August 28, 2023
With all the current hoopla around metal-frame guns, it’s easy to forget a little number that Smith & Wesson launched before that became the big new thing. The CSX is a micro-compact 9mm built on an aluminum alloy frame that weighs a wee bit under 20 ounces. It sports a 3.1-inch barrel, and overall length is 6.1 inches.
It’s a hammer-fired gun and a single action to boot. The gun features an ambidextrous thumb safety that operates regardless of hammer position, and it comes with an additional right-side magazine release that’s easy to install if you’re a lefty.
The gun ships with a large backstrap installed and a small one in the box. Push in a plunger at the heel of the grip with the supplied tool to remove, although I found I had to press it down on a hard surface to make this work easily. Installation requires a different small tool—I used a tiny flat-bladed screwdriver—to push down the plunger and allow the new backstrap to snap home. It wasn’t easy on this new gun, but it’s not like you have to do it often.
The design of the smaller backstrap is such that it doesn’t cover as much of the grip frame sides as the larger one does. A small panel of stippled polymer is located in the frontstrap.
The slide is stainless steel that’s finished in Armornite. Slide serrations are found on the front and back, and they’re nicely designed for a sure grip. At the very back of the slide you’ll find what S&W calls EZ tabs, essentially cocking ears like what the company did with the Shield EZ. The slide is not cut for optics.
Sights are steel three-dot set in dovetails. The rear has a serrated face and is secured in place by a 5/64-inch hexhead screw. The top of the slide is also serrated along its length for glare reduction. A small loaded-chamber visual port is located behind the ejection port.
The trigger may look like a 1911’s, but it is in fact hinged and doesn’t travel straight back. It has a tiny safety lever at the base of the shoe. The pull is a fairly consistent four pounds, 14 ounces, with some take-up. I wouldn’t call the break clean, but it’s serviceable. Reset is short and not overly noticeable, but it’s perfectly fine for a defensive pistol.
Controls include the aforementioned ambi safety, which I’ll discuss more in a moment, and an ambi slide-lock lever. Both of these controls are decidely on the small side, and in the case of the slide-lock lever, there’s not a lot of purchase here.
At first I couldn’t operate it with my shooting-hand thumb—even if I shifted my grip—or my off-hand thumb. But as the gun broke in, I could do both.
Takedown requires aligning the forward “hump” on the left-side takedown lever with the slide’s takedown notch. Use a small pin punch (3/32 inch or smaller) to push out the pin located on the right-side takedown lever. From there, disassembly of recoil spring and barrel for cleaning is straightforward.
It took me a little practice to get used to the trigger, but once I did I found this to be a great-shooting, controllable pistol. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying table. Smallest group of the day went to Federal HST, which punched a 1.1-inch five-shot group at 15 yards.
Practical accuracy was excellent. On a frosty 15-degree morning I shot the gun with the large backstrap in place. The gun points really well, and it comes back on target very quickly thanks to its metal frame.
I was surprised by how well the thumb safety operated when drawing from concealment—even while wearing medium-weight wool gloves. Frankly I expected it to be difficult because it’s small and unobtrusive, but I was able to sweep it off every time. And since I would carry this gun cocked-and-locked only, this is good to know.
I later shot the gun bare-handed with the smaller backstrap in place because I was curious to see how less traction on the sides of the grip would affect control. I didn’t notice any difference, and it didn’t matter if I used the 12-round magazine—which has a spacer that allowed me to get a full three-finger grip on the gun—or the flush-fit 10-rounder. I ran multiple Bill Drills, and I was really impressed with how controllable the CSX is.
I also did several drills that involved reloading. Anytime you’re dealing with a gun with a short grip frame, you need to anticipate that your shooting hand will tend to trap the magazine, but with a little training you’ll find CSX magazines eject smartly and the gun is quick to get back into action.
As an easy-shooting and easy-racking pistol, the CSX deserves a look. It will especially appeal to those who like the idea of a micro-compact single-action semiauto that’s a cinch to conceal and carry.
Smith & Wesson CSX Specifications
- Type: Single-action semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 10, 12+1; 10-round version available
- Barrel: 3.1 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 6.1/1.1/4.25 in.
- Weight: 19.5 oz.
- Construction: Armornite-finished stainless steel slide, black aluminum alloy frame
- Grips: Replaceable backstrap; large installed
- Sights: Steel white 3-dot; serrated, windage-adjustable rear
- Safeties: Hammer half-cock, ambidextrous thumb, trigger lever
- Price: $609
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, smith-wesson.com