Recently I was fortunate enough to have received two belts from Stuart Graham of Hawk Rigger, the Talon and the SF Rigger. My first thought when seeing the belts were “Wow! They look like they mean business.” They seem heavy duty, well built and are, frankly, pretty cool. They remind me of mountain climbing gear, which I believe to be intentional. The belts’ stainless steel buckles and nylon webbing straps have a great industrial look and are robust enough to back up their tough facade. In both cases, the fit and finish are excellent. The buckles are solid steel and rigid, with no tool marks, burrs or sharp edges. The webbing straps are tightly woven and have no stretch or elasticity, which I like. They stay the adjusted length, without the weave stretching or relaxing over time. The webbing’s ribbed texture helps the buckle bite into the belt, preventing any slipping or loosening. Between the strong steel buckles, the tight weave and ribbed texture, the belts stay secure during use. Although the build quality and general style of the two belts are similar, there are some major differences.
The minimalist feel of the stone washed stainless steel buckle and black strap of the Talon fit my everyday needs perfectly and quickly became my go-to belt. It is simple, understated and easy to use. Its clever design allows the Talon to be fitted independent of the buckle. Once fitted correctly, I was free to buckle and unbuckle the belt, without affecting the fit. This seemingly small feature is surprisingly convenient. Another convenient feature of the Talon is the way it buckles. It fastens by feeding a barbed prong on the buckle, through a permanently stitched loop on the opposite end of the strap. Fastening and unfastening is quick and easy. You only need to suck in your gut to give the belt slack and slip the buckle’s prong in or out of the strap’s loop. If you need to adjust the size, just pull the loose end of the strap through the buckle, loosening or tightening the belt. The loose end is finished with a rubber end piece, assumedly to prevent the webbing from fraying. Although this belt is good, it is not without issue. The direction the belt is meant to be wrapped around my waist is opposite of what I am accustomed. The logo on the buckle is only right-side up when the belt is wrapped to my right. I have always worn belts that wrap to my left. Fortunately, wrapping the belt to my left doesn’t negatively affect things. The only functional difference caused by my directional defiance, aside from the logo being upside-down (which is not noticeable), is that the buckle’s prong hooks from the bottom, instead of the top, which works just fine. So, being the rebel that I am, this is how I’ve been wearing it. My other issue is the rubber end tip. It’s bulky, not particularly good looking and gets snagged on my belt loops. Frankly, I’m not sure why it’s on there as it’s not needed and doesn’t fit the minimal design. In comparison, the SF Rigger has no end tip. Instead, the strap is melted at the end and is holding up beautifully. That being said, these issues are not that bad and don’t stop the Talon from being great.
The other, more complicated belt, the SF Rigger, is a series of black steel buckles that work together to secure the same webbing as the Talon, except it’s green and with no rubber end tip. This system is very strong and works well, but is overkill for my everyday use. However, if I were to hang a ton of kit on my belt, this would be the belt I would reach for. The multi buckle system consists of a two piece buckle which fastens the belt and a separate smaller single pieced buckle for size adjustments. The two piece buckle fastens by weaving the strap through the two pieces and cinching them together, which secures the belt. Because the buckle holds the strap so tightly, adjusting the belt’s length after fastening is difficult. That’s where the other, smaller buckle comes into play. The smaller buckle is off to the side and makes size adjustments easy. Moving it up or down the strap tightens or loosens the belt. This can be done while wearing the belt with the buckle fastened, or not. The size adjustment buckle adds to the bulk and complexity of this system, but is a clever and necessary way of fitting the belt. The SF Rigger is sturdy and gives no reason to doubt its ability, but its strength comes at a cost. It is somewhat bulky and complicated and looks a bit severe. Consequently, it’s not an everyday belt for me, despite being good and very capable. It is best when I need to hold up more than my pants and is more at home with a pair of cargo pants and hiking boots than with khakis and a polo.
All in all these Hawk Rigger belts are pretty cool, tough and are very well made. In addition to the SF Rigger and the Talon, Hawk Rigger offers a third buckle system simply named the Austriaplin Cobra Rigger Belt, which looks to promise the same resilience and uniqueness as the two belts I have the pleasure of using. Of the three options, you are sure to find a belt that best suits your needs. Although none of which will replace your fine leather dress belt, all will be more than happy getting down and dirty in the most extreme conditions.