Duty Belts: The Complete Guide To A Police Officer’s Loadout [2019]

 police duty belt assembly guide

How To Choose And Assemble Your Duty Gear

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New duty gear equals stiff leather, creaking, and a massive pain in the ass to wear. Maybe that's why I remember it like it was yesterday (even though it was 1993). It all started with a trip to the local police supply on the weekend which netted me a full range of items including a belt, holster and lots of little cases and keepers. I was a rookie cop and I loved every second of getting my new duty gear. However, other than the holster going on the right side, I had no real idea of how to put it all together. Of course, being the soon-to-be badass cop that I was, I didn't let this minor detail faze me. Well, not until my first real day of patrol work, that is. 

You see, there's an odd mixture of feelings between the pride you feel when you first strap-on your police duty gear and the shame you feel when a senior officer looks at you and laughs. That certainly describes me back in 1993. My holster was a little too far forward, my radio case was too far back, and my keepers were scattered all over the place. Of course, having an excellent field training officer who's willing to take the time to help you get it right makes all the difference in the world. Lucky for me, I had excellent FTO who helped me get my duty belt set up the right way and in short order.

I remember thinking that this duty gear would probably kill me if I didn't get used to it quickly. What I mean is when I put on my official police duty belt and all of my duty belt accessories for the first time, it was so stiff that it was tough to move while wearing it. The likelihood of being able to chase down some criminal, handcuff him, and get him in the squad car seemed like it would be impossible. In fact, just getting out of the car to go into the local taco stand was a challenge. And don't even get me started talking about going to the bathroom.

Now once you’ve been on the job for some time, it becomes pretty clear that your duty belt is one of your most essential tools. I'm not going to call it your most important tool because certain things like your command presence, your attitude, and even your duty weapon come up higher on the list but either way it's still crucial. More importantly than that, however, is having your duty belt or duty rig adequately assembled. In time your duty belt is going to break in and become like a part of your body. The cool thing about leather duty belts, in particular, is that they tend to conform with your body shape, which makes them ultimately fit like a great pair of blue jeans or old, comfortable tennis shoes.

Types Of Duty Belts

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Back in the 1800s, there was a Brittish Indian Army General who had lost his left arm. In those days, military officers carried a sword as part of the official uniform. Unfortunately, General Sam Browne was not able to draw his sword so quickly since his left hand would have held the scabbard in place while he drew the sword. As such, General Browne started wearing a waist belt that had a strap which ran over his right shoulder. This configuration helped steady the scabbard so that he could draw his sword with only one arm. Years later, this belt set up became a standard part of the uniform, and it was called the "Sam Browne belt." These days, it is not uncommon to hear an officer call his police duty belt a "Sam Browne" even though we don't usually use shoulder straps anymore. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Browne_belt)

These days there are quite a few types of police duty belts available, but for this article, we are going to focus on just two kinds of duty belts, leather, and nylon. These types of duty gear have been around for a very long time. Each of them has a very well proven track record, and there are pluses and minuses to both. One thing that I should say before going too much further is that with all things in life, including your choice of duty gear, there is no one particular way that’s automatically better than all the rest. You'll find people who tend to love leather duty belts and others who tend to love nylon duty gear and then some of those extraordinary people who like to mix both.


The point is that your selection of duty gear is individually up to you. It's a personal preference thing. Of course, when you work for a department or agency, they may dictate what you have to wear, but aside from that, it's just your preference. I would caution you against taking any one person's advice as the Holy Grail when it comes to law enforcement gear selection. Consider your options, listen to people who have been in the mix, and formulate an idea. If you discover aspects of your duty rig that you don’t like, change them.

When you're talking about leather duty gear, it typically comes in two styles. One of those styles is what's called "basket weave" and the other is what they call plain or smooth leather. I should say that the smooth leather has two finishes available as well. There is a flat leather version (with no shine to it) and a very shiny smooth leather option as well. I will categorize both the flat and shiny leather finish as “plain” leather though. All of these options are strictly aesthetic. Technically,  I guess that there is a little bit of "function" when it comes to the basket weave, but we will get to that in a moment.

The basket weave design is outstanding because it adds a touch of ornamentation to your duty belt. This design is typically stamped into the leather when the duty belt or duty gear is being created. Now, I just mentioned that the basket weave design provides some form of functionality to your rig, and perhaps I should explain. As you may know or will soon find out, police work is rough. There's going to be times when you're going to be tussling around in the rocks on the pavement, getting into altercations and all kinds of fun stuff which, by the way, is part of why we love doing the job so much, right? When you do these things like roll around in the rocks, you're going to scratch your gear. You're going to get scuff marks and small abrasions and things like that on your holster, on your belt, and pretty much everything else. The basket weave design can help hide some of that minor damage so that your duty gear looks better over a more extended period of time. The alternative, of course, is the smooth leather which tends to show more scratches, nicks, and abrasions. That being said, the shiny version of smooth leather can really show the trademark scratches and wear of everyday police work. Usually, the shiny leather is reserved for parade units or motorcycle cops.

I used to prefer the smooth leather (the flat finish) over the basket weave. To me, the smooth leather just looked better, and I liked that clean look. However, as I said, it doesn't take long if you're doing any real police work to jink your belt up. In almost all cases, you're going to be just fine with either basket-weave or smooth leather. One thing that I think I would do now that I did not do then is have a little bit of custom tooling done on my plain leather police duty rig. What I mean is I would probably have my initials or a Bible scripture or something like that tooled into some small part of either my duty belt or my holster that would be a nice little touch and provide a sense of my style while on duty. I'm not sure that all departmental policies would allow that, but in the cases where it would, I believe that would be a nice touch. Remember, subtle though.

The other type of standard duty gear available is nylon. I don't want to get too technical on you, but nylon is a synthetic thermoplastic polymer. What that means in simplified terms is it is a  material that can be turned into fabrics or fibers as well as films. Of course, we are familiar with nylon because it's in so many things that we use daily, for example, flooring, police duty gear bags, as well as backpacks, clothing and many other things.

The history of nylon is somewhat long and, so I won't bother you with those details but the part of it that is notable is that the DuPont Corporation invented nylon in about 1935 after many years of research and development lead to its first incarnation. After many more years of research and development, nylon has been blended, modified, and changed in countless ways to create newer and more durable forms of nylon. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon)

One of the standard terms that we hear so often in police work is ballistic nylon. Ballistic nylon is a form of a weave of the nylon threads. It was initially created in World War II to be used in flak jackets. These days ballistic nylon is used extensively in creating duty belts, holsters, and other police tactical gear. Something worth mentioning is what's called the "denier" of the nylon. For example, you may see a particular nylon duty belt that says it is made of 1680d. What this means is that it is a 1680 denier nylon used in the product. Denier is a measure of weight, not of strength. That is important to keep in mind.

Research has shown that using a double layer of 1050 denier nylon is one of the most durable combinations available. However, the 1680 denier tends to wear better and is much more resistant to abrasions and extreme duty use while weighing less than the double 1050d. Since ballistic nylon is somewhat resistant to dyeing, most products made with this material will be black. Ironically, that lends itself even more to its use for law enforcement duty belts, holsters, and accessories.

When you consider using a nylon duty belt, you should think beyond just the denier rating alone. Another essential consideration is that of the duty belt's buckle. The sad truth is that you may have a reliable, durable duty belt, but if you have a lesser quality buckle, your duty belt will fail you at the most inopportune time. There are no specific guidelines to follow when purchasing any particular belt and buckle combination. However, it is something to which you should pay attention.

The better buckles are made of some form of polymer or heavy duty plastic. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to put your hands on one of these belts to determine the quality of the buckle. Of course, most of the name brand nylon duty belt manufacturers use a high-quality fastener or buckle. If you were to buy a lesser quality belt, you could probably count on having an inadequate buckle made onto the belt which will likely not hold up to daily police duty.

Many nylon duty belts come with additional features that you should consider. One such feature is the addition of a hook and loop type fabric on the inside of the duty belt that will affix to your under belt. What is an under belt? We will cover that in the next section. Additionally, many of the nylon duty belt manufacturing companies will do something like adding a waterproof barrier material to the inside of the belt which protects it against sweat and moisture damage when working in a wet environment. You need to consider all of these additional options on a case-by-case basis depending upon your taste and your specific work environment.

Duty Belt Accessories: Underbelts & Keepers

Duty belts by definition are thick and heavy duty which renders them incapable of being fed through standard belt loops on your duty pants. The solution to this problem is known as in under belt or "inside belt.'  If you wish to wear a duty belt, you will undoubtedly need an under belt which is sized to work with the belt loops on your uniform pants or duty pants. The use of an under belt applies to nearly all standard duty belts regardless of whether they are made from leather or nylon. 

If you choose to wear a leather duty belt, you will most likely also use a leather under belt, although this is not a requirement. I have known of many officers who used a nylon under belt with a leather duty belt.

I would recommend that you stay with a leather under belt for a leather duty belt and likewise use nylon with nylon. The reason for this is that the leather duty belt is somewhat more massive than the nylon version. As such, the leather duty belt is going to need a more substantial under belt to secure too. Likewise, the lighter weight nylon duty belt will connect to the lighter-weight nylon under belt with no problems. On occasion, having a leather duty belt over a nylon under belt can create a little too much flexibility in the duty rig for some officers.


The idea behind under belt is that you weave the under belt through your belt loops on your pants. After that, you bring the duty belt up around your waist and over the under belt. Some Duty belts will have a buckle other duty belts do not. On a leather duty belt, the buckle is what is known as a frame and prong set up. Essentially this is the same traditional belt buckle that you see worn every day, especially in menswear. On a nylon duty belt setup, the buckle is typically a polymer or plastic squeeze release type buckle. These buckles are used quite often on duty belts, backpacks, and many other nylon items.


If you have a duty belt that does not have a buckle, it will likely have a small pin on the inside near the end of the belt that inserts into a matching hole on the outer side of the other end of the belt. This particular combination provides an anchor point for the belt and relies heavily on either a hook and loop connection between the under belt and duty belt or a series of belt keepers to hold the duty belt secure. Also, in this particular setup,  the end of the duty belt oh, the part that extends beyond this anchor point, is typically tucked under a case or keeper near the front of the belt. In my case, I would always tuck this loose end of my nylon duty belt under my mag case. But we will get more into that later on.

Whether you choose leather or nylon for your duty gear, you will most assuredly want to use some keepers to hold the two belts together at various points around your waist. One exception might be when you use either type of belt that has hook and loop material on both the under belt and the duty belt, but even then I think it is a wise idea to use keepers. In theory, when you have hook and loop material between the under belt and the duty belt, you should not need keepers. Take it from a well experienced former police officer, when the nonsense takes mainstage on the side of the road, that hook and loop material can quickly come apart. Keepers aren't perfect, and I have lost many over the years, but, they are a higher level of insurance when you need it.

Keepers can be made of leather or nylon as well. The ones made of leather typically have either two or four button snaps on them while the ones made for nylon usually use hook and loop material to secure. One thing I would suggest that you not do is to use nylon keepers on a leather belt. First of all, it just looks terrible second of all, it just looks terrible. The leather keepers typically come in either two or four snap configurations. The two snap version is thin and ideal for placement on your belt in locations where space is minimal. The larger four snap versions are great for open areas on your belt or where you need more support. We will get into more detail on the actual placement and build out of your duty belt rig later in this article.

Something to consider when you go with a leather duty belt for police or security work is the actual metal finish of the buttons or snaps on the keepers as well as the finish on the belt buckle if so equipped. What I mean is that there are silver and gold finishes available. Historically, if you are not a sergeant rank or above, then you use silver. When you reach the point of being a sergeant or some higher rank, depending on the departmental policy, you would then switch over to gold. And remember earlier when I said that using the nylon keepers on a leather belt looks pretty awful? Well mixing your gold and silver is a close runner-up. The fastest way to not look professional in law enforcement or security work is to combine the finishes of your metal or to use nylon keepers on a leather belt and vice versa.

Duty Belts: What Do I Put On My Belt?

It may seem like a strange question to ask, "what do I put on my belt?" However, having been a field training officer myself for many years, I have come to realize that this is not at all an uncommon question. Now before we start talking about everything I think you should include on your duty belt, I know that there are and endless number of things available to put on your belt; but, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. If an officer wanted to, they could quickly look like some sort of geek or nerd with all the little gizmos and gadgets loaded out on their duty belt. I disagree with going that direction. There's something to be said for having all of the basics in a systematic and orderly fashion that is readily available when you need it. I'm going to be blunt with you; when the s*** hits the fan you don't need some silly hand sanitizer case getting in your way when you need to respond with something serious.

Duty Belt Essentials: Holsters

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The most obvious component that you will want on your duty belt if you are in law enforcement or a commissioned security officer is a holster. Of course, there are many options available in the holster realm. You may be required by departmental policy or company policy to carry a very particular brand or type of duty weapon and quite possibly holster. If that is the case then clearly you need to follow that policy. If, however, you're not regulated, then you certainly have some options and choices to make. 


The factor that differentiates the different holsters more than any other is the security level rating. This rating system spans from one to three and is directly related to the number of safety features built into the holster. While there is no specific regulatory agency that provides these ratings, most holster manufacturers follow similar guidelines for the industry.

A level 1 holster is the lowest security rating available and typically has only one security measure built into the holster. Most level 1 holsters have what is called a thumb break that goes over the rear of the slide on most modern-day duty weapons. In function, this thumb break is natural to unsnap with your thumb just before drawing the gun from the holster. There is not another viable level 1 option, in my opinion. Technically you could have some other security feature besides the thumb break and perhaps have an open-top holster, but that's along the lines of doing police work without wearing body armor. It's just not the best idea.

A level 2 holster typically has a thumb break just like the level 1, but it has an additional security feature of some form or fashion. An example of a second security feature might be some form of internal grip or retention mechanism built into the holster that either requires the officer to tilt the weapon or withdraw it in some other fashion specific to that holster. When you combine the thumb break with this internal retention mechanism, you would have a level 2 holster. At times whatever device is built into a level 2 holster does not require any specific angle to be required to draw the weapon. Retention devices such as this typically simply provide a tight grip on the gun within the holster, making it somewhat more challenging to draw the weapon unless you are familiar with the feel of that specific device.

A level 3 holster would have some combination of security features already discussed with an added 3rd form of security built into the holster. An example would be a second snapping retention device built onto the outside of the holster or perhaps a small lever that must be depressed with a finger concurrently while drawing the weapon. Clearly, a level 3 holster is the most challenging to operate, which is why many officers do not prefer them. Be thinking is that during a bad situation and while under stress, an officer may not be able to achieve a clean and quick draw with three levels of security built into the holster.

I have carried a level 3 and a level 2 at different times in my career. Ultimately I was the fastest and most capable with a level 2. My specific preference was a thumb break with the internal device that required me to tilt the weapon before withdrawing it. I practiced so much that withdrawing the weapon became second nature to me. Unfortunately, I had to prove that I could do it under stress on several occasions. But that's police work, right? I would encourage you to find something that you like and then practice until it becomes second nature.

One quick bit of advice that I would give to every officer is to secure both sides of your holster with a double snap keeper. The one thing you want to be very stable is your duty weapon. If you have lots of flexibility in your duty belt in the area of your holster, that little bit of play can end up being deadly. You need to know where your weapon is, how secure and stable it is, and what it feels like to draw from that position on your belt. Adding a double snap Keeper in front of and in back of your holster will help provide that stability.

Duty Belt Essentials: Magazine Cases

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Another essential aspect of your duty belt loadout is your magazine case. In the event did you end up having to throw lead down range at some jackass it's throwing lead at you, You may need more ammo then what you carry in your weapon. A magazine case is essential. So there is no question that you need a magazine case on your duty belt. The only issue related to a magazine case is where do you put it on your duty belt, and how do you angle it? Yes, you can typically turn a magazine case in a vertical or horizontal position depending on your preference.

Aside from the obvious finish on your magazine case and the material it's made from, the most significant difference to consider is whether you want a closed case or an open case. The closed cases have a flap that essentially secures the extra magazines in the case. There can be a snap or a  hook and loop type closure to hold this flap closed. An open case requires a much more snug fit between the magazine in the magazine case to keep them from bouncing out when you're chasing some sprinting bad guy down the road. Although I have seen officers carry the open design in a horizontal orientation on their duty belts, I do not recommend this.

It may seem obvious, but if you are right handed your magazine case should be more towards the left side of your duty belt. Of course, if you are left-handed, then the opposite is true. The idea is that when you drop a spent magazine from your weapon, you can easily access a replacement magazine with your off hand and feed it into your weapon to quickly re-engage your target.

If you're going to use the open magazine case on your duty belt, I will encourage you to orient it in a vertical position. The thing you must consider when using this method is actually which direction the cartridges face when the magazines are seated in the magazine case. In other words, when you have your additional magazines loaded into the magazine case you need to know which direction the cartridges are facing in the magazine so that you can adequately load them into your weapon in a stressful situation. If you are right handed you would typically want to have the cartridges facing your left while loaded into the magazine case. This particular orientation allows for a more natural draw of the extra magazine and easily slides into the mag well of your weapon.

If you should decide to carry an open magazine case in a horizontal position on your belt, you need to consider which direction the open end of the case faces. If you were to make the rookie mistake of orienting the opening of the magazine case toward your weapon, you're going to have one heck of a time being a contortionist to withdraw an extra magazine and loaded into your weapon. Simply put, don't do this.

If you're right-handed, you will undoubtedly want the opening to the magazine case facing your left side in a horizontal configuration. Your next consideration should be whether the magazines loaded into the case have your cartridges pointed up or down. Again, I'm going to go out on a limb and just tell you what to do. Orient the cartridges down. Think about withdrawing the extra magazine in a crap situation, the round loaded in that magazine needs to be facing down. This specific method ensures if the magazine will load in a more natural, ergonomic way into your duty weapon. Again, I would encourage you not to wear an open magazine case in a horizontal position to start with. Of course, you should do what you feel most comfortable with.

If you choose a  closed magazine case, all the same specifics regarding cartridge orientation apply. The only difference is, of course, the fact that now you have  Flaps over the extra magazines. I will say this, if you use a closed case in a vertical position it can be slightly awkward trying to retrieve the extra magazine to feed into your weapon.

My personal preference is a closed case turned in a horizontal orientation on my duty belt. I have worn the additional mag case in the 11 o'clock position and as far back as the 10 o'clock position. If you decide to utilize a  leather duty belt without a traditional buckle, you will likely want to push the loose end of the belt into the belts lot of your magazine case. When you utilize your magazine case in this manner, it serves dual purposes of holding the extra magazines and securing the end of your belt. It truly does make a nice clean appearance on your duty rig.

Something that I would consider is securing both sides of your magazine case with at least a single snap or it's equivalent nylon keeper. This becomes much more critical when you orient the holster in a horizontal position. Think about which direction the flap will open and think about the fact that when you open that flap, you may be under a ton of stress. As you sweep your hand across the front of the magazine case and slide the flap open, you don't want it taking a trip down your duty belt. That would be a cute magic trick, but one that can get you hurt. What I'm saying is in a horizontal position, always put a keeper on the flap side of the case. As the case starts to wear out over time, this additional keeper will help keep it from sliding down your belt when you aggressively open the case.

Duty Belt Essentials: Radio Case Or Holder

Another crucial component of your duty belt loadout is your radio case or holder. There's nothing like communication when doing any job, but when you are in law enforcement, it is critical to your survival. All you have to do is find yourself in some crap situation some time and not be able to hit the tower with your radio to know what I mean. The thing about radio cases and holders is that there are so many different options available now. Clearly, you will have to find a design that works with your departmental issued radio.

The old school cases where the radio slid down inside of them are pretty much antiquated now. Most radio cases these days slide on over your duty belt and have a strap with hook and loop closure that wraps around your radio. Another common type of radio holder is a two-piece design where one portion is a fixed to the radio in the second portion is secure to your duty belt. Usually, this design has a small metal tab on the radio portion that fits into a groove on the duty belt side. Typically, the radio must be turned horizontal position to lift it out of the slot on your duty belt.

Since your largest item will be your duty weapon, the radio will be your second largest item. It makes sense from a balance and use perspective to put the radio on the opposite side from your duty weapon. I would encourage you to secure the radio to your belt as near as possible to the vertical midline of the side of your body opposite your duty weapon. The reason for placing the radio on your midline is because when you are seated, and the radio is too far forward, it will conflict with your thigh. If the radio is too far behind your midline, you will undoubtedly be uncomfortable when sitting in your squad as the radio will conflict with your lower back.

There is a multitude of options available radio microphones now. If you have a traditional mic with coiled cord, you can run that mic up to your lapel on either side of your head and probably be okay. This is undoubtedly a place where personal preference comes into play. Some people want the mic on the same side as their duty weapon so that they can reach up with their off hand to key the mic. Other officers have no problem keeping the mic on the opposite of their weapon side. It is literally up to you. Just remember oh, you will have the coil cord either going across your chest or your back.

If you end up using any of the newer setups, just think through actual use in a bad situation. It's of little consequence how great something works when you're sitting at the burger joint choking down some heart disease and a diet soft drink. It matters tremendously how something functions when it's just you and some jackass rolling around on the asphalt. Remember that.

Duty Belt Essentials: Handcuff Cases

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Handcuff cases come in so many different styles these days. You can find them made for both leather and nylon duty gear. You can also find them in open top or with a flap that snaps or secures with hook and loop material. There are some available that are open top but have a snap in the middle to keep the handcuffs in the case but without a flap. There are even some hybrid designs that feature different elements combined to make something unique and different.


If you should choose a handcuff case it is open top, you should make sure that your handcuffs fit very securely in the case. Otherwise, you will end up losing your handcuffs while running down some dark alley chasing some idiot that just bailed out of a car on you. If you end up choosing a closed case, you will have the option of either snap closure or hook and loop closure. In my experience, both seem to work reasonably well.

Probably a better question is how many handcuffs should I carry on my duty belt, and where should I place them? Over the years, I have seen many different configurations put together by many various police officers. Because of the relatively flat nature of a pair of handcuffs and the small size of the case, many officers choose to wear one or two pairs of handcuffs on the very back of their duty rig. I have seen others wear one pair of handcuffs on the back and a second pair on the front.

Personally, I kept one pair of handcuffs on the front of my duty belt between the two and three o'clock positions in an open top case. These were easily accessible and eliminated the need to reach behind my back to retrieve my handcuffs. I carried a second pair of handcuffs in a closed case on the back of my duty belt. The idea behind this is that you always have a pair of handcuffs easily reachable from your left or right hand. In almost every case, when you reach for handcuffs, one or the other of your two hands is going to be tied up holding the suspect. At times that may end up being either hand. Personal preference certainly plays a role here, and in time, with a little bit of experience,  you may want to change your initial configuration to something different.

As a side note, and beyond the scope of this particular article, I will say that I always kept a third pair of handcuffs in my duty bag in the front seat of the squad. Not only did I keep an extra pair of handcuffs there, but I also kept various other things that an officer might need. Consider anything that you may lose from your belt or that you may need in addition to what is on your belt and keep that stuff in your duty bag. Keep your bag well-organized and keep all of your gear in good working order ready to rock and roll. I remember times when I would see an officer with Rusty handcuffs. Don't be that officer.

Duty Belt essentials: TASER Holsters

If you work for an agency or department that provides a taser or comparable device, standard practices and protocol will require that the manufacturers holster for holding the device to be used. These devices are typically carried in a cross draw position near the front of the duty belt opposite from the duty weapon side. Clearly, with the more recent addition of this particular type of equipment to police officers duty belts, space is becoming minimal. As such, I would encourage you to limit any extraneous gear that you do not need on your duty belt. For one thing, this will lighten your load and decrease things that tend to get in your way when you need nothing to get in your way. Second of all, you look much more professional when you have limited clutter on your duty belt.


Duty Belt Essentials: Pepper Spray Holders

Your duty belt is going to necessitate a wide range of options from less than lethal to lethal tools. Pepper spray is a reasonably common, less than lethal option that you will likely carry on your duty belt. It is also likely that pepper spray will end up getting a space on your duty belt that is available rather than a space that is specifically designed for such use. Of course, like all other gear made for duty belts, the cases and holders are available in many different styles and configurations.

There are cases made for both leather and nylon duty belts, and as usual, there are open top and close top variations. I have carried both open-top and closed top versions and have been happy with both. Ultimately I ended up carrying an open top pepper spray case more than the closed top version. The reason for this is that more than once I was in a situation where I needed to deploy the pepper spray while the canister was still on my belt. I know this sounds crazy but remember we are talking about law enforcement work here. Try to keep your pepper spray aimed in such a direction that when your gun side is away from a suspect, your pepper spray will be directed towards them. In the extreme event that you need to deploy pepper spray and do not have time to remove the canister, it can be sprayed while secure to your belt. Of course this is not recommended and certainly has a considerable potential collateral effect on you as the officer, including blowback and peripheral spray. However, when the proverbial poop hits the fan, the last thing you will worry about is a little collateral pepper spray.

Duty Belt Essentials: Expandable Baton Holders

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Most agencies have now moved on to an expandable baton instead of the old nightstick. The holders for these batons are generally made by the manufacturer of the baton to work with that specific device. Although I have seen some leather and nylon cases oh, these are typically ill-fitting intend to wear out quickly. My recommendation would always be to use the plastic or polymer baton holder that the better button manufacturers include with their batons. If you choose to use a different holder for your Raton, check it frequently for stretching. They tend to stretch both in the opening where the baton is held as well as the portion of the holder where it secures to the belt. There is little worse than a floppy baton on some lazy looking cop's duty belt. We won't even get into how that could affect function. Suffice it to say that you should check your stuff often.


The interesting thing about an expandable baton is that you typically need your dominant hand to operate it. Of course, you also need your dominant hand to manage your duty weapon. Therefore, deploying an expandable baton typically follows a quick judgment or decision on the level of response required by your immediate situation. In other words, when you reach for either your duty weapon or expandable baton, you have already decided that a lethal or less than lethal response is required. You must be good at making this decision, or you will find yourself holding the wrong tool in any given situation.

Aside from the pressure of making that split decision in fractions of a second, the second most important consideration is where to carry the expandable baton  Holder. In my case, I always carried my expandable baton behind my duty weapon. Of course, as I said earlier, I always had a double snap keeper on both sides of the holster. Because of this double snap keeper, the baton could never move forward far enough to conflict with my duty weapon. Another advantage of carrying the baton behind your duty weapon is that it is slightly concealed, which makes the ballistic extension of the baton more meaningful to your potential target. What I mean is the surprise effect is more significant, and you may gain compliance just deploying the baton thanks to the visual effect the suspect never saw coming. Hopefully, you will not have to use the baton in that case.

As a side note, you should always be confident that your expandable baton is in perfect working order. An expandable baton is one of those impact weapons that rarely gets used. As such, they will tend to get surface rust and just daily cop beat dirt in them, which will limit their functionality. On occasion, take your baton out wipe it down with some light oil and practice opening it a few times. If the time comes that you have to deploy the baton while on duty, you want to know for a fact that the baton will snap open and lock in place as it is designed to do.

Duty Belt Essentials: Flashlight Cases

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One of the areas where you may be able to regain some duty belt real estate is in the realm of the flashlight. Perhaps you work for a department or an agency that still uses the big D cell Maglites. In that case oh, you're probably going to need a flashlight ring located somewhere near the seven to eight o'clock position,  or in the four to five o'clock position.

If you are not required to carry a giant flashlight, then you will likely be able to carry a small, high lumen flashlight somewhere on your belt. The technology for law enforcement lighting equipment has come a long way over the last 20 years. I would still encourage you to carry your flashlight in either the back left or back right quarter of your duty belt, most likely on the opposite side from your duty weapon, but ultimately that decision is yours to make.

The cases and holders for these compact flashlights come in everything from leather to nylon to  Kydex. I would encourage you to find something that will keep your flashlight secure if you end up rolling around in the dust with some miscreant on a Saturday night. Again, your choice of lighting equipment and where to carry it on your duty belt is up to you. The most important thing is to be sure it is secure and in working order when you need it;  and you will need it.

Duty Gear Essentials: Every Thing Else

As police officers, we tend to like gadgets and things like that. Unfortunately, on your duty belt is not the place to play with a bunch of that sort of thing. Sure, you can get a holder for your keys, you can get a nice little case for your gloves, or for an emergency tourniquet,  or a different case for a knife. Did you know that you can get a holder for your notepad or small translation booklet? You can add a case to your duty belt that will hold your cash and credit cards as well.

To me, unless you have a definite need for one of these items, they are better left in your duty bag. You can keep your keys in your bag as well as your gloves. I very seriously doubt that you're going to be rolling around on the ground and all of a sudden think to yourself I need my thin rubber gloves right this second. Of course, you may need them for a multitude of reasons including searching some nasty soon to be prisoner or doing a vehicle search on some drug abusers car. But honestly, I would keep only your essentials on your belt. The stuff that you need right then, at the moment, to do your job.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be additional gear that you need to add to your duty belt. Miscellaneous things such as body cam equipment, identification holders, you name it. Keep in mind that you need a reasonable, orderly way to add this gear to your duty belt without creating trouble when in the heat of police work. Follow that basic guideline and any additional gear will be easy to add to the belt and will not hinder your duties as a police officer.

How To Set Up Your Duty Belt

Duty Gear Collection

Remember what I said at the beginning of this article? So much of the arrangement of your duty belt has to do with personal preference in your style a police work. So how do you know the best method for your duty belt loadout? I have a simple and straightforward approach that has worked for myself and every officer I have trained over the years.

First of all, put on your uniform in its entirety -besides your duty belt. Yes, I even mean to put on your body armor as well. When you do this, try to have all of your duty gear available as well. Have your duty weapon, your radio, handcuffs, and everything else you intend to use available when you build your duty belt.

Next, put on your under belt and secure it to a point where it feels comfortable and then test it by moving and lots of different directions, squatting down and getting in and out of a car. Let me say this, everything you do with your actual duty belt is dependent upon your under belt. If your under belt is too tight, you're going to lose valuable space on your duty belt, and you're going to be critically uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you secure the under belt to loosely, the items on your actual duty belt will not line up exactly right later when you finally decide to cinch down that under belt appropriately. Just suffice it to say that you should put on your under belt and then test it with lots of movement.

Next, you should go ahead and put your duty belt on over your under belt. Find a mirror somewhere and take a good look at it. Be sure that it is snug enough and that the belt buckle, if you have one, is centered in the middle of your abdomen. If you need to put some keepers on to hold the belt in place, by all means, do so. After you have your duty belt secure and in place properly, be sure and move around again in a fashion to make sure it is exactly right. You will find in time, that there is a sweet spot between too tight and too loose. By moving around and testing your duty belt fit right now, you're just making an effort to stay out of either category.

Try to find something that you can mark your belt with. A black Sharpie will work although it may be somewhat challenging to see. I would use your marking device two very carefully mark the exact midline of both your right and left side (three and nine o'clock position) as well as the very center of the back of your belt. Be sure and make a note of which hole your buckle goes in or how far the belt overlaps itself once you have it positioned correctly. Go ahead and take the belt off so that we can put your holsters cases and gear on the belt.

Depending on your particular duty belt, you may need to string everything onto the belt in the order did it will ultimately be when you're finished. What I mean is this your holster will most likely feed onto your belt from the non-buckle end. If you were to slide the holster around to the three o'clock position for a right-handed person and tighten that holster down, then you would be in trouble if you decided later to put an open-top handcuff case between the holster and the belt buckle. Imagine that, and it will make sense. What you will likely have to do in that case is remove the holster so that you can then put the handcuff case on then slide the holster back on the belt to its three o'clock position.

The specific placement of your keepers is not critical at this point. However, loosely placing all of your items on the belt is the mission. For the time being, do not tighten anything down. Place everything on the belt in the order that you believe you're going to want it in the end and then wrap the belt back around your waist and secure it.

At this point begin to move each item individually into its perfect position. This means move your holster to exactly where it feels best; move each item to where you will ultimately want it to live on your duty belt. Remember, you may end up redoing your duty belt several times, but that's okay. Do it. Do not be lazy with this!

As you load each case or holder onto your belt, you will need to decide on your magazine case as to whether you want to orient it vertically or horizontally. Make that decision and slide it on the belt. Once everything is in place, you can tighten your holster down to the belt. Most holsters have small Allen screws threaded into the top to help secure holster into position on your duty belt. Do not over tighten the screws but make sure they are very secure. It's not a terrible idea to come back after a few days of wearing your rig and put a small amount of thread locker on those screws. Don't go crazy and don't use anything permanent. Simply find some thread-locking compound to help hold the Allen head screws in place and keep them from backing out over time.

My next bit of advice is to take that small Allen wrench and put it in your gun cleaning kit. If you don't have a gun cleaning kit, you may want to go ahead and find a different job. But, since I know you do, put the Allen wrench in there, and it will always be available, and you will always know where it's located.

Once everything is in place, load all of your duty gear into it. Now if this is brand-new leather or even nylon, it's probably going to be very stiff. Remember it's just a matter of time until everything gets broken in and feels like your favorite pair of jeans. Take this opportunity to move around extensively with all of your duty gear in place. Make sure that you can bend over squat get in and out of a car in generally function with your duty belt on. If it is too tight, loosen it. If you need to adjust the location of something, do so. In particular, if you need to move your holster forwards or backward even a little bit, do it now. There are things in life that you can be lazy with, but this is not one of them. I would also advise you to practice retrieving your extra magazines and using your handcuffs and every other item on your duty belt to make sure that you can load and unload them onto your rig with no problems. Essentially your duty belt will become a part of you, and you need to be able to operate it blindfolded.

The last step is to wear your belt as often as you can without looking stupid. Don't be Mr. 24/7 cop always wearing your gun for the whole wide world to see always flashing your badge at every opportunity. No one likes that cop. What I mean is when you are at your own home just milling around the house, put on your police trousers, you're under belt, and your duty belt. Load all your gear up that you have at home and just function in it for an hour or two at a time. This will do two things. First, it will acclimate your body to the duty gear. Second, it will help break in the duty gear so that it feels more comfortable much sooner.

Caring For Your Duty Gear

The truth is, your duty gear is exceptionally durable. I've known plenty of officers that most likely never take the time to clean air condition their duty gear, and they made it just fine. However, that should be the exception to our line of work. My suggestion would be to clean and condition your duty gear at least once a month. There are numerous products available in the market that serve as both leather cleaners and conditioners all-in-one formulation. There are also many cleaners available for nylon.  Keep these products on hand can sit down for 10 minutes on occasion and clean your duty gear.

If you end up using leather duty gear, it's not a bad idea to keep that black Sharpie available to fill in small nicks and scrapes on your gear. During this time, you can also make sure, but each component of your duty gear loadout is in good working order. What I mean is clean your handcuffs and oil them. Check the snaps on your keepers or the condition of the hook and loop material if you have that. Make sure that nothing is getting too loose or too worn and inspect for tears and damage in everything. If you ever find anything damaged or needing repair, get it fixed or replace it immediately. Don't mess around with this stuff and never delay what you know needs to be done.

Duty Belt Storage

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One thing that your leather duty belt will surely do is take on an odd shape if you lay it down on its side for an extended length of time. Nylon is not quite so susceptible to the same thing. Honestly, there is no reason ever to have your duty gear laying around anyways. There are many manufacturers the create duty gear hangers and duty belt hangers that are very affordable. With a little bit of effort, you could design some small space in your home for your duty  Gear. You could create a space to hang your belt, to set your boots, and to hang up your shirt and pants. If you're motivated and pretty squared away, you could even keep your gun cleaning supplies and extra ammo in the same space.

If you do not get ready for your shift at home, then you should probably invest in a giant gear bag so that you can comfortably carry all of your items to work with you. There is a large assortment of police duty bags available they can accommodate all of your gear. I would encourage you to keep a complete civilian change of clothes in your duty gear bag. Keep additional shirt pants and shoes and perhaps even an extra toothbrush and all of your toiletries. Trust me, and police work you're going to need all of these things for one reason or another. Being a good, squared away cop goes so far beyond just answering alarm calls and waving at people.

Not directly related to duty belt storage but still important is finding a perfect bag to carry with you while on duty. Remember earlier I said you should have extra magazines extra handcuffs at tetra? This gear should be stored in a bag that you keep with you in the squad for every shift. You should keep any extra paperwork, first aid equipment oh, your rain gear, some extra bottles of water, a few meal replacement bars and anything else that you think you might need such as your hat or cover and traffic vest. What this bag is not made for is to carry your body armor around with you since you aren't wearing it on duty. Don't be that cop either. Body armor is uncomfortable and bulky to be sure. But, it also stops bullets. Don't compromise on this no matter where you work or how good you think you are. Bad guys do not know boundaries, and you are not invincible.


The bottom line is that your duty gear is critically important to do your job as a police officer. You have decisions to make when it comes to things like leather or nylon. You have even more choices to make regarding the placement of each item on your duty belt. All of this takes time and focus. If you put into practice the things bet I have detailed in this article, you will have a well-put-together duty rig that will serve you well for many many years. Oh, and if you hear a rookie squeaking down the hall with their new duty belt and everything out of sorts, just smile and walk on. We were all there once.


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