I’ve always been a fan of the .380 Colt Mustang, but by the time I had both the inclination and money to buy one, Colt had ceased production (in 2000). A few years back, however, the company decided to jump back into the commercial market with both feet and introduced not just the New Agent but the Mustang Pocketlite, an aluminum-frame model with a stainless slide. The new 2011 version had the same dimensions as the original and, in fact, was specifically designed to accept original parts.
When interviewing Greg Rozum, director of product engineering at Colt, about the new Pocketlite, I was told that this was just the first of many planned Mustang models. I never really gave a thought to what next model of Mustang Colt would introduce, but if I had, on my short list of possibles would have been both a DAO model and one with a polymer frame. Enter the Colt Mustang XSP.
Tweaks to the Template
Colt could have introduced a polymer-frame Mustang without changing anything in the design, and they would have people lining up to buy them simply because it says “Colt” on the side. I am happy to say they did not do that. In fact, this is the Mustang Colt should have introduced first. Everything about it is better. The dimensions of the Mustang XSP are the same (length, height, depth), and it’s still a 6+1 single-action .380, but with the polymer frame it’s more than an ounce lighter than the Pocketlite. However, the numbers do not tell the whole story here.
First, the XSP is all black, but it won’t rust in your pocket. The slide and barrel are machined out of solid stainless steel bar stock, then given a blackened finish. Next, even the serrations on the slide have been improved when compared with the original Mustangs and the Pocketlite. The serrations are wider and deeper, providing a more aggressive gripping surface. In case you’re wondering what “XSP” stands for (my guess was “XTra Special Polymer”), RJ Contorno of Colt explained, “XSP is sort of a carry-over from our XSE series of pistols. The XSE line is a line with many upgrades from our standard line, such as dovetailed front and rear sights, ambidextrous safeties, undercut triggerguard, etc. We changed the ‘E’ to a ‘P’ simply because the new Mustang has a polymer grip frame.”
While both the Pocketlite and XSP have the same dovetailed notch rear sight, the XSP has a better front sight. One of the mediocre aspects of the Pocketlite was the nonserrated ramp front sight, which was part of the slide. Considering that the slide is stainless, that made the front sight hard to pick up under certain lighting conditions. The XSP has a dovetailed front sight with a sharp angle to it (it’s not quite a post). Admittedly, the sights are small, but when combined with the crisp, five-pound single-action trigger, I was able to shoot this .380 as well as some full-size guns. The other advantage of dovetailed sights? You can replace them (I wouldn’t be surprised to see some version of the XS Big Dot for the XSP soon).
On to the major change: the frame. The big news isn’t really that the frame of the XSP is made from polymer. It’s that the versatility of polymer has allowed the engineers to design a frame that has been tweaked and improved in half a dozen ways. The front and back of the Pocketlite were a little smooth for my taste, even though felt recoil in the pistol wasn’t bad at all. The front and rear of the XSP’s grip are textured with little raised cubes (sort of reverse checkering). The triggerguard is square, and, in fact, the front of the triggerguard even has a bit of a hook. Combine that with the tiny accessory rail on the front of the frame and I’m sure we’ll be seeing lasers specifically designed for the XSP very shortly.
The XSP benefits from an undercut triggerguard as well. This is something I see on a lot of competition 1911s, and it allows the shooter to get his hand higher on the gun. How much higher? Maybe an eighth of an inch on the XSP vs. the Pocketlite. While an eighth of an inch isn’t much, if you’ve got thick fingers and are always fighting to get two of them on pocket guns, that might be all that you need.
The grips are all one piece to the frame, and they have been relieved on the left side to provide better access to the noticeably enlarged magazine release. It doesn’t stick out any farther, but the diameter has been increased from ¼ to 5/16s of an inch. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’d be surprised — it increases the area by 50 percent (trust me, I did the math so you don’t have to).
Not only does the XSP come with an ambidextrous thumb safety, but the contour of the safety has been changed slightly as well. When engaged, the top of the safety matches the curve of the frame, and the ledge on the lever has been moved down slightly when compared with that of the Pocketlite. The safety’s ledge has also been narrowed when compared with that of the Pocketlite. It sticks out from the frame about one millimeter less. This I don’t like. That safety is something that will need to be disengaged before the pistol can fire, which means it should be large enough to manipulate under stress. I’m guessing Colt did this because the ambi nature of the safety means that the other side of the safety digs into the index-finger knuckle when it is disengaged. I would rather they move the ledge farther up the body of the safety and widen it.
To provide some contrast to the black slide and frame, the hammer, magazine release, thumb safety and slide release are all natural stainless. The pistol comes with two stainless steel magazines, the same kind as provided with the Pocketlite (they’ll fit all original Colt .380s). The trigger of the XSP is blackened aluminum, and the pistol has a full-length polymer guide rod.
To the Range
Like it or not, our opinions often tend to be influenced by others. When Shari, my long-suffering contact at my FFL (Double Action Indoor Range), called me to let me know I had a new Colt in, she expressed a few heartfelt opinions. “My God, is it ugly,” she told me. “The grip texture, the frame … ugh.” Shari sees more guns than the prop handler on a Michael Bay movie, so, understandably, I was actually biased against the new Mustang before I even opened the box and took a look.
But when I did crack open the blue box and unwrap this “hideous” new pistol, I actually liked it. In fact, the longer I handled it, the more I liked it. Beauty is in the eye of the gunholder. I prefer the XSP to the Mustang Pocketlite, both in looks and features, and I like the Pocketlite just fine. The XSP grip seems to fill my hand better, and I like the looks and feel of the squared triggerguard better than the original round one. Plus, the ambidextrous safety is a step up. The two Mustangs appear to be only distant relatives, so chances are that if you don’t like the looks of one, you’ll like the other.
Trigger pull on my sample gun was a crisp five pounds. While it looks like a 1911 trigger, the trigger on the Mustang actually pivots (although there is not much movement). It has a short reset, too, which means shooting quickly is much easier than if the pistol had been burdened with a long DAO pull.
Based on my experience test-driving the new Pocketlite last year, I was looking forward to shooting the XSP. The Pocketlite only weighed 121/2 ounces, and I was expecting a snappy gun. What I got was the opposite. It was so soft-shooting that my 10-year-old son was doing full magazine dumps as fast as he could pull the trigger, getting pie-plate-size groups at seven yards. My kids and I put 200 rounds through the Pocketlite in an hour and had nothing but fun, no sore hands to be found. I think this has as much to do with not having to fight the trigger each time to make the gun go off as anything else.
I assumed I’d have the same experience with the XSP, for while it is a bit lighter than the Pocketlite, my experience has shown that polymer frames tend to soak up more recoil forces than metal. I actually had a Pocketlite on hand for comparison, so I was able to shoot it and the XSP side by side.
Shooting a gun the size of the XSP with two hands makes you feel equal parts silly and giant-size. I don’t have large hands, and with both of them on the gun, it still came close to disappearing. Felt recoil is the same between the Pocketlite and the XSP, which means not bad at all for a .380. The XSP shot to point of aim out to 15 yards, and the good sights and trigger meant I could shoot up to the pistol’s ability. It preferred Hornady’s 90-grain Critical Defense ammo, and one miraculous five-shot group at 15 yards was a mere 1.2 inches (although most were substantially larger). I did have three stovepipe jams in the first 30 rounds, but after that the pistol ran smoothly no matter what I fed it.
Some people want to jump all over Colt for “finally” introducing a polymer-frame .380 after Ruger has sold 19 gazillion LCPs. Not to step on any toes, but I don’t own an LCP for two reasons: the trigger pull and the sights (to stretch the definition of the term). Guns this size are usually going to be used at conversational distances, we’re often told, so sights are irrelevant. Well, they are. Right up until they’re not. And if the circumstances it’s most likely to be used in involve short range and high stress, why would I deliberately carry a pistol that is equipped with a long, heavy trigger that precludes any sort of rapid, accurate fire?
The Mustang XSP is small and concealable. It’s got a great trigger and an ambi safety, but for a long time I’ve been conflicted as to how I’d actually carry any single-action “pocket” gun. I don’t want to see a single-action pistol with no grip safety bouncing around in a pocket, much less a purse, as thumb safeties get knocked off. A pistol going off in your pocket will ruin your whole day, which is why so many of them have long, heavy, horrible triggers. The XSP seems too small to carry on a belt without looking silly. After much thought and a simple process of elimination, I think the best carry option would be in a pocket in a purpose-built holster that keeps the pistol oriented properly while covering the triggerguard, so even if the safety gets bumped off, nothing can get to the trigger. I had a Safariland Model 25 meant for an LCP with a Crimson Trace laser on hand that fit the XSP acceptably, and I carried the pistol for a few days in it. This holster is polymer wrapped in suede, so it keeps its shape, protects the trigger, yet won’t pull out of your pocket when you draw the gun. I imagine by the time you read this, several holster makers will be putting out models specifically designed for the XSP.
To be honest, the price tag of $649 is a bit steep for a polymer-frame gun of this size, even one with a stainless slide. Yes, I like it, and it is in the price range of the SIG P238, but the SIG has a metal frame, and metal is more expensive. The Mustang XSP is a definite improvement on the design, but until Colt drops the suggested price a bit (to something that starts with a “5”) many people won’t even give it a look, and that’s a shame, for they’ll be missing out on a significant upgrade to the Mustang name.