S&W CSX – Is it Really the New Chief’s Special? By: David Freeman


David Freeman

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Smith & Wesson CSX 9mm pistol
Smith & Wesson’s CSX 9mm Handgun, with its steel frame and 1911-like features has changed the landscape of the micro-nine world. David likes it so much it has become his EDC.

To be honest, when the 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 offerings out there to help them make the best decisions when it comes to buying guns. I like the idea of having a small gun that carries at least 10 rounds as opposed to the string of six of seven shot single-stack nines we’ve had from most of the major manufacturers. But I delayed 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 the gun.

Ambidextrous controls on the CSX are a bonus, especially for left-handed shooters.

Most liked it. As with any new gun there were a few complaints, some about the trigger, some about the magazines. There was some discussion about where S&W got the name and speculation 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. When the folks at Smith & Wesson sent me a gun to review, my first thought upon opening the box was, “This is different.” In other words, it was obvious it wasn’t “just another black gun,” and more specific, it wasn’t “just another plastic black gun.” Although it’s small, the all-steel construction makes it feel substantial. As I studied the CSX’s design, I couldn’t help but think, “A watchmaker must have made this gun.” The individual parts, such as the sights, slide lock, magazine release and safety are all small but appear to be very strong, and they function perfectly for the role they play. Even with my somewhat chubby hands, especially my fingers, they snap into and out of place precisely and with no looseness.

The CSX is easy to hold and easy to shoot.
Although small, the overall design makes the CSX easy to hold and easy to shoot.

There was a good bit of thought in the CSX’s design to make it easy to shoot in spite of its size. The slide serrations, both front and back, are small to go with the small height of the slide yet are deep cut enough to provide a secure grip. And to go with them are cocking handles at the rear of the slide. There are anti-glare serrations on top of the slide. 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 and two dots in the rear. The slide lock and frame safety are ambidextrous, and the magazine release is reversible. While not quite as easy to rack as the EZ Rack Shield, the slide on this gun is not unpleasant to rack at all. The trigger has a blade safety which when depressed makes a nice flat trigger face. The single-action only trigger breaks at just a little over 5 lbs. The only take-up is essentially that which is required to depress the blade safety.

Take-down for cleaning is almost pure 1911 except the notch for the slide lock removal is in a different place, and because it’s an ambidextrous slide lock it breaks down into two parts for removal. This requires a punch. Once the slide lock is removed, the rest of the take-down is pure 1911.

Take-down for cleaning is almost like the 1911, fast and easy, eliminating any barriers to cleaning and lubrication.

The CSX is like a miniature 1911. Although it doesn’t have a grip safety, it is 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 have to 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’m completely comfortable with it.

CSX in Bianchi 101 Belt Slide holster.
Carrying the CSX is about as easy as it comes. David uses a Bianchi 101 Belt Slide holster, OWB, but normally covered by a Propper brand polo shirt.

I don’t carry a gun unless I’ve shot it a bunch with defensive ammo and have determined I can shoot it well and it is not prone to any type of failure. For the CSX, it took several range trips. I think it was due to the size of the gun. There were a few times I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. It was because I was inadvertently pushing the trigger sideways instead of straight back. I’m an experienced shooter, and it took me a while to adjust to the size of this gun. That should serve as notice to readers who do not have a lot of handgun experience. The smaller guns are more challenging to hold correctly, aim correctly, get a good trigger squeeze and hold sights on target until the desired outcome has been achieved. Spending the time to become comfortable with the CSX will reward you with a gun that’s easy to carry, nice to shoot and accurate at defensive ranges. I spent most of my time with the CSX shooting at five, seven and ten yards. By the end of my fourth range session, I was producing targets such as the one shown here shot at seven yards. Plenty accurate for defensive purposes.

After that fourth range session, I loaded the CSX up with Norma 65 grain NXD rounds and placed it in my Bianchi Model 101 Foldaway Belt Slide Holster and considered myself armed. As I write this, I’m at the end of my second full week carrying the CSX as my EDC pistol. 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 is a pistol that is right for the mission and right for the times.

CSX with 10-yard target
This is a typical offhand 10-yard target. The CSX has performed flawlessly for David through several hundred rounds of both defensive and practice ammo.