I remember, "back in the day," when I asked my sergeant how come we don't refer to our gunbelts as "bat belts," because it seemed like we carried as much stuff (if not more) than Batman. He jokingly replied that on Batman's belt, the stuff went on and came off a lot easier. That was true in the late '80s; also in the '90s; it's no longer true today thanks to Duty Smith and their new SpeedSet gunbelt system. Bear in mind as you read this review that I had an early prototype to test (and it performed well), but the design has been upgraded since then. The pictures almost explain how everything works better than words can.
The first thing that I thought about the SpeedSet is that it will face as much challenge being accepted (initially) as nylon did. Leather was the standard for so long that nylon quite often was dismissed simply because "it wasn't pretty enough," or "only SWAT guys can use nylon." A couple decades later and we see nylon widely used for a couple reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it's cheaper than leather. Still, it took a long time for nylon to become "main stream." Duty Smith's SpeedSet will probably face the same challenge, but that challenge is based on narrow-mindedness, not actual performance. THIS review will be about design and performance.
The "heart and soul" of the SpeedSet duty belt is best described as, "an end-to-end light weight rail system." About a year ago I was talking with a representative from BLACKHAWK Products Group, wondering why they hadn't put there CQC system to work in a similar fashion. For whatever reason, they chose not to pursue it, but Duty Smith as with a vengeance. The belt is made from a flexible composite material overlayed with a metal rail system that is only slightly less flexible. The buckle is the smallest I've seen in the industry but locks down tight while leaving extra room in front for equipment.
When I first started as a cop, everyone put their handcuff case(s) in the small of their back. When I had about a decade on, everyone began to realize just how much lower back pain, and potential injury, we were causing ourselves. The result was a wave of change that now has every officer keeping as much gear as possible on the front half of the belt. Given that we are all carrying more than we ever have before, having as much space available up front - without having a loose belt - matters a great deal. That was part of the motivation in the development of the SpeedSet.
Many officers are familiar with the flip-lever mounting system used by LaRue tactical to quickly mount and dismount items from any picatinny rail. Duty Smith uses a similar concept to mount (or dismount) their accessories to the metal rail system that runs the full length of the outer belt surface. Not only does this allow you to quickly reconfigure your belt but it also enables you to do it without having to take the belt off. Currently, their line of accessories, available in plain black or basketweave, includes a collapsible-baton holder, handcuff case, flashlight/OC Cannister pouch, gloves/key holder (enclosed), and a radio pouch. Note they do not make holsters that mount on the speed rail. I used a BLACKHAWK SERPA Level III Duty holster when I tested the SpeedSet. I had no trouble mounting it and, quite honestly, I'd not trust my life to a holster that was lever-mounted on a rail.
With that thought in mind, I felt I needed to test how hard (or easy) it would be to "rip" any of the accessory pouches off the duty belt. I was provided a full belt and accessory set, so I put it all together, mounted my holster and started my testing.
To test the strength of the mounting system, I put the belt on, attached it to my pants belt with four snap-on keepers, and then proceeded to try to push each item down away from me with both hands. In doing this I was stressing the top-mounted lever-lock that secures each pouch to the rail. I was not able to push any of the pouches off, although I did flex the metal rail some.
Next I wanted to test the mounting system in the other direction, so I gragged each item with both hands and pulled the bottom of each one up as hard as I could, trying to peal it away from my body, up and off the belt. Again, no luck.
Satisfied that I wasn't going to be able to "break" it, I wore it for several days at the range, putting it on before leaving the house - as if I was going out on patrol - and not removing it until my "duty day" was complete (at least eight hours). At the completion of the wear testing I had experienced no malfunctions or failures in expectd performance. The belt was as comfortable to wear as my nylon duty belt (if not more so) and although I'm sure there is a measurable weight difference, albeit very slight, I didn't feel it during the wear test period.
All in all I have to give this new gunbelt design two thumbs up. As a brand-new-to-the-market product, I think it's going to come out of the gate strong and run hard for along time. Learn more about it by visiting the DutySmith website.
About The Author:
Lt. Frank Borelli (ret) is the Editor In Chief for Officer.com, and has 30 years of military and civilian law enforcement experience. An instructor since 1989 and having delivered training across the country, he stays active in police work, training, and writing. Frank has had five non-fiction and two fiction books published along with two research papers of specific interest to the law enforcement and/or military communities. All can be found / purchased on his Author Page on Amazon.com linked above. If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email to [email protected].