(Originally written 06-01-09)
Always trying something new.
I often use training classes as a test bed for testing guns, gear, and accessories. At carbine courses in the past I usually wore my SWAT gear or some sort of body armor, plate carrier, or chest rig that I was testing at the time.
At Pat Rogers' 3 day Carbine Operator's Course last month I decided to change gears and try a padded belt system and suspenders.
I have used several different padded belt systems over the years, from the old Eagle Industries Military Web Belt Pad to current padded belt designs. Padded belt systems have never worked well for me. My main complaints about all the padded belt systems I have used is they all tend to be bulky, cumbersome, moved around too much, had a tendency to ride up in the area of the back or on my support side, and weren't all that comfortable.
Because I never found a padded belt system that worked for me, I have always used a Wilderness Instructor's Belt to hold up my pants and directly attach my tactical holster and thigh mounted gas mask pouch directly to the Wilderness Instructor's Belt, as is illustrated in this pic from Pat Rogers' 2007 carbine course:
(Photo Credit - Zak Smith Demigod LLC. - Pic used with permission)
Having the holster and other gear mounted directly to my trouser belt provides a stable platform, but fatigues and causes discomfort to the hips and lower back after being worn for several hours.
Recently I acquired a Blue Force Gear SOC-C Lightweight Duty Belt, SOC-C Modular Padded Belt, and SOC-C Low Profile Suspenders and figured I would run this set up during all 3 days of Pat Rogers' carbine course.
All 3 pieces of the Blue Force Gear padded belt system were typical Blue Force Gear top notch quality (in construction, materials, features, and design). The padded belt had enough padding to be comfortable, but not so much that it was overly bulky or cumbersome. The underside of the padded belt and low profile suspenders is lined with a mesh material to aid with cooling / wicking, the outer side of the padded belt is lined with two rows of MOLLE webbing.
The padded belt has a lot of adjustment and is easy to adjust. I wear a 29" waist Levis and I still have approximately 4" of adjustment left (I have the belt system adjusted so I have just enough room to fit it over a light jacket).
The lightweight duty belt attaches to the padded belt and is held firmly in place with Velcro. Once attached and adjusted the duty belt and padded belt feel like itís one belt, not two seperate belts.
The low profile suspenders are comfortable, low profile enough to be worn under armor without discomfort, and feature an elastic yoke that kept the belt from riding up in the back when doing a lot of movement (ie. prone to standing, kneeling to standing, running, etc).
After running the Blue Force Gear SOC-C padded belt system and suspenders for all 3 days of Pat's class, I found the system was extremely comfortable, I had no issues with fatigue or discomfort in my hips or lower back, easy to don / easy to dof, the belt didnĎt move around, the suspenders were very comfortable (almost didnít even notice them).
Definitely changed my opinion on padded belt systems, and probably one of the most comfortable gear systems I have ever run in a training class.
The entire belt system as I used it for Pat's class:
Underside, note the mesh material. Very comfortable:
Adjustment under the lumbar pad:
To attach the duty belt to the padded belt, you just lift up the Velcro outer flaps on the padded belt. Also note the extra piece of Velcro on the flap, it attaches to the Velcro strip on the Safariland 6004:
Pics from the May 2009 EAG Tactical Carbine Operator's Course:
In August of 2009 I received the armor package for the SOC-C padded belt system, as I was changing out the foam I pull out my digital calipers and here's what I found: Foam - .371" Armor- .264" I can notice a slightly slimmer profile with the armor (over the foam pads). The armor also makes the belt a little more rigid, which should support heavier loads better, the armor doesn't seem to have any effect on comfort (but this is just my initial impression of the armor insert) ... overall I prefer the belt with the armor inserts.
In late September (2009) I attended a LMS Defense 2 day carbine course. Something that was noted in the class was that there was a lot of students running simular guns or simular gear.
4 out of 8 students were running the Blue Force Gear SOC-C padded belt system. I ran the SOC-C padded belt in Pat Rogers' class in May (2009) and ran the belt again in the LMS Defense carbine course, but this time I had the armor package in the belt.
After wearing armor in several different forms over the last 2 decades (law enforcement and military), armor usually means added weight, added bulk, added heat, and decrease in comfort.
This wasn't the case with the armor package on the SOC-C belt. The armor package is just slightly thinner than the padding that comes with the belt, I noticed no heat issues and temps were in the 80's both days, I didn't notice any difference in weight (the armor package probably weighs more than the padding that comes with the belt, but when I wore the belt for 2 days, I didn't notice any difference in weight) and I had no comfort issues with the armor package. I actually perfer the belt with the armor package over the belt without the armor package.
All 4 of these students were wearing the Blue Force Gear SOC-C padded belt system: