In August of 2012 I spoke with Jake of Ares Gear in reference to their Duty Belt. I was interested in what made his duty belt different from other Nylon duty belts on the market. I explained that I have avoided Nylon Duty Belts my entire 13 years in Law Enforcement, except for the one year as a Jailer when we experimented with a “new” brown Nylon duty belt. That trial ended in failure due to lack of accessories, lack of quality and no company support. I explained my main issues with Nylon duty belts over the years has been their lack of stiffness when used with security holster such as the Safariland 070. The Nylon belt, even when used with keepers and a Velcro inner belt, would bend when drawing from the holster. Due to this issue I always used Safariland “leather” duty belts and replaced them every 4-5 years. Jake advised that his belts are different due to the materials used. Jake explained that his belts are made of three layers of scuba webbing and stitched so the material stays together. Jake also advised that Ares belts use the highest quality materials and the belts are made one at a time so quality control is top notch. Jake advised that I could make my own decision on his Duty Belt if I promised to give him a true no BS review of the belt after using it at work. Jake advised me to contact Brad at Ares customer service to advise him of what we had discussed and to get instructions on how to properly measure myself for the correct size belt.
Little did I know how difficult it was to actually measure yourself for a properly fitting belt. I advised Brad my belt size was easy as my current Safariland belt size was 36 as was my jean size, which I wear a size larger due to the carrying inside the waist band. I have always wore a larger gun belt to allow for the layers I wear under my uniform in the winter. Brad quickly informed me that I would need to use a tape measure and measure my current belt at the exact notches where I currently wear it. Once I got my proper belt size I was to send him an email. My Duty Belt style of choice for several years has been a buckleless Safariland “leather” duty belt so I could get the most real estate as possible, this also allowed me to change my belt size without having to take the belt apart to move the buckle. To get the proper size I hooked the belt together at the notches where I wear it in the warm weather and the cold weather and threaded a cloth tape measure under the pouches. I quickly determined that Safariland stamps their belt sizes based on the smallest size they will go, which was news to me. This explained why Brad advised to actually measure the belt I use. After measuring my belt I determined that my duty belt size was actually 38, which meant my inner belt size was also wrong. I emailed my sizes to Brad and my belt arrived in 4-5 weeks.
Delivery and Initial Impression
When the package arrived the first thing I notice was how stiff the belt was. You cannot twist the belt or fold the belt over on itself like most nylon belts. The duty belt uses a unique style of adjustment. A single layer webbing is heavily stitched to the belt, threaded through the male cobra buckle then looped back to the belt where the tail is attached by a loop of Velcro. This loop of Velcro is then used to secure the belt at the chosen size. You must adjust the belt prior to putting it on as the loop of Velcro wraps completely around the belt.
Building the belt
Pouches are easy to thread on the belt as the belt is slightly undersized when compared to other duty belts. This smaller size does allow pouches to rock back and forth slightly, but nothing that interferes with their use. The smaller size does not affect holsters mounts as the belt’s stiffness makes it tough to get a holster threaded on. Once on the belt the holster does not move. I use a Safariland triple mag pouch for my Glock 22. The belt loop on these pouches is oversized causing the pouch to slide back and forth and rock up and down even when attached to a standard belt. To solve this issue I have crisscrossed zip ties and pulled them tight eliminating any play. This could also be done with a holster, but I have yet to find a need.
I wore the duty for the 1st time Halloween night 2012. I knew I would be in and out of the car or standing for long periods and I wanted to start the trial off right. When you put the inner belt on you will notice that it is stiff, but not enough to cause discomfort. The left attaches to itself then uses two attached Velcro loops to secure the belt together. They tabs are not needed, but an excellent additional for extra security. The belt requires some minor tweaking of the fit once you actually put it on due to the final position of the pouches. The 1st thing I noticed is that once the inner and out belt attach they do not want to come apart. This is a major improvement over Safariland Velcro belts as their Velcro seems to only lightly attach. Make sure you position the belt where you want it before you close the buckles as it will not move without removing the belt completely. To center the belt on my waist I always center the female buckle half where I want the belt to line up at then wrap the rest of the belt around my waist.
I noticed immediately that the belt felt lighter due to the stiffness of the belt. The belt stayed in position all night never shifting in any direction. I have always used keepers as extra insurance, and will continue to with this belt. Due to the overlap in the front behind the buckle the belt does stick out slightly farther than my other belts have, but is not an issue. Pouches do not move as the interface between the two belts stop them from moving.
I have used the belt 5-6 days a week since October and the belt remains stiff with no breakdown of the primary belt. I have found that the hook and loop Velcro that holds the tail end of the belt secure does weaken due to pouches rubbing on it. It stays secure, but the security is less now than when I received the belt. I have had the loop fail once, but once I resecured the loop it has stayed in place. I believe the failure was due to a pouch pulling the edges of the loop loose. I repositioned the pouch over the loop and have not had another issue. The loop created by the tail of the adjustment strap can bind under pouches making proper adjustment a trial and error event. You will set the strap where you believe it needs to be and either need to expand it or tighten it once you actually put the belt on as the strap slides under the pouches. Any pouch that fits tightly on the belt will cause you major issues with sizing as the fit of the pouch will not allow the sizing loop to move freely. I found this out with a body mic pouch I had made out of Kydex by Raven. The tight fit causes the sizing loop to bind and you must remove the securing strap to thread it through. This same tight fit will also cause the strap to not align properly which you do not find out until you put the belt on. You will notice the belt becoming loose while you wear it and will have to reposition the tail after wearing the belt.
The securing loops of the inner belt also wear heavily due to the aggressive hook on the outer belt. The inner belt securing loops actually lose their loop over time.
My Suggestions for Improvement
I would like to see more loop Velcro on the duty belt outer face between the adjustment loop attachment point and the end of the belt. This would allow the two ends to be secured in addition to the cobra buckle. The belt includes a small section, but I believe it needs more as pouches mounted to the front of the belt obscure the loop. When the patches are obscured the belt relies solely on the cobra buckle to hold the belt together. Due to the sizing loop being only a strap and not reinforced, the belt will sag in the front where the two ends of the belt overlap while wearing it. The only way to minimize the sag is to tighten the belt slightly more than needed. Another option would be to use a keeper just around the two portions of the belt.
Caution must be used when the belt is new as the edges of the nylon are sharp and will cut you. After you use the belt for a while and slide pouches around, the edges will dull.
The only other issue that I have discovered with this belt is that Tek-Loks will not lock closed on this belt. The Tek-Lok is tall enough, but the distance between the face of the lock and the back of the lock is too narrow when closed to lock closed. I have tried everything to make one close, but it will not. This isn’t an issue if you don’t use Tek-Loks, but I had to stop carrying my Raven custom made multi-tool pouch on my belt and start carrying the tool in my uniform thigh pocket. I wonder if the company that makes Tek-Loks could make the lock wider or have an option for a wider lock.
This belt is far superior to any belt I have used so far. I would without doubt buy another one with my own money if this one wears out, which I don’t see happening any time soon. I would definitely recommend this belt to anyone who want to invest in a piece of equipment that will last you for years. They do cost more than a standard belt, but the quality and lifespan will be worth it.