1st Line Gear
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1st line gear usually consists of the bare essentials:
what's carried in your BDU pockets and belt kit (pistol, spare mags, survival equipment).
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9/16/16 - Hawkrigger hails from the United Kingdom and specializes in belts for outdoor pursuits, active wear, and military ops. Featured here are four of their belts; each one is made of using metal hardware of their own design, quality raw materials and are equally suited for hard or casual wear.
Hawkrigger - Hawkrigger was founded in 2015, and was set up to produce high quality gear for Military personnel, Emergency Rescure Services, and outdoor enthusiasts for tactical, every day wear or active pursuits. At the time of this writing, Hawkrigger belts are hand-assembled by the owner, Stuart, who is a long-time outdoor enthusiast who wanted to start a home business that would also serve as practical, innovative and creative outlet for him. While he chose a career that led him down a different path from his early interests in Metalwork and Art, starting Hawkrigger has allowed him to return to his love of design. He spent 20 years in South Africa, having abseiled headfirst off all kinds of things in his youth, which influenced his decision to start make rigger's belts. He also wanted to make a product that everyone could use. He worked out of a small studio with two industrial sewing machines. The buckles are manufactured to Stuart's design in the UK.
As for the name 'Hawkrigger', Stuart used the name-gen technique of writing down every word associated with his business and combined them in different sequences until he found a name that he liked. In this case, it was Blackhawk helicopter/rigger's belt to get 'Hawkrigger'.
Note that Hawkrigger belts are not intended for climbing, rappelling, or fall arrest. While Hawkrigger belts and hardware are designed to EN Standards for work positioning belts, they have not been certified as such. If you do need a work positioning belt for work on a regular basis, do get one that's designed and certified as such.
The belts, and buckle design - Hawkrigger currently offers webbing in Black and Coyote Brown. Hawkrigger metal hardware is custom made in the UK for Hawkrigger and comes in Matte Black PVD Hard Coat or a tumbled stainless finish, with Hawkrigger logos and markings laser etcehd into their surface. Belts can be had with or without side adjustment. All metal hardware have no sharp corners or edges. All belts come package neatly on a thick plastic hang-tag/card, and the webbing has a heat-transfer label on it.
Rather than utilizing off-the-shelf 1-3/4" parachute adjusters, which Stuart felt was a bit wide for use with normal trouser belt loops, Stuart decided to go with 1.5" webbing which fits most pants, and is more practical for every day use. He also looked at other available 1.5" hardware, and wanted to come up with something better than what he saw. He then came up with his own cinch buckle design consisting of a main buckle body and an 'O-ring' (the second piece in front of the main buckle body), that was a variation on a climbing harness cinch buckle. Stuart also designed variations of that basic buckle so he can mix and match components and create different configurations for different needs.
The basic SI (Standard Issue) Belt is not featured here. The SI belt is a leisure style belt that has a triglide buckle through which the webbing end can be doubled back for extra security.
Talon belt - The Talon Belt is leisure-style belt, based on climber's 'crash mat' style hooks (just like the ITW G-Hook) where the buckle has a hook that attaches to a sewn loop end, negating the need to thread a loose end through a buckle. Shown here are is a Talon belt in Black webbing with the tumbled stainless buckle. The Talon has a side adjuster with molded loop and tip end (which is sewn on). I liked the convenience of not having to adjust the belt every time I unhooked it; but not having a continuous loop meant that the sewn loop end would sometimes slip out through the belt loop when sitting down on the toilet and I'd just have to thread it back through afterwards. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend using it for pistol CCW as a holster might slip off the end at an inopportune time. That being said, it's a great everyday wear belt and very comfortable.
SF Rigger belt - The SF Rigger belt is based on the classic riggers belt style as used by the United States Marines, who now wear colour-coded rigger's belts instead of the old web belt, indicating their level of proficiency in the Marine Corp Martial Arts Program. Shown here are a Coyote Brown SF Rigger belt with side adjuster, and a Black SF Rigger with side adjuster D-ring option. The SF Rigger buckle is a two-piece design, having a main buckle body and an 'O-ring', which acts as a cinch that locks down on the loose end of the webbing. The side adjustment triglide is stitched in. The black belt also has an additional triangular D-ring incorporated into the side adjuster. Note that the side adjuster on the Coyote belt is a triglide, and the side-adjuster/D-ring on the black belt is actually a buckle O-ring and D-ring to make up the adjuster. The side adjuster width is about 1.8" so it'll still squeeze through most 1.5" belt loops. The main buckle and O-ring are about 2.1" wide.
The nice thing about the D-ring on the side adjuster is that it folds flat or flips out, and snaps into place and retains that position due to its square cross section. No velcro strap is needed to keep it stowed, unlike round cross-section D-rings.
Outrigger belt - The Outrigger Belt is based on the 'Smokejumpers' or 'Wildland Fire' style belts used by firefighters who parachute into forest fire situations. The Outrigger is the same as the SF Rigger belt except that the D-ring main buckle. The main buckle has a triangular D-ring loop on it; the O-ring arrangment is the same as on the SF Rigger buckle. It's illustrated here in black webbing and tumbled stainless finish hardware.
Cobra Delta Belt - The Cobra Delta belt is shown here in Coyote Brown webbing and stainless hardware, with side adjustment D-ring. It uses Austrialpin's popular COBRA quick release buckle in a 1.5" fixed (non-adjustable) version. The Cobra Delta belt would be for the person who want the convenience of a quick-release buckle and doesn't want to thread the loose end of webbing through a buckle every time the pant is donned and doffed. Another advantage to that is the length stays pre-adjusted. I was able to squeeze male Cobra buckle through belt loops 2" wide, but it's actually easier and faster just to remove it from the belt and pass the loose end through the loops, then re-attach the buckle.
Sizing - Based on my measured waist size of about 32-33", I requested size 'small'. I would recommend ordering the belts with the optional side adjuster, so the belt can be adjusted such that the optimal length of loose end threads through the buckle. Too short, and it's more difficult to pull through. Too long, and it just gets in the way. I measured that the Small size belt and found that it could be adjusted to accommodate a waist as large as 42", and adjust down to half that (small enough to fit a child).
Observations/Notes - Stuart contacted me out of the blue one day, wondering if I'd be interested in taking a look at some of his products. Before looking at the Hawkrigger website, I was initially hesitant because Hawkrigger's in the UK (I typically stick to U.S.-based companies since some U.S. customers don't want to pay extra overseas shipping charges), and I've got more belts than I can use. Plus, I seldom wear belts anymore, let alone rigger's belts as my daily wear pant is the Prana Stretch Zion pant, which has its own waist adjustment webbing. However, after visiting the Hawkrigger website, I saw that the Hawkrigger belts weren't the overbuilt, stiff and thick rigger's belt that were suitable mostly for tactical use, nor were they thin web belts. The Hawkrigger belts filled the gap between the two, by providing belts that are more substantial and functional than your average pant webbing belt, but not so thick and bulky as to be impractical for every day, casual use. The buckles were also unique-looking, so I became intrigued.
I replied to Stuart, and also mentioned that I'd also like to have more info that was on the website; to explain the differences between the belts. Much to my surprise, Stuart replied the next day that he had made a video for me, with some background on the belts and the design thoughts behind them. That kind of responsiveness can only come from a small manufacturer, in my experience, so it gave me the first clue that Stuart was both boss and employee at Hawkrigger. The other clue had to do with the elastic loop that retains the loose end of the belt. On the Hawkrigger website, I didn't see any featured in any of the photos, and when wearing pant belts, having a hanging loose end is one of my small pet peeves. I mentioned this to Stuart, and he liked the idea. I asked him to send out a few belts that he'd like me to feature, and he sent out a package the very next day. The package arrived on my U.S. doorstep four days later, which seemed very quick! When I opened the package, I noticed that all the belts had come with matching elastic loops for the loose ends. Stuart had made them up right before shipping out the package; the very day I brought them up. The ability to do that so quickly was the second clue that he was a small operation and able to fabricate and do modifications in-house. It turned out that 'in house' was literal, as Hawkrigger is based out of Stuart's home, and he was indeed the boss, sewer, quality control inspector, designer, packager, shipper, clean up guy and who knows what else.
Stuart's attention to detail and presentation was obvious when I received my samples. The belts were attached to sturdy, professional-looking, attractively designed plastic display cards, rather than in a plastic bag or unpackaged. Another nice touch was the business card attached with a short length of red 550 cord. Don't throw either of these away; untie the 550 cord and re-attach it as either of them make great bookmarks. A heat transfer label on the inside of the belts with the size clearly marked was another professional touch.
Upon inspection, I noticed that the webbing had vertical ribbing/texture, which adds some rigidity to the webbing without it being stiff and uncomfortable. One of my complaints with some stiff rigger's belts are that they're sometimes uncomfortable on the hips as they don't conform as well to the body. I realize that some folk want rigger's belts as gun belts, but they don't necessarily make the best gun belts either, as threading on holsters and pouches can be a pain if the webbing is too thick. A web belt doesn't have to be stiff and heavy; it just has to be strong, and have enough shape for its intended purpose. The buckles were also nicely finished with rounded edges and no sharp corners. Stitching was straight and neat, and the heat-cut ends of the webbing ends had rounded-off corners so they wouldn't be sharp.
I really like the O-ring design of the buckle, as it cinches up very solidly with no slippage when tension is applied. The ribbed texture on the webbing actually contributes to this; but also makes it a bit harder to cinch the belt up tightly on that last tug. The simple solution, I found, was just to take a breath and suck in the gut a bit when making that last pull, and the belt would be as tight as needed. Another thing I noticed was that the ribbed texture helped keep the loose end from slipping out of the buckle when I loosened up the belt to don and doff the pants. I adjusted the length of the belt so that I would not have to unthread the loose end of the belt when putting my pants on (or taking it off). I just left a couple of inches in the buckle, and it never slipped out. This can be useful should you use the belt for carrying a paddle holster or pouches. I've heard anecdotes of people's gun belts slipping out of their pant belt loops to have the pistol clatter on the bathroom floor when they were sitting on the throne doing their #2. That's why it's good to keep the belt a closed loop.
I tried out a couple of holsters (inside the pants, and a pancake holster) with the Hawkrigger belts and a Glock 19, and they worked very well. No digging into my hips or folding over of the webbing. CCW-type of holsters typically don't require belts to be super rigid or thick; but the webbing can't be too thin such that it folds over or sags. The Hawkrigger webbing is thick/stiff enough to support a light weight, compact pistol and maybe a magazine or two. I wouldn't hang a full size 1911 with belt loops off them, though, or rifle mags. They're not designed as a battle belt for hanging a bunch of pouches off. The Hawkrigger belts would make a great belt for a CCW pistol class. I'd recommend getting the adjustable D-ring option as it's handy for hanging gloves or hearing protectors from (with a carabiner).
As mentioned above, Hawkrigger belts are not certified as work positioning belts; the only tactical riggers belt I know that's certified is the Arc'teryx H.150. All other riggers belts I have aren't certified either. However, I don't think I'd hesitate to use any of the ones I have in an emergency. The webbing and buckles will hold more than my body can take. Just for kicks, I snapped a carabiner on a couple of the Hawkrigger belt D-rings and suspended myself briefly from a rope and Black Diamond ATC. As expected, it wasn't comfortable since it wasn't a harness, and nothing happened. The webbing doesn't slip through the Hawkrigger buckles; it is cinched solidly. The adjustment loop actually doesn't have to be sewn, but it is.
Shipping etc - For those of us living in the U.S., I know that some are wary about shipping from overseas. Stuart has made an effort to make ordering as competitive as possible, and has discounted/absorbed some of the international shipping cost himself. Shipping/handling from the UK to the U.S. is $11.93 tracked and signed for, and arrives in 5-7 days. There are also no duty or taxes (unless the order is over $800 USD).
I like to support small companies as well as the larger ones - it all boils down to the quality and design of the gear (for me). Hawkrigger belts do not disappoint if you're looking for a quality, semi-custom, hand-assembled product. Or just good, functional belts to hold up your pants and hang your keys or gloves from.
5/3/19 - 38 Grapple Gun Belt - The 38 Grapple Gun belt is an evolution of Hawkrigger's Grapple EDC Belt, but made stiffer to support the weight of a pistol (either worn outside or inside the waist band). The 38 Grapple Gun belt is a double layer belt made of US-made Berry Compliant 1.5" (38mm - hence the '38 in the name) wide scuba webbing, coupled with Hawkrigger's stainless steel G-Hook Grapple buckle. The G-Hook buckle on the Grapple is different from the one on the previously featured Talon, with a slightly more 'aggressive' look (if a buckle could indeed look aggressive), and an angled cant in the eye of the hook to reduce the possibility of it unhooking accidentally.
The 38 Grapple is available in with Black, Coyote Brown or Wolf Grey webbing, so I chose the grey for this review. The belt arrived neatly coiled, held together as shown above with paracord and a lace lock. All Hawkrigger belts are made to order, and will be sized to provide a practical adjustment range. The 38 Grapple Gun Belt is made of one continuous length of scuba webbing looped back on itself and sewn together with four horizontal rows of stitching for about 3/4" of its length (when worn). The rows of stitching end in vertical bartacks at each end. The tail end of the belt is retained by an elastic loop.
The belt is currently available in the 'right hand' configuration shown below. By 'right hand', I mean that the stitched side is on the right and the adjustment end is on the left. The double-thickness webbing is much stiffer when sewn together and less susceptible to rolling. The buckle is also 'right handed' putting the adjustment end on the left, or else the G-hook would be upside down. Now, I've worn it flipped over so that the stitched side is on my left, but I'm not sure whether I liked the buckle with the opening up, although I never had an issue with the loop coming out.
Worn as a regular every day belt, the 38 Grapple Gun belt is comfortable even though it's stiffer than the belts with softer, more compliant webbing. I didn't feel any discomfort while wearing it or digging at my hips; something that can happen with very stiff belts.
For use as a gun belt, that's where stifness, strength, security of the buckle are more of a consideration than just everyday use. With the G-Hook, you possibly give up some security for convenience (vs. a Cobra buckle, or thread-through buckle, or leather belt with holes etc). I say possibly because I've never had the loop fall off the Grapple G-Hook in the past could of months of use, even when jumping up and down with a gun to try to dislodge the loop from the hook. For it to fall out, the tension on the belt would have to be relieved and the loop end pushed down somehow to allow it to fall out of the slot. The updated design of the Grapple hook is designed to prevent this with its angled cant in the eye of the hook.
While not as stiff (or as bulky) as some thick gun belts, the 38 Grapple Gun Belt is definitely supportive enough for most IWB (inside waist band) holsters. For OWB (outside waist band) holsters, this is going to depend on the weight of the handgun and type of holster used. I've illustrated it below with a Kahr Arms CW9 worn in a Vedder Light Tuck IWB holster, and a full size 1911 in Yaqui-style OWB belt slide holster (I stole a left-handed Grapple buckle from another Hawkrigger belt so I flipped the belt over). The CW9 is a very compact and light weight pistol so it's perfect for the Grapple Gun Belt, which provides more support than a simple web belt. I stuck a full size 1911 in the Yaqui just as an experiment to see how well the Grapple handles a heavier pistol worn outside the waist band and it seems quite secure and stable, given the set up. A Yaqui-style holster is a minimalist design and better suited to pistol with shorter barrels than a full sized 1911, like a Commander or Officer's. I did not observe any folding or rolling of the belt,
The Grapple Belt is well suited for IWB CCW, or light range/open carry use with an OWB holster. It's not designed or intended to be used as a duty belt with a lot of pouches hanging off it. You can, however, be assured of another very well-made, high quality and well-presented product from Hawkrigger.
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