I recently found myself in a bit of a conundrum. My fitness regime and nutrition planning resulted in a significant amount of fat loss and changing body proportions. Among the results so far, my long standing MOLLE battle belt no longer fits. I kept making efforts to lighten it up, but it eventually go tto the point of slipping right off my waist. It’s a high quality problem, to be sure, but a problem nonetheless since that belt has been a staple of my gear for over a decade. I wasn’t ready to give up on a standalone belt system, so it was time to look for alternatives.
My first impulse was to pursue a more modern MOLLE belt design in a smaller size. After all, the VTAC belt I’ve been using has been around since at least 2010. However, I also realized that I already have a great modern version as part of my Velocity Systems Jungle Rig. That particular system uses their Operator/Utility Belt, which is just another MOLLE belt.
That got me thinking about inner/outer systems. They’ve gained a lot of popularity and I think have become the new default that gear enthusiasts suggest. Yet, I kept coming back to the same shortfalls and issues I’ve always had with the inner/outer style. Not to mention that I’ve already configured another belt in a similar fashion.
While noodling on this conundrum, I came across a solution produced by Emdom USA. I bought it, configured it, and now I’m ready to talk about it as my new favorite way to battle belt.
This starts with my original tactical belt concept. The idea of that piece of gear was essentially a stiff 1.75″ riggers belt with pouches and holsters mounted directly to the belt. Now, as then, I appreciated how well the belt and equipment hugged into my hips. Pouches didn’t have much up and down play to them at all. However, this belt had two flaws that I needed a way to deal with.
First, threading the pouches on and off the belt every time I wanted to change pants is a pain. It’s doable, but definitely a deterrent to the configuration.
Second, even though the belt configuration did well with vertical slop, there was an issue with some pouches moving horizontally. I know one solution for this is an underside lined with loop material corresponding to hook material on belt pouches, but my belt didn’t have that.
In the last year or so, I’d happened on a solution from HSGI called “Duty Grip.” It let me thread the riggers belt through a padded inner belt, exposing sections belt where I needed a pouch. I could expose just enough to lock the pouch in place horizontally and prevent slop. In all, I’ve really liked this solution and use it as my main range and competition belt.
The downside is that it didn’t work well with my MOLLE pouches, so such a solution wasn’t going to cut it as a battle belt replacement without an entirely new set of pouches.
What about Low Profile MOLLE?
Another of the more recent developments, particularly with inner/outer belts, is low-profile MOLLE loops. This looks like either two rows of half-height MOLLE loop with a one in gap in between, or a single row of 1″ loop.
My issue with this is that you’re not actually getting the full engagement of the MOLLE, and it introduces vertical slop in the pouches unless you use secondary attachment methods like zip ties or one wrap.
I figured there had to be a better solution. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who came up against this problem. Military Morons and Emdom USA tackled this issue back in 2009, and have made revisions to the design over time.
The Emdom USA CM Belt
CM stands for Cingulum Militare, which is the name of the metal-studded belt Roman soldiers wore around their waists. Hanging swords and daggers from the belt was a common practice.
Emdom and Military Moron designed it for many uses. You could use it as an inner belt for a padded outer sleeve, attach pouches directly to it (as I’ve done), or configure it as a full on load bearing harness with suspenders.
The belt itself is a stiff 2″ wide nylon belt. The underside sports a length 1″ loop material stitched along the entire belt. The portions behind the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions are sewn down about every 1.5″, just wide enough to pass MALICE Clips or other molle attachment methods. The sections forward of that are more open, allowing for holster attachments to pass under the loop.
This design does three intelligent things.
First, since the belt is 2″ wide, it takes up exactly two rows of standard MOLLE. When you use a MALICE Clip or whatever, the third loop on the pouch is where the attachment dives back under and holds tight. This means that the pouch is very secure agains the belt with practically no slop.
Second, thanks to the spacing of the loop strip, pouches stay in place horizontally as well.
Third, if I wanted to wear an hook-style inner belt on my pants, the CM belt would cling to it uninterrupted since the MOLLE attachments pass under the loop material.
That’s pretty nifty.
The belt features a polymer ITW Snap Dragon buckle, which is unique in a world where everyone uses Cobra buckles. From my observation, I like the Snap Dragon. It’s easy to use and certainly seems to hold tight. The buckle is replaceable, too, so you could always use whatever you wanted.
Emdom released a pad for the belt in 2013. It’s actually two 13″ sections of 1/4″ thick padding. The pads have hook material stitched along the spine, for attaching to the inner side of the CM belt, as well as closures on each end that wrap around the belt itself.
Emdom designed the pad to work with any duty belt between 2″ and 2.5″ wide, especially if it has a loop underside lining.
I’m not using a harness, but it would be easy to add by looping around the belt itself and under the loop sections to hold the position. The pad would continue to work as normal.
Putting it to Use
I set my CM belt up similar to my standard battle belt profile. The only exception was less “space,” owing to my purchasing a smaller belt overall due to weight loss. This effectively cost me one slot of “utility space” from the old configuration.
As configured, it still has two pistol magazines, a rifle magazine, dump pouch, IFAK, canteen/utility pouch, holster, and space for a TQ.
To put it bluntly, I’m very happy with this new belt setup. It’s lower profile than the previous version, fits and moves well, and allows me all of the flexibility I enjoy about the battle belt configuration.
Furthermore, it’s also upgradable to a full LBE harness should I ever decide that’s what I want to do with it. Though, frankly, that’s unlikely given that I already own four full LBE harnesses.
I still need to make a few tweaks to things like my holster attachment. The one currently mounted is fine, but rides higher than I like. That’s not the belt’s fault, though, but rather just me needed to spend money on another component from the holster manufacturer.
Wrap Up and Downsides
I’ve done a lot of experimentation by this point, and have developed a taste for what works and doesn’t for me. As of now, I can’t find anything about this belt that doesn’t work well from a functional standpoint. This is very likely my new standard to share with others.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that while Emdom designs all of their gear in-house (and Ken, the owner is very talented at it), they do have it actually sewn overseas. That leads to some unpredictable lead times if its not actually in stock. Even if all of the Emdom gear I have seems exceptionally well-made, I know buying Made in USA is important to a lot of folks.
That said, this is one version of a belt produced by one company. You can find 2″ nylon duty belts made with heavy SCUBA webbing or other stuff pretty easily from HSGI, Safariland, and others. But as far as I know, they don’t have the sewn in loops on the inner side to keep things in position.
So where to go from here? Well, I suppose the next step is to go back and update my battle belt article with this new configuration. In my opinion, the thicker duty belt with attached pouches is way to go for anyone looking to set up their battle belt. MOLLE is fine, but this just works better.