(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Model: Mustang Mark IV Series 80 Plus II
Barrel Length: 2.75”
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.