The .380 cartridge has been around since early in the last century. It was another of John Brownings designs, and has been known as the 9mm Kurz, 9×17, 9mm Browning Short, and .380 ACP. We also know it as the .380 Automatic, or simply the .380 Auto. Its been chambered in a host of small autoloading pistols, some of them quite famous, such as Walthers PPK.
The .380 is not a cartridge many of us would pick for all-around use. Its hardly a plinking cartridge, because of the relatively high cost of ammunition, and because the pistols that chamber it are generally not all that accurate. Reloaders dont exactly flock to the diminutive cartridge, for a variety of reasons. Ammunition manufacturers have produced some excellent fodder in recent years for the tiny guns, but none of it can make a mountain-size stopper out of the molehill .380 Auto.
Guns for the cartridge abound, some of them expensive, some of them like the ones tested here discontinued for a variety of reasons. Some .380s are great firearms, and some would make better table lamps.
The Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380 Auto, about $500 was available in blued or stainless finish while it was made. The all-steel Mustang was available in three finishes: blued, stainless, and nickel. The Pocketlite was introduced in 1987, and its all-steel brother a year later. Colts made the guns for a little over ten years. They were discontinued when the Colt company decided to concentrate on military contracts a few years ago.
Because of their usefulness as being among the smallest pocket-carry weapons in a meaningful caliber, both types of Mustang remain very popular. Prices for good samples of the Colt Mustang and Mustang Pocketlite may be expected to continue to escalate, and these Colts ought to be good collectibles in the long haul, in our opinion.
Both our test guns had matte-black (brushed) finishes, rounded hammers, large ejection ports, integral and wide front sights, driftable rear sights with big notches, plastic grip panels with checkering, and magazines designed like those of the 1911, with bottoms extending forward of the front grip strap so they could be ripped out or tapped firmly into place as needed. There were two magazines with each gun.
The front and back straps were smooth, and the bottom of the rear strap was rounded so it didnt gouge the palm of the hand. These guns were obviously designed by someone, or by a team, with at least a fundamental idea of whats needed in a fighting handgun, we thought.
Fit and finish were excellent in both guns. Some of us thought the safety levers could have been larger, or extended forward for easier access. The trigger pulls were very good. Both broke at about 4.5 pounds, welcome change from the 6.5- and 7-pound triggers of the first two. The Mustang Pocketlite had its name on the left side of the slide, surmounted by the caliber designation, given as COLT 380 AUTO. The right side of the slide was bare, but the caliber designation was on the side of the brushed-white-steel chamber. The all-steel Mustang had the same chamber mark, and was marked on the left-side slide as COLT MK IV/ SERIES 80″ over MUSTANG – 380 AUTO. Both guns had the serial number on the left side of the receiver above the trigger opening. We took the Pocketlite shooting.
At the range the Pocketlite gave us fits. On placing the loaded magazine into the gun, the first round fed just fine. After the first shot, the empty went away and the second round left the magazine and entered the chamber, but the slide didnt go fully forward. We tapped the back of the slide, and that forced the Colts internal extractor to jump over the chambered rounds rim. The slide seemed to be sticky and had little spring pressure. We had many failures to feed in a like manner.
After a few more failures, we thought the gun might benefit from some oil. Its owner had loaned it to us for testing, having carried the gun for a long time in his pocket. All that pocket dust and the passage of time had removed most of the guns lubrication, and this is something that all pocket-gun carriers might take note of. We put some oil into the gun here and there and worked it a few times, but did not disassemble and clean it, which it probably needed. However, we wanted to see if lack of oil was the problem, and it was. From that point on, the little Pocketlite ran perfectly.
It didnt exactly stun us with its accuracy, giving a best five-shot group at 15 yards of 3.4 inches with the Cor-Bon fodder. It didnt seem to like the Federal, which ran fine but didnt give good accuracy. The largest group we recorded with the Pocketlite was 6.4 inches with Federal ammo, but four of those went into 1.9 inches. However, the general scattering of shots with both Colts told us that these guns are not target pieces, so an occasional tight clustering of shots didnt mean all that much. Average accuracy of the Pocketlite with all loads was about 4.6 inches. That of the all-steel Mustang was closer to 6 inches. Not tack-drivers, these. Only you can judge if thats enough accuracy for you, based on your intended uses and expectations for a .380.