In 2009 we deployed to the Helmand province with these massive old IOTV bulletproof vests. Once we arrived, we promptly traded these massive sweatshirt-like vests for the lighter, slimmer, and higher speed Eagle plate carriers. Going from IOTV to plate carrier resulted in losing a lot of space to mount gear, so our guys turned to make war belts. They chopped off the bottom of their old LBVs and used it as a MOLLE belt. We might not have invented war belts, but that’s where I saw the craze begin. We are a little luckier these days, and we have dedicated, purpose-built belts like the Sentry Gunnar Low Profile Operator Belt.
That’s a mouthful to say, so let’s call it the Sentry Gunnar belt. These belts have become more and more popular and also have shrunk in size considerably. The original war belts, or battle belts, or whatever else you call them, were quite large. Like flak jackets, they’ve shrunk and become more compact and better suited to modern gear. Sentry is well known for producing high-quality and innovative tactical gear, so the addition of a belt just makes sense.
Why a Belt?
Why would you mount gear to a belt over a plate carrier? Plate carriers have improved since the old Eagle models, and they can often accommodate a fighting load on their own. Mounting gear to a belt does keep things skinny and often compact.
Gear mounted to the Sentry Gunnar belt is easier to reach in kneeling and prone positions. You can also remove your belt when crossing waist to chest-deep water without soaking your ammo, medical gear, electronics, and more.
In a situation where you have a wounded arm, you can remove your belt and easily access your medical kit regardless of what happened to you. Oh, and you can have your gear on hand without having to wear body armor. While most people will use the belt for tactical applications, there is no reason it couldn’t be used for a half dozen different applications. It can carry field gear for a hike, gear for search and rescue operations, gear for wildland firefighters, and so many other tasks that require gear, but not a plate carrier.
Belts like the Sentry Gunnar offer a huge advantage to carrying gear.
The Sentry Gunnar in Action
The Sentry Gunnar belt is a low profile, minimalist option for carrying gear. It’s 1.75 inches wide and is quite thick and supportive. The internal layer features a good level of hook and loop material to attach to an inner belt. The inner belt goes through your normal belt loops, and the Sentry Gunnar goes around it. The combination results in a highly supportive belt that can take a lot of weight and gear without slipping downwards.
The Gunnar belt is adorned with a ton of MOLLE slots. This allows you to mount gear all the way around the belt. Near the buckles, there are two sections on either side that allow you to run gear horizontally rather than vertically. This opens up some options for attaching gear in an area that would traditionally hang awkwardly in front of the legs. Running it horizontally instead of vertically eliminates this awkwardness.
The belt slots are laser cut and extremely tight to the belt itself. It’s not easy to slide things between the loops, but that means it’s not easy for things to slide out of these loops. The tight nature makes the loops ultra-supportive of heavy gear, which is necessary when only two MOLLE slots exist.
The belt is incredibly comfortable, and the internal belt is optional, but I suggest it if you intend to be running, diving, and climbing with the belt and gear on. The Gunnar belt is outfitted with a Cobra belt buckle that ensures the belt stays put and cannot accidentally un-attach.
Belts and Boots
The Sentry Gunnar belt is an outstanding option for a war belt or general gear belt. The low profile design makes it incredibly versatile for nontactical applications. The next time I go to a controlled burn, this belt will carry my fire shelter, radio, knife, and water bottle instead of my old school chest rig. It’s lighter, easy to work around, and provides you with a superbly secure means to mount and carry gear.