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Monday, March 16, 2015

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Reviews: Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380

I am, in general, not a fan of the .380 cartridge or platform.  The pistols (by virtue of being pocket-sized) are too light for the cartridge, resulting in what some folks call "snappy recoil" and I call "feels like getting hit repeatedly in the webbing between thumb and forefinger by a police baton with only slightly less force needed to create a bruise." I have an excellent track record of handing new shooters my mom's S&W .380 Bodyguard, warning them about the recoil, and after the first one or two shots they decide that they no longer want to shoot that pistol.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that my father's Mustang Pocketlite .380 is actually quite pleasant to shoot.
I started shooting it last year, shortly after dad fell and broke his hip. I found the Mustang still in its box, unfired, as we cleaned a metric ton of crap out of his bedroom, and this bothered me on a personal level: guns are meant to be used, damn it.  

So with his permission, I took it to the range and discovered that it's actually a pretty neat little gun. 

What I Like About It
The small form factor means it fits my Hobbit-sized hands well, which so rare these days as to be notable. 

The trigger is so much lighter and smoother than the 12-pound pull of the S&W Bodyguard that there's really no contest. I have fine control when I'm shooting the Mustang; the Bodyguard might as well be a finger-strengthening machine that tosses a bullet out as a reward. 

The other controls (safety, slide release, mag release, etc) are similarly smooth. 

The recoil is somewhere between "Hey, that's not bad!" and "Wow, this is fun!" I'm not sure if that's because the Mustang is made from metal, or if it's just the superior engineering of a 1911 pattern scaled-down to shoot .380 cartridges. Either way, it doesn't cause me physical pain to shoot, which encourages me to shoot it more often.

What I Don't Like About It
Despite not having harsh recoil, the entire gun snaps upward after each shot. This makes it hard to re-acquire the sight picture, which is a necessity when it comes to self-defense. 

Speaking of sights, I could not hit with any degree of accuracy using the iron sights. I'm not sure if I was flinching, or holding the pistol wrong, or something else entirely, but it seemed like all of my shots were way, way low -- six inches below my point of aim, or lower. I expect that some of this had to do with the very short (4 inch) sight radius. I received some instruction on point shooting, and that helped with the aim somewhat -- I was able to make it onto the target, at least -- but it still didn't feel natural. I have since remedied this problem with a LaserMax CenterFire Laser, which will be the subject of a later review.

After about 100 rounds, the pistol begins to misfeed. I believe this is due to the short barrel leaving unburnt gunpowder residue that fouls the action, because after shooting a box or more this pistol is filthy, regardless of what brand of ammunition I use.

Stripping and cleaning the pistol is easy, but reassembly can be difficult. The recoil spring assembly does not want to re-seat, and it requires frequent cursing and several re-tries to get it back in place. A worse offender is the ejector, a little L-shaped hook that has a tendency to get pushed down and out of place. (Does "out of battery" apply here? I feel like it should.)

Despite what the manual says about this situation --
Mustang Ejector 2 of 2 photo Mustangejector-2.jpg
-- I have NEVER been able to fix it in this manner. I end up having to detail strip the thing, and am only able to return it to battery (yeah, I just decided it applies) after removing the entire hammer-spring assembly in order to manhandle the ejector into place.

Do I Recommend It?
My answer is a definite sort of.

On the one hand, it's a nice little gun that carries well and shoots well. Sights are an issue, but I like lasers so that isn't a problem for me. I would feel confident in letting my mom, who is 75 has arthritis, use this for self-defense.

On the other hand, it's not the easiest thing in the world to put back together, and unlike a Glock there are lots of little parts to get lost. Given the tendency for the ejector rod to get stuck, I would NOT give this to a novice to clean! If, however, that novice lived with someone more skilled with firearms, and that person was in charge of cleaning and maintaining it, then that would be okay.

Overall, I'd give it a B- rating*:  clearly one of the best .380s I've shot, but its maintenance issues keep it from scoring higher.

* This rating is only contingent on having an aiming laser. Without it, this pistol would fall to a C.

For those curious, here's my grading logic:
A: Does everything smoothly & perfectly.
B: Does everything well, with some issues.
C: Functions adequately, but something pisses me off.
D; Does the bare minimum needed to qualify as a thing. I.E. a gun would have to go "bang" and throw a bullet some distance downrange.
F: Doesn't have basic "thing qualifications", or does so in an unsafe manner (goes bang but injures your hands). 

Dear FTC:  This review was not bought, and your mother says hi. 

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