Mean Gene Leather Belts for Everyday Carry Dependability
Mean Gene Leather Belts for Everyday Carry Dependability
Mean Gene is back! While I can’t help thinking of a movie sequel with that statement, I’m of course referring to Gene Higdon, formerly of HSGI (High Speed Gear, Inc.)
While it’s true that Gene recently started a new company, Mean Gene Leather, he’s actually getting back to his roots. Gene got his start as a saddle maker working with leather before founding HSGI. It was interesting to say the least when Gene told me about this a few years ago and it’s apparent where his designs at HSGI were influenced by his knowledge working with leather.
Today, Gene is hard at work making exceptional leather belts strong enough to support your concealed carry sidearm and beautiful enough to be worn with just about anything. There are currently two main models that MGL is producing, a traditional leather belt dubbed the Shooter’s Belt and the Barbarian Belt, which is an “old meets new” take on a leather belt using an AustriAlpin COBRA® Buckle.
There’s also a new belt Gene is working on, but we’ll get into that later in the article. What I’d like to do first is speak directly to the two belts I’ve purchased from Gene and provide my feedback after having some time wearing them on a daily basis.
Just to address this up front, Gene is taking orders directly, but he’s also taken on some dealers to help distribute his belts. While Gene is hard at work on a MGL website, there’s currently no way to order directly other than via email. He does have a Facebook Page set up and that’s the best way to find his contact information and stay up to date with the latest info.
MGL Shooter’s Belt
As mentioned, each belt is handmade using US made premium top-grain natural and dyed leather. The edges are burnished and saddle butter is applied to the finished product. What adds to the strength of the Shooter’s Belt is an invisible nylon webbing reinforcement between the two layers of leather. Using a 7/8 oz inner layer of leather and an 8/9 oz outer layer of leather brings the overall thickness of the belt to just around 1/4”.
The interior layer of nylon webbing not only adds strength, but reduces the stretching and sagging usually associated with leather belts. I’ve actually experienced this sagging with full nylon belts and I’m sure you can relate to this as well.
Each layer of the belt is laminated with industrial adhesive and sewn using #277 bonded nylon thread. The buckle options are typically solid brass or chromed brass with matching Chicago Screws used to attach it. As you can see in our photos, Gene was able to powder coat a buckle and hardware in black for my belt. Using Chicago Screws also allows the buckle to be removed and replaced with another buckle if you choose to. I opted for a 1.5” width on my belt, but MGL also has a 1.75” width available.
The Shooter’s Belt is available in Black and also a Chocolate Brown. MGL mentions that their sizing is based on the size pants you wear, so order accordingly if you’ll be carrying concealed. Something worth mentioning here is that I ordered a 34” belt originally from Gene, being that I buy a 34” size pant to accommodate concealed carry.
This wound up being just a bit small and I had to wear it on the last adjustment hole while carrying. I stepped up to a 36” belt and it was good to go. As a side note, with the Barbarian Belt that I’m about to talk about, the 34” size was perfect.
I’ve really loved the strength, rigidity and thickness of the MGL Shooter’s Belt and it’s one of my favorite belts I own. The 1/4” thickness did take some time to get used to, especially considering that the thickest part of the belt near the buckle is right at 1” and I typically appendix carry.
It was just a matter of perspective though, I don’t print any more than I was with previous belts, but I equate it to when you first start carrying and have that subconscious “I’m printing!” feeling all the time. I just had to get over that. You can always shift the buckle over if you’re using a cover garment too.
MGL Barbarian Belt
As with the Shooter’s Belt, the handmade Barbarian Belts feature the same US made premium top-grain natural and dyed leather. The edges are burnished and saddle butter is applied to the finished product.
Using the same interior nylon webbing support that the Shooter’s belt features between its two layers, the Barbarian Belt actually has cut points along the belt where the 1” webbing leaves the interior and creates the attachment and adjustment for the AustriAlpin Cobra Buckle. This “old meets new” style of the Barbarian Belt is an awesome evolution to see from Gene in the industry.
Rather than the tail of the belt overlapping the belt and running through the sewn keeper like the Shooter’s belt does, the Barbarian tail routes through the keeper and behind the belt. The adjustable webbing from the Cobra Buckle then passes underneath a series of two cuts in the belt to create a keeper in the belt itself. This is also the exit point for that internal support webbing to create the adjustable tail with the integration of the adjustable side of the Cobra Buckle.
The same 7/8 oz inner layer of leather and 8/9 oz outer layer of leather are used on the Barbarian Belt, bringing the overall thickness of the belt to just around 1/4”. Each layer of the belt is also laminated with industrial adhesive and sewn using #277 bonded nylon thread.
Buckle options for the Barbarian Belt are exclusively black for the Black and Chocolate Brown belts with black 1” nylon webbing, but Gene has some photos on his Facebook page of a natural leather belt using coyote 1” webbing and a coyote AustriAlpin Cobra Buckle. The sizing for the Barbarian Belt is the just like the Shooter’s Belt mentioned above, it’s based on your pants size. Just to reiterate here, I found that to be true to size with the size 34” pants I wear to accommodate my concealed carry.
I’ve used belts in the past that utilize Cobra Buckles and have reviewed them on ITS as well and my one hang up with this is that with the sizing on most pant belt loops, it requires taking off the adjustable (male) side of the buckle to weave the belt through the loops and then reattach it. It’s not a lengthy process, just one I wanted to mention for those who aren’t familiar with Cobra Buckles on a belt.
I’m really digging the Barbarian Belt and with its more overt nature utilizing the Cobra Buckle, I’ve found myself using it more for the range or times when I need the stability of the Cobra Buckle. I would like to note that the tail from the Barbarian Belt will fall slightly depending on where it sits on your belt loops. With it running “behind” the belt like I mentioned, once it gets past the integrated keeper you’ll need one of your pant belt loops to hold it up or it will fall slightly below your belt line.
This is just due to the weight of the belt resting on your hips causing the tail to fall. My theory here is that if the integrated keeper was a bit tighter it might prevent this from happening, but I can see why Gene didn’t want to do that, as it would make it more difficult to thread the belt through said keeper. An elastic keeper could also be added, but I don’t feel like the tail is an issue. I just wanted to mention it for those that might have seen it in the photo above where I’m wearing the Barbarian Belt.
The new project from Mean Gene Leather I alluded to earlier in the article, is called the MGL Victory Aegis Belt. Gene has combined his handcrafted leather belts with the awesome Aegis Buckle from Ares Gear, LLC.
The made in the US Aegis Buckle is a new take on the old school adjustable-tension buckles you might have been issued with your dress belt in the military or had in the Boy Scouts growing up. Except the Aegis Buckle is manufactured from bead-blasted 17-4PH stainless steel for corrosion resistance and weighs 4 oz. It also has a knurled tension bar that locks up the tail of the belt from coming undone.
I personally love the decorative stitching with the rustic white thread on the chocolate colored belt shown above and its details like this that are evident all throughout Gene’s phenomenal work. Gene is taking orders on the Victory Aegis Belts currently and the only place to get them is following the instructions on his Facebook Page to order one directly. His Website is definitely coming soon though.
Big things are happening at Mean Gene Leather and I’m excited about what Gene is brining to the industry!
*COBRA is a registered US trademark of AUSTRIALPIN