Handguns

Review: Smith and Wesson CSX Compact 9mm

Smith and Wesson CSX handgun with a magazine inserted and a spare

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 pistol 9mm right profile
With a well-designed grip, single action trigger, ambidextrous controls and good sights, the CSX is a formidable handgun.

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.

Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun right profile
The author found the Smith & Wesson CSX a capable performer. Recoil was modest — not as soft shooting as a Glock 19, but not as punishing as the lightest slim line 9s.

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.

Small to average hands holding the Smith and Wesson CSX with the slide locked to the rear
The Smith & Wesson CSX 9mm is a nice size for concealed carry. The author’s hands are average to small size.

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.

Close up of the Smith and Wesson CSX blade type safety
The CSX features a blade-type trigger safety.

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.

Smith and Wesson CSX handgun on a wood deck with with a box of Remington and Federal Premium HST ammunition
The CSX proved reliable with a number of different types of 9mm ammunition at typical self-defense ranges.

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.

Bob Campbell Shppting the Smith and Wesson CSX with a two handed grip at an outdoor firing range
The CSX blends some of the best of new and old features. The little 9mm is a hammer fired, locked breech, single-action pistol.

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.

Smith and Wesson CSX handgun in the a Crossbreed Taco holster
Crossbreed offers first class concealment gear. The Taco holster is ideal for carrying a pistol in the size range of the CSX.

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.

Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun atop a blue silhouette target
With any pistol, the barrel length will be a factor when determining accuracy potential. The CSX is no exception. During range testing, the CSX proved accurate enough to engage threats at 25 yards.

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.

Bob Campbell wearing ear muffs and shooting the Smith and Wesson SCX with a two-handed grip
Firing quickly off hand, the Smith and Wesson CSX was controllable at practical distances.

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.

Specifications

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.

The Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm fills the bill when it comes to a compact-sized handgun for carry. How does it measure up against your favorite carry gun? Share your answer in the comment section.

  • Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun right profile
  • Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun atop a blue silhouette target
  • Bob Campbell wearing ear muffs and shooting the Smith and Wesson SCX with a two-handed grip
  • Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun left profile with the hammer back and safety engaged
  • White 3-dot sight picture on a handgun
  • Bob Campbell Shppting the Smith and Wesson CSX with a two handed grip at an outdoor firing range
  • Smith and Wesson CSX handgun in the a Crossbreed Taco holster
  • Close up of the Smith and Wesson CSX blade type safety
  • Smith and Wesson CSX handgun with a magazine inserted and a spare
  • Smith and Wesson CSX pistol 9mm right profile
  • Smith and Wesson CSX handgun on a wood deck with with a box of Remington and Federal Premium HST ammunition
  • Small to average hands holding the Smith and Wesson CSX with the slide locked to the rear

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. Bought a CXS a few days ago.S&W really hit the SPOT with this one.Yes the magazines are hard to load the first time BUT after a day or so no worse then any other.After 500 rounds no problems at all.At 20 yards it was perfect from what you would expect from a micro.This is a belly gun that is used to defend your life,like a snub nose,only it has more than 6 rounds.The grips make it secure and absorb recoil.A little more recoil than my Bersa 380 BUT a lot more power and ammo capacity.LOVE IT.Fits my belly band like it was made to fit!THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHERS SNUB-NOSE 38 BUT A HARD HITTING 9mm YOU CAN DEPEND ON TO SAVE YOUR LIFE!

  2. Well I have not purchased a S&W firearm for many years. The last S&W was a project with Walter . The firearm did not last long and sold it. Constantly jammed. I read about the CSX and due to the fact I love 1911’s, I was intrigued. I had been carrying the G43 or the G42 but really do not like the .380 round, so the G43 was my deep concealed firearm. The low round count bothered me and was making me uncomfortable. I had looked at several other small 9mm with a higher round counts, but none of them jumped out at me, so I waited. Along came the csx so I went to the gun store and they had one. I liked the feel of the pistol immediately. The round count was good. The aluminum frame was a plus for me as well as a hammer fired firearm. Better triggers. This proved to be true on this CSX. Sometime when you hold and grip a firearm you know it’s the one.
    The store had a price of $689 and I was working to get it down to under msrp. The did and I purchased the csx. I, then as always, took it home, disassembled, cleaned and lubed it. Put it together and I liked what I had. A couple days later, to the range. I took the gun as well as the G43 and a 1911 45. I spent about an hour on the range and soon put the G43 away and put 200 rounds through the csx. I was impressed to say the least. No jams, no problems and it was very easy to shoot. Recoil is definitely not a problem and second shots came easy and accurate. I like the gun, I like it a lot.
    Now some folks, from what I read, have issues with the reset on the trigger, I did not have any problems , but then again I was not allowed to shoot but one round a second on the range. I found the firearm what I was hoping it would be.
    It come with two mags, 10 and 12. Both mags are tight as they can be. A coupe day before I went to the range, I loaded the mags with 9 and 11 rounds. I could not get the last rounds in the mag.I let it sit. The next day I unloaded and reloaded the mad with 10 and 12 rounds and let it sit. The mags got much loser, but still tight. I found a holster on line and a mag holder. Leather. Too much leather so I went through my holster collection and found a couple that work really well. I will be back on the range next week and put another couple hundred round down the barrel. In the meantime I have been carrying with diffent holsters to see what works best in every situation.
    Very happy at this point and must say, I did not think I would ever purchase a Smith and Wesson again, but the delivered a very good firearm this time.

  3. After living with mine for 3 weeks now, I’ve got to chime in. I didn’t like it at all at first, primarily the trigger. But 100 rounds fired along with some dry-firing smoothed the trigger right out. My magazines hold the number of rounds they’re supposed to, but using an UpLulu really helps. I made a brave move this week and carried the CSX in place of my Mossberg M2C2 every time I went out. It is a little more comfortable to carry than the Mossberg and both guns have the same capacity. I guess I can say that the more I’m around the CSX the more I like it. Had not Bob Campbell liked it I probably wouldn’t have pushed through. As far as never buying another S&W as our John Smith declared, I think that’s a pretty bold statement. S&W has built many of our leading products over the past 150 years. Not liking one of their guns isn’t enough to disregard the entire product line.

  4. I don’t doubt John Smith’s comments, but this is the first I’ve read of the magazine problem Does anyone know the reason for it?

  5. I’m honestly shocked at all the positive reviews. I just bought one of these, and the magazines are totally defective FROM THE FACTORY. I cannot load 10 rounds in the 10 round magazine, I cannot load 12 rounds in the 12 round magazine. When I put 9 rounds in the 10 round magazine, it scrapes the finish off the sides of the magazine, and can barely be pushed in or pulled out.

    I went to the retailer for relief, but they told me no exchanges or refunds. I called Smith & Wesson and they told me it would be EIGHT WEEKS before they can turn my expensive paperweight back into a gun. I told the rep at Smith that this is a known issue. He told me he’s never heard of it. Of course, you can find this issue clearly stated on the Smith & Wesson forums website, and there’s a Youtube video that addresses the issue, but Smith has never heard of it.

    If I thought it was worth it, I’d file a class action lawsuit against Smith and Wesson. I’ll never buy another S&W product for the rest of eternity.

  6. Been looking for weeks for the 12 round magazines for the csx…. All sold out. Think it will be that way for a few months??

  7. i picked mine up today. It’s going to take some getting used to, I think. I usually carry what most people would call big guns and the small ones like the Shield and XDs have all men striker fired. I don’t believe I’ll have any discomfort carrying it cocked and locked — yes, I know the slide is not locked but it’s a strong safety. Will just have to see after some range time if I’m going to feel comfortable carrying it. Sure won’t be a problem due to its size and I like having 13 rounds available.

  8. Russ

    I like the CSX better than the Shield. The Shield Plus is a viable pistol I like more than the original
    Shield. If you dont like single action pistols this isnt the one for you and the CSZ is a single action pistol. .

    As for the SIG P365- class act. It doesnt get any better in a small 9mm.
    Stick with it if you shoot it well.

    Thanks for reading

    Bob

  9. I have owned this pistol and thought it was well built. Shoots halfway decent.( use heavier bullets 115gr shot high.)
    Only draw backs is that the slide runs low to the bever tail and likes to bite, spare mags next impossible to find right now. Expect to pay full MSRP right now of $599.99.
    I sold mine and bought a Glock 19 gen 5

  10. Thanks for the thorough, informative article. Tough sale in a crowded market. My wife shoots extremely well with her Sig P365 micro. She tried a S&W Shield at the range, and really disliked it. Muzzle flip was noticeably greater with the Smith. Would you rate the CSX higher, or preferable, to the Shield?

  11. One day seeing how this might compare to a Sig P938, first thing I noticed was; with my old dry hands it was like handling a porcupine from the wrong direction. I understand some people prefer a VERY aggressive grip like this (60 grit sandpaper), but I prefer the “tacky” cushioning rubber of a Hogue grip, and it would be wise if either S&W included a Hogue insert set, or if Hogue gears up to meet the demand. For me, a grip this aggressive is, an automatic no-go issue. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY ZERO NEED FOR A WARNING: CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED. I do believe a magazine disconnect is in the top end of THE absolutely DUMBEST inventions EVER, and the person who came up with it should be demoted, or run out of the industry. It complicates the safety system for potential failure, frustrates clearing jambs, tear downs, thus distracting the operator in serious situations. IT IS COUNTER PRODUCTIVE TO HAVE IT. If anything it should warn people: this product has that DUMB magazine disconnect system SO DON’T BUY IT. While the CSX-9 looks more like it is a high capacity Sig P938, I am surprised it is not optics ready, being it is coming out against the likes of Kimber R7 Mako, Hellcat, and others as NEW.

  12. I would really think about this gun but I don’t think it come California complaint sounds and looks really nice

  13. NEVER would I add an aftermarket trigger to a pistol intended for personal defense.

    The magazines narrow at the top. This makes magazines swaps quick. God help you if you need to reload during a gunfight with a small 9mm.

    Thanks for reading.

  14. I see various straight and curved aftermarket triggers, sans the safety blade, being offered as an upgrade by some cottage industry types. Of course, S&W will have to release an optics ready version. Then there are hi-viz sights, tritium night sights, and various custom grips. Is the magazine well flared? Got to have that, too. What did I miss?

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