Smith and Wesson CSX – Is it Really the New Chief’s Special?

Smith and Wesson K frame revolver with 1 5/8 barrel left, Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm pistol right

To be honest, when the Smith and Wesson CSX was announced, I was kind of burned out on the whole line of micro nines. As a journalist who reviews guns for a big portion of my livelihood, I feel it’s important to give shooters my take on the various manufacturer offerings to help them make the best decisions when it comes to buying guns. I’m on board with the idea of having a small gun that carries at least 10 rounds as opposed to the six- or seven-shot single-stack nines we’ve had in recent years.

Today, there are a bunch of new micro-nines that have more capacity, and I’ve reviewed most of these. However, I procrastinated on the CSX for some reason. Instead of being out on the forefront, I sat back and let others review the gun, and I read or watched their take on it.

Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm left profile cocked and locked
The author knew when he first picked it up this was not just another black gun. Although it’s small, the all-steel construction makes it feel substantial.

Most liked it. As with any new gun, there were a few complaints. Some complained about the trigger and others found fault with the magazines. There was some discussion about where Smith and Wesson got the name and speculated that it might be because this gun would make a good substitute for the Chief’s Special revolver of days gone by because of its size and the steel frame. Smith and Wesson’s Marketing Manager Corey Boudreau admitted that was where the designation was derived from.

Examining the Smith and Wesson CSX

When my review copy of the CSX arrived, I immediately knew upon picking it up this was not just another black gun. Although it’s small, the all-metal construction makes it feel substantial. Smith and Wesson’s designer Brett Curry was obviously inspired by the 1911 as he created a little gun that doesn’t seem to know it’s little. The individual parts, such as the sights, slide lock, magazine release, and safety, feel strong and function perfectly for the role they play. The thumb safety, slide lock, and magazine release snap into and out of place precisely and with no hint of looseness.

Although the slide serrations, both front and back, are small to go with the small height of the slide, they are cut deep enough to provide a secure grip. Cocking handles in the form of small protrusions on each side at the rear of the slide are there to assist. While not quite as easy to rack as the EZ Rack Shield, the slide on this gun is not unpleasant to rack at all.

An opening at the rear of the ejection port serves as a loaded-chamber indicator. The sights are dovetail-mounted, drift-adjustable, and have a bright single dot up front with two dots in the rear. Anti-glare serrations on top of the slide remind me of the Smith and Wesson 1911s and add to the overall coolness of the gun. The slide lock and frame safety are ambidextrous, and the magazine release is reversible.

Unlike many magazine releases that simply turn around, the CSX has a separate magazine release for the right side. To install it, the one on the left side must be removed. It’s not a complex task and the only tool required is a small screwdriver. The trigger has a blade safety which, when depressed, results in a nice flat trigger face. The single-action trigger breaks at just a little over 5 pounds.

Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm right profile cocked and locked
Although the slide serrations — front and back — are small, they are cut deep enough to provide a secure grip. Cocking handles in the form of small protrusions on each side at the rear of the slide are there to assist.

The Smith and Wesson CSX is packaged with two magazines — 10 and a 12-round. Also in the package is an extra palm swell and a small palm swell insert grip tool used to depress a button that holds the palm swell in place. The largest palm swell was installed when I got the pistol. I tried the smaller one but went back to the larger one, even though I think of my hands as being rather small and somewhat chubby.

To check out the Chief’s Special reference, I compared the CSX to the K-Frame I have on hand, the Model 10 revolver my dad was issued as a game warden. It’s an interesting comparison because the only thing about the revolver that is bigger is the grip. The action, from the hammer to the end of the barrel on the Model 10, is actually shorter. The revolver cylinder makes it wider, but there really is a legitimate reason to think of the CSX as a modern-day replacement for the snubby revolver many cops wore on their belt.

Takedown for cleaning is almost pure 1911 except the notch for the slide lock removal is in a different place. Because it’s an ambidextrous slide lock, it breaks down into two parts for removal which requires a punch. Once the slide lock is removed, the rest of the takedown is pure 1911.

Field stripped Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun
Takedown for cleaning is almost pure 1911 except the notch for the slide lock removal is in a different place. Because it’s an ambidextrous slide lock, it breaks down into two parts for removal requiring a punch.

Although the CSX doesn’t have a grip safety, it was still designed to be carried cocked and locked. This is safe because the thumb safety is precise and secure, and there’s a trigger safety. I must admit, I wasn’t sure I would be comfortable with this at first, but after several shooting sessions and a thorough understanding of how the action and safeties work, I became comfortable with it.

First Shots!

I don’t adopt a carry gun unless I’ve shot it a bunch with defensive ammo. I must have determined that I can shoot it well, and it’s not prone to any type of failure. Because I intend to carry it, I spent considerable time with the CSX at the range.

Smith and Wesson CSX semi-automatic pistol with a box of Norma NXD 9mm Luger ammunition on a yellow bullseye target
By the end of the author’s fourth range session, he was producing targets such as the one shown here shot at seven yards. Plenty accurate for defensive purposes.

Smaller guns are typically more challenging to hold correctly, aim properly, get a good trigger squeeze, and hold on target until the desired outcome has been achieved. However, I found the CSX easy to shoot despite its size. I spent most of my time with it shooting at 5, 7, and 10 yards. By the end of my fourth range session, I was producing targets, such as the one shown here, shot at seven yards. The CSX proved plenty accurate for defensive purposes. I’ve read other reviews in which the gun was fired from a rest at 25-yard targets, and the results were impressive.

After that fourth range session, I loaded the CSX with Norma 65-grain NXD rounds, inserted it in my Bianchi Model 101 Foldaway Belt Slide Holster, and considered myself armed. The 19.5-ounce CSX that’s only 6.1 inches long, practically disappears on my belt as far as feeling it goes. As I write this, I’m at the end of my third full week carrying the Smith and Wesson CSX as the backup to my EDC pistol.

Conclusion: S&W CSX

Am I happy with it? Yes, it’s comfortable, capable, and I’m full of confidence that it will be up to the task should I need to employ it. I’ve joined the ranks of the many who feel the CSX pistol is right for the mission and right for the times.

One of the advantages to my doing this review sort of late in the game is I’ve reviewed most of the other pistols in this same class, and although the Smith and Wesson CSX is among the smallest in the class, its aluminum frame construction and similarity to the 1911 makes it feel and shoot as if it were larger than the other guns. Of course, that’s a subjective observation and you may have a different experience. I’d love to get feedback from others who have shot this pistol.

A semi-automatic version equivalent to the Detective Special? A micro 1911 9mm? The Smith and Wesson CSX has people making a lot of claims and comparisons, but you are the ultimate decider. What do you think of the CSX? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Smith and Wesson CSX semiautomatic handgun with optional grip inserts, punch and left side mag release
  • Smith and Wesson K frame revolver with 1 5/8 barrel left, Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm pistol right
  • Smith and Wesson CSX semi-automatic pistol with a box of Norma NXD 9mm Luger ammunition on a yellow bullseye target
  • Smith and Wesson CSX semi automatic pistol in a Bianchi Model 101 Foldaway Belt Slide Holster mounted on the author's hip
  • Field stripped Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm handgun
  • rear quartering view of the smith and wesson CSX 9mm handgun cocked and locked
  • The author's hand holding the Smith and Wesson CSX pistol with his finger on the trigger
  • Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm right profile cocked and locked
  • Smith and Wesson CSX 9mm left profile cocked and locked

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (15)

  1. I’ve researched for a smaller EDC for my 4-foot 11 inch bride–she was quite skittish about any firearms, most specifically handguns.. She has tiny hands. Needed good grip-ability for her vary small hands. This CSX 9 turned out to be “The One”. While not perfect for every one, it fits in her hands like a glove. Having had a gun pulled on her by her ex, she is skittish about firearms, most specifically hand guns. But she took to this one very well. Now that she seems to be past her firearms fears, it’ll be to the range with a decent female instructor to fully get her acclimated.

    S&W did an amazing job when designing this CSX. Really good compromises on features. The visually confirmed hammer puts her at ease more than an anonymous striker-fired offering. This not a dig at striker fired guns, just a better affirmation of ‘weapon condition’ for her. I took it to the range last week and while a bit more snappy than my XDS 9mm, it just felt good in the hand. It was also remarkably accurate out to 40 feet and I had not been to the range in over a year (I know– more range time equals better responses, preparedness, etc.)

    So if you’re looking for a good back up or EDC for your smaller partners, this CSX should be on your short lisr to try out. S&W had their act together when they conjured up this master piece.

    Nuff Said,


  2. Someone once said finding a CCW pistol that’s just right is harder than finding the love of your life. I did laugh, that’s asinine, thought the guy was missing a few cards from the deck and would never find them. Well I’m that guy today. Married my high school sweetheart 29 years ago, all in all about 35 years she has tolerated me without changing the locks…… One thing is for certain finding the ultimate CCW pistol is every bit as described. It’s a continuous process of if I get something I have to give up something. Trades aren’t always equitable as well. The arsenal I’ve amassed wasn’t by desire but rather good intentions that weren’t at all that good. However I feel I’ve found the holly grail, at least for me. Perfection is a literal impossibility but with the S&W CSX I’m as close too it as I can ever expect it to be. Taking cost completely out of the equation I shoot this micro 9 as well as any other out there and frankly a Hell of a lot better than some full size FN’s, Wilson Combat, etc. For me it’s a natural extension of my hand. That’s what says it all. I had zero issues with trigger reset and I prefer it, it’s a very deliberate action. Can’t say oops. Checks every box on my complicated list and even added things I didn’t know I’d appreciate.

    Shoots like a 1911 (cut me some slack on the trigger pull), feels like a tiny 1911, locked and cocked the only way to carry a pistol, is stupid accurate with a 3.1” barrel, balanced like a 1911. Remember if it walks, squawks, like a duck, is a duck. Point made. After 8 attempts I have the CSX. It is SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT THAN CARRYING A OFFICER size 1911. Ok (1) pistol loaded with full mag, (2) full magazines strap in (I just gained 5 lbs. and have a wicked left lean). S&W CSX (1) pistol loaded mag and (1) full magazine, weighs 1/3 of 1911 package with more round capacity. Kind of makes you scratch my head. Every other pistol I have will get a good review till the end- then the dreaded but…… I am not a paid endorser for S&W but I’d be more than happy to accept cash, products, swag, ammo, bubble gum, not picky. They deserve props for this one.

    Do your homework try and rent the gun first, read reviews to an extent, and above all realize there are must haves and really wants, don’t intermix them for your wallets sake. Trust me I speak from the pocket book.

  3. It is an alumina alloy frame,I have one an love it.I am used to the 1911 very close to it.It does not have a plastic frame.

  4. Agree with ED above . Tried the Sig compact single action, P938. A bit too hvy and small to manipulate ( And I own a Colt Pocketlite .380 , which I LOVE. Granted it is much lighter). This one might be fuller in the hand , & the safety looks to be farther forward . So, it Could feel better than the SIg single Actions… Maybe. PLus, if there’s ONE thing you gotta get right on a single action semi for CC , it’s the trigger .

  5. I haven’t shot one or even held one so can’t comment on any of that.
    I love the idea of a small metal-framed new handgun. Walther also just brought out a new metal framed handgun. I hope this trend of metal framed handguns continues. Plastic frames for guns is simply a very bad idea.
    The other aspect of this gun that I can legitamately comment on is its appearance. It looks funny, sort of mismatched. The slide and frame look as if they were designed by 2 different companies that were not communicating, then simply slapped together. They do not match or complement one another. Even their respective finishes appear mismatched.
    I’m going to shhot one and then will comment firther.

  6. Sure looks like a plastic frame to me. Author states it is all steel…do my eyes revive it an all steel gun?

  7. Enjoyed both the Mossberg and S&W reviews and found both left me with few questions. I’ve owned an early Mossberg shotgun though reliable with everything I shot in it recoil was somewhat unpleasant. Must admit not being at fond of it. The Mossberg was replaced with. Remington 11-77 with both a 26” barrel and a 20 inch heavier barrel with rifle sights and a rifled choke which produced fine accuracy with slugs. Recoil manageable for me with all but 3” shells.
    As for the S&W CSX I’ve read as much as I could and concluded if I began using a single action for EDC I stick with my Colt Lightweight Commander in .38 Super. I ceased carrying a single action autoloader soon after obtaining my shall issue CWL a started out with an AMT Hardballer which became onerous for EDC and tried an Officer sized Para Ordinance LDA which I used for EDC for many years and usually ignored the safety relying on the one always with me between my ears. Health issues due to a serious back injury forced me to a much lighter and concealable DA only Kahr P-9 giving up .45 ACP for 9mm ammo which terminal ballistics by that time were very much improved. At range practice discovered I’d fail to flick off the SA safety occasionally. To save ammo and range time went to the wonderful double action only feature of the Para Ordinance. As age related eye issues appeared (lol) I added Lasers sight to all my EDC guns including both 1911 type models and the Kahr P-9. An S&W .38 Special Airweight Body guard which retained SA capability with its hammer shroud. This too grew grip Laser sights used for EDC in pocket or ankle carry depending upon circumstances. Have an eclectic collection of other handgun as the SASS Cowboy Action Shooting bug bit me. No lasers as shooting was fairly close up. My late mother in law summed it up quite distinctly saying getting old wasn’t for sissies. Time has certainly validated that to me. Oh yeah along the way became an NRA certified instructor. Had the satisfying tasks teaching gun safety and use to many Registered Nurses, gratis as became on of those for 30 years.Everyone of them I instructed left the range with noticeably big smiles, even the newbees to guns.

  8. I love it,i bought one of the first i saw.Have been shooting for over70yrs now.i carry it 24/7

  9. Very nice idea and well designed. However, I’m not a fan of single action only small pocket guns. I tried the Sig models when they were available and the learning curve on carrying them was intense; safety being the main concern. They had small safeties and barely decent triggers for a 1911, which is the main selling point for 1911 handguns. The trigger on this S&W is not 1911 quality and not worthy of the 1911 design. The gun does feel good in the hand design wise, but as a small (pocket) size 1911? Not 1911 standards and there are better choices for concealed carry.

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