My Aching Back: What’s On Your Gun Belt?

Admit it. You’ve complained at least once in your life about having to carry, lift, push, or pull something heavy while at work. Right? Well, try this on for size…suppose your boss told you that from this day forward you’d be required to wear a bowling ball strapped to your waist for each of your entire 8-hour shifts. Pretty crazy, huh? But not so crazy for patrol officers, because that’s exactly the weight they carry around their waists each and every day throughout their career. And that’s not including the heavy and cumbersome bullet-resistant vest tucked neatly under those ever-so-stylish uniform shirts.

So what’s on those duty belts that weighs so much? For starters…

Pistols are loaded with (depending on make and model) up to 16 rounds, or so. That’s approximately 1/3 of a box of bullets. (15 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. Cops always carry a round in the chamber. That slide-racking thing you see on TV is exactly that…for TV only!)

Some magazines contain 15 rounds. Therefore, 2 extra magazines = 30 rounds. 30 + the 16 in the pistol = 46 rounds. A full box of bullets = 50 rounds.

Radio w/clip-on external mic and speaker

Radio w/out external mic and speaker

Rechargeable metal flashlight

Some officers carry two sets of handcuffs. Others opt for one.

Two types of cuffs. Most officers carry the chain-link cuffs because they’re easiest to apply during a scuffle. Hinged cuffs are normally used when transporting prisoners, because the hinge design limits hand and wrist movement.

Two handcuff cases. Handcuffs are normally worn at the center of the lower back to enable easy reach with either hand.

The thin leather straps with the shiny silver snaps (between the handcuff cases) are called belt keepers. They’re used to attach the gun belt to the officer’s regular belt (the one used to hold up their pants). Keepers loop around both the gun belt and the regular belt, and are then snapped into place to prevent the gun belt from falling down. No fun when your gun belt falls to your ankles while chasing a bad guy!

Handcuff keys are available in several designs. However, they’re universal and each work on all standard cuffs. The bottom key in the above photo is the factory default key that comes with each new set of cuffs. The others are purchased separately, if wanted/needed.

Most officers now carry expandable batons, meaning a quick flick of the wrist and hand extends a hidden, telescoping length of baton. The end of the baton features a solid tip that maximizes the power of the baton when used for striking.

Suddenly that briefcase feels a little lighter, huh?


12 thoughts on “My Aching Back: What’s On Your Gun Belt?

  • Kev

    Those are just the basics, right? Some officers add a cell-phone case (or 2), key ring(s) when they’re out of the vehicle, remote control for the door on a K9 unit…

  • Shaun 'Hunchbak' D'souza

    Is it necessary for a cop to carry a taser, gun and pepper spray all at once?

  • Lee Lofland

    Right, these are the basics. Other items could include, a pouch for gloves, a knife (for cutting seat belts, etc.), a mini flashlight, and as you say, remote for the door or window for canines, cell phone, etc. There are numerous possibilities.

    Shaun – A firearm is an absolute must have. Not all officers carry Tasers, but if they do they’d be in addition to pepper spray. What works in one instance may not in the next.

  • Pat Marinelli

    Truthfully, I’m surprised all that stuff doesn’t weight more and I can’t imagine carrying it around all day. I imagine it isn’t comfortable driving in a squad car all day with it either. Don’t even want to think about the poor female officers who must remove it all when they need a Ladies room.

  • Deputy Jon N

    Thanks for posting this it really opens the eyes of people wondering what we carry. I carry all this plus a cellphone a knife attached to the inside of the belt plus my keys. Then there is the fact of the vest i wear the notepads in my shirt my pens, badge, name tag all of my gear i wear for work weighs about 24 pounds.

  • Lee Lofland

    Thanks for stopping by, Deputy Jon. Folks, that’s 1.5 bowling balls he’s carrying around every day.

  • Robin Burcell

    Are you sure that’s all it weighs? Some days, I’d swear it was about 25 lbs.

    One thing I did was move everything to the front and side, nothing on the back whatsoever. If anything pressed on the back, it hit my sacroiliac nerve. My right side was nothing but the gun and two magazines. Left was the cuff case (single, kept the second pair in my briefcase), pepper spray, exp. baton, and a Stinger flashlight. If I worked nights, I carried a large Streamlight in my sap pocket.

    I kept Latex gloves in my trunk, but carried a paper envelope with two in my pocket (which eliminated the glove case from the belt.) I carried note cards in my top shirt pocket, which eliminated the notebook most cops keep in their back pants pocket. Keys went in my pocket, because they made too much noise hanging from the belt.

    And don’t forget the weight of the ballistic vest, with the shock plate.

    I can tell you this, though. You get used to it, until you no longer have to wear it. Nothing like working detectives, where all you have to carry is a gun in a holster, extra magazine and cuffs. Lightweight stuff! And a nice break until you get assigned some special detail where you have to suit up in full uniform and gun belt. And you end up with bruises on both your hips because you’re no longer used to it! (Not so bad when you’re driving around a patrol car, but if you’re working some detail where you’re on your feet for 8-10 hours! Your hip bones scream in pain!)

  • Wally Lind

    Well, since the boys and girls in Afghanistan are carrying around a lot more weight (as we did in Vietnam), my heart bleeds piss water for detectives. Patrol officers catch a break in my estimation because at least soldiers don’t have to carry that gunbelt for 20 damn years.

  • John

    In Asheville NC, patrol officers carry a single weapon. K-9 officers carry a double holster with a Taser in the second.

  • Lee Lofland

    Interesting, John. So no patrol officers carry Tasers? Any idea of the reasoning?

  • Lee Lofland

    I know what you mean, Robin. I thought mine weighed closer to 25lbs too. We weighed the one in the photo above, though, and it was 15 lbs without the flashlight.

  • Sasscer Hill

    When I was at Colonial Downs Racetrack this summer, in New Kent County, VA, the county police officers had all of the above, and an extra radio and microphone. The extra one was provided by and tuned into racetrack security.

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