Why Are Duty Belts Called Sam Brownes?

The history of duty belts goes back farther than you might think. They have been in use since before the mid-1800s. Over the years, the duty belt, sometimes called a Sam Browne belt, has evolved to serve the demands of police, security, and others who need a sturdy strap to support equipment. 

Sam Browne was a British general who began his service in India in 1849. In 1858, Sam Brown's left arm got cut off by a sword during the conflict at Seeporah. Because of the injury, Sam needed some extra stability to support the weight of the saber on the belt, so he fashioned a shoulder strap running diagonally across the chest. The goal was to make drawing the sword with one hand easier and to take some weight off the hips.

As the Sam Browne belt developed more and more into the duty belt, various changes were necessary to increase stability, support, performance, and safety.

Example of changes made to the belt: when the belt is carrying a sword and pistol, two shoulder straps were added, strapping in opposite directions to support the weight and stability. 

Evolution Of the Belt

Over time, the duty belt has evolved from the classic 2 & 1/4-inch black leather belt with a brass or nickel buckle to suit the needs of police officers and others who wear them. The Sam Brown style belt is still around for ceremonies and other presentations.

However, the modern nylon and leather versions have replaced them for security personnel and other officers. As we explained above, sometimes, two shoulder straps were attached to the belt to support more weight on both sides of the belt.

Although the cross-shoulder strap (s) seems handy and logical, they rarely get used these days for safety reasons. After lots of use in the field, it became clear that the strap over the shoulder was risky because it could get snagged or be grabbed, etc. But the belt needed the stability that the strap provided. The first transformation away from the strap added "keepers" to keep the belt in place.

Other minor alterations like replacing buckles with velcro have happened over the years. They manufacture modern belts with thicker material and better buckle systems to solve the problem of weight distribution and stability without a strap. They still use the Sam Browne style belt and every kind in between today, even with all the modern versions of the duty belt.

Nylon vs. Leather

Nylon is slowly becoming the preferred choice over leather for many reasons. For police officers, reflectiveness and quietness are two key factors that make nylon more favorable. Anyone who has experienced a leather belt knows it makes noise, especially if it is retaining gear like keys and handcuffs with metal clips and key rings. Noise is the primary reason that leather never gets used for SWAT teams.

On the street and in most other situations, leather works perfectly. Many people prefer leather duty belts for comfort and a classic look. The leather can break in to fit your body better and has enough flexibility for movement.

With the new technologies and developments with nylon equipment, the belts are getting better and better. They can weigh significantly less than traditional belts and hold more gear with more balance. 

Today's Duty Belts

Ergonomics are a critical part of today's duty belts. After years of use, the wrong belt can cause extensive back pain and other issues. Any weight on the belt can cause strain on your hips and back if you do not have the right belt fitted correctly.

With the proper belt, you can find the right support, leaving you comfortable with no need to address those issues down the road. See our lineup of duty belts to find a supportive belt that can keep you on the move without inhibiting movement throughout the years.