My first experience with a .380 pocket pistol was in the late ‘70s, when I handled and fell in love with a miniature 1911 being imported at that time. It seemed made for my hands because it wore a comfortable set of aftermarket grips. It looked like a 1911 full-size that had seen too much hot water and dryers, and it rode for many years in my pocket. Of course, as much as I liked this pocket pistol, the one I really wanted was the Colt 1908 Pocket Hammerless .380, but rarity and cost made it nearly impossible to find or afford.

I don’t remember why I got rid of the import, but in the mid-1980s I snatched up a Colt Government .380 that remained with me until I replaced it with the smaller Colt Mustang, and later an alloy-framed Colt Mustang Pocketlite, both in .380 ACP, and finally a double-action-only (DAO) Colt Pony in the same caliber. Then Colt ceased .380 ACP production and the pistols were worth more than I could pass up with kids to feed and educate.

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In 2011, Colt reintroduced the alloy-framed Mustang Pocketlite and the rush was on to get one in my pocket or my wife’s purse. That never came to fruition, but, in 2013, when Colt offered its new Mustang Pocketlite XSP with a polymer frame, I revved up my efforts. The wait is finally over and I’ll give you a spoiler—it was worth it!

More famous for large-bore, single-action (SA) revolvers, 1911 pistols and, of course, M16/AR-15 rifles, what could be the impetus for Colt to step out with a non-big-bore pocket pistol in today’s market? The same impetus fueling so much of the industry—the burgeoning concealed-carry market.

One truism of the concealed-carry market is that the majority of carriers may start off with a larger handgun but will eventually want a small, easily carried and easily fired handgun. Bigger handguns soon lose their cachet, and their weight and size become bothersome. Enter the Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite and its younger brother, the .380 Mustang XSP.

Modern Mustang

Colt Mustang XSP, colt, colt mustang pocketlite, colt mustang
The XSP’s polymer frame has a squared-off triggerguard and an integrated rail.

Colt’s modern Mustangs have plenty of traits in common. Both include stainless steel slides, high-profile rear sights, lowered ejection ports, Commander-style (burr) hammers, 2.75-inch stainless steel barrels, and six-round stainless steel magazines that fit flush with the frame. Slides and barrels are CNC machined from bar stock. Each model has a traditionally styled and located thumb safety and magazine release, and both use two springs wrapped around a polymer guide rod, a Series 80 firing pin block system and a black anodized, solid trigger. Finally, the overall length for each version is 5.5 inches with a height of 3.98 inches.

“With the majority of the XSP being black, the gray stainless steel thumb safeties, slide catch lever, mag release and hammer added a nice visual touch.”

Given so many similarities, there are still several ways the Mustangs differ, many related to their frames. Cocking serrations on the XSP slide are somewhat enlarged, providing a better gripping purchase. The XSP uses a black polymer frame, has black diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating on the slide, a set of ambidextrous thumb safeties and a dovetail-mounted front sight. The front sight, while not huge, is a great improvement, and since both are dovetail mounted they can be replaced if needed.

The frame’s grip area fits the hand well, aided by an undercut triggerguard that raises the hand noticeably, and has a dished area to improve one’s reach to the magazine release. Perhaps “fits the hand well” is a bit of an understatement. Even the custom grips on my first .380 did not feel as good as the integral grip panels on the XSP, and that’s saying a lot!

Colt Mustang XSP, colt, colt mustang pocketlite, colt mustang
The XSP features a dovetailed, easy-to-acquire front sight.

A weight reduction of about 0.7 ounces and a squared triggerguard are two more features of the polymer frame. Other polymer frame enhancements include an abbreviated accessory rail (about 0.375 inches) with a single notch, square checkering on the front and backstraps, and pebbling on side panels. Finishing off the polymer frame is a beveled mag well, providing a slight shelf on both sides in front of the thumb safety where the thumb can rest after disengaging the safety. With the majority of the XSP being black, the gray stainless steel thumb safeties, slide catch lever, mag release and hammer added a nice visual touch.

RELATED: Colt Mustang XSP .380

Only on the XSP’s front sight and ejection port edges did I find sharp edges. The rest of the pistol is nicely free of any objectionable sharpness. I don’t care one way or another about a square triggerguard, something most view as an anachronism from several decades ago when a support-hand finger rested there. I was surprised Colt included it, but upon retrospect I suspect the squared portion will be used in attaching and operating lights or lasers mounted on the diminutive equipment rail.

Downrange Results

Colt Mustang XSP, colt, colt mustang, colt mustang pocketlite

Piddle around all you want, but until live rounds are being used so much is just conjecture. This is where occasionally things my mind noticed but failed to register pop to the forefront. The positively activated and deactivated ambidextrous thumb safeties for instance. I already liked them because I pocket carry my backup pistol in my left pocket, and with the ambis I only needed that hand to get the XSP into action. I also like that the thumb safety locks the hammer in the up position but did not lock the slide. With the hammer in the cocked position and the safety on, the slide can be cycled to chamber or remove a round. I do, however, wish their horizontal platforms were slightly wider.

I began testing and was immediately pleased. The sights were indeed small, but surpassed any other designs using integral front sights; they were usable at 7 yards, and in some cases beyond. The pivoting trigger did not really feel unusual, as I had expected. It had a short, perceptible reset and a fairly crisp trigger pull, which helped the XSP in the performance and accuracy department. The Series 80 safety system that many love to denigrate obviously was not detrimental to the usability of the XSP’s trigger and, in my mind, is a bonus for a SA pocket pistol.

“The accuracy was well beyond what is needed for close encounters of the unpleasant kind…”

Between the flex inherent to the Colt XSP’s polymer frame and the great ergonomics of the frame, the small pistol was very pleasant to shoot. The slide did not leave railroad-like, bloody tracks on the web of my hand. The hammer also drew no blood. (Both good things!) The thumb on my average-size hand almost reached the slightly widened slide catch lever without having to rotate the semi-automatic pistol in my hand.

RELATED: Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380

The front sight seemed to drop back in place quickly following each shot. Free-hand speed strings, similar to those occurring when panic sets in, produced 7-yard groups under 8 inches. After all the warm-ups, I settled down at the bench to see just how well the XSP and I could punch paper. In a nutshell, it shot excellently! The accuracy was well beyond what is needed for close encounters of the unpleasant kind, and, as a bonus, my testing was with self-defense loads I would not hesitate to carry or recommend.

It’s not that the XSP’s “extra” accuracy will go to waste. The average altercation may take place fairly close, but why should you handicap yourself with a pistol offering inadequate accuracy and not be prepared for the further distances that went into making the average? For a backup-type pistol, groups hovering around 1 inch are great, allowing the user, with practice, to extend the useful range of the pistol.

Pocket Carry

Colt Mustang XSP, colt, colt mustang pocketlite, colt mustang
“The XSP zipped out of my left pocket with nary a snag, the sights went on target… and the thumb safety clicked solidly off with no undue pressure… Bang!”

As for carrying, a purse or pocket seem the place a Colt XSP should be found. I managed to find a DeSantis Nemesis sized for another pistol that would hold the Colt well, and did some work from the pocket. (Holsters marketed exclusively for the XSP are still not plentiful.) The XSP zipped out of my left pocket with nary a snag, the sights went on target, perhaps a little slower than a full-size pistol, and the thumb safety clicked solidly off with no undue pressure. Bang! Everything worked time after time with monotonous regularity! Each string was fired with only my left hand, just as it would be in the real world. Did I mention I really like the ambidextrous thumb safety?

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Even though the Colt XSP’s sights are better than many others, they could still be improved upon with a set of XS Sights’ Big Dots. Thanks to the sights being dovetail mounted on the slide, that should be no problem—as soon as XS offers them. In my opinion, an aiming laser from someone like LaserMax is also a virtual necessity on a backup pistol.

Reliable Defense

Colt Mustang XSP, colt, colt mustang pocketlite, colt mustang
The XSP features a 6+1 capacity.

The Colt 380 Mustang XSP is not priced to meet everyone’s budget, I’ll have to admit, but unlike many it sensibly arrives with two magazines. However, the excellent fit, comfortable, ergonomically designed polymer frame, nice trigger and better-than-average sights that can be replaced, if needed, all add value to the package. The excellent shootability and accuracy do as well. Don’t forget the Colt name!

Besides, what price do you put on keeping your skin whole? Are you in the market for a SA pocket pistol chambered in .380 ACP that is built to run reliably? Check out the Colt Mustang XSP.

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This article was originally published in the 2015 issue of CONCEALED CARRY HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.

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