Smith & Wesson’s CSX was a departure from what S&W and most of the market have been playing with for the last couple of years. Read on for a Smith and Wesson CSX review from Harrison at Harry’s Holsters – we’ll also show you some places to find a Smith and Wesson CSX for sale.
Smith and Wesson CSX Review
Polymer striker-fired handguns have been all the rage for the last decade or so.
SIG Sauer made a slight change to that when they introduced the SIG P320 AXG series. The AXG uses an aluminum frame as opposed to the traditional polymer frame the gun had been using.
One of the most exciting developments in the market place dominated by polymer frames.
The Smith & Wesson was also originally leaked before the anticipated launch date. Was this a marketing plan on the company’s part, or was it an actual leak?
We’ll likely never know.
Either way, a lot of speculation was discussed on the internet about what this gun really was.
The initial picture made it clear that this gun was a hammer-fired pistol with an aluminum frame. The leaker followed it up by letting us know that it shipped with a 10- and 12-round magazine. That’s all we really knew at first.
Despite only having that knowledge at my disposal, I called my local gun store. They put me on the list to get the first one available.
Let’s deep dive in this Smith & Wesson CSX review to see what this gun offers. We’ll also cover if it’s any better than other options on the market.
Smith and Wesson CSX for Sale
Check Smith & Wesson CSX Price
As we said earlier, this gun has an aluminum frame, a single-action-only trigger, and it holds both 10- and 12-round magazines.
By the specs, the only thing unusual is the combination of all the features.
An aluminum frame combined with a micro-sized pistol that features 10- and 12-round capacity is a little bit unusual.
Especially with a single-action-only trigger.
Striker-fired guns have been the rage for years. So it’s kind of surprising that Smith & Wesson didn’t stick with that pattern.
There really is a lot to unpack with this gun.
We’re going to have to go into every feature in detail. This Smith & Wesson CSX review might seem like we’re jumping around a bit.
We want to make sure we cover everything so you know if this gun’s the right choice for you.
The magwell on the Smith & Wesson CSX has a slight bevel around the edges. There’s no flare to speak of. So there’s nothing in the design that will aid you in getting the magazine in faster.
That being said, it’s not hard to get the magazine in quickly either.
My hand typically-sized for a six-foot male, acts as a funnel when getting the magazine into this short grip.
My hands sit just low enough on the grip that they don’t impede the magazine from dropping free. But only if I just slightly release pressure on the grip.
This gun takes a different approach when it comes to ergonomics than most other firearms on the market.
It features both a removable front- and backstrap.
There is no replacement for the front, but it does come with two sizes of additional removable backstraps.
While the grip itself is aluminum, both straps are polymer. They appear to be made of the same type material used in the Smith & Wesson 2.0 series.
The backstraps remind me a lot of the Smith & Wesson M&P full-sized version. It has the exact same texture.
Which is a very good and aggressive enough to not let you down when controlling the handgun under recoil.
Now, this is where things get weird.
For some reason, Smith & Wesson ships the guns with the full-sized large back strap. The small backstrap does not have the half-moon cutouts that its full-sized counterpart does.
When you’re running the gun with the small backstrap, the gun appears to be missing parts.
There is this weird half-moon cutout on the side of the aluminum frame that really doesn’t make any sense.
I can get the palm of my support hand on the side of the frame. Still it’s very slick and not going to give you any control of the firearm.
I’m going to get most of my control from the leverage applied at the front and rear of the grip, so this does not concern me.
If you want to get more control on the side of this firearm, then you would have to send it to a gunsmith. You can have them checker it, especially in the area between the magazine release safety and slide stop.
I doubt we’d see anybody do that, but just keep it in mind.
There is a nice little beavertail on this gun.
It’s extremely well-rounded and ergonomic. The hammer slides right beneath it so there’s no way you’re going to get hammer-bite when using this firearm.
Unless you have massive hands, I don’t see slide bite being an issue. It’s certainly not for me.
As we mentioned earlier, there is great texturing on the front and back straps of this gun.
The real issue would be with the sides. I don’t think is going to be an issue when it comes to controlling recoil.
It would be nice to have a little bit of texturing there.
I’d much rather have the awesome texturing on the front and the back straps. As opposed to the texturing on the sides. The gun definitely does that.
If you plan to conceal carry this firearm and have skin sensitive to aggressive texturing, this gun may be a good option as the sides are very slick.
There’s very minimal areas of the back strap that could touch you. You could also sand down those parts of the back strap to avoid irritation.
One of my favorite things about the Smith & Wesson CSX is definitely its ergonomics.
This gun is very long as far as the distance goes from the back to the front strap. That means it’s very easy to get a good solid grip on the gun.
The shape and design of the grip forces my hand really high into it as well.
I feel like I have a very natural authoritative grip on the CSX.
The gun itself is fairly small. While it’s small, it feels much larger in the hand than it really is.
If you’re someone who finds the Sig P365 or Springfield Hellcat to be too small for your hands, I think you’ll really like the Smith & Wesson CSX’s grip.
The Smith & Wesson CSX comes with standard three-dot Smith & Wesson-style iron sights.
They’re metal, have three dots, and they’re decent.
It would have a better sight picture if they did not have the white dots on the rear. I wish they just went with a blacked-out style of sight.
As of right now, I’m not aware of any aftermarket options for this gun.
The sights on the CSX look like they could be a Smith & Wesson cut.
Unfortunately, the slide profile will prevent you from running Smith & Wesson sights.
Unless they were to hang over the gun, even if it had a Smith & Wesson-style dovetail.
At this point, we might as well look at this gun like it does not have any other compatible sight options.
This gun is begging for a red-dot option. I really don’t know why Smith & Wesson did not release a red-dot-compatible model at launch. I do suspect they will later on.
Smith & Wesson is a bit of an old-school company. They might think this gun is designed to be a little more elegant and not for your typical red-dot users.
While I would disagree with that, that may be how they think in the end.
We will just have to wait and see.
The Smith & Wesson CSX controls are a highlight of this review. Smith & Wesson really did a surprisingly good job when it came to the controls on this firearm.
There are two safeties on this firearm: one is what I would consider an external safety at the thumb, and the other is the trigger safety. We’ll talk more on the trigger safety later on in the CSX review.
I am no fan of the Smith & Wesson safeties on the Shield and Shield Plus series. I will say that they do a great job with the safeties on the EZs and M&P full-sized guns.
This safety is extremely low-profile, but it’s still very positive and easy to access.
I can ride my thumb on top of the safety similarly to how I would a 1911-style safety, but I do wish they had made it just a little bit wider.
Widening that safety a tad would increase usability for most users without compromising concealed carry ability.
That said, for as small and low-profile as safety is, it works fantastically.
I can never see having an issue with using the safety. It’s ambidextrous, and it’s perfectly matched on each side, so both right- and left-handed users will have an identical experience.
The magazine release comes installed on the left-hand side of the pistol set up for a right-handed shooter. They ship another magazine release in the box that can be used for a left-handed shooter.
Like its safety, the CSX magazine releases are completely identical.
The magazine release itself is easy to reach for those with large hands. If you have medium- to smaller-sized hands, you might have to break your grip to reach this magazine release.
It’s well-protected and sits fairly low in the frame of the firearm, so I don’t see this release inadvertently being pressed while releasing the magazine from the firearm.
On the frame, just in front of the magazine release, there is a slight hump that I could see being painful for larger-handed shooters if they’re pressing the magazine release.
For myself, it’s not an issue, but if you have extra-large or larger hands, you might want to check this out in your gun store before bringing it home.
Still not a deal breaker, in my opinion, considering this is not a gun you’re going to be doing a bunch of reloads with.
Something very unique about this gun considering its size is that it has ambidextrous slide stops that are also very close to identical.
There is a slight difference between the two of them, but when it comes to actually using the slide stops, users will not notice a difference.
It’s a little bit harder to use the right-side slide stop (made for left-handed shooters) than it is the left-side stop.
Smith & Wesson made it a little bit easier for right-handed shooters. They are the majority of customers buying this gun.
These are very low-profile, and I think Smith & Wesson did a great job.
I really don’t have any complaints beyond those with shorter thumbs potentially having an issue reaching them.
It’s about as long as I would want them for myself, but otherwise I would likely have to reach or break my grip to drop the slide stop on this gun.
You could always use your support hand thumb to drop the slide stop when loading a magazine into the firearm.
So there are options no matter how this device works for you.
Overall, the ergonomics of this firearm are excellent.
They did a great job designing the safety. The slide stop could have been mounted a little bit further to the rear, but I can live with the way they have it.
There are also forward and rear slide serrations that are very well-designed.
They’re sharp enough to allow you to get a good grip on the slide, but they’re not so sharp that they’re going to cause aggressive holster wear or damage your hands if they are not calloused.
The ergonomics of the grip are excellent.
This gun does a great job of filling your hand and it just feels good. This gun allows you to have a very good grip on it despite being very small and easy to carry.
That said, don’t stop reading this Smith & Wesson CSX review here—once we get to the shooting portions, I am going to have some surprising notes that may deter you from buying this firearm.
As we stated earlier, the trigger on the Smith & Wesson CSX is a single-action-only trigger.
The trigger itself has an interesting shoe, designed to look like a 1911-style trigger where the trigger shoe itself is pushed back straight to the rear, when in reality, that’s a deception.
This is a hinge-style trigger, and it actually feels like such when firing the gun.
It does have a little bit of that 1911-style feel due to the shape itself of the trigger shoe, but it’s probably more of a hybrid trigger.
Now, let’s talk about how the trigger itself feels.
When you disengage the safety, you’re going to feel just a slight bit of take-up as you disengage the trigger safety mounted on the front.
Once you disengage that, you’re going to hit a wall. At that wall, you’re going to feel just a little bit of creep before you feel a relatively clean but heavy break.
Then the trigger resets.
The reset itself is absolutely horrible. It’s very short, but you’re not going to feel any notable reset on this gun. Because of that, I would never shoot this gun to reset.
It would be very easy to have a false reset and short-strike the trigger.
This trigger is decent.
It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not a great single-action trigger. I was hoping for more, but I can ultimately live with what Smith & Wesson has delivered.
This gun is so new that we really don’t know about the aftermarket yet. Smith & Wesson did a very soft launch without much fanfare.
They did not have existing holster options, sights, or any of the aftermarket accessories you would hope for.
We are making holsters for the Smith & Wesson CSX.
I don’t know about other companies or what other aftermarket accessories will be offered.
Smith & Wesson is a large company that does a fair amount of volume, so I expect this gun will have some aftermarket support, but I’m not sure how much at the time of this post.
To take the Smith & Wesson CSX apart, you have to press the take-down pin through from the other side of the gun.
Press the pin that’s holding these slide stops in place from right to left.
Once you take that off, the slide will come right off and you can easily clean the gun as you would any other normal firearm.
I do wish they had made take-down a little bit easier, but considering how small this gun is and how well they designed the controls, I can live with the setup they’ve offered.
Aesthetically, I don’t know what Smith & Wesson was thinking with this gun.
The slide and aluminum frame offers a bit of classiness that most other Smith & Wesson handguns from this era do not have, but the front- and backstrap design completely throw it out of proportion.
The grip, while feeling great, also looks a bit bulky and chunky.
The gun looks great if you just cut off the grip itself and ignore that entire part of the firearm.
Smith & Wesson could have really done something great.
If they would have used a system more like the SIG Sauer AXG with G10 instead of polymer for the both straps of the pistol, that would be preferable.
It would have also helped to have some G10 accents on the side of the gun just to break things up a little bit and make the gun look a little bit classier.
I know this would have come at an increased cost, but I would have gladly paid for it, especially to get a better-looking firearm that had more of an heirloom appeal.
As this gun sits, it’s not quite a $400 polymer striker-fired handgun, but it’s also not a high-class heirloom-quality firearm either.
It’s somewhere in the middle and I’m not sure which way it’ll trend long-term.
My gut tells me it’s going to trend downward. I’m hoping that Smith & Wesson will come up with a performance-centered gun that has features similar to the AXG that would really class it up a bit.
Shooting this gun is where things get interesting.
When you go to load the 10-round mag into the gun, it’s very hard to load that tenth round into the magazine. You also can’t seat the magazine due to the magazine itself swelling from the spring and follower not being installed correctly.
The below video will better explain.
They have a plastic insert built into the base pad of the 10-round magazine which, if you compare the 10-round magazine next to the 12-round, leads me to believe they could actually fit 11 rounds in the 10-round magazine if they hadn’t used that insert in conjunction with the base pad.
That just seems like a complete oversight on Smith & Wesson’s part.
I assume they made this choice to simplify their manufacturing SKUs when shipping this gun to capacity-restricted states.
The 12-round magazine works fine when loading it into the gun, but it too has a couple of issues.
When you’re unloading the 12-round magazine from the gun, unless you fully release your grip, you’re likely going to hold the sleeve of the magazine while the magazine itself drops free.
The sleeve is there for a purpose, both to increase your grip and prevent over-insertion of the magazine into the firearm. It serves a very important purpose, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do it well.
It doesn’t have enough surface contact with a magazine itself to keep it in place.
In my opinion, Smith & Wesson would have been better off if they had just offered the CSX in a 12-round variant. It would have made the gun look cleaner and improved the ergonomics as well.
This gun is only around an eighth of an inch shorter with a 10-round magazine than it is with 12 rounds.
This is a much different size comparison than guns like the SIG P365, which gains almost a half-inch by going to a 12-round magazine.
I feel like the Smith & Wesson design team was just trying to rush this gun out of the factory as quickly as possible. They really should have just made this a 12-round gun right from the beginning versus trying to half-ass it.
Firing the Gun
Now, let’s talk about actually shooting this gun.
Shooting this gun, it shoots fairly well. The trigger is not a great upside like you would hope it being single-action only. It shoots pretty typical of most striker-fired style triggers despite being hammer-fired.
You’re not going to be a tack driver with this gun if you aren’t with a striker-fired handgun otherwise.
The aluminum frame does a nice job of adding a little bit of weight and slightly softening recoil. It’s still a small gun and has a fair bit of recoil, but it does shoot fairly well in terms of the impulse.
Another nice feature of the Smith & Wesson CSX that I discovered while at the range was the fact that you can keep the safety engaged and then still clear the firearm.
Most guns will not allow you to pull the slide back when the safety is engaged.
The Smith & Wesson CSX is an exception.
You can keep the safety in the ‘on’ position, drop the magazine, and then eject any live round from the chamber while still having the safety on. This is a very nice feature, and it’s especially great for newer shooters who are not comfortable with firearms just yet.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our Smith & Wesson CSX review.
Keep in mind that this is one of the very first production guns that has been released on the market. Hopefully, after a couple of months they will have made some improvements to the magazine design and just the gun overall.
Smith & Wesson is famous for recalls, and I kind of hope the CSX has a recall or Gen2 version coming soon.
They really got a lot right on this gun, but unfortunately, they got enough wrong that I would tell you to hold off from buying this.
If they release a second generation, they’ll hopefully fix most of the issues. Then I would say it would be a great gun for most users.
If I was in a life-or-death situation and had to reload this firearm, the chances that the mag sleeve stayed there while I was trying to reload another magazine with a mag sleeve on it are very high.
If you’re the type of person who carries a spare mag, I would definitely knock the Smith & Wesson CSX out of the running.
Like I said earlier, hopefully, Smith & Wesson fixes some of these issues, and they try to refine the gun a little bit more.
I think this gun’s concept has a ton of potential, even more so than almost any other handgun that I have reviewed recently or seen in recent years.
That said, it falls short, and I really hope Smith & Wesson gets their act together.
Let us know what you think of our Smith & Wesson CSX review below and what you think of the CSX as a whole.
- More from Harry’s Holsters.
- Other gun reviews.
- Smith & Wesson on Wikipedia.
- CSX review on Guns & Ammo.
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