Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol
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Smith & Wesson’s new CSX fills a gap in the pocket pistol market, scratching that double-digit round count micro compact itch we all seem to have, but doing it with an external hammer. The CSX is a little old school and a lot new school, and TTAG took it to the range to see how it stacks up.

If you’d rather watch than read, you’ll find my video range review embedded above. Otherwise, here we go . . .

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

To my knowledge, the Smith & Wesson CSX is the first pistol in this micro compact size category (see P365 vs Hellcat vs MAX-9 vs Shield Plus) to combine a 10+ round capacity and an external hammer. I know there are many dapper gentlemen out there who prefer an external hammer, and I’m fairly sure the vast majority of them also want a metal frame so it was wise of S&W to machine the CSX’s frame from aluminum.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

That said, the frontstrap and backstrap inserts are polymer and that’s most of what you feel when you grip the CSX. I have no real clue how that’ll play with the hammer-fired metal-framed pistol crowd.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

Anyway, compared to the M&P9 Shield Plus the CSX is effectively identical in length (6.1″), width (1.12″ across the controls), and height (4.6″), and is only 1.6 ounces heavier (19.5 oz). That makes it slightly larger than the SIG P365, for example, but still within the popular micro compact and even perhaps pocket pistol size range.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

A sandpaper-esque pebble texture is molded into the polymer grip inserts of the CSX. It has more smooth surface area than the Shield Plus does as the rest of the CSX’s aluminum frame is smooth.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

One unique feature with the CSX, something I don’t believe another micro compact pistol offers, is swappable backstraps. With a little tool designed to compress the mainspring, the backstrap is quickly and easily popped off the CSX and can be exchanged for others of varying size and thickness.

I really like Smith’s grip texture a lot. It provides a fantastic grip, but won’t tear up your bare skin too badly (e.g. your love handles or belly).

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

As a single action only, hammer-fired pistol, the CSX has a manual thumb safety as you’d expect. The ambidextrous control is mirrored on both sides of the pistol and is easily flipped off with a standard thumb stroke.

While the lever is placed fairly far toward the rear of the diminutive gun, if you simply flip your thumb down as you would on a full-size 1911 or similar, you’ll snag the safety behind your thumb knuckle and it’ll snick cleanly downward to the “fire” position. Popping the safety back up off of its “fire” detent and onto its “safe” detent takes a little more intent and pressure, which is exactly what you want.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

Unlike many pistols with a manual thumb safety, the CSX’s slide can be manipulated with the safety engaged. This means the user can insert a loaded magazine and rack the slide to chamber a round with the safety on “safe” the entire time.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

In a modern departure from the norm for hammer-fired guns, the Smith & Wesson CSX also incorporates a trigger blade dingus safety lever flipper doohickey. Frankly, with how incredibly light, short, and crisp striker-fired triggers have become (S&W’s own Shield Plus is a great example of that) I can’t think of any particularly strong argument for not carrying the CSX with its manual safety off. There’s really no material difference between it and many of the striker-fired competition that lack any sort of manual safety.

Perhaps that’s the reason S&W added a trigger blade safety to the CSX.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol
Seen with 12-round magazine inserted.

With its flush-fitting magazine, the CSX holds 10+1 rounds of 9mm. With the only very slightly extended magazine inserted, capacity bumps up to 12+1 rounds and my pinky just barely has a home on the frontstrap.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

On the range I was a little worried about slide bite. Obviously I like to hold a pistol nice and high on the grip, and my men’s size L mitts are just meaty enough to come up onto the rear of the little beavertail.

After a bunch of shooting on multiple range sessions, though, I never got more than a couple of light grease marks on the web of my hand. So it was close! Darn close. But never a problem. As “low bore axis” and such goes, I’d say S&W just about nailed the dimensions here. YMMV.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

Overall, not surprisingly, the CSX shot for me a lot like the Shield Plus. I prefer what I feel is the flatter and sharper (flatter sides with a tighter frontstrap and backstrap radius) grip frame on the Shield Plus along with its additional grip texture surface area, but I know Dan would feel the opposite way. The shape of the Shield Plus just happens to index into my grip particularly well and it gives me a great ability to “drive” that gun hard.

My impression is that the CSX has slightly more felt recoil than the Shield Plus, too, despite weighing nearly 10 percent more. I think this is because polymer frames tend to absorb or mute recoil to some degree whereas metal frames transmit more of the sharpness into your hands.

That said, the little CSX didn’t rotate in my grip at all during shooting, which deserves bonus points for any tiny, lightweight 9mm.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

As you’d hope and expect, the S&W CSX also ate every type of ammo I threw at it, including a handful of different self-defense rounds with pretty darn large hollow point mouths. From weak range ammo to +P ammo, from 90 grains to 147, the CSX fed, fired, and ejected all of it without a hitch.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

At the end of testing, my only gripe about the CSX is its trigger. What should be a (or the) major selling point for a single action, hammer-fired pistol — a fantastic, crisp trigger — just doesn’t deliver.

The trigger pull and break, actually, is good. But I don’t think it’s superior to the Shield Plus (which for a striker-fired gun has an absolutely fantastic trigger), and the issue is that it should be. Once the trigger safety blade is taken up there’s extremely minimal further movement or creep, but for some reason the break itself doesn’t feel glass rod clean. I get a little grit or click on and after the break, like it breaks but doesn’t drop down to zero resistance and has some friction during its minimal overtravel.

With a perfectly good (though it ought to be stellar) trigger pull and break, it’s the CSX’s trigger reset, then, that triggers my complaint reflex. Three specific gripes on reset:

• I think it needs a stronger trigger spring. I like to feel as though the trigger wants to travel forward and there’s no way I can release it faster than it’ll keep up with my finger. I want to feel some forward pressure on my finger. The CSX’s trigger comes forward with less gusto than I’d prefer, though not so light that it makes me nervous it’ll forget to reset (which is something I’ve experienced on a few other guns).
• There’s a “false reset” click as the trigger approaches about halfway forward. As a guy who likes to ride the reset, I was fooled a couple of times by this and pulled the trigger rearward again only to find that I hadn’t actually allowed it forward enough to reset.
• The true trigger reset is fairly gentle. Without much tactile or audible feedback this isn’t a gun that I can ride the reset on. If I want to shoot it rapidly I have to be completely sure that I’m fully releasing the trigger all the way forward. This combined with the light trigger spring means I’m coming all the way off the trigger at least enough to let out the safety blade and sometimes slapping it a little. Not my preference.

Ultimately my complaints about the CSX’s trigger reset are relatively minor. I’m picking nits here as there isn’t much about the gun to dislike, and I’m admittedly a bit of a trigger snob. I’m also going to be more critical of the trigger on a single action, external hammer pistol, because expectations here are as high as they get in the semi-auto pistol world.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

Overall my opinion on the Smith & Wesson CSX is that if you’re in the market for an extremely compact, easy-to-conceal pistol with 10+ rounds of capacity and you prefer an external hammer for any reason, the CSX is your huckleberry. It’s a great shooter that’s reliable and oh-so-easy to carry…and it’s the only gun in this size and capacity category with an external hammer.

Smith & Wesson CSX hammer 9mm pistol

Specifications: Smith & Wesson CSX 9mm Pistol

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 10+1 rounds flush fit, 12+1 extended
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Overall Length: 6.1 inches
Width Across Controls: 1.12 inches
Width Exclusive of Controls: 1.01 inches
Height: 4.6 inches
Weight: 19.5 ounces
Sights: white 3-dot
MSRP: $609 (in stock as of this review’s publication for $579.99 at Brownells HERE)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance  * * * *
I like the looks of the CSX. The slide is nicely sculpted with clean machining and I like the look of a pistol with an external hammer. The CSX is somehow modern and classy at the same time.

Reliability  * * * * *
Right out of the box the S&W CSX fed, fired, and ejected every type of ammo I shot through it without a hiccup. No lube added, plenty dirty, indoors and in the Texas sun for about 500 rounds including firing single-handed, etc.

Ergonomics  * * * * 
For me the CSX doesn’t fit in my hand quite as well as the Shield Plus does, though its very comfortable and secure for such a tiny gun. While the controls are all fairly low-profile and geared toward concealed carry use, they’re easy to operate.

Customize This  * * * 
Sights are swappable and night sights and other upgrades are available. Multiple backstraps is a unique feature for a micro compact firearm, and that’s a nice touch so the CSX can be customized to better fit your hand size. Unlike the Shield Plus, the CSX’s slide is not cut for an optic. No idea yet if the CSX will see much aftermarket support for sights, holsters, triggers, etc.

Overall  * * * *
For me personally I’d probably call the CSX a three-star gun, however that’s because I give no weight or extra points to the fact that it has an external hammer. For those who prefer an exposed hammer, though, the CSX is unique in the market and is a truly fantastic concealed carry option.

 

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49 COMMENTS

  1. Good review overall. I agree with you completely that the “major selling point for a single action, hammer-fired pistol [should be] a fantastic, crisp trigger”, so I can’t fathom why you would want a heavier trigger spring to add to the 7lb (i.e. ridiculously heavy for a SAO) squeeze this has out of the box.

    I managed to get mine down to 4lb. I receive tactile feedback as I ride the reset, and never experience false reset.

    • Well I’d run a slightly heavier trigger return spring and amend the sear engagement geometry to bring the break weight down. Triggers need to return forward with gusto. In a single action gun like this you could have a 2-lb trigger return spring and a 2.6-lb trigger break if you wanted to.

      • Having recently done a trigger job on one, I respectfully disagree. Squeezing the trigger drives the trigger bar backwards against the trigger spring, and against the bottom of the sear which rests on its own spring. Both are coil springs, which makes the forces involved very clear and removes a lot of the “dark arts” involved in a 1911 – you simply use lighter springs and / or trim them (to decrease preload).

        Removing excess positive engagement from the sear / hammer mating surfaces (stoning as close to neutral or parallel as possible) helps of course, but creating any negative engagement or roundover risks slippage / NDs. Beyond that all you can do is lighten the springs – and it’s much safer to reduce the trigger spring than the sear spring.

        • I tore mine down to find the notch on the hammer that catches the sear has a lip on it that protrudes slightly forward and seems to be the actual grab point when the sear engages. I posted this on the S&W forum and had another member state his was the same. I mildly stoned both surfaces to smooth them out, but not change any angles. I fell short of eliminating that lip to make a straight across hammer notch like in a 1911. Can’t figure out why that lip is there at all. Could be that S&W found the trigger just too hard if they made the hammer notch straight across, who knows. I also smoothed out all the rest of the internals to get the machine marks off of them and the edges off the stamped parts. This lightened the trigger pull to a crisp 4 pounds and somewhat eliminated the false reset. It is still there if you look hard for it, but mostly gone. What did surprise me is the small sear spring and the small spring that pushes the safety bar forward. Any further information would be appreciated.

        • Bob,
          I found the same (hammer lip). I surmised that it was to minimize the amount of contact surface that has to be evened / polished for a decent squeeze, but I’m not sure.

          I’m not sure what you mean about “the small spring that pushes the safety bar forward”. I polished my safety detent spring (a curvy leaf spring) to make safety operation smoother. As you probably already know, the safety works in conjunction with the disconnector (which has its own spring).

          If you got 4lb just through stoning and polishing, without lightening any springs, you’re already ahead of me – well done! Besides stoning and polishing, I lightened the trigger, sear (just a bit) and firing-pin-safety springs on mine, and checked for safe engagement by throwing it to the floor (unloaded and cocked) several times from about a 9ft height. I’m also experimenting with extended magazines (the factory mags nest inside Para mags if you grind the ribs off – probably better to just use .40 or .45 mags), but neither my skills nor my rig are up to that thin metal, so it looks like crap).

    • the 7lb pull measurement is for breaking the stop. how would increasing the return spring rate affect this? wouldn’t it only be perceivable in the felt effort in the travel up to the stop?

      • No. Both springs oppose the rearward travel of the trigger. I described it in more detail in my response to Jeremy, right above yours.

  2. I honestly don’t see the target market for this. If you don’t like the striker-fired models that dominate, Ruger has hidden-hammer pistols that are great choices.

    • Ruger’s only pistol in this category is striker-fired.

      The market niche seems pretty clear to me. Millions of modern lightweight carry pistols are sold every year. Lots (not as many, but quite a few) of 1911s are as well. The two fan groups argue, but I can’t believe there is zero overlap (AK and AR guys argue too, but there are plenty of crossover rifles). I know I’m not the only person on Earth who wants a crisp SAO trigger that isn’t packaged with an exact replica of a dozen superseded features rarely incorporated in a new design for the last half-century.

      • Yeah, the MAX-9 is a striker, which is a departure from Ruger as they’ve typically done internal single action only hammers. Regardless, there’s still a big difference between a hidden hammer like TomT mentioned and an external hammer like on the CSX. When it’s a single action hidden hammer like the LCP and other guns it makes zero difference whatsoever vs. striker. There’s no reason at all to prefer one or the other in that case. The only way a hammer matters is if it’s exposed and you can operate it manually.

        • I think a shrouded hammer still makes some difference – easier to get a crisp trigger, and also the physics of the action (a hammer spring opposes recoil, where there is plenty of surplus energy to dissipate; a striker spring opposes the recoil spring on the feed stroke).

  3. I’d like to see this get the same ” stretch” treatment (ie a 3.7-4 inch barrel/slightly longer slide and sight radius -yeah, I know, optic etc)in the way that the Smith and Wesson Shield, Sig 365(XL)and Springfield offerings all now offer while retaining the frame and grip dimensions that make them packable.
    Recurring suggestion from me, I know I know -I am fixated on that ” service calibers have a minimum barrel length and muzzle velocity floor ..” but I ALSO shoot guns like that better and have never been made while concealing guns of that dimensional range or bigger.
    Your Mileage May Vary -You All Do You and I don’t begrudge that

  4. Interesting.

    Early versions of the pistol (Shot Show) presented the CSX as having a cross-bolt safety. That feature got plenty of unhappiness in internet video reviews. On surface, it seems surprisingly swift that S&W switched to a frame-mounted safety,

  5. I see no enthusiasm for this. Mostly fairly negative reviews on YouTube. Especially in 30 super duper. I like S&W( Got their AR). Still haven’t seen one in the wild…

    • I shot it and a Shield Plus in 30 Super Carry back-to-back with a 9mm. Couldn’t tell the difference. If 30 Super Carry proves itself as a viable self-defense cartridge I’d gladly choose it and enjoy the extra couple rounds of capacity. I’m sure the HST is an effective round, but not sure if it’s as effective as 9mm or how close it would have to be for me to choose it over 9mm for the extra capacity.

      • If you’re worried that a dozen rounds of 9mm won’t be enough to save your ass you really should schedule a colonoscopy. Maybe get your cholesterol checked…

    • You’re being a wise guy.

    • If I had this gunm I’d sell it and buy something a little prettier. Maybe an Uberti SAA. I mean, spaghetti westerns worked for Clint Eastwood…

      • Next on my list when powder supply and primers come back is an Uberti .36Navy.
        At one time that was the only firegunm I owned, I traded it for an eyetalian brand .380.
        I didn’t like only having six shots and slow reloading, after having the .380 awhile I realized its better to have six shots and slow reloading then three shots and a jam

        • “My very first pistol was a cap & ball Colt
          Shoots as fast as lightnin’ but it loads mighty slow
          It loads mighty slow, and soon I found out
          It’ll getcha into trouble but it can’t getcha out”

        • Carry a spare cylinder and see how that speeds up your reload time. Old timey shootists did that. Also trooper. Lots easier to switch empty cylinder for full one on horseback than it is to try to reload with flask and bullet rammer while OldDobbins is trotting along.

    • If I had this gun I’d fire it a lot to see if the trigger smooths out. Maybe get a really nice trigger job. Maybe convert it to DA/SA or DAO.

  6. THANKS FOR INFOR ALWAYS
    HAVE BAD RIGHT HAND AND ARM , MAYBE ALL I COULD DO WOULD BE A 380 , THAT 9MM S&W LOOKS LIKE TO SMALL GRIP FOR ME ANYWAY .

  7. ‘Sights” are irrelevant for this type of weapon because nobdy with any sense w is going to be using it i over say ten or twelve paces. In fact ‘sights are o pretty much irrelevant for any type of COMBAT’/SELF DEFENCE shooting with a pistol simple because you won’t have the time to use them. The smaller the handgun the less need for sights. If you can’t hit a man at combat branges without bthem m you really do need to practice, Anfd there the pronb blem Combat/Self Defence shooting is NIT a good fit for range shooting, And by the way I was a small Arms instructor [among other things as an Armourer] in the UK Forces for a goos few years.
    Pistol shooting, in the Combat/Self Defence sense, become’s instinctive or, in my opinion , you can pretty much forget it. You’ll be dead before you can react.

    • And how do you propose that people who are less skilled than you practice with their defensive arm without sights? You must have been a hell of an instructor, Dead-Eye.

    • So many individuals who consider themselves ‘pistoleros’ have never learned the lessons of history, or the specific techniques real operators have used for 100 years. Real operators like Colonel Fairbairn:

      “To become a good semi-automatic pistol shot, one must remember right at the start that the semi-automatic pistol is, or should be, carried for quick work at very close range, under such conditions where it would be almost impossible to use a rifle of carbine. There will be no time to line up the backsight with the foresight, and if your shot takes longer than a third of a second in the “let off” you are not going to be the one to tell the newspapers about it. It is obvious that the foundation of practical semi-automatic pistol shooting is speed, and more speed“

    • NOT the real Albert Hall (All Hail)….would have begun with ” I can’t understand the irrational American’s infactuation with pistol sights being used for under 109 metres, the distance we trained for in the Royal Guard”…..

      • No, it’s the real limey. Even spells ‘defence’ in the proper English manner.

        And they do focus on instinctive shooting, that’s been my philosophy for decades because it works.

        That’s why bore alignment with your index finger is so important, you can try it in your kitchen. Just point your finger from your hip at any object and then without moving your hand, move your eyes to sight down your index finger. You’ll see you’ve pointed directly at the object without using ‘sights’.

        That’s why the 1911 can be so accurate, it’s grip angle is appropriate for the vast majority of men’s hands to produce proper alignment with the index finger when pointed.

        Of course, when one has time and/or distance, acquire a sight picture.

    • “Pistol shooting, in the Combat/Self Defence sense, become’s instinctive or, in my opinion , you can pretty much forget it. You’ll be dead before you can react.”

      In the Combat/Self Defence sense, a battle rifle, SAW, or grenade launcher makes one react faster than they can with a pistol?

      Or, are you positing that even the military should be dis-armed, because military will be dead before they can react?

      • “become’s instinctive or, in my opinion , you can pretty much forget it. You’ll be dead before you can react.”

        Just as Colonel Fairbairn, I believe Al is suggesting that at close ranges where pistols are employed, one’s reaction should be instinctive rather than calculated, because of time constraints.

  8. At 71 (with 56 of those years as an active shooter), I can be placed squarely in the “old school” category. I like an external hammer. When I wore the Army uniform, I carried a veteran 1911A1 pistol but didn’t like the SA trigger — even a little. I think the best carry pistol (and the one I carry daily) is the LEM version 7 of the HK45C. Slack in stage one of the DA two-stage trigger pulls the external hammer about 3 mm before hitting the stage two stop. Pulling through the four-pound stop of stage two fires the pistol.

    The main advantage is safety while holstering the pistol. Like many carry pistols, this version of the HK45C does not have a manual safety. But unlike striker-fired pistols, placing your thumb on the external hammer while holstering gives immediate trigger feedback when the pistol is loaded and in battery. If the trigger catches on the holster or in clothing, feedback is both positive and unmistakable. The feel of a two-stage trigger takes a few rounds to master. But (IMHO) if you’re carrying a pistol with no manual safety and with one in the pipe, an external hammer connected to a two-stage trigger is essential.

    • Interesting, my S & W 6906 has quite a bit of DA slack before you reach the second stop when the hammer actually begins moving.

      In SA, there’s even more slack before the hammer drops.

      Seems like a good idea, a bit safer.

  9. Looks like a great gun. I’m a big S&W shield fan, so I’m sure this pistol is really good. As for me, I’m not a huge fan of the cocked and locked thing. I’m not against it, but it’s not for me, especially if I’m carrying on my person. But, it’s cool, and that’s just me. My decision only.

  10. Riding the reset is great if you’re a bullseye shooter, terrible if you’re a practical shooter – you’re waiting for the gun to reset after the slide has already reciprocated and the firearm is otherwise ready to shoot again.

    Slap that sucker. If your support hand is doing its job the aim won’t get disturbed.

  11. 𝐈 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 $𝟏𝟐,𝟎𝟎𝟎 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞. 𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐦𝐲 𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐣𝐨𝐛𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞, 𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐈 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝟏𝟏 𝐭𝐨 𝟏𝟐 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬 𝐚 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞. 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐲 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐈 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐭…𝐆𝐎𝐎𝐃 𝐋𝐔𝐂𝐊….
    =====))> 𝐰𝐰𝐰.𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐜𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐤.𝐜𝐨𝐦

  12. I have both the CSX and the P365, and while both are really good for barely pocketable double stack 9mm’s I like the CSX better. The CSX’s trigger seems better than the P365, and the CSX seems to have more rounded edges which results in a little less printing. And yes, with moderately deep pockets and a Sticky Holster or similar holster, the CSX disappears when pocket carried.

    Anyone wanna buy a lightly-used P365? I won’t be sorry if I keep it, but I’m not gonna use it anymore.

  13. That’s why I say we have no hope for change except by force. This country has been taken over by corrupt politicians for over 45 years. Everyone one that in government from the past 45 years has baggage. They all need to be put on trial and investigated.i do home work ….. 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐜𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐤.𝐜𝐨𝐦

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