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Pretty Little Pony: Colt Mustang Pocketlite Review

by James Tarr   |  November 2nd, 2012 32


I still remember as a kid staring at the Colt catalog for hours and hours. I loved the blued steel looks of the classic Government Model, the Combat Commander and the Gold Cup. What seemed really neat to me as well was the brand new Colt .380 Government Model, a little single-action .380 that looked almost identical to its big-bore brothers.

However, by the time I was old enough to actually buy a handgun I couldn’t be bothered with something as puny as a .380. I was a man, and men didn’t carry .380s; those were girls’ guns. Sigh. A couple of decades later I came to the shocking realization that small guns actually did have their uses. I have had such bad luck buying used guns, however, that I never gave a thought to the Colt Mustang, as Colt wasn’t making them anymore. Well, they’re back.

Before they were discontinued, Colt offered a number of .380s: the original .380 Government, with a seven-round magazine and 3.25-inch barrel, and the smaller Mustang, with a 2.75-inch barrel and a shorter grip allowing for a 6+1 capacity. The company also offered Pocketlite versions of both models, with aluminum frames. While Colt has plans to introduce a whole modern family of .380s, it has started with the smallest and lightest: the Mustang Pocketlite.

The new Colt Mustang Pocketlite is a small gun, the smallest pistol chambered in .380 I’ve ever shot. It has the original’s 6+1 capacity. With the beavertail it is only about 5.5 inches long, four inches tall and empty weighs a mere 13 ounces according to my scale.

The plastic grips are the fattest part of the pistol at 1.075 inches, and the slide runs .757-inch wide according to my calipers. Its size makes me hearken back to the “vest pocket” guns of ye olde days. Just holding it in my hand makes me feel like I should be gambling on a riverboat somewhere, remembering not to count my money when I’m sitting at the table.

This is a single-action-only pistol, much like Colt’s famous 1911, with a Commander-style hammer and manual thumb safety. The grip angle is similar to the 1911, but unlike the design of the 1911 the safety of the Mustang does not block the slide’s movement.

Due to the size of the gun, the manual safety is, of course, rather small. The action on my safety was a bit stiff, and while I could sweep it off with the side of my thumb from a firing grip with no problem, I couldn’t engage it (push it up) unless I turned the pistol sideways in my hand and used the end of my thumb.

The Pocketlite has no grip safety, and it can be fired with the magazine removed. I was glad to see the pistol comes with two stainless magazines. One of my biggest complaints is pistols sold with only one magazine. The main advantage of pistols over revolvers is their ability to be quickly reloaded, but that point is moot if they come with only one magazine.

Most of my memories of the “.380 Government Model” are of polished blue guns, but bluing does not handle sweat very well at all. While I prefer the looks of blued guns, I think the engineers at Colt did a smart thing by choosing to put out this “marine edition” of the Mustang Pocketlite.

It has a stainless steel slide over an aluminum alloy frame with an electroless nickel finish. Both the frame and the slide have a business-like matte texture that actually aids in gripping, and the flats of the slide have been brushed to a high gloss. The Colt medallions in the black plastic grips are silver as well, and I have to admit this is one sharp-looking gun.

When it comes to the frame of the Pocketlite, yes, it is small. I can get only two fingers on it, and I have skinny fingers. But the grip is the right width for its length, and it just feels right in my hand. The unpolished texture of the aluminum alloy frame actually provides a nice gripping surface front and back. It’s obviously not nearly as secure as checkering, but much better than a polished surface.

The rear sight is a simple blued notch dovetailed into the slide, and the front sight is one piece with the slide. It is a simple, non-serrated ramp, and the two together are similar to the “hump and a bump” sights seen on the original 1911.

I wish the front sight was bigger or serrated, or both, but I do realize this is a small gun designed to be used at spitting distances and will most likely be pointed rather than aimed. That said, with these sights it still can be aimed, and a single-action trigger always increases your hit probability.

The original Colt .380s had a big fan base, but they were not without their problems. Durability was the main complaint, and the engineers at Colt wanted to address that. The cast frame and slide of the original design were replaced in this new iteration with slides and frames CNC machined from solid bar stock. The barrel is CNC machined as well. The plastic trigger of the 1980s version has been replaced with a solid aluminum trigger, which is serrated and anodized.

A feature I was surprised to see on the Colt was the small C clip on the right side of the frame locking the thumb safety in place. A quick check of my history revealed that the original Pocketlites had this clip as well, but I figured that with modern manufacturing Colt should have been able to do away with this oddity, so I called Colt for clarification.

I spoke with Greg Rozum, the director of product engineering. He explained that they deliberately did not change this aspect of the design. Not only did they want the new Mustang Pocketlite to have the same appearance as the retired model, they wanted the new parts to fit on all the legacy (existing) guns. Their plan is to eliminate the C clip from the design in the future and offer a whole family of .380 guns.

While the external appearance of the pistol is the same as the original Mustang Pocketlite, Rozum was quick to point out the improvements to me, such as the slide and trigger changes mentioned above. But that wasn’t all.

“We wanted to re-target all of the nominal dimensions on the design,” he explained. “Our goal was to reduce existing tolerances while improving durability, reliability and accuracy.” Rozum said their breakage goal—rounds fired before something breaks—for the Mustang Pocketlite was 10,000 rounds, with the only maintenance being replacement of the springs every 2,500 rounds because they tend to take a set.

While the Pocketlite has a single-action trigger, internally it does not have the same design as the 1911, and it pivots very slightly rather than moves straight back. Trigger pull on my sample was a crisp six pounds with a short take-up.

The Mustang Pocketlite has a short barrel, and short barrels tend to bleed velocity badly. That is true whether a pistol is chambered in .22 LR, .25 ACP or .32 ACP, but a .380 ACP has more frontal area and a heavier bullet than any of the other calibers you’re likely to see offered in a gun this size. I’ve heard guns this size referred to as “nostril guns”—i.e. stick it up their nose and pull the trigger—but most “nostril” or “bedroom” guns can’t compete with the .380 ACP for power.

Most .380s are straight blowback designs, but the Colt fires from a locked breech. Still, I was expecting it to have a sharp recoil impulse because you can’t argue with the laws of physics: A 13-ounce gun plus .380 ACP plus a two-finger grip equals hold on tight and place bets on how big the fireball will be with certain ammo. Holding it in two hands seems almost comical as the gun nearly disappears, but shooting it did bring a surprise.

Maybe I’ve been brutalized by too many sub-subcompact .40s and .45s, but shooting the Pocketlite .380 was not unpleasant at all. In fact, I won’t gauge the experience by how unpleasant it was but by how pleasant.

Quite frequently I take my two sons (ages 14 and 10) to the range with me when I test guns, for several reasons: One, shooting is fun; two it is good bonding/family time; and three, if there is a way to make a gun not work, they’ll figure it out. My 10-year-old was especially eager to shoot the little Colt because he thought it looked cool, but I was sure he would limp-wrist the gun and make it jam. Nope.

I was also sure the recoil would be so snappy that even while it was small enough to be cute, neither of them would want to shoot the Mustang much. I was wrong. They put 100 rounds through the pistol just as fast as they could load the magazines.

My 10-year-old was doing full magazine dumps as fast as he could pull the trigger, while shooting pie-plate-size groups at seven yards. Even one-handed rapid fire was no problem. The small front sight on the Colt was easy to pick up outdoors in natural light, which actually surprised me.

Why was it so soft shooting? I have a theory. The barrel is so short that a good amount of the gunpowder that would otherwise be providing recoil was ejected unburned out the muzzle of the gun, providing no oomph. My teenager was worried about the “metal shavings” on his hand after he’d been shooting for a while, and I had to explain to him it was unburned gunpowder. If you look at the accompanying table, you’ll see the velocities I obtained were quite below the advertised ones, no doubt due to the short barrel.

We didn’t put the Mustang through one of Colt’s 10,000-round torture tests, but we did put 200 rounds through it in an hour, and we enjoyed every minute of it. The gun itself did not jam, although we were able to jam the gun up.

What’s the difference? Well, when you have a gun this small, even the smallest hands will tend to wrap all the way around it, and both me and my eldest managed to pop out the magazine while shooting one-handed. This happened only once for each of us, and I’m not even sure how we did it as the mag release was not under our fingers when we had a proper shooting grip.

The slide on the Mustang wouldn’t lock back for us most of the time because the slide release ended up positioned right under our thumbs. I also deliberately didn’t remind my oldest to shoot with a thumb-high hold (thumb over the manual safety, holding it down), and he did manage to accidentally pop up the safety during a shooting string. I don’t necessarily consider these negatives to the gun, just things to always take into consideration when dealing with small guns.

The name itself indicates this little auto is designed to fit into a pocket. The single-action trigger makes it the most shootable pocket gun I’ve fired in a long time, perhaps ever. However, I just don’t think single-action guns—especially those without grip safeties—are a good choice when it comes to pocket carry. Thumbs safeties are bound to get knocked off accidentally, and then you’ll have a cocked-and-unlocked gun pointed somewhere very sensitive.

Some people might want to carry the Pocketlite in Condition Three (hammer down on a loaded chamber). The Colt is about the size of a derringer, and derringers have to be cocked as well. While it is pretty easy to cock the Colt with one hand when bringing it up to bear, I don’t know if I’d want to do that under stress or under fire.

While I liked the Mustang Pocketlite a lot more than I thought I was going to, and it does everything it should and then some, I’m still not sure where I would put this gun on my pocket gun desirability list.


  • Michael

    I inherited my Dad's 380, sadly it was stolen from me, I now own a 1911 but would love to have this sweet 380

    • BradB

      I have both the Sig 238 and the new Colt Mustang. A quick comparison….The Colt has a better trigger and was slightly more accurate. The Sig sights are dramatically better and quicker to use. I initially had an issue with the Mustang’s slide locking back prematurely so I filed the slide-stop down where it contacts the magazine and is now 100% reliable. I carry these pistols in a back pocket holster that looks like a zippered wallet. This keeps the safety, mag eject and trigger fully covered; Perfect since I work at a “no guns” workplace

  • Tommy Elliott

    I've got one of the 1980 ones and I love it. It was blue but now it's almost all wore off.

  • Jon

    I got a 380 Sig, it has night sights & is better looking overall. Shoots very well.

    • midnitejam

      That's very true. And yes it shoots very well. Fired 200 rounds through my Sig p238 consisting of various brands and types from 95 to 115 grains and experienced not one missfire. It took everything it was fed.

  • Miller

    I also have the Sig P238. Very similar, and a great little shooter.

    • midnitejam

      That's very true. And yes it shoots very well. Fired 200 rounds through my Sig p238 consisting of various brands and types from 95 to 115 grains and experienced not one missfire. It took everything it was fed.
      My intention was to buy the colt mustang when I bought the sig p238. The mustang was prettier with a smoother slide action and better trigger action. The slide on the mustang had tighter tolerances than the sig, but the mustang had unacceptable sights compared to the sights on the sig. The Sig was very slightly 2nd to the colt except for the sights.The sights were why I opted for the sig.

      • Baby gansta

        This Darrell insta gram baby_gansta5 I got a 1 a pony pocketlite 380 colt auto how much it's worth

  • sww

    I have an all stainless mustang II I bought in the 90's. Its a great little gun except it keeps bending slide stop shafts even though I shoot only factory ammo, no +p's

    • Dan

      This is the one .380 I'd like to have.

  • Mack

    I purchased one of these recently and am very surprised at how accurate and controlable it is.
    It has a surprisingly crisp trigger pull. A very small concealable and reliable pocket gun.

  • rick

    i own one of the new ones love this little gun . I am a bigger man and all seem to work with me . great pocket gun would reckenmend this to all.

  • Jay Lubers

    Let me know where you can get one, had one on order for six months at a local gun shop, he finally said he didn't think it would come anytime soon, cancelled the order and bought a Sig P238 Extreme and a Browning BDA he had in the shop. If your going to offer a gun for sale then produce them.

    • Dave

      I'm having the same problem here in Georgia! It borders on arrogance!

  • Hammerhand

    I wouldn't mind this beautiful small automatic gun

  • Dwayne Fenton

    Great looking toy…

  • R Swegon

    You said you would't use this Colt as a pocket gun. What are your choices for a good pocket gun?

  • JGrant

    Where can the Mustang be purchased for the MSRP of $599.00. Dealers have jacked the price to $699.00 and Colt has in the last 2 weeks removed the MSRP from it's web site.

  • Scott G

    I have a Colt Mustang Plus II I bought new in 1990. I never trusted it enough to carry, though it is very reliable. It lives as a safe queen and almost never gets used. I got because it was a cute little gun. It handles the cheap ammo that it too weak to cycle my Kahr P380.

    I do not feel comfortable defending myself with a 380. When larger guns will not conceal with the light clothes I wear in hot weather, a 380 will at least keep me in the fight.

    One final note: locked breaches are getting very common is the newer small 380 pistols. The locked breach allows for a smaller pistol and a lighter slide. In some handguns, it allows for use of the so-calked 380 +P ammo.

  • Bob

    I own a Colt Pony and love to shoot it. Great gun, but I will NEVER carry it for protection. The design of the gun is imperfect. In Condition 1, you only have the safety keeping you from blowing your nether parts off. After removing the gun for storage on two occasions and finding it in Condition 0 (apparently the safety was clicked off during normal movement — I presume sitting maneuvers), it was instantly disqualified.

    • jjs102

      Where is the safety on your Colt Pony? The one I have is double action only.

  • Mike R

    JUst got one on gunbroker for $620. Very nice. With proper ammo it hits hard enough. My lifestyle necessitates pocket carry.. Have usually carried a Colt Agent or S& W J frame. Like my Walther PPK,but it is heavy for pocket carry. Don't agree with the Colt not being able to be cocked on the draw. No big deal for anyone with any kind of manual dexterity, and the single action makes one more capable of aimed fire, which is what it is all about. Hopefully for those who only want da only , Colt will resurrect the Pony. I would rather have an all steel Government version. As to ammo, Cor Bon 90grains,as well as Fed and CCi loads clock out of the Mustang at 900 plus. Buffalo Bore plus ps throw a 100 gr cast slug at 1050

  • John Tandy

    I like my Ruger LCP

  • Guest

    Contrary to the review, the Mustang was not the first .380 using a locked breech. Llama and Star, two now defunct Spanish manufacturers, offered 1911 style .380s with locked breeches at least as far back as the 1960s. The Llama even had a grip safety.

  • Dave

    I own several 1911's. my only beef is the frame. Too soft and scratches. The finish prohibits polishing out scratches.

  • Captain Kado

    The name origionally was COLT'S,forgot when they changed!I was a stunt cowboy fore some 16yrs,Shot saw,Handled bout every hog leg made!Take a man and blindfold him,lay them all one at a time in his GUN HAND,,And the COLT'S god Will show up every time,Yaaaahhh that one feels better!!Dam near a COLT'S,Every time!!

  • Caligula

    I'm not sure why I would buy this old fashioned pocket pistol when I have several other options that are as easy to conceal, I.e., Beretta Nano, S&W Sheild, LC9, etc.

  • Wyatt Griffith

    I am looking for mom one

  • johnconner

    I carry this gun everywhere locked loaded I trust it fully. The only issue I ever had is when keeping in it.the back pockets when you sit down it will eject the magazine.

  • A1blud

    This is the best 380 acp pocket pistol ever made.

  • Shane

    It the Colt Pony .380 auto.. … the same as the Colt Mustang .380 auto

  • Voice_of_Reason

    I have Mustang Pocketlite. Great little gun, except the OEM sights suck. I replaced mine with “standard dots”. The Pocketlite shoots like a Lilliputian 1911. If ya don’t feel comfortable carrying a 1911 locked and on safe, then you are a p***y, because your grandfathers carried them into war that way.

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