Irony; the dictionary defines it as “…an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been expected.” Here’s one for you. In 1908 John M. Browning invented the .380 ACP cartridge and the first semi-automatic Colt pistol designed to fire it.[1] Aptly named the Colt Model 1908, this was also the first medium caliber semi-auto handgun (the .380 being essentially a 9mm short) designed for concealed carry. It had been preceded in 1903 by another Browning and Colt collaboration, the Model 1903 chambered in .32 ACP. The Model 1908 was manufactured until 1940 but remained popular long after production ended as a General Officer’s issued sidearm during WWII.

Forty-three years after the original Colt .380 pocket model had been discontinued the company brought back a .380 Auto Government Model Series 80, and in 1991 a Government Pocketlite version. However, in 1986 Colt’s had introduced a second .380 model, this one a subcompact named the Mustang. Small, lightweight and dispensing six rounds of .380 ACP through a 2.75-inch barrel; variations of the Mustang pocket pistol were manufactured until it fell from grace with consumers near the end of the 20th century.

Then in 2003 something contrary to what was, or “might have been expected” happened; Kel-Tec introduced the subcompact P-3AT .380 Auto.

The public loved it, and with an increasing number of individuals obtaining CCW permits, the compact, easy to carry .380 ACP became a popular handgun again (overlooking, of course, the continuing fame of the Walther PPK and PPK/S). Armsmakers the world over quickly began introducing innovative new subcompact .380s; Ruger, Kahr, Taurus, Magnum Research, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer and others, all doing what Colt’s had first done almost 20 years earlier, leaving the historic Hartford, Connecticut, armsmaker as one of the few major arms manufacturers without a .380 model in their product line. And that constitutes an irony.

Gun Details

With the Colt’s Manufacturing Company celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2011 it seemed an excellent opportunity for the legendary American armsmaker to bring back one of its more fabled handguns, one, that as previously noted, like so many Colt models of the past, was ahead of its time. The re-introduction of the .380 Mustang Pocketlite couldn’t have been better timed. Undoubtedly the company had a lot of motivation to re-develop and re-introduce the .380 Mustang Pocketlite, none so great perhaps, as the Sig Sauer P238. Introduced in 2009, the P238, for all intents and purposes, is a nicely executed Sig Sauer version of the Mustang. And it has become so popular in the last three years that Sig now offers more than a dozen variations and finishes. So, it only seems fitting that the originator should step back into the spotlight.

Notes Joyce Rubino, Colt’s Vice President of Marketing, “The precise machining process, use of high quality materials and improvements in design make the new .380 Mustang Pocketlite one of the most consistent and reliable firearms on the market. The aluminum alloy receiver, stainless steel slide and barrel are CNC machined from solid bar stock for precise tolerances. Machining solid stock is certainly a more involved manufacturing process, but it is that process, combined with our engineering specifications, expertise and demand for perfection that allows Colt to deliver one of the highest quality products available to today’s marketplace.” Indeed, the Mustang needs no “introduction” as it is an established name, but the use of new construction methods and materials make the revised .380 ACP noteworthy.

With a loaded magazine the Mustang tips the scales at less than a pound. It measures 5.5 inches long (thanks to an extended beavertail) with a 2.75-inch barrel. The beavertail is a definite advantage on a short-recoil operated system where the slide travels well back over the web of the shooting hand. The minimal weight and length of the gun—combined with the short single-action trigger, proven frame and grip design, and firing pin safety block—make this an ideal small caliber handgun for personal protection and concealed carry. The magazine holds six rounds, so capacity is seven with one in the chamber, and cocked and locked is the standard carry method, just like a Model 1911. Additionally, the Mustang Pocketlite does not use a magazine disconnect, so it will discharge a chambered round with the magazine removed.

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