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(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)

By Bentley Lignell

Growing up in the 1990’s I feel like was a blessing and a curse as a gun enthusiast. Us darn kids got to grow up never knowing the struggle of watching all of favorite new rifles turn their beautiful wooden furniture in for synthetics. We weren’t blown away by Gaston’s “plastic” gun. But we didn’t ever truly gain a respect for what the 1911 did for auto-loading handguns. I literally can’t shoot a revolver, where I try to grip the gun is way too high. I can’t imagine heading to the range without a mag-loader and the majority of handguns I’ve owned have required a trigger pull to remove the slide . . .

The Colt Mustang Plus II is special because it has made me miss the “good ‘ol days.” You know, the ones I wasn’t there for. Simplicity, in this rendition of John Browning’s (greatest) gift to the world, has me choosing to carry the gun when I need deeper concealment than my G19 will allow. After trying to stay away from “mouse guns,” this one was thrust upon me and it’s been a great addition to the regular rotation.

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Full disclosure: I’m not a 1911 guy. I just don’t get it. Why would you want to carry a heavier, slower handgun with lower capacity than a G23? Oh, it’s just a range toy? Fair enough – pick something cheaper to burn through mags at lightning speed. Of course not enough can be said about comfort, if you’re comfortable with a 5-shot revolver, you’ll be much more effective with it than a 17+1 autoloader that you’re terrified is going to “bite” you. If this is you, you need to depend on the revolver. Extra chances, size, speed, aftermarket support, etc., don’t mean bullsh….. cow-pie if you aren’t comfortable aiming and firing your weapon.

I started my gun-ownership with a S&W Sigma .40 (different review for a different day). As time progressed and I was able to acquire more handguns I stuck with what I was comfortable with. Until one very uncomfortable day – the day my father in law lost his battle with cancer.

I had spent time on the range with Mike; he mostly shot trap with us boys. He always talked up his little Colt, but I never bothered to really find out why. Just after getting back from the hospital for that last time, I decided to make sure his firearms were all in the safe. I found that Colt in his nightstand cocked and locked with three loaded mags. Of all the guns he had (multiple handguns, rifles and shotguns,) it was the one he kept this close through a battle that most of us fear more than a violent encounter in a dark parking lot.

Being the only handgunner in the family, I was able to add the Colt to my collection without any haggling or arguing with the rest of the family. About three months later I finally bought a box of .380 ACP and took her to the range for the first time.

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I have no idea how many rounds have been fired through this little hunk of metal, but I do know that it’s plenty broken in. The action is buttery smooth without a hint of notchy-ness. Recoil is light and I have yet to experience a single failure of any type (600 rounds in so far.)

The sights were weird at first; there are no dots and the front and rear sights kind of blend together color-wise. In adequate lighting however, this is the most accurate “mouse gun” I’ve ever shot. A tritium painted front sight might make this the all-around most accurate mouse gun money can buy. Groupings are consistent and plenty small for a self-defense weapon.

The trigger is a very nice SAO device that breaks clean and consistently, with a short and predicable reset. Who’d have thought a 1911-type weapon would have a nice trigger? The grip on the old girl is a bit small for my big paws, but that’s to be expected with such a small single-stack gun.

Concealing this gal is easy. I’ve made a clip/loop free holster for the gun that I use in occasional coat pocket carry. The reduced weight makes the Mustang a great option for this type of carry, although this is a very rare occurrence for me. The trigger guard is a little small for gloved hands, but again, all in the name of concealability. My feeling is this – a gun this size is what you take when you can’t take anything else. If you are planning on using your gun, gloves or no gloves, this shouldn’t be you first choice for hardware.

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A Leatherman belt holster is exactly perfect for concealing two single-stack, 7 round, .380acp mags in plain sight.

The safety on this little Colt is on the frame rather than the slide which is more authentic to a 1911 than some of the impersonators out there. On this gun it’s a bit difficult to manipulate quickly, the profile of the lever is low, and it’s so darned close to the web of your hand that your thumb needs to be double jointed to get there without loosening your grip. Thank goodness it’s a “slap down to go” design rather than the upside-down atrocities I’ve seen elsewhere (*cough* SR22 *cough*). I’ve spent a bunch of time training myself to drop the safety while bringing this gun to eye-level. It’s resulted in an un-necessary (but also un-damaging) tendency to sweep my right thumb down with all handguns just before deciding to bring the trigger finger to the go-switch.

Field stripping this gun is easy, pull the slide back until a notch in the slide matches the nipple on the slide catch lever, pull the slide catch lever out of the left side, slowly allow the slide to move back to its resting position, and lastly, pull the slide assembly off the front of the frame. From there it’s simply removal of the recoil spring/guide rod assembly, then the barrel and you’re field stripped. We’re all used to it. This design gets a point for not requiring a trigger pull (I don’t think that a required trigger pull is unsafe, but does feel like a design inadequacy) and one demerit for having one more loose part during a simple field strip and cleaning.

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All together I have found this gun to be an excellent range day partner and a really fun addition to some of the bigger bore options that I generally carry. It’s something that people aren’t afraid to shoot, given its light recoil, simple to understand procedures and snack size ergos. It’s been the first “real” handgun that some of my female relatives have shot. The cost of ammunition in this caliber isn’t any fun, but reloading will make that easier if you have the time and aren’t afraid to try.

Many people will try to compare this gun to things like the Bersa Thunder or a Kel-Tec P3AT, which is fair. I’ve only shot the Bersa Thunder (and got to do so back to back with this gun) and the Bersa left me underwhelmed. The Bersa is bigger without carrying any more rounds and has a negligibly longer sight radius. Additionally, I believe the owner had a lemon of a mag, but the last round loved to jam on its short journey into the chamber. The cost between the two is great, but the lack of faith that I would have in the Bersa wouldn’t justify saving any number of dollars.

If you ever get the chance to fondle a Colt Mustang in any of its flavors, I highly recommend it.

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Mustang Mark IV Series 80 Plus II
Caliber: .380acp
Capacity: 7+1
Barrel Length: 2.75”
Sights: Fixed
MSRP: Eh, used I’ve seen them between $650 and $800

 

Ratings (out of 5 stars):

Ergonomics: * * * *
Fair and acceptable for a pocket sized pistol. I’ve got relatively large hams with an un-addressed boxer’s fracture in the right hand and I manage OK. A larger profile safety lever would make all the difference to me.

Reliability: * * * * *
I’ve now been through 600+ rounds and have yet to experience a failure of any type. I’ve tried a variety of factory loads and a handful of handloads. Still have yet to be disappointed.

Concealability: * * * * *
This feels like a rating on the gun type rather than the specific model, but it’s great. I don’t have a carry desire that can’t be met with this little gem.

Customize This: * * * *
Custom grip panels can be found and that’s something some people like to get for a gun of this type. For me personally, the first thing to change will be the lack of differentiation between the front and rear sights. I’d like to get the front sight painted with something white or Tritium, but haven’t found the perfect solution just yet (given that the front sight blade is an integral part of the slide).

Overall Rating: * * * * *
I might be a bit nostalgic with this piece, given its personal history with me, but I truly believe it’s the best option out there for a mouse gun. If you find yourself in a position to try one out at the range, please do. You won’t be disappointed.

 

29 Responses to Gun Review: Colt Mustang Mark IV Series 80 Plus II

  1. I really like these, but the money they go for on gunbroker has thus far kept me away… And for the same money I can get a brand new Sig P238 that is very similar…

    • interestingly, colt couldn’t figure out how to properly market the mustang, and sold manufacturing rights to sig. when the sig 238 took-off in popularity, colt re-introduced the mustang, and variants. can’t think of a reason to trade a 238 for a ‘stang, or add the pocket pony to the collection.

  2. I was lucky enough to buya Mustang Pocketlite from a friend over a year ago. I’m happy with mine. My daughter shot it more accurately than I did. So proud of her. I did buy an extra Sig mag for it. Doesn’t like flat nose .380 rounds, but everything else works fine. Bought another Mustang mag the next time.

    • Curious. My 238 mags (SIG manuf) all process flat nose reliably. Mustang mags in my SIGs also handle flat nose. Not sure what would cause SIG mags to choke flat nose in a Mustang. Maybe bending the follower up, just a little?

    • Bought my Mustang from my FFL dealer’s collection. He just shoved it under my nose one day as I was looking at his display case. I looked at him funny and all I could say is “how much”. Had the same experience with my daughter. She shot it better than me.

  3. Something else your generation missed out on. A country that was for the most part may issue.

    Be interested to see your review of the sigma .40. I have a 9mm sigma. Most bland weapon I believe I’ve ever used. But it works. And just keeps working.

  4. “Who’d have thought a 1911-type weapon would have a nice trigger?”
    I enjoyed reading the article, and I owned one of those Mustangs for a few years despite being a non-fan of 9 Kurz. We also own a Sig 938, which would seem the same if it wasn’t for the Mustang experience.
    But that sentence up there threw me back over the hedge into the alley.
    A 1911 not have a nice trigger? (We call them “guns” around here, incidentally.)
    Even the most strident detractors of the platform can easily be maneuvered into admitting the best single feature of the design is the trigger action.
    Color me puzzled about that.
    Listen, stop by and the missus and I will roll out a bunch of 1911s for you to actually fire. From that sentence quoted above, it’s hard to imagine any experience with one worthy of the name.

  5. The wife and I currently have 9 pistols two of which are revolvers.1 of those 9 is the Colt Mustang. It is the wife’s favorite carry piece. She has other 380s to choose as well as 45s, 9 mils 38 special and 357 mag. But that little Colt is her favorite. Don’t get me wrong, she is not afraid to shoot any of them and can drive nails with all of them. My carry is a full size Kimber 45. But I like the little Colt 380 as a pocket stuffer. Or a backup, I guess I will have buy my own as she always has it on her.

  6. My LCP is my carry gun because it fits perfectly into the watch pocket of a pair of Levis and, as i rationalize, at the engagement ranges I might encounter will perform well enough to deal with trouble. But my Mustang clone SIg P238 usually finds its way into my bag when I’m heading out to the gun-range. As a design for a small handgun, the Mustang and P238 version are pretty much incomparable: fun to shoot, quite accurate for such a short barrel (see Hickok45’s amazing video with the P238), and a solid construction that says h-a-n-d-g-u-n. The Mustang and P238 are great shooting, reliable, little guns. What’s not to like?

    • Agreed. I have many “pocket” guns, some in “1911-style”, some striker fired, some DAO, and one SA/DA between calibers .32, .380, and 9mm. The 1911 style Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380 is the best shooter of the group.

  7. I purchased a Sig P238 while my Colt Mustang needed work on the recoil spring. They both cost about the same in spite of the Colt being 20 years older, so the dollars washed. Once the Colt was fixed the Sig was sold. That little Colt hits accurately each and every time. I couldn’t get the same performance from the Sig.

  8. And to think that both the SIG and the Colt Mustang are pretty much copies of the original mini-1911 .380: the exquisite little 14 oz. Star DK “Starfire” from Eibar, Spain—-available 50+ years ago but banned from import by the Gun Control Act of 1968.

  9. I have a new Mustang Pocketlite, looks very similar to the gun reviewed but is slightly re-engineered. it’s a great little pocket gun, except for the tiny sights. Replaced them with XS Sifhts Standar Dots. My Mustang Pocketlite has been incredibly reliable. Recently picked up a Sig P938, which is pretty much the same gun scaled up slightly for 9mm. Between the two, The Pocketlite is a little easier to conceal and shoot because the recoil is easy to manage on a gun so small that you can only get 3 fingers in the frip. Both guns are excellent choices for easy, easy, EASY concealability. I also have two Kahrs – P380 and CM9, which are excellent, but the Pocketlite is the best of all of them to shoot.

  10. The Mustang has now competition. Browning just came up with a 380 that looks exactly as the the regular 1911 but at 85% size. It has an 8 round mag and a 5 inch barrel and weighs 17 oz. For those that like me, are not attracted to the stunt appearance of the Mustang, this new gun has appeal. It keeps the original lines of the 1911.
    It is the same idea of a Sig Mosquito in 22lr that is a P226 reduced to 85% of the 226’s size; it keeps the original lines of the big model.

  11. I recently shot the Kimber version of this and fell in love with it, My range has the Colt and Sig in the rental counter and I am looking forward to trying them out on my next date night with my wife.

    • Are you talking about the kimber solo? If so, research that one carefully. Appears to be really picky about ammo. Try both the sig 238 and 938. Have two 238s, and would not trade for mustang or kimber. Really curious about the Browining and Rock Island ‘baby’ 1911s in .380. However, 85% of a 5 inch barrel is 4.25 (commander territory), so they might be fun guns, but carry is not as easy as the 238/938.

      • No, not the Solo. Look up their Micro Carry .380. It’s a really nice little gun. Yeah I’m conflicted about the Browning too. It’s small but not quite small enough.

        • I’ve owned many “pocket guns”, including a Colt Mustang Pocketlite, Sig P938, and Kimber Solo. I’ve never sold a pocket gun, except for the Kimber Solo. Fired it side-by-side with the P938 – the Kimber looks nicer, has better sights, but jams. The Colt and the Sig have been rock solid reliable.

        • the micro carry seems to have a bit longer beavertail, and a near-hidden hammer. kinda like the idea of a hidden hammer, but i carry hammer-cocked anyway. curious if manual cocking the sig p238 is easier than the kimber would be. but that is just curiosity; wouldn’t trade 238. but might rent the kimber if available at a local range.

  12. kind of a laughable article to me.. I have shot handguns for 5 decades… we always knew that surplus Colts 1911’s were not that accurate.. most of us knew how to shoot a revolver and at distances of 20-200 yards.. we never seen an auto shucker that could come close.. nowdays I shoot revolvers and 1911’s.. accuracy to me always seems to mean something different than it does to the tupperware crowd.. they look like deer in the headlights when my 44 mag smith takes out a water filled milk jug at 100 yards and I ask them to try it with the half a box capacity plastic wonder they have been bragging about… I will take out my newer Colt 1911 and do it tho.

    The older mustang was.. well.. either Colt goodness or… crap.. great idea stolen from spain but using wore out Colt tooling.. the accuracy was.. awful.. even in the best examples.. the sig copies and the new Colts are leaps and bounds better in almost every example.

    lastly.. if capacity is all the plastic gun has to offer? no thanks.. never seen capacity to have been to any real advantage in any situation we (as civilians) are likely to encounter.

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