I’ve been wearing various “operator” belts for a while – for operating, obviously. I started out with a stock rigger’s belt that I had to thread through my belt loops and re-attach each pouch every time I put it on. Then Cobra buckles arrived and actually made my life both harder and easier. I still had to thread everything, and the Cobra buckle was a pain to thread on and off the belt every day. But, it was much easier to unbuckle the belt when nature called, so that was a plus. And in a major advantage over standard rigger’s belts, all the heavy stuff didn’t work its way off the belt while I sat there.
Later I moved up to a High Speed Gear belt. I’m a huge fan of this particular belt because it’s great for throwing on over whatever I’m wearing without having to worry about tucking in my shirt or whether I remembered to wear the inner belt that morning. So when I bought the Eagle belt, it wasn’t because I was dissatisfied with my High Speed Gear belt. No, it was a much more governmental problem. The HSGI belt was in Multicam (which I had worn at a previous unit). My new unit wears NWU Type IIIs – which require a coyote belt per regulations – and I’m not cool enough to be allowed to mix my camouflages. Off I went in search of a new belt…
A quick search of the internet made it apparent that these “operator” belts are all the rage currently. If you haven’t seen one, it’s essentially a Cobra rigger’s belt with MOLLE webbing sewn on. Usually, it also has hook or loop on the inside of the belt that marries up with an inner belt worn through your belt loops (much like law enforcement duty belts have been doing for years). It’s a very solid, minimalist solution that allows an individual to use MOLLE pouches on their belt.
While putting MOLLE pouches on a belt isn’t that earth-shattering, as battle belts have been doing it for years, operator belts are usually much lower profile than standard battle belts. That’s because on standard battle belts, you’re not attaching directly to the belt, you’re usually attaching to a sleeve over the belt. Naturally, when you slide something over a belt to allow attachment, it’s going to be bigger than the belt itself. Not so with operator belts, hence their much lower profile.
I picked the Eagle Operator Belt because of Eagle Industries’ reputation within the tactical industry. I had previously used their plate carrier at another unit and my current unit issues their BALCS armor carrier. They’re certainly not the only manufacturer of operator belts, but I felt their reputation gave me a pretty good chance of satisfaction. Overall, the belt supports their reputation, although there are a few things that I wish they’d improve.
The belt is very well built. It’s two layers of heavy 1.75″ webbing with a Cobra D-ring buckle. The MOLLE is 1″ webbing that’s been folded in half and stitched around the top and bottom of the belt. Like many rigger or battle belts, the inside is lined with loop material.
The thickness makes it nice and stiff, so it should hold up whatever you hang off of it, but it’s not too thick to slide on a Safariland UBL. At one point, I had two pistol mags, two rifle mags, a knife, dump pouch, and 1-quart canteen hanging off it without any issues.
The inner belt is a single layer of heavy webbing with hook material and is trimmed with .5″ binding tape top and bottom. The hook material feels very fine, but not quite smooth to the touch. It grabs the loop material on the belt well.
None of these are deal breakers, just things to be aware of. First, while the stiffness of the belt makes it great for holding gear, it also makes it hard to put the gear on the belt and take it off if you need to reconfigure your belt. I think a lot of the issues stem from having the MOLLE webbing folded over, which makes it a lot stiffer than the MOLLE webbing on your plate carrier or chest rig. It’s less of an issue if you’re using something like a WTFix strap, but if you’re using the standard Eagle style attachments that come with their pouches, getting that button through the webbing is an adventure.
Second, the free end of the outer belt isn’t secured. On most rigger belts, the free end has hook and loop to keep it from sliding through the buckle or flapping around. The Operator Belt’s free end isn’t going to flap, because it goes to the inside of the belt, but because it doesn’t have any hook or loop, it’s possible for it to slip through the buckle when you’re putting it on. It surprises me a little that something this basic was missed through both design and testing.
Third, the inner belt’s binding tape significantly reduces the amount of available hook to grab the outer belt. There’s only about .75″ of hook between the two rows of binding tape. It almost seems like a waste hiding all that other hook under binding tape. It hasn’t caused any issues yet, it’s just something I’ve noticed, but we’ll see what happens once I add a pistol to all the other stuff already on my belt.
After using this belt, I’m beginning to understand why the operator style belts have become so popular. Although I’ll probably have a local shop put some hook and loop on the free end, this belt will definitely be living in my work kit box (at least one of them) from here on out. Time to throw my new Esstac KYWIs on there and get on the range!