By NRA’s American Rifleman staff
It is no secret that American handgunners have a love affair with the M1911. It also will shock very few that not everyone finds an M1911-style pistol easy to carry concealed on an everyday basis. For those who value the great trigger, single-action operation, and aesthetic lines of the M1911 but desire a smaller and lighter handgun for discreet carry, Colt offers the Mustang XSP. The XSP is a polymer-frame handgun that shares many of the features and the basic operation of the .45 warhorse, but is chambered in .380 ACP.
The XSP .380, at less than 12 ozs. unloaded and only 5-1/2″ long, is small enough for pocket carry yet substantial enough for proper carry in an inside-the-waistband holster. Unlike many pocket guns, it has a hand-filling grip frame, good sights and, thanks to its single-action operation, a trigger that enhances its shootability.
The XSP’s polymer grip frame is a single molded unit with an aggressively textured frontstrap and backstrap that prevent slippage. Simulated stock panels are molded into the frame and are therefore not interchangeable. A steel insert provides four frame rails on which the slide rides, and all of the internal working parts appear to be made of steel as well. There is a small swept beavertail on the frame and the frontstrap is squared-off. A 3/8″ accessory rail is molded into the dustcover for the mounting of compact lights or lasers.
The grip extends 11/4″ below the bottom edge of the trigger guard, so the vast majority of shooters will find that there is no room for their little finger on the grip frame; nonetheless, a relief cut at the rear of the trigger guard allows for a relatively high grip on the pistol. A slight bevel at the mouth of the magazine well helps guide the stainless steel magazines into position. The Mustang can be fired without a magazine in place.
The 11/4″ wide M1911-style trigger is aluminum and features grooves on its face. The magazine release, safety lever, and Commander-style hammer are all constructed of bead-blasted stainless steel, and lend the gun a two-tone appearance.
The slide is constructed of stainless steel but is finished in a matte-black coating that Colt calls “Diamond-Like Carbon” (DLC). The 2-3/4″ barrel is made from polished stainless steel and is a linkless design with a fixed bushing. A polymer full-length guide rod with dual coil springs returns the slide into battery. The sights are plain black steel without dots or other markings and dovetail securely into the slide. The rear sight is nearly identical to the fixed sight on World War II G.I. M1911A1s and, while those sights were considered by many to be too small, they are sized about perfectly to the small slide of this .380. Series 80 “enhanced” style angled slide serrations are found on either side of the slide, and provide positive purchase on the pistol when loading it.
The Mustang’s operation is very traditional, and will be familiar to anyone accustomed to the M1911 or other single-action designs, such as the Browning Hi-Power. The six-round magazine is loaded and inserted into the magazine well; cycling the slide loads a round into the chamber and the pistol is now ready to fire. An ambidextrous frame-mounted safety catch can be engaged to carry the pistol cocked and locked. Though the safety catch is scaled to the small size of the XSP, we found it easy to engage and disengage.
The unloaded Mustang is disassembled by retracting the slide until the half-moon cutout on its left side lines up with the rounded tab on the slide stop. The slide stop can then be removed by pushing it right to left. Once the slide stop has been removed, the slide can be slid forward and off the frame and the guide rod and barrel can be removed. Reversing the procedure assembles the pistol.
We test-fired the Mustang with four different loads to evaluate accuracy and reliability. The gun’s short, surprisingly crisp trigger pull, which broke at just more than 6 lbs., was key to the fine practical accuracy it demonstrated. Typically, guns in its size range have long, heavy trigger pulls and lackluster sights, making them difficult to shoot well. But the Mustang proved the exception to that rule. In addition to the good trigger, the gun’s sharp sights made it easy to shoot with precision. From an accuracy standpoint, the XSP performed like a handgun well beyond its size and weight with one-hole groups common out to 10 yds. Recoil and muzzle flip were minimal, thanks to the low bore axis and well-designed grip. Split times for rapid fire drills were in the 0.25-second range while maintaining A-zone hits on USPSA targets at 7 yds.—great for such a concealable handgun.
We encountered two malfunctions during our more than 200 rounds of testing; both were stovepipes with the PMC Bronze 90-gr. full-metal-jacket load. Since we experienced 100 percent reliability with all of the self-defense ammunition used, it is likely that the PMC loads were a bit underpowered for the Mustang’s stiff recoil system and the cases weren’t able to clear the ejection port before the slide made its way forward. We were unable to purposefully cause a stovepipe malfunction despite strong- and weak-hand-only efforts to do so. The XSP fed, fired, and ejected all other ammunition flawlessly including two jacketed-hollow-point designs.
There are many handguns on the market in the size and power category of the Colt Mustang XSP. Within that category, however, there are few models with robust steel sights, a crisp single-action trigger with a short reset and a manual thumb safety. On that space, the Mustang stands nearly alone. Shooters who prefer single-action semi-automatic handguns for discreet carry will appreciate the concealable performance of the Mustang.
Manufacturer: Colt’s Mfg. Co., LLC, 545 New Park Ave., West Hartford, CT 06110; (800) 962-2658; colt.com
Caliber: .380 ACP
Action Type: recoil-operated, center-fire semi-automatic pistol
Frame: polymer with steel insert
Slide: coated stainless steel
Barrel: 2¾” stainless steel
Finish: diamond-like carbon/matte stainless steel
Rifling: six-groove, 1:16″ LH twist
Magazine: steel detachable box; six-round capacity
Sights: steel blade front and rear; drift-adjustable for windage
Trigger: single-stage: 6-lb., 4-oz. pull
Overall Length: 5½”
Weight: 11.8 ozs.
Accessories: hard case, spare magazine, owner’s manual, lock