So, we needed another compact 9mm? I think, perhaps, we do after firing the new CSX extensively. This is quite a different pistol. While it fits a neat niche in concealed carry, it also reminds me of a number of guns that it seems everyone owned back in the day. The new Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm is a hammer-fired, locked-breech, single-action pistol.
The Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm is quite interesting and has good features. It isn’t a single-action version of the Shield by any means. The magazines do not interchange with the Shield. Perhaps, it would have been smart to make the magazines Shield types, but that may have compromised the compact size of the CSX pistol.
Smith and Wesson CSX Features
A single-action firing mechanism is simpler and takes less space. The pistol may be less bulky overall when the action isn’t a double-action-only, safe action, or double-action first-shot pistol.
There are key aspects of the competition in compact 9mm pistols that drive sales — and profits. One is excellence of design. Most pistols are a compromise. Compactness is important, so long as the piece is controllable. Some makers have joined the race to the bottom by making products as cheaply as possible. The new CSX is in the SIG P365 price range, which is a good place to be.
As for size, the CSX 9mm is similar to the Springfield Hellcat. The introduction of high-capacity compact pistols that fit the hand well is driving today’s market. The CSX is supplied with a 10 and 12-round magazine. I don’t think that having 17 rounds or more is as important as having eight or nine rounds you can hit quickly with.
Five or six rounds is cutting it a bit short, in my opinion. The CSX delivers good capacity in a compact package with no penalty in hand fit. The pistol isn’t perfect, as nothing man made is, but the little Smith is a neat package.
The CSX will offer honest competition to the SIG P239 and Kimber Micro. These pistols are sometimes called 1911s but they are not in actuality. They are compact, single-action handguns with a resemblance to the 1911. Without locking lugs and a grip safety I don’t think we have a 1911, not to mention a swinging link for lockup.
A Tokarev TT 33 or Star PD aren’t true 1911s either, but they are just as similar. Let’s call them Browning-type pistols. The small, single-action 9mm pistols offer cocked-and-locked, hammer-to-the-rear carry. The CSX does as well.
The CSX adds a blade-type safety in the trigger, giving the CSX an additional safety feature. I would never carry a full-size 1911 hammer down. I only carry 1911s cocked and locked. When carrying a Micro 9-type single action in the pocket, hammer down makes sense. You can cock the hammer on a small pistol quickly. So, the pistol has options. If you carry cocked and locked, be certain you pack the piece in a proper holster.
This pistol is compact with a height of just 4.5 inches. It is six inches long and weighs about 20 ounces. That is a nice, well-balanced weight for concealed carry. The ergonomics were good. Sometimes the hand feels cramped when operating controls in a small pistol. The CSX avoids this.
My hands are average-sized with shorter fingers than some. The pistol was a good fit. Trigger reach wasn’t a problem. If you have longer fingers, simply crook the finger a bit and lay the first pad of the finger on the face of the trigger.
Trigger compression was 4.5 pounds on the Lyman trigger pull gauge. I tested the trigger press on an RCBS scale with the same result. This was a tight controllable trigger. Reset was quick, if not sharp. You can use this trigger well — if you can shoot a single-action pistol.
Handling and Operation
A pistol with a hammer may be a bit more difficult to rack than a striker-fired gun. Cock the hammer before racking the slide, and it will be much easier.
The pistol’s slide was evenly finished in a corrosion-resistant black. The CSX featured both forward and rear cocking serrations.
The slide was nicely designed with a similarity to the Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 series. The slide featured serrations between the sights on the top of the slide — a nice touch.
The sights were dovetailed in place. The sights feature a white three-dot pattern. The pistol proved to fire on the dime at 20 yards and a bit high at longer distances. Muzzle flip comes into play. Be certain to keep a tight hold on this size 9mm, or shots will fire high at longer distances. The extractor seemed robust and should provide excellent function.
The frame is aluminum. The frame accepts polymer grip inserts — a neat trick in a pistol that doesn’t have a polymer frame. They are easily changed with a small tool that depresses a plunger in the frame.
The pistol is ambidextrous. While spent cases ejected to the right, it wasn’t offensive when firing left-handed. The pistol featured a positive slide lock safety. I would debate calling the system cocked-and-locked as the slide isn’t locked when the safety is on.
On the other hand, the slide may be manipulated with the safety on, allowing the user to load the pistol with the safety on. The safety may be applied with the hammer down which serves no purpose I know of. There is a half cock notch to catch the hammer should you slip while cocking the hammer.
Never carry a single-action pistol on half cock. There isn’t enough engagement at half cock, and the hammer may trip. This is a safety carry, not a mode of carry. The safety isn’t marked. On the right side of the frame, if you look closely, a small tab is exposed with an F engraved in it when the safety is in the fire position.
The slide lock is ambidextrous. The left side slide lock actually locks the slide, the right-side leg levers the other side up. I had no problem with snags or my thumb running into the slide when firing, as sometimes occurs with small-frame pistols. The magazine catch operated in a positive manner.
The flush fit magazine held 10 rounds and was best for concealed carry. The 12-round magazine protruded slightly but didn’t have an effect on concealed carry. The 12-round magazine was very difficult to load to capacity, so I settled for 11 cartridges.
A combination of a pebbled polymer rear strap and a rather aggressive front strap treatment made for excellent stability. This pistol wasn’t going to shift and squirm in the hand. I didn’t change the backstrap. The supplied grip insert was comfortable enough while the spare offers a flatter fit for smaller hands.
At the Range
When firing it wasn’t difficult at all to quickly place the safety on safe and back to the fire position, while the safety was positive in operation without much movement in the action. There was an audible snap! as the safety was operated, a sign of good fitting.
The pistol performed well on the firing range. Most of the ammunition fired was Remington 115-grain FMJ in the military-looking brown box. This is good stuff, reliable, accurate, and clean-burning. I burned up 150 rounds in several range sessions.
The pistol was fast on the draw, although its short slide meant you had to drive it more carefully than a longer-barrel handgun. The pistol lined up on target well. Recoil was modest — not as soft shooting as a Glock 19, but not as punishing as the lightest slim-line 9s.
Control was good. Fire, allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and you had a hit. For personal defense shooting to 10 yards, the pistol was controllable and capable. If you needed to fire at 15 yards, slow down, press the trigger, and you would get a hit.
The pistol is accurate enough, but the longer the range, the more time it took to get a hit. I don’t wish to be helpless at 25 yards, and this pistol will ring a threat’s bell if you have the skill. However, firing from a solid benchrest isn’t combat shooting. Intrinsic accuracy is there. Practical accuracy is up to you. The pistol never failed to chamber, feed, or eject.
As for absolute accuracy, I tested the pistol at 15 yards. I have a 5,000-pound rolling motorized shooting rest with heat, A/C, and plenty of storage. If I rest on the rear of the truck bed, spent cases fly into the bed liner. Works for me.
I fired a number of defense loads including the Hornady 115-grain XTP, Federal 124-grain HST, and Remington 147-grain Golden Saber. Five shots went into 3.25 inches on average at 15 yards. This was at the rate of five shots in 10 seconds — slow fire. The pistol was accurate enough for most chores and more than accurate enough for defense use.
The pistol is rated for +P. However, in this weight class, I think the difference in velocity versus the increased difficulty to control isn’t worth the effort. Wound ballistics with a load that demonstrates a good balance of expansion and penetration are good. The 9mm is a respectable number and seems ideal for most shooters.
Model: S&W CSX
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 10+1, 12+1 rounds
Length: 6.1 inches
Front Sight: Metal, white dot
Rear Sight: Metal, white 2-dot
Action: Single action
Grip: Interchangeable backstraps
Barrel Material: Stainless steel with Armornite finish
Slide Material: Stainless steel with Armornite finish
Frame Material: Aluminum alloy
Slide Finish: Matte black
Frame Finish: Matte black
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches (7.9 cm)
Weight: 19.5 ounces
Carrying the CSX
The best choice for most shooters, most of the time, is an inside the waistband holster. By keeping the pistol inside the waistband, the slide and action are concealed. A modest covering garment will conceal the handle of the pistol if an inside the waistband holster is used. Be certain the holster features a strong attachment point to the belt.
The holster mouth should be reinforced so that the holster does not collapse after the pistol is drawn. This allows the gun to be re-holstered without loosening the belt. Crossbreed holsters offer a Kydex holster mated to a supple leather backing. This is a rigid holster allowing a sharp draw the backing allows real comfort.