External Belt Gear Rigs

When the soldiers left the ships to fight in that big war to end all wars, the troops were all carrying a webbed web gear reviewbelt around the outside of their coats or jackets. This webbed belt carried a wide variety of accessory pouches for ammo, weapons magazines, medical supplies, a canteen, maybe a holster for a 1911 Colt .45 and other optional gear items. The external webbed belt kept the gear weight well distributed around the waist and easy to access. Some web gear units even had shoulder straps.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Without carrying these immediate need items on the pants belt itself, the soldiers would not have their trousers weighted down or pulling excessively at the waist. Also this web belt could be quickly detached to set aside, however these rigs were usually carried at all times.

Fast Forward

Today, preppers and survivalists would do well to copy this gear carry mode themselves. In fact, such rigs are once again finding favor with outdoors enthusiasts from hunters, campers, hikers, and survivalists working around bug out camps. These external belt rigs can be customized to easily carry needed items that are used often or that can be reached or deployed quickly. With a little planning and thought, such an outside carry belt can be easily designed and outfitted. What gear should be added to such a rig? Make a list then narrow down the choices.

Also Read: Pistol Bug Out Bag For Under $500

Start with a heavy duty belt. Some still like and carry the old military surplus webbed belts and theseexternal_belt_gear_rig_pistol_knife_survival can work with the proper accessory attachments. Better yet is a thick leather belt that will not bend or bind with a load. I bought a double layered leather 1.5 inch wide belt recently off the rack at Cabela’s. It is super stiff, but will become more pliable with use. It has a good brass buckle. Now I see carry belts with steel lining inserts to add further strength.

Make sure whatever belt you get is large enough with enough adjustment holes to fit over outer clothing including light jackets as well as heavy coats. It may be best to wear a coat into the supplier or retailer to get a proper fit over the outer garment. Try on different styles to see what seems to work best.

Gear to Attach and Carry

So, what to hang on such a belt? The first thing that comes to mind is a sidearm weapon in a holster. This of course can be any handgun that you use confidently and have practiced with often. Likely you wear this outdoors, so if working on a farm, ranch, bug out camp or similar environment, you may want a handgun with substantial enough power to dispatch varmints or other intruders that might invade your space.

The most common choices that most will pick include a 9mm or a .45 ACP. Revolver shooters will pick a .357 Magnum (for which .38 Special ammo can be used), a 44 Magnum (with .44 Special ammo) or perhaps a .45 Long Colt. Obviously other choices are available, too. One of my personal favorites being the .41 Magnum in a Smith model 57 or 58.

Your handgun choice can be fitted to any number of holster types and styles that suit your uses best.external_belt_rig_holster_campknife Pick a heavy duty, durable holster with good gun retention. A safety strap is not a bad idea, because when working outdoors and such you do not want any likelihood of the firearm dropping out of the holster or being snatched out by a tree limb or vine or trespasser.

Next besides a weapon would probably be a good camp knife. The blade choice should be something between a hunting knife, general purpose Bowie, or heavy blade that can do some chopping along with regular field cutting tasks. An ESEE #6 comes to mind. If you want or need a pocket knife sized utility blade or two, then carry one of those, too in a smaller scabbard.

Read More: Survival Knife vs. Hatchet – A Question of Gear

Now comes all the options that preppers, farmers, or other outdoors workers might choose specifically for the kinds of field work they are performing. It might be a hatchet or small hand ax, a mini-first aid kit with meds, a canteen, compass, cell phone w/case, ammo pouch or pistol two-magazine pouch, bear spray, other accessory pouches (forestry tape, bright eyes, paracord, insect repellant, small digital camera, snacks and nabs, fire lighter, flashlight, multi-tool or other gear items). The balance in picking these items is not to unduly weigh down your belt rig.

Wearing the Rig

Where to wear or use this belt rig? Obviously, outdoors, but such a rig could be worn while working inside and survival web gearout around the bug out camp, farmhouse, barn, or other situation. It should be an easy take along when riding an ATV, UTV, or even a horse or tractor. The rig would be ideal for walking the property to inspect fences, gates, and for security observation.

The belt rig would be good for hiking trips, too, assuming such carry is permitted on public use trails. WWII soldiers found great utility in the everyday carry of their gear over their coats with a webbed belt. It spread the weight around the waist, but gave immediate access to needed items. Preppers and survivalists can adopt this type of rig for many uses performing a variety of tasks. Be creative in how you design your belt rig so it becomes a real go-to gear carry option.

Photos By:
Jessica C


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7 comments… add one
  • Anonymous September 26, 2016, 5:09 pm

    Good article. But I think a better solution is to use a padded MOLLE belt that will keep the gear/pouches from sliding around and also keep the belt from digging into your sides if you are not wearing if over a jacket (I live in FL so jackets are sort of rare). Here is a cheap surplus one that I use:
    I have a pistol holster, two pistol magazines, one AR magazine, and one fixed blade knife on it. I added triglides to the straps, now it’s adjustable for clothing but will stay to the size you set it, another advantage is that this has a side release buckle over a traditional belt buckle which would help with putting it on quickly (think putting it on quickly or bathroom trips).
    This belt is purely for SHTF or bump in the night situations because I live in the suburbs and carry concealed IWB most of the time.

  • Mitch September 27, 2016, 9:01 am

    I run with British p58 set up, the old canvas components are hard wearing and the gear will outlast anything modern.
    Depending on the firearm I’m using, I have two Chicom chest rigs that are well made for Chinese make, one for 12G ammo and one for stripper clips (no AR/AK – AUS gun laws suck).
    Old .303 bandoliers are another great way to carry ammo, they’re cheap and it takes 5 seconds to get them calmed up.
    Old gear was used because it worked. Not everyone needs an “assault vest”

    Figure out what works, keep adapting, never stop yearning to do what you want, just better.

  • Ray September 28, 2016, 9:29 am

    That M-1928 pistol belt , with an M-1916 holster and M-1910 or M-1928 magazine pouch, will set you back 125+$. It needs a set of M1938 field suspenders to support it if you want to hag canteens or a med kit. It is in many ways a “better” field rig than anything made today. High quality reproductions are pricy (a really good Repro M1916 holster from “At the front” militaria. “What price glory” or “El Passo Saddlery” will cost 75 to 200USD) but well worth the money as they last for 100 years +. You’ll pay less for the cheep junk, and replace it in two years.

  • JSW October 2, 2016, 9:40 am

    Love my old web belt. Items I considered necessary are the pistol holster (M-1945); canteen carrier w/cup, also ’45; FAK (updated ’40); fanny pack (circa ’68) with “Nut Goodies”– dry sox, trail mix, fire drill, space blanket, poncho (not carried rolled on top as was issue), and more (what floats your boat); fixed blade knife (Gerber SRK); and ammo pouches (circa ’68, with ammo, of course). Held topside with shoulder harness scavenged from a worn out Alice pack.

    Just using what I was trained with and am comfortable with.

  • Ray October 7, 2016, 9:48 am

    The following are the ONLY full flap hip holster’s ever approved by and for the CAL.45 M1911-M1911A1. M1912 mounted and dismounted. (1912-1916) . M-1916 (1916-1956. four rivets) and the Vietnam era “Holster M-1” (1956 to end of production two rivets). Two shoulder holsters were also authorized for tank/AFV/APC crews and later Air borne use. The first with a single “over the shoulder” strap introduced around 1938 and one with TWO straps introduced in 1943. Both WW1 and WW2 “Pouch Magazine” were issued until the 1911 was taken out of service in the ’80’s. Both can still be had, new, for under 25$. The M1956 green canvas “Alice” mag pouch was issued from 1961 till end of 1911 issue. The cotton web belt was “modified” MANY times from 1903 till end of production in the late 1990’s and would need its own web page to list all the changes and colors.

  • Roger October 15, 2016, 5:10 pm

    I keep a waist rig with shoulder straps but as an addition to my BOB vest/small backpack. The five pouches are old german-surplus magazine holders that (with a little modification) hold 1.6 liter Lock and Lock air/water tight containers very well. Each pouch/container can hold food, ammo, medical supplies, whatever is needed and since they can slide on/off easily, they can be exchanged for other mag. holders pre-packed with other items/supplies depending on perceived need, even exchanged for 1- or 2-quart canteens (in their own pouchs) for extra water! One or two german-surplus grenade pouches can be added to the front of the belt and hold 50 round boxes/containers of ammo well without being too large or too long to allow you to bend over freely! This makes for a very versatile and easily adaptable system as a stand-alone or as I use it a add-on to my BOB vest! Works for me! GLAHP!

  • OhioEMT October 24, 2016, 10:12 pm

    I run with a full set of ALICE. I prefer the older ALICE set up to the MOLLE systems. I have had most of the same ALICE gear since 1990, and a few more recent purchases added several years ago, when the military dumped a big pile of ALICE onto the market when MOLLE became current issue. ALICE and I go way back, and she has always been good to me. I run a slightly modified GI set up. Instead of the butt pack, I put three mag pouches in its place. These hold food, shelter components, and fire starting materials, as well as spare important items and a back up compass. If the SHTF, it will be the first thing I grab, right after my rifle. Even without my medium ALICE pack, I can store enough stuff for a comfortable two to three days basics. Plus it’s light for traveling, working, and potentially fighting, or avoiding fights.
    ALICE is also vastly cheaper than most MOLLE gear, and is, (IMHO), more durable and long wearing than MOLLE.


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