The Olight Baldr Mini offers a lot of lumens in a very small package – and even a laser!
As recently as ten years ago, most battery-powered handgun accessories were viewed more as novelties. Tritium-powered night sights were the pinnacle of technology, reinforced, maybe, with a larger weapon-mounted light – assuming some means existed to attach it.
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Today, miniature red dot sights (MRDS) are mainstream and an accessory rail is pretty much a given. Still, not every light will fit every handgun. Some of today’s popular compact pistols have abbreviated or proprietary rails, at times creating headaches for owners of highly regarded lights. These issues were handily eliminated during January 2021 upon the arrival of a small and highly adaptive Olight PL Valkyrie 2. Its output was impressive. The only thing missing was a laser feature, which came as no surprise given its diminutive size.
However, in April of the same year a very similar light appeared on my doorstep, complete with an integral red laser feature. Turns out the latest Balder RL Mini has much in common with the little Valkyrie, so I’ll rely on portions of that review to cover their similarities.
The Mini Olight Weapon Lights
Previously, I’d attempted to fit a compact light to the rail of my first-gen S&W M&P, but it prematurely contacted the trigger guard, preventing engagement with the rail’s cross-slot. A smaller Springfield Armory 3.3 XD 9mm was a flop due to its very short rail. Hence the need for a small but adaptable light capable of sufficient output.
In the not too distant past, I issued a bunch of QD 100-lumen weapon-lights. These relatively small (for their era) units were deemed bright and useful for searching interior spaces. The Olight Minis are rated at 600 lumens – six times the output used successfully by my agency during real-world conditions. The little Olights also seem to fit just about anything.
The initial PL Valkyrie 2 I tested in January was billed as “the world’s first rechargeable light with an adjustable rail”. The latest Baldr RL Mini employs the same system. Although surprisingly small, it exhibits quality construction. The packaging includes useful extras and a multi-language set of directions. Like its near-twin, the Baldr RL is also designed to slide fore or aft on a separate mounting chassis. Thus, it can be slid to achieve optimum fit, even on shorter rails.
Baldr RL Mini Review
As I mentioned, the Olight Baldr Mini packs a lot in a small package. To prove it, let’s dig into the details.
The Baldr RL Mini’s overall weight is only 3.21 ounces. Length (when adjusted to its smallest configuration) is 2.24-inches – a 33% reduction compared to Olight’s larger Baldr RL model. Opposing tail pads are conveniently located to provide momentary or full-on activation via a downward press of either. Press and hold for momentary. Tap for constant-on. Acquiring an optimum reach can be easily accomplished while mounting the light.
A difference with the Baldr RL Mini is its additional selector switch, a small horizontal sliding bar with three settings of light-only, combined light-and-laser, and laser-only. This feature is also well thought out. It would be hard to move the switch accidentally due to its location and positive detents. I’m right-handed. A shove of the switch to the right will put it in light-only which, to me, seems intuitive.
Although both minis share the same 600 lumen rating, the Valkyrie’s throw was listed as 100 yards. The Baldr RL Mini is rated for 130 yards. However, a comparison of both lights on a moonless night revealed similar performance. Using a large black FBI Q-target placed at 100 yards, that distance was near the outer limit for both (still far enough to cover justifiable defensive scenarios).
On the other hand, results at 40-50 yards were great. During darkened room tests, even with its muzzle indexed to a low-ready position, there was plenty of spill for positive target ID. For relevant photos, you can check out this link to the PL Valkyrie 2 test.
These little lights are shipped to fit proprietary Glock rails, or Mil-spec Picatinny types. Opening a lever causes a pair of opposing jaws to spread apart and grasp the handgun’s rail. A small central lug on the chassis can then engage its cross-slot.
Movement is entirely eliminated when the throw-arm is snapped closed. Two lugs are shipped with the light; one for Glocks (preinstalled), the other for Picatinny (1913) slots. Switching them is accomplished via two small screws and an included Allen wrench. A couple extra screws are provided but the swap is best performed where tiny parts won’t disappear.
I reconfigured the Baldr RL Mini for a 1913 lug and attached it to the semi-problematic rail of the above 1st Gen S&W 9mm M&P 5” Pro. Before closing the throw-arm I simply slid the light rearward until it abutted the trigger guard. Both activating paddles were then nicely positioned for a trigger finger. To remove the light, swing the throw arm outward and pluck it off the pistol. Simple!
Attachment to the above single-stack 3.3 Springfield XD Compact was easily accomplished by reversing the process. The light was slid forward on its mount and locked, resulting in a perfect fit. These examples pretty much cover the extremes.
One concern with a miniscule light is adequate power. Olight’s solution is a rechargeable system that uses an internal Lithium battery. Fully charged, the Bldr RL Mini’s run-time only varies by a few minutes regardless of its mode. Light-only is listed as 39 minutes. Light and laser: 37 minutes. That might not seem very long, but today’s light strategies rely more on momentary activations while searching, etc. During a run test involving both features in the dark, 37 minutes seemed plenty long!
To conserve juice, full 600-lumen output lasts just a few minutes, followed by a gradual decrease to 60 lumens. Before going flat a low-battery warning light will appear. Need a recharge? The magnetic pad on the charging cable will hop right on to a corresponding connection ring, whether the light is weapon mounted – or not. I slip its USB connection into my phone adapter.
Testing the Olight Baldr Mini
Because performance of the Baldr RL Mini was similar to the previously tested Valkyrie, I didn’t duplicate the light output protocols. Instead, I focused more on the laser feature and battery endurance. Still, the light warrants mention.
As mentioned above, I could make out the black Q-target at 100 yards although that distance was a stretch. The beam is fairly broad (not necessarily a bad thing), so it dissipates. That said, although a shot using iron sights would’ve been tough, the laser’s red dot (which appeared to be around 2-3 MOA) was quite visible. Of course, positive target ID would be a concern.
Output & Endurance Test
This non-shooting phase was conducted on my backyard shooting range and coincided with a new moon. The above Q target was moved in to 50 yards. Two hours after sunset I mounted the fully recharged light to an S&W M&P pistol and nestled it between a pair of sandbag-ears on a shooting bench. This stabilized the gun for consistent alignment of the laser on the target. I ran the test with both the light and laser energized continuously in order to monitor the light’s performance. The temperature was 45 F.
2100 Light and laser on (see photo above). No problem seeing the target – or the brilliant red laser-dot!
2115 Some dimming evident, but the target was easily visible. The laser was still as bright as ever.
2122 Low-battery indicator. Output and laser appeared unchanged though.
2130 Still usable. Laser as bright as ever. (see photo below).
2135 Still going. At this point I picked up the pistol for some backyard searches. A shady looking oak tree and seedy bird feeder were engaged without difficulty, along with other nefarious objects. My experience with M&P pistols and their good ergonomics (for me) made target acquisitions intuitive.
2137 Suddenly stone-dead – exactly as advertised!
Recharge From dead to fully charged in around 50 minutes; easy-peasy.
I ran this phase on our agency range. Before leaving, I carefully adjusted the Baldr RL’s laser to project its spot just above the sight picture of my 1st Gen S&W M&P at 15 yards. The laser’s windage and elevation adjustments are accomplished with the provided Allen wrench. As mounted, the beam was low and right. Small arrows guided the necessary corrections as I turned the friction-fit screws up and left (U/L).
Tracking was a bit erratic. Some horizontal shifts noted while applying elevation, but the desired zero was easily accomplished without firing a shot. Since the iron sights of this 9mm pistol were also zeroed for 15 yards, in theory at least, the laser should be close.
Like most other civilian laser aiming devices the Baldr RL’s dot was hard to see in bright sunlight beyond a few feet. Indoors, where I performed the pre-range zero, it wasn’t a problem. Anticipating some difficulty seeing the dot on our outdoor range, I timed testing for late afternoon.
Turned out though, two hours before sunset, I could see it just fine on a large light-gray Q-target. The range was undergoing some renovations so our shooting benches were unavailable. Instead, I used the side of a plywood barricade as a hasty rest – not perfect, but steady enough for consistent results. All shooting was from 15 yards.
Initial Zero (M&P 5″ 9mm Pro)
Sure enough, a 5-shot group formed in the target’s A-zone. Easy! I circled the hits with a black marker, fired a scarce box of 124 American Eagle FMJs (buy bulk ammo) at various steel silhouettes, and then shot a second group on the Q-target. Happily, the five additional rounds landed in the same place (all circled with a black marker).
Dismounting & POI Shifts
I completely removed the light, carefully remounted it, and fired three rounds. No shift in POI was noted (circled in red). An additional dismount, followed by three more rounds, also caused no meaningful shift (red crosses).
Pistol Swap & POI Shifts
I was curious to see how much POI would shift after switching pistols, so I carefully attached the Olight Baldr Mini to a second M&P Pro; a 2.0 CORE with a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro dot sight. Five shots were fired while completely ignoring the dot-sight. As expected, a POI shift was noted (around 4” to 7:00, per the thinly black-circled hits).
A bigger takeaway involved use of the MRDS. Once powered up, a pair of binary red dwarf stars appeared. But which one was which? The DP-Pro’s 2.5 MOA dot was similar in size to the laser, resulting in instant confusion. Although they could be zeroed to converge at a set distance, their offsets from the bore would result in vertical divergence at other distances. Using an MRDS pistol, I’d use one without the other (still available for backup).
Olight has a list of manufacturers who offer compatible holsters (you’ll find it on their website). Of course, laser-only is an option. Same for light mode. It’s broader beam can make searches safer. A weapon-mounted light will follow the muzzle, making indiscriminate illuminations unsafe. Through low-ready sweeps with intermittent blips, subjects can still be identified in the beam’s periphery.
If necessary, engagement can still occur quickly. So far we’ve been talking handguns. A larger light with greater output would make more sense for an AR-15 but, actually, this light could work well enough for home defense. The downside would be loss of laser zero if shared with a handgun.
Regarding a recharging procedure, ideally, I’d remove the light from my firearm for safety’s sake. But, sooner or later I’d expect the laser’s zero to shift. Thus, I’d rather leave it attached, clear the gun, and charge the light in a secure location (some safes incorporate electrical outlets).
Cost versus Quality
Olight lists the Baldr RL Mini at $88.00 in black (at the time of this writing), with desert tan as an option. Considering its aluminum construction I’d expect a higher cost. The only plastic appears to be the switch paddles and selector bar (maybe). The literature shows a drop rating of one meter and it’s rated as water resistant. The warranty is advertised as two years.
Of course, you’ll need a way to recharge it. And, even with an AC source, because the charging unit is proprietary, it wouldn’t hurt to have a spare cord. Another concern is the life of the internal battery. Actually, considering the modest cost, you could add a spare light.
The latest Baldr RL Mini seems like a worthwhile upgrade to the PL Valkyrie 2. Pricing is similar. Like its predecessor, the Baldr RL is also small, adaptable, simple to use, and well-made.