Colt introduced the Mustang Pocketlite .380 semi-auto in 2011 and it took the market by storm. Imagine a .380 pocket model with the Colt name! For those who have not been following the company’s history, Colt was not introducing the latest .380 pocket model—it was “reintroducing” the very first one!

Back to Basics

The first American-made .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol small enough to discretely hide away in a trouser pocket was developed and introduced by Colt in 1908. Known as the Model 1908 Hammerless, it remained in production up until World War II and was still prominently carried by U.S. officers throughout the war. Aside from the .380 Government Model (1983-1987), the .380 ACP pocket pistol fell out of production for almost half a century until Colt introduced the .380-caliber Mustang. One of the earliest ads for the new .380 stated that the Mustang “is lighter, smaller and handier than most .380s, even our own .380 Government Model…the Mustang .380 tucks away as neatly as most .22 or .25 autos but delivers four times the stopping power.”

The original models, which were blued, were produced from 1986 until 1999, including the Plus II (1988-96), Stainless (1990-1998), and five versions of the Pocketlite model, before being discontinued in 1999.

The .380 ACP cartridge—and the first guns to fire them—were invented by John M. Browning shortly after the turn of the last century and first put into production by Colt in 1908. Ironically, by the end of the 20th century, the .380 ACP had come to be regarded as a substandard round for personal defense, despite the fact that pistols chambered in .380 had been in use for almost the entire century, not only by civilians but by law enforcement as well, mostly as a backup or hideaway gun. With declining sales, Colt decided to drop the Mustang from its product line.

But just as soon it was gone, other armsmakers began to fill the void. In 2003, the .380 ACP experienced a renaissance. Small, easily carried semi-auto pistols like the Kel-Tec P-3AT took the country by storm, driven by a sweeping upsurge in concealed carry weapon (CCW) permits nationwide in the first 10 years of the new century. The .380 pocket pistol was suddenly one of the most highly demanded concealed carry sidearms in the nation. Add to that advances in bullet designs and terminal velocities for defensive .380 auto cartridges from manufacturers like Federal Premium, Hornady and CorBon, and it became manifest for Colt to bring back the Mustang Pocketlite.

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