Tag Archives: Colt

Fun Firearm Friday — Colt MK IV/Series’ 80 Mustang Plus II

Colt’s MK IV/Series 80′ Mustang Plus II

In May, 2017, I ran a three-article series on pocket pistols. The pistols viewed that week were the Beretta 3032 Tomcat (.32 ACP/7.65mm) and the Colt Mustang Lite (.380 ACP/9mm kurz). That series culminated in a shoot off between the two, as well as a size/weight comparison between them of the Walther PPK and PPK/S.

Colt’s MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II

While researching that article, I found information on the Colt MK IV/Series 80 Government Model 380 (a scaled down version of the Series 80 Model 1911 introduced in 1984), and the even smaller early Colt Mustangs, which arrived two years later and continued in the market until around 1998 (reintroduced in 2011). What I did not include in that article was information on another Colt .380 ACP/9mm kurz pistol that starting in 1988 bridged the size gap between the Government Model 380 and the Mustang.

Colt’s MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II

That pistol is the Colt MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II. The Mustang Plus II took the all steel 7+1 capacity frame of the Government Model 380, and mated to it the shorter slide and barrel from the 5+1 (later increased to 6+1 after 1992) capacity Mustang — two additional rounds, hence the name Mustang Plus II. These original Mustang Plus II pistols were blued steel, but sometime around 1990 Colt came out with a stainless version. Production of the stainless Mustang Plus II was thus only around seven or eight years, making this a bit of a rarity. At least I’d never seen one, up until July of last year.

Colt’s MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II

The MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II you see here today was manufactured in 1991, and appears very lightly used with no holster wear marring the stainless slide. It came with three factory magazines, which on the base are stamped with the Rampant Colt trademark, the letter ‘M’ on all three magazines, and the letter ‘S’ also on the nickel plated magazine, and the words ‘Colt .380 Auto.’ on all three.

Original Mustang Plus II/Government Model 380 magazines

The left side of the slide top line reads, “COLT MK IV/SERIES’ 80.” Below that in a smaller font is, “—MUSTANG-380 AUTO—.” The Rampant Colt is to the right of both lines. On the reverse side ahead of the ejection port, the slide is stamped, “PLUS II.” The barrel inside the ejection port reads, “CAL 380.”

Colt Mustang Plus II — Slide stamp

Comparing the slide markings to a more recent (circa 2016) polymer-frame Mustang Lite, the two lines on the left side read, “—MUSTANG—,” and “COLT 380 AUTO.” The right side of the newer Mustang Lite is blank, but, “CAL 380,” is stamped on that portion of the barrel visible through the ejection port.

Mustang Plus II and Mustang Lite (formerly XSP)

Dimensionally, the two guns are very similar. Slide and barrel length are, of course, the same, but the slightly longer beavertail of the Mustang Plus II adds perhaps a millimeter of length. The height differs, as one would expect. The Mustang Lite comes in at 3.9 inches/99mm, whereas the Mustang Plus II measures about 4.5 inches/114mm.

Mustang Plus II and Mustang Lite — Height comparison

But it’s the weight that most distinguishes the two. The Mustang Lite with it’s lightweight polymer frame, is a mere 12.54 ounces/356 grams including a empty magazine 11.2 ounces/318 grams without magazine). The slightly larger, all steel Mustang Plus II tips my scale at 19.42 ounces/551 grams (17.9 ounces/508 grams without magazine).

Colt’s MK IV/Series 80 Mustang Plus II

Magazine capacity only differs by a grand total of one—7+1 for the Mustang Plus II vs. 6+1 for the Mustang Lite when using the included (but in my case nonfunctioning) factory magazine. There are aftermarket (and more importantly reliable) magazines that give the Mustang Lite 7+1 capacity, but at the expense of an extra full inch/25mm of height because of the magazine’s finger rest configuration. Comparing the Plus II magazine to the extended aftermarket magazine for the Lite, it appears Metalform could knock off a half-inch/12.5mm of that penalty if they just left off the finger rest extension. But that extra length does allow for a more secure grip, as the pinky finger is no longer left dangling beneath the frame when the extended magazine is used.

Mustang Plus II and Mustang Lite — Height comparison

I’ve yet to fire the Mustang Plus II, and I look forward to a direct comparison with the Mustang Lite. The additional weight probably won’t help much in the recoil department, as I find the Mustang Lite already very controllable even without the 6.88 ounces/195 grams of added mass.

Mustang Plus II (1991) and Mustang Lite (2016)

So, if I were to choose between the two for a concealed carry piece, which would I pick? Hard choice. The Mustang Lite has the advantage of an ambidextrous safety, which is not really relevant to me as a right-hander (unless I had to use it with my left hand, of course), and the Mustang Plus II wins out in the height department by a small amount if you equip the Mustang Lite with an extended magazine to match the capacity of the Plus II. Weight difference isn’t really a factor on something already under 18 ounces, but I’ll admit that I do enjoy the additional heft and overall balance in the hand of the marginally heavier Plus II.

Colt Mustang Plus II — Rear sight

There is, however, a subtle difference in the triggers. The Mustang Lite takes up quickly and consistently, then has perhaps an eight of an inch of creep before breaking. The Plus II, on the other hand, displays more resistance on the longer take up, almost to the point of feeling mushy. And there’s a tactile, almost second-stage feel during the take-up pull. But the break requires less pull and feels cleaner with no creep at the end. Both triggers are exceptional, but I believe I prefer the feel of the Plus II in this department.

Mustang Plus II — Front sight

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An original Colt MK IV Series 70

Next week I begin another travel series — 54 days at sea on a trip that took us on two transatlantic crossings and a tour of both the Mediterranean and Black Seas. But for this week I’m returning to the subject that garners my highest audience, firearms.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70

It’s not often you come across a 36-year-old firearm in this condition. And according to the previous owner, the original Colt MK IV Series 70 has less than 100 rounds through it.

Colt MK IV Series 70 circa 1982

There are a few flaws in the original Colt satin blue finish, but I’d rate this pistol at around 98%. The wood grips also had some minor dings, as well, but also very minor.

Colt MK IV Series 70 original grip with Colt medallion

If you read my previous blog article on the new MK IV Series 70 (see: A Look at the Colt MK IV Series 70), then you know that the originals differed from the original in more than just the trigger. The original run from 1970 to 1983 also included a fingered “collet” bushing over a barrel with a widened muzzle end. This change was incorporated to improve the barrel-to-bushing fit in order to improve accuracy.

Series 70 collet bushing and wide-end barrel

The collet bushing held over into the Series 80 line until the late 1980s, but reports of bushing failures led Colt to revert back to the solid bushing which carries over to the reintroduced Series 70 pistols of today.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70 disassembled

The example here has a 70B prefixed serial number. That places this 1911 at the very end of the original MK IV Series 70 run, as the 70B serial number began in 1981 and ran through the end of production in 1983. The rest of the serial number leads me to believe that the actual year of production was probably 1982.

Colt 70B serial number places manufacture between 1981 and 1983

In my second article on the current Series 70 (see: Colt’s Series 70 Trigger Put to the Test — Series 70 vs. Series 80) I noted that the trigger was not all it was cracked up to be my Colt 1911 enthusiasts. I’ve since repeated my experiment (see video below) on side-by-side comparisons between probably half a dozen new Series 70 Colts and the current line of Series 80. Results were always the same. Out of the box, the current Colt Series 80 routinely beats the current Series 70 on every gun I’ve tried.

So, what about the original MK IV Series 70? Not so in this case. This truly the trigger I’ve seen praised. That’s not to say that the current Series 70 trigger is bad, as no Colt 1911/1991A1 trigger can be described as such from my experience, it’s just that the new Series 70 has more creep after take up and displays a degree of grittiness that simply doesn’t exist in any other Series 80 Colt I’ve tried.

Colt MK IV Series 70 slide stamp


Sights on the original Series 70 match the current crop. They’re nothing about which to write home. I much prefer the three-dot sights Colt uses on the current Series 80.

Colt MK IV Series 70 rear sight

Colt MK IV Series 70 front sight

Here’s a comparison between a new Series 70 and a Series 80 M1991A1 to illistrate what I mean:

New MK IV Series 70 left; new M1991A1 Series 80 right

Fortunately, both the original and previous owners of this pistol did something that far too few people do; they retained the original box and owner’s manual.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box and owner’s manual ©1981

Here is this original Mk IV Series 70 posing with the box it came in:

Colt MK IV Series 70 with original box

But the box has definitely seen better days, and the Styrofoam insert inside was partially melted away from gun lubricant. Fortunately, that didn’t mar the finish on the pistol.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box

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Firing Review — The stainless Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

You may recall that I gave a first-look review of this intriguing weapon and caliber before.  I had no intentions of firing that weapon, and still don’t as it’s a pre-bankruptcy example of the venerable Colt M1911 design in a somewhat rare caliber.


What’s in the box

Fortunately I satisfied my itch to try the M1911 in .38 Super +P by acquiring a second copy.  As with the first copy, this one is also a Model 1991A1 in stainless, and outwardly it’s identical.  The only difference appears to be the included magazines, as the firing example came with rubberized footings screwed onto the bottoms.  See below for a comparison:

Rubberized footing on magazines

Rubberized footing on magazines

Previous magazine footplate

Previous magazine footplate

So, finally, I got around to firing this incredible combination — the classic Colt M1911 chambered in the powerfully exquisite .38 Super +P cartridge.  For an explanation on how this combination came about in 1929, and a brief history on the .38 Super +P cartridge, read my first-look review by clicking on the link below.  I’m sure you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

The Prancing Horse

The Prancing Horse

Being the M1991A1, today’s Colt has the  Series 80 trigger.  For an explanation on that and a comparison with the Series 70 trigger go to these links:

Starboard view

Starboard view

And since I’ve covered the trigger on the Colt M1911 in those past articles, I won’t cover that again here today except to say that it’s what you’d expect from the M1911 design.  In a word — Superb.

Slide locked back

Slide locked back

As I’ve stated previously in the above articles, the Colt M1911 was originally designed around the .45 ACP cartridge.  Only in 1929 — when law enforcement had trouble going up against Depression-era desperados in thick steel-bodied cars and wearing body armor impervious to the .45 — did Colt get around to putting a bit more oomph through the Colt M1911.  That resulted in what is basically the forerunner to the Magnum load — the .38 Super +P, which would for six years reign as the most powerful handgun cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum revolver in 1935.  The .38 Super +P still beats the .40 SW, and even compares favorably with most commercial loads of the .357 SIG.

Slide forward

Slide forward

Considering the increased muzzle energy and higher velocity of the lighter .38 Super +P round, one would expect more recoil over an M1911 chambered in .45 ACP.  In actual practice it turns out just the opposite.  M1911 recoil with the much slower, quite heavy .45 ACP is very controllable, but it does have a “push” to it that gives some muzzle rise.  I refer to this recoil as a “push” because that’s the best way to describe what you feel.  If you read my article on firing the .45 ACP M1991A1 at the link below, you’ll find this description:

“In my opinion the 9mm has a sharper, quicker recoil whereas the .45 ACP imparts a steady, even, thrust-like reaction.  Recoil management is thus easy to accomplish and target reacquisition is very quick.”

Cocked and locked

Cocked and locked

If anything, the .38 Super +P feels more like the recoil one experiences when firing a standard locked-breech 9mm Parabellum when shot from a SIG P229.  The recoil impulse feels quicker than with an M1911 firing a .45 ACP, but the muzzle rise seems less and reacquisition on target is about the same.  There is one difference, however.  That’s in muzzle flash.  I shot this M1991A1 .38 Super at an indoor range with somewhat dim lighting.  The flash was . . . impressive.  Not .357 Magnum-out-of-a-two-inch-barrel impressive, but you’ll definitely notice a flash coming out of the muzzle.

Port view

Port view

My impressions after firing the .38 Super +P is that this is probably my new favorite handgun shooting round, and the M1991A1 in stainless is now my new favorite hiking piece except in brown bear country.  For that I’ll rely upon bear spray and shop around for something even more powerful as a backup to the spray, perhaps a Smith & Wesson .500 revolver with ported barrel.

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Yep, the Colt M1991A1 is simply that fun to shoot.  This is also an incredibly accurate combination in an very controllable package.

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