Caliber - .380ACP
Capacity - 6+1
Action - Double-Action Only (DAO)
Barrel - 2-3/4 inches
Weight - ~13 oz.


Colt's line of modern pocket pistols began in the 1980s with the Government .380, which was basically a scaled-down 1911 chambered in .380ACP. That design was the basis for the smaller and more simplified Mustang (all-steel) and Mustang Pocketlite (alloy frame), which found great popularity as backup and deep-concealment weapons for both law enforcement and armed citizens. In the late 1990s, Colt introduced a double-action-only version of the Mustang called the Pony, with the Pony Pocketlite following shortly thereafter. In 1998, Colt released the Pocket Nine, which was essentially a Pony scaled up to take the 9x19 cartridge. In 2000, Colt elected to shift its focus to military and law enforcement weapons, and dropped all its pocket autos from production, along with the DS-II and Magnum Carry revolvers and several models of the 1911A1. Despite this, aftermarket parts and gunsmithing support are still available for the Colt .380s, and a large number of these guns are still in circulation (though prices tend to run high, due to "collectibility" and their desirability as a carry gun).

One of my gunshop co-workers had bought a preowned-but-unfired Pony Pocketlite, put two magazines through it and decided he didn't care for its recoil or heavy trigger. I filed this away in the back of my mind until I found myself in the market for a more potent pocket pistol than my Kel-Tec P32. Having fired, and subsequently been turned off by, that company's P3AT, I began to contemplate other options. The Kahr PM9 was in the right weight class, but was a little too large for true "pocket carry" and was quite expensive. The little NAA Guardian .380 had a very stiff DA trigger pull, lacked usable sights and was disproportionately heavy for its size. Then I remembered the Pony. I asked my co-worker if I could borrow his to see if I liked it before I went looking for one of my own. I put 50 rounds through it and immediately fell in love; the trigger was smoother but heavier than the P32's, and both recoil and muzzle flip were negligible. I shot this thing way better than the P32. I did some homework on-line to get an idea what used Ponies were going for, then asked my co-worker "should I give you your gun back, or just a check?" We came to an agreement, and I swapped him my P32 with three mags and some cash for his Pony Pocketlite with two magazines. We both went away happy.

Fit & Finish
My Pony Pocketlite features a stainless steel slide and barrel over a gray-anodized aluminum frame. The black plastic grip panels feature inset Colt logo medallions and are held in place by single screws. The rear sight is black and dovetailed into the slide, while the front sight is silver and an integral part of the slide. Stripping the Pony revealed heavy toolmarks and several sharp edges on the underside of the barrel in the link and feed ramp area. While these do not affect function, they are an eyesore and make disassembly, reassembly and cleaning a bit rough on the hands. The recoil rod is a flimsy-looking piece of plastic with a double-wound non-captive spring. Reassembling the Pony is unusual, in that the recoil assembly must be inserted first and compressed, then the barrel is dropped in behind it and slid forward. The 6-round magazines are stainless steel with witness holes in both sides of the body and a welded-on floorplate. The follower is stamped metal. Magazine disassembly involves compressing the follower and spring with a long tool such as a pen or screwdriver, then inserting a punch or allen wrench through the witness holes below the follower to capture the spring in place. The mag is then inverted and the follower is pulled out through the top, followed by the spring.

As it comes, the Pony is a good deal more comfortable and more accurate than was my Kel-Tec P32. The DAO trigger is not as smooth as my Kahrs, and stacks heavily just before the break. If I roll the trigger back smoothly to that point and pause for a split-second before breaking the shot, I can do pretty well. Even firing as fast as I can stroke the trigger, I can keep all 7 shots in the 8-ring of a B27 at 10 yards - plenty good for a backup gun of this type. Reliability has been fairly good, but I have had some stoppages attributed to the magazines, and to the slide stop not being fitted tightly into the frame. I am pursuing fixes for those issues.

The Pony is a neat little gun, but is not without its flaws. Here are the improvements I made shortly after acquiring the gun:

That work was about the extent of what I could do by myself; it vastly improved the gun and I carried and shot it with these upgrades for several months. But there were still some things I wanted to have done, so in February of 2006, I created a work order on Cylinder & Slide's web site and began the long wait for bench space to open up. I chose to have the following services performed:

In October, I received notice that C&S was ready for my gun, so I packed it up and shipped it off with my balance due and a copy of my work order. A couple weeks later, I was surprised to receive a call from the gunsmith working on my pistol; he stated that he had installed the front sight and was filing it down so the gun would shoot point-of-aim at 15 yards, per my instructions. The problem was that the gun was still shooting about 2" low, and was as short as it could be and still accommodate a tritium insert. My options were to forego the insert and have the sight filed to the correct height, or have the insert put in and live with the front sight a little tall. I chose the former. He also stated that C&S recommended extra-power magazine springs be used with their improved slide stop lever, and only 2 of my 4 supplied mags had them. I opted to have C&S supply them for the other two magazines. Another couple weeks and my gun was back in my hand. C&S is the first gunsmith I've ever used that was 1) realistic about their estimated wait and turnaround times, and 2) actually met those estimates (final delivery actually came a few days early)! That, coupled with their excellent communication and top-notch work, virtually guarantees my return business. And although their lead times are long, at least you're not without your gun the entire time - I wish more 'smiths would utilize a similar system.

While I was waiting on C&S to call for my pistol, I dropped a line to Ed Strange at Wicked Grips to inquire whether he'd be able to craft a set of fancy wood grip panels for the Pony. I had approached other grip makers about this in the past, but they all said they were not interested in "one-off" projects. So much for "custom"! Looking at Ed's web site, however, I got the sense that such a project wouldn't be beyond him. Not only did Ed agree to make my grips, he even went out and bought a Pony just for that purpose! I chose to have my grips made out of Desert Ironwood with a vertical lined pattern. Ed is pretty much a one-man show; given the high demand and that all his grips are hand-crafted, his lead times can be quite lengthy; my grips took about 9 months from order to delivery. Ed created the prototype panels out of a "scrap" piece of wood of a higher quality with a more marbled figure; he showed me a pic and said they turned out so well that I could have them instead if I wanted, at no extra charge for the upgraded wood. They were gorgeous, so I said send 'em on! As soon as the grips arrived, however, I noticed a problem. Ed had used a Pony as his "test mule," rather than a Pony Pocketlite like mine. The aluminum-framed Pocketlite has grip bushings that stand out about 1/16" from the frame and require the back of the grip panels to be relieved around the screw holes to fit over them. The steel-framed Pony has no such bushings, and so my panels wouldn't fit properly. A quick Email to Ed and the grips were on the way back (along with my stock grips for reference) for correction. I had them back about 5 days later and the fit was perfect. The Wicked Grips not only add a touch of class and visual distinction to the pistol, but they are quite a bit thicker than the OEM plastic panels and greatly improve the feel of the gun in the hand. Ed makes some very unique products and stands behind them 100%. If you can stand a long wait and can afford to drop some change on custom grips, I highly recommend him.

Born Again!
Having a custom pocket pistol is fine and good, but "how do it shoot?" The improvements made by C&S have turned the Pony into a phenomenal little blaster. The polishing of the internals complemented my previous spring work as I hoped it would, making the trigger pull much smoother (though not necessarily lighter). The new front sight is large, bold and quick to pick up, and the vertical face is a natural place for a blob of hi-vis orange paint. The fit of the slide release is greatly improved (it won't fall out anymore), the stronger mag release spring will prevent unintentional activation while carrying in the pocket, and the "carry bevel" makes manipulations much easier on the hands. All of these things combine to make the gun much easier to shoot well, not to mention more reliable and more comfortable to carry. THIS is the gun Colt should've put out to begin with!

Bottom Line
I really wish Colt hadn't discontinued its line of small autos; even today, the Pony Pocketlite and the older and more common single-action Mustang Pocketlite are among the best deep-concealment/backup guns in existence. They offer an almost ideal combination of power, capacity, size, weight and controllability, while most other guns of this type are seriously wanting in one or more of these areas. At one time, a cottage industry had built up around turning these proverbial sow's ears into silk purses; now there are very few sources left for service and spare parts. Still, if you come across a Pony at a less-than-wallet-draining price and are willing to put a bit of $$ and work into cleaning up the design's inherent shortcomings, go for it; you won't be disappointed!

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