I get more excited about writing some reviews than I do about writing others. This is one that I am particularly excited about. See I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a holster from Red Balloon Industries for quite some time for several reasons which I’ll get to in a moment. However, the stars didn’t align right away as I didn’t have a pistol that needed a holster that Red Balloon Industries supported. That changed once Red Balloon announced support for the PSA Dagger and now here we are.
The excitement around this holster has manifested itself in various ways. First off, I connected with the sole owner and operator of Red Balloon Industries a few years ago on Twitter. If memory serves me correctly this was around the same time Red Balloon Industries was getting off the ground. There was a lot of excitement around the holsters among mutual connections on Twitter. A part of me wanted to reach out and see if Red Balloons would be willing to send me a holster or two for evaluation, but I never asked. This was mostly because I knew the business was in its infancy and folks were already complaining about lead times. As such, I didn’t want to place a burden on the owner and I was fairly certain that the answer would be, “buy one and get in line”. So I waited until I found a product offering that matched one of my needs, bought one, and waited. Just like everyone else.
Red Balloon offers several different full Kydex holster designs. These are:
- Daily OWB
- Service OWB
- Grand OWB
- Haster OWB
- Fanny Packin’
- Undercover IWB/AIWB
- Cloak & Dagger IWB/AIWB
- Covert IWB/AIWB
- TIer One QLS
- Tier Two QLS
The Daily, Service, Grand, Hasten, and the Covert all share the same design, but differ in their belt attachment device. The Undercover and the Cloak & Dagger share a different design and also differ in their belt attachment device. The Fanny Packin’ is a unique design intended for fanny pack carry. The Tier One and Tier Two share the same design intended for tactical or duty use with the only difference being that the Tier One comes equipped with active retention via a spring hood and thumb break. All holsters are available either in a solid color, a camo print, or Cordura wrapped Kydex.
As the title suggests, I ordered the Grand Camo OWB which is the Grand OWB design with camo print Kydex. The camo pattern I went with is the Xancam. While there are several other camo patterns to choose from, including, but not limited to Carbon Fiber Black, Desert Night, Flecktarn, M81 Woodland, Rhodesian Brushstroke, Rhodesian Cock & Balls (if you know, then you know and if you don’t, then it’s probably better to keep it that way), Tiger Stripe, and Xancam, there was no choice other Xancam for me as I remember watching the genesis of this pattern via a series of threads on Twitter. I suppose one can say I was feeling a bit nostalgic when I placed the order.
The Grand OWB design uses two pieces of single layer Kydex that are pressed together around a mold of the firearm (one of the left side and one on the right side) and then secured together by screws using the riveted holes on the edges of the holster. I’ve heard this design approach referred to as a pancake design. The holster also includes two adjustable retention screws found just south of the trigger guard. The attachment method for this holster use two matching custom belt loops made from the same Kydex material as the holster giving it a unique and finely finished look.
Red Balloon Industries supports an impressively long list of different pistols. Including some makes and models that are hard to find such as, the PSA Dagger (that I opted for), Steyr, Polymer 80, Kriss, and more. In addition to having several different camo patterns to choose from, one is also able to specify right or left handed configurations, include an optics cut, and choose between 1.5” and 2” belt loops. Additionally, one can include light bearing support for the holster for a very modest $10 up charge.
The fit and finish of the holster is top notch. The molding is precise and snug which results in a very satisfying snap when the firearm is inserted. The passive retention is excellent and no adjustment was required out of the box. I also appreciate that the magazine release button remains accessible when the pistol is in the holster. All of the edges on the Kydex around the holster have been smoothed out so there is no snagging, poking, or scratching.
From a functional standpoint, the holster is solid. It retains the firearm securely. There is no way for anything to enter the trigger guard and manipulate the trigger while the firearm is in the holster. I am able to get a full master firing grip on the pistol before drawing it from the holster.
The only thing that caught my suspicious eye was the amount of flex that is found around the trigger guard when the pistol is not in the holster. I would have liked for the Kydex to be stiffer particularly in this area. This would give me a lot more pause if I had ordered the Covert IWB, which uses the same design but is configured with belt clips in such a way that it becomes an IWB holster. The reason for this is that given sufficient pressure between the belt and body there may be sufficient compression in the trigger guard area where the holster ends up manipulating the trigger when the pistol is inserted. This problem is far more prevalent for pistols that have a wide trigger and a narrow trigger guard. That said, I very forcefully compressed the trigger guard area of the holster and inserted the pistol a large number of times and not once did the holster material come in contact with the trigger. I am in no way suggesting that this holster has a design flaw. Rather I’m saying that a bit more rigidity wouldn’t hurt and that it’s always a good idea to thoroughly test your equipment to ensure safe operation.
In terms of comfort, this holster is fantastic. It’s easy to forget that the holster and the gun are even there and yet it keeps the gun right up against the person. Given the profile, the comfort, and the lack of active retention, I suspect this holster would be perfect for concealed carry with a light or heavy outer garment. I’m planning on using the holster primarily for running the PSA Dagger in local IDPA matches when I need to put a pistol mounted optics through its paces for an upcoming review and all signs point to this holster being particularly well suited for that task.
I’m not in love with the belt loops on this holster. The aesthetics with the matching camo pattern are out of this world, but the flex in the Kydex leaves a little something to be desired. Again, I would have preferred something a bit more rigid. It doesn’t take much pressure to pull the butt of the pistol away from my body while the pistol remains in the holster. I don’t think the belt loops will break, but I would prefer for there to be less play. Another thing that I noticed is that threading a belt through the belt loops can be challenging. This is due to the orientation of the belt loop that is found forward of the slide and the proximity to where the Kydex bends near the rivets so that the holster better forms to the body. In that regard, the flexibility of the belt loop was something I welcomed as I imagine that attempting to thread a belt that loop would be pretty close to impossible if the loop was extremely rigid. In hindsight, I think I would have preferred either the closed loop wings found on the Daily OWB or the speed clips found available on the Hasten OWB. Granted neither of those belt attachments come close to the aesthetics of the matching custom loops on the Grand OWB. One more thing to point out is that since the Daily, Grand, Hasten, Service, and the Covert all have the same hole pattern, one can swap between the different belt attachments pretty easily.
Even though there are a couple of things about this holster that I would have preferred to be different, the holster itself is good to go. At least, in the configuration I got my hands on. It’s not hard to see why Red Balloon Industries holsters are in high demand with an average lead time of 12 weeks. They are doing good work and I’m excited to see what improvements they make and come up with next. One thing that I hope doesn’t change is the presentation. Getting a red balloon, some Smarties, a toy soldier, and a sticker is a really nice and unique touch. I’ll probably end up picking up more holsters from them. Who knows maybe they will add the PSA Rock 5.7 to the line up soon?