Concealed carry pocket pistols are not new. Yes, the latest .380 and 9mm ultra-compacts are, but the idea itself is centuries old. The very first were little single-shot flintlocks dating back to the Revolutionary War. By the time of the American Civil War, 150 years ago, single, double, triple and even four-barreled pocket pistols in .22 and .32-caliber rimfire were in common use.
The first semiautomatic pistol small enough to discretely hide away in a vest or trouser pocket was invented by John Moses Browning in 1897 and manufactured by Fabrique National as the Model 1900. It was chambered in .32 ACP. In the United States, the first subcompact semi-auto was the Colt 1908 Vest Pocket Model Hammerless chambered in .25 ACP. This was to become one of the most popular small pistols of the early 20th century, remaining in production until 1946. It should come as no surprise then that Colt also manufactured the very first subcompact .380 some 40 years later. They called it the Mustang.
The Mustang was produced in a variety of models from 1986 until 1999, including the Plus II (1988-96), Stainless (1990-1998), and five versions of the Pocketlite, before being discontinued. At the end of the 20th century, the .380 Auto, which had been invented in 1908 by John M. Browning, was regarded as a substandard round for personal defense. Not an entirely correct assumption. This was further disproved in 2003 when the Kel-Tec P-3AT took the country by storm as the go-to concealed carry handgun. Fast forward to 2012 and .380 pocket pistols have become the most popular concealed carry sidearms in the country. Add to that recent advances in bullet designs and terminal velocities for .380 Auto cartridges, and resurrecting the Mustang Pocketlite becomes both a prudent and well-thought-out decision.
After a decade-plus hiatus, Colt simply didn’t dust off the tooling and start building the same gun—they made improvements in its design and construction. The latest version uses a new aluminum alloy receiver, stainless steel slide and barrel CNC-machined from solid bar stock for precise tolerances. The new gun looks and feels different, too, with an overall superior fit and finish compared to its predecessors, particularly in slide-to-frame tolerances. This is further set off by the stark contrast between the polished stainless steel slide and the matte, bead-blasted appearance of the aluminum alloy electroless nickel frame, which has a warm, champagne-colored hue. The slide’s side panels and the hammer flats are polished bright to contrast the thumb safety, slide, magazine release, and top surface of the slide, which have a matte finish. It is a handsome, two-tone combination.
With a loaded magazine, the Mustang tips the scales at less than a pound and measures 5.5 inches in length with a 2.75-inch barrel. The minimal weight and length of the gun, combined with the short single-action trigger, proven frame and grip design, and firing pin safety block, make this an ideal small-caliber handgun for personal protection and concealed carry. The magazine holds six rounds, so capacity is seven with one in the chamber and “cocked and locked” is the standard carry method, just like a Model 1911.