Comparing Cobra Buckles/Nylon belts to traditional designs

The Cobra buckle has been making waves within numerous communities in our industry for several years now. Some of the reasons behind this is the new application as a gun belt. Some of the hype around the design has to do with the buckle itself, being made by a company called AustriAlpin in Austria. The company originally made these buckles to be used in mountaineering equipment and aircraft rigging where sometimes thousands of pounds of material is being sustained by these buckles before their failure points. Some models have a limit of 2,000 pounds, others 4,000 pounds, and still yet some have 11,000 pounds of pressure that need to be applied before the buckle breaks. Essentially as my friend put it to me once, “The belt will fail before the buckle will”.

This review began as a critique of the Assaulter’s Gun Belt from First Spear, LLC but because I’m constantly switching out these new nylon belts with traditional leather ones, and because I have another nylon belt with a Cobra buckle installed on it from an unknown company, I think it would be a great opportunity to just talk about these belts as a concealed carry/ Every Day Carry (EDC)/ gun belt set up in general because although the belts offer a number of advantages, they also have a number of disadvantages that potential customers should be aware of before they purchase one of them.

To begin with, let us talk about traditional leather before moving to why we would want to switch to the nylon ones. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an EDC leather belt. If the majority of concealed carry you do is in a formal, civilian work space setting where deep concealment and not getting “outed” is a high priority, then a leather belt might just be your best bet. Leather belts from any company to include any specifically concealed carry company such as Crossbreed, Galco, or Alien Gear are particularly useful because they are designed and created with the CCW customer’s needs in mind, unlike Brand Name X that just makes good belts. They don’t scream “GUN” or “TACTICAL” at the top of their leather lungs when observed by others. They are perfectly at home with a dress suit attire, or even a blue collar job position, or jeans for that matter. If they are made from real leather, then they even bend and eventually contour to the form of your waist, so they curve in with your belt line much better than other systems. Although this does take many weeks or months of daily use for this warping to occur.

But they have many downsides. The usually large buckles and the leather tabs that stick out after them are usually so huge that when coupled with an appendix carry IWB holster position, it just helps the inevitable bulge that occurs at the front of the waist line. Having the holes in the belt can work well for keeping the buckle secure, but if a user gains weight or loses weight, and goes outside the parameters of these holes, cutting a new hole in the leather belt now just looks silly and unprofessional in many circumstances. Because they are made of leather, if they become wet due to the environment someone finds themselves in, they can become difficult to work with because they might warp, swell or shrink. They also aren’t as accessible in getting off a person in an emergency situation where the belt needs to come off Ricky-Tick, as compared to the Cobra buckle. Leather belts aren’t as adaptable as some of these tactical belts when it comes to velcro attachments, or can be as sturdy in a thinner material.

On the other hand, these nylon belts offer numerous advantages and disadvantages. The largest advantage for concealed carry is the Cobra buckle system. It won’t and probably won’t ever fail due to the excellent properties of the overkill design when it comes to everyday concealed carry. While at the same time being almost unfailing, it can much more rapidly and easily be undone in an emergency. For appendix carry users it goes away with that bulge in the front and you can adjust the belt so that there is a very minimal bulge and only have it coming from the holster and firearm. These belts are also usually infinitely more adjustable than any leather belt without poking additional holes in the actual material. Some of these belts have plastic layers on the inside of the nylon material, allowing it to be much more sturdy than any leather belt in an equivalent width. The importance of width is necessary to mention here because usually someone who conceal carries, wants their belt as thin as possible because if it is thick, the waistline is going to protrude even more once anything IWB is put inside of it.

Now for the downsides. The nylon Cobra buckle belts are in my opinion cursed with three glaring disadvantages. The first disadvantage is the choice of particular buckle width itself. Although it may be perfect for jumping out of planes and climbing mountains, the overwhelming majority of these belts out there are outfitted with the 2 inch or 1.75-inch Cobra buckle. Which requires that the buckle is taken completely off before putting the belt on. This is bad for a number of reasons. First of all, the point where that belt is set at has now been lost and a user will have to “retune” the belt to a particular length. Then, by taking the belt buckle on and off again, the velcro and the leading edge of the belt becomes tremendously frayed, almost to the point of not being able to use it. The velcro simply turns to fuzz and can become difficult to hold any sort of leading edge. Then the leading edge itself, after having being inserted and reinserted into the buckle so many times, becomes almost impossible to fit in. Burning it helps keep the edges straight, but why do I have to burn my $60,$70, $80 belt only a couple months after buying it, just to get it to keep working? I eventually used duck tape to the leading edge, in order to keep it from fraying more.

This fraying and velcro problem is almost non-existent if you are using the belt as a sort of outside duty belt system and only really mess with the belt’s length every couple of months if that. But if you are changing pants at least twice a week, then you’ll be constantly undoing that belt and losing its efficiency every time. Another issue is that I’ve found with the First Spear belt that if it is kept in the exact same position enough times on the belt, the metal starts rubbing through the nylon, creating a hole in the belt where there shouldn’t be one.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this debacle and that is a shorter Cobra buckle that can be fed through your belt loops, the 1-inch version. Unfortunately, these smaller buckles aren’t as readily available as the bigger ones, and thus not many people know they exist. Even if you buy a 1.75 inch or 2-inch buckle and then decide to go with the shorter buckle, it won’t fit the belt at all because the dimensions of the belt won’t allow it. There are a number of companies that have this system where essentially the one-inch buckle is attached to a one-inch section of nylon that is adjustable and is connected to a sturdy nylon surrounded plastic portion that acts as the inner portion of the belt. But if your original Cobra buckled belt didn’t scream “TACTI-COOL”, then this certainly will. One of my friends wears it, and every time I see him, his belt just looks like a ridiculous system of overlapping cloth pieces. If you are interested in the different versions of these buckles, Mil-Spec Monkey has an excellent selection on their website.

The other point about these belts is that they don’t “form” to your waistline at all. Because they are made out of nylon and plastic, how can they? This isn’t a huge disadvantage, but it can at times be annoying when the belt is constantly stuck up in places where it usually wouldn’t be with a leather belt that has formed to a waistline. One final note I would like to add is about the finish. In my experience, the Coyote tan finish appears to chip off, at least on the example that I have in my collection, whereas the silver/gold that the belt comes from the factory in doesn’t chip at all because this is the original material.

I hope this discussion of various belt systems has helped readers give some thought as to what sort of belts they would be inclined to use while carrying concealed or to give thought to something else that they haven’t thought of before.

Additional TFB articles on gun belts:

Review: The Original Ratchet Gun Belt The RGB Cobra

Blue Alpha Gear Gun Belt With New Type Cobra Buckle





Miles

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Dougscamo

    Let’s see…1.”inevitable bulge that occurs at the front of the waist line”…check, got that but I don’t think it is the rig’s fault….2. leather may “shrink”…check, got that too, though I don’t think it’s the belt’s fault…see #1….sigh…never mind….
    On a side note, the IWB appendix carry with the leather that the photo illustrates is one that I would feel comfortable with until I sit down….see #1 above….

    • Twilight sparkle

      Haha yeah I decided to work on my own number 1 when I started appendix carrying.

  • PK

    Any non-traditional belt and buckle tends to scream “I am carrying”, to me. So far, that’s been a correct assumption the vast majority of the time.

    Personally, for the cost, I’ll stick with a reinforced leather belt. They last for years, and they work.

  • Jack

    Bluealpha gear has a hybrid(1″ end for threading through loops) buckle Cinta belt that works out nice. I don’t tuck my shirt so the scream from my tacticool buckle is muffled if not silenced (suppressed?).

  • pun&gun

    Blue Alpha Gear’s Hybrid EDC belt seems like it would address all of these concerns while still keeping the advantages of the Cobra. I’ve had one on the radar for a while, but my leather belts work well enough where the money’s better spent elsewhere.

  • Don Ward
    • Billy Jack

      I read that with a lisp hiss.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Just when I think that we, as a species, have reached the apogee of pants retention technology a daring rule breaker emerges to shatter all of my preconceptions.

  • PeterK

    Kind of knew this without even purchasing, but great info, thanks.

  • Roguewriter

    I’ve been using the trakline belt for a while now with the X3 buckle. Looks like a normal leather belt and I’ve been very happy with it.

  • iksnilol

    Meh, I’ll stick with a leather belt, worked so far. And doesn’t help if the buckle is good if the straps (such as nylon is wont to do) fail.

    That, and nylon is yucky.

    • PK

      The one exception to trying this general category of non-leather belt that I’ve seen is any made with this “BioThane” stuff. It’s really quite impressive. Urethane/vinyl coated polyester webbing, and unbelievably strong/durable.

      • iksnilol

        Yeah, but what it sound like? Like, is it squeaky? And does it snag? I’mma check it out.

        • PK

          Doesn’t seem to snag or squeak, but I’ve only handled them briefly. It really does seem to be a very good material, just hasn’t caught on yet.

  • QuadGMoto

    Another option is the Boxer Tactical Apogee belt featured on TFB back in April. I got one, and it works quite well as a belt, without the detach/attach problem. I haven’t worn it enough to say how well it holds up yet. Mainly I’m just using it as a range belt.

    My everyday belt is still a Milt Sparks leather gun belt that I’ve been wearing for about 14 years.

  • Paul Rain

    “But if you are changing pants at least twice a week, then you’ll be constantly undoing that belt and losing its efficiency every time”

    Not a real criticism, who washes their jeans more than once every two weeks?

    • Phillip Cooper

      People that aren’t nasty?
      I don’t get this whole hipster “I don’t wash my pants” crap..

      • noob

        In software engineering worlds you can tell a $30 pair of jeans from a $3000 pair of jeans by the wear patterns (honeycombing). The expensive jeans will wear in with patterns that reflect the movements and pocket contents of the wearer – distinguishing them from pre-honeycombed k-mart rack jeans.

        Humans are unfortunately petty social animals, and in a high dollar trade like programming for startups where Series A funding can be in the millions and their idea of work attire is jeans and a hoodie, you can tell for how many years a prospective hire has previously been able to bring home the bacon by looking at the wear around the cuffs and pockets of his jeans.

        If you wash the jeans, they won’t wear with high contrast lines as the indigo flakes away. instead they’ll just go white pretty much all over in a much more uniform fashion.

        • pun&gun

          $3000 for a bastardized version of a practical working-man’s garment, shown off by intentionally poor maintenance. What a world we live in.

        • Phillip Cooper

          Don’t give a rip about wear patterns. Anyone that doesn’t wash is nasty. Full stop.

        • Phillip Cooper

          .. and BTW I work in the software/network engineering field. The above may hold true with Mark Zuckerburg and his ilk, but not with real people.
          Anyone that spends $3000 on a pair of jeans needs their head examined.

        • int19h

          Seconded. I don’t know which software engineering workplace this is common in, but it’s certainly not the case anywhere around Seattle. People who want to show off wear clothing that’s obviously expensive. The rest wear jeans and cargo pants. I wear Tru-Spec Ascent pants, and nobody even bats an eye.

    • Bill

      Anybody who doesn’t do meth?

  • Phillip Cooper

    Somewhere, there is an engineer with WAY too much time on his hands.
    This is an answer to a question noone asked.

  • Bill

    A: I’m a belt fetishist, but I admit it so it’s OK. I own a couple dozen belts, but always seem to wear the same, 2 layer leather, relatively plain 1.5 inch “normal” belt.

    B: I think we overplay the ‘everyone will know I’m carrying if I wear X,Y or Z.” Other carriers might, but I doubt the average street thug (Note I said “average.”) would; if they were smart like that they wouldn’t be street thugs. They’d be white collar criminals.

    • pun&gun

      B is definitely true. Lots of people wear odd buckles these days, if they wear a belt at all. Plus this is most practical for appendix carry, in which case no one can see your belt to start with.

  • ReadyOrNot

    I’ve been wearing a Blue Alpha Gear Hybrid EDC Belt for several months now and I would agree with a lot of what you wrote. Although the buckle on this one is made for just about every type of belt loop, it’s still awkward to pull through the belt loops. Although the belt is adjustable, it’s done via velcro making it difficult to change quickly so I agree with the form fit factor. The buckle will always slightly stick out too so that part annoys me as it cants awkwardly at times.

    But for the mission of holding my holster in place.. there’s no better option for my 5’6″ skinny ass.

    • pun&gun

      I really don’t see why the male half of the buckle attaches to the belt at such an odd angle. Surely they can make one with a more in-line attachment.

  • Reziac

    I kinda question the sanity of having a belt buckle that’s so much stronger than your spine. You’re more likely to get hung up on something than you are to use it to lift pickup trucks.

    • pun&gun

      *gently puts down pickup truck and walks away sheepishly*

  • DangerousClown

    I tried to suggest an alternative, but this must be a paid post, as twice now, they won’t let me link to another belt that unlike the Cobra buckle, is made in America.

    • noob

      all links are vetted by a human to make sure they aren’t a shock site.

      previously people have said things like “If politics gives you lemons, consider voting for the Lemon Party”.

      or “All-Female IPSC Team Tubgirl really likes this compensator. There’s some pretty good images here of the using it. You can see how the blast is not so bad even though the large vents allow them to stay on target.”

      If your links are not evil your comments will appear eventually.

  • DanGoodShot

    I have the same multicam belt w/fde cobra buckle. No, the finish is not all that durable. But for me, the biggest issue is that it was putting small holes in my tee shirts! Untucked shirt and leaning against anything like the kitchen counter while doing the dishes. Your going to notice small holes from the corners of the buckle rubbing through the shirt. This ruined a few of my favorite tees! The fix. I used a toddlers sized brown dress sock that happens to match the color of the buckle pretty good. I cut off the top portion of the sock and used it as a sleeve over the buckle. No more holes in my shirts! It didn’t interfere with the function of the buckle and it also had the side benefit of stopping the buckles fde paint from getting chipped off. Also, if you don’t thread the belt through the one half of the buckle that comes off and just loop it through once its still pleanty strong to hold up my pants, gun and everything else without mucking up the end of the belt like yours did. Doing the proper threading is great if you need it to hold a few hundred pounds or more but not necessary to hold of a pair of pants.

  • Tox

    I’ve got a Cobra Buckle on a SOE gear belt that I got last year. It’s fraying, but not as badly as pictured and I wear it 5 days a week (although only with 5.11 and Berne work pants). I agree with the above article in broad terms, and would just add that Leather belts are much more comfortable IMO, but the Cobra buckles are pretty nifty.
    One downside of the Cobra buckle is that in LEO and FF circles they have essentially zero penetration, so no one is going to know how to open them and are just going to cut the belt off. If you have a belt with a nylon insert and a Cobra buckle, it’ll make rescue really happy lol. I only bring it up because of the “ricky-tick” comment, to which I lol’d (leather belts are just as fast to take off as the Cobra IMHO).