the next several years going to school and working at a canvas shop making boat covers. Working there took my sewing and fabrication skills to a whole new level.
After graduating with a degree in Government, I moved to Oregon to open my own canvas shop. I quickly discovered how difficult it was to make any money in a market that was based on leisure while in a bad economy. In early 2012, it dawned on me how the tactical gear market was booming. I was seeing multiple small tactical businesses with 6 month waits on gear. Plus, as a fabricator, I can pick up just about any piece of gear and find a way to improve it. So I set out making gear that I would want to have. I made padded belts, backpacks, mag pouches, riggers belts and so on.
My philosophy on gear design is this: 1) Gear should be as simple and robust as possible. Keeping designs simple means faster production and lower cost to the end user. 2) Gear should be as low profile, light weight and sleek as possible. 3) Every piece of gear we make can be used in multiple roles.
Chris and Snake Eater Tactical stay true to their philosophy and produce simple, rugged gear. I have been wearing their belts daily for the past two months, and they are exceptional. What I like the most about them is that I find they are the perfect balance between rigidity and comfort. Lets face it, unless I’m on a plainclothes detail, I wear a duty belt for most of the hours I’m awake. The rigidity of a duty belt, or a holster belt when off-duty is important for all of the points I mentioned at the beginning of the article. That being said, rigid duty belts, while maintaining proper stiffness to keep a holster and pistol in place, can also create hotspots on the wearers sides – especially at the hip flexors when sitting; resulting in lack of circulation, discomfort, and aches.
Anatomy of a superior belt
The Snake Eater Tactical belt is different in that it does not rely on a stiffener for rigidity; rather it is double-layered 1.75” Type 13 resin-treated parachute webbing that has been strategically stitched with 5 rows of stitching down the length of the belt to offer more rigidity without affecting comfort. The Diamondback model, the two belts that I own, is additionally stitched with a decorative diamond pattern that not only adds function, but a little flair and class as well.
Snake Eater Tactical used Austriplin cobra buckles which are rated up to 4000 lbs breaking strength (see video HERE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6N4o84Namw) and will not open under load.
The tail of the belt is one of the best design features of the belt in that the belts are sized with a 4” adjustment range. This means that the belt will accommodate 1” down in size, and 3” up in size. Now, that being said it is CRUCIAL that you take the time to actually measure your waist and not just order your pant size. Ask me how I know.
This design feature is very advantageous, as with the properly-measured Snake Eater Tactical belt, the end user can run their holster and mag pouches at the 3 and 9 without having to worry about the tail of the belt getting in the way of holster or mag pouch loops, or excess belt tail catching opening at inopportune times.
Last, and not that I’d really ever use it, but it’s a nice design feature, is that Snake Eater Tactical has incorporated a 2” opening next to the buckle that the end user can use to clip onto, instead of an overly bulky V-ring and Velcro strip like on a classic riggers belt. Excellent addition, and it is completely streamlined, it doesn’t break up the lines of the belt unlike other makers.
Nothing but thumbs up from me. Like I said already, I have two of these belts; both the Diamondback model, and I wear them every day. Not only do they look good, but they function exceedingly well – the perfect balance of rigidity and comfort.
For those that are more fashion-conscious, they offer a Spaghetti Western model that is more Western-styled, and the customer is provided with options such as contrast stitching if they so desire.
With a retail price under $70, this belt is very competitively priced, and quite frankly more comfortable than the mass-produced tactical belts out there. I would recommend these to anyone.