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SMITH & WESSON CSX 9MM
A NEW OLD IDEA
With an aluminum-alloy frame and a singleaction trigger, the new CSX feels familiar but isn’t quite like anything else on the market.
SMITH & WESSON
STEEL ARMORNITE FINISH
METAL WHITE DOT
METAL WHITE 2-DOT
Smith & Wesson recently introduced the CSX to pay homage to past metal-frame micro-compacts and also to offer its classic style to modern buyers. I was surprised to find the pistol on the “used” shelf at a local gun shop. Apparently, a fellow gun owner didn’t get the hang of it and traded it back in for a Smith & Wesson Shield.
His loss is my gain.
The CSX reminded me of a couple single-action pistols I’ve greatly appreciated in the past, including the Star Firestar Plus. With that in mind, I took possession of the CSX after filling out the required paperwork and wound up impressed with what it has to offer.
The CSX is either a compact or subcompact pistol (depending on who you ask). It is slightly smaller than the Smith & Wesson Shield Plus, which is just the right size. If the Glock 19 is considered a compact pistol, the CSX is definitely a subcompact.
It is a locked-breech, single-action 9mm, which means the trigger doesn’t cock and drop the hammer as it does in a double-action system, nor does it move the striker to the rear as in the Glock Safe Action System. As a result, your trigger finger won’t follow an arc to operate the trigger but instead will press straight to the rear.
The trigger breaks at 6 pounds, and compression
is clean, with modest take-up and a sharp break. Reset is rapid, and the trigger is flat (with the exception of a slight curve at the very top). A lever inset in the trigger face prevents lateral discharge, and it ships with a spare magazine release if you wish to reverse it for left-handed use.
The short slide features forward and rear cocking serrations and is finished in corrosion-resistant Armornite. Though you will use the forward serrations most, the rear serrations have a flared design for easier manipulation. There is a serrated line cut into the slide between the wedge-type rear sight and the front unit, and both sights combine for a white three-dot picture.
The CSX includes two grip inserts, and the smaller, flatter unit worked best for my average-sized hands. Changing the insert is easy to do, as Smith & Wesson supplies a tool to depress the plunger that holds the grips in place.
The frame has a nicely elongated tang, which helps feed the hand into the backstrap, which is an excellent feature on a pistol of this size. The slide lock and safety are ambidextrous, though the safety does not lock the slide as the safeties on 1911 and Hi Power single-action pistols do. The pistol may be loaded and unloaded with the safety on, which is an advantage in some situations. The safety may also be applied with the hammer down. There is a half-cock notch that will capture the hammer in the event that the user slips while cocking the hammer, but do not use half-cock as a “ready mode” in
any type of single-action pistol.
The interchangeable smaller (left) and larger (right) backstraps make the CSX customizable beyond other pistols of comparable size.
GETTING ON TARGET AT 7 YARDS, I WAS ABLE TO REMOVE THE X-RING OF A B-27 TARGET. THIS IS AS GOOD A SHOOTER AS I HAVE ENCOUNTERED IN A PISTOL OF THIS SIZE AND WEIGHT.
Carrying the pistol in a holster with the hammer to the rear and the safety on is the recommended carry method.
While the CSX isn’t the smallest pistol, I can see the usefulness of this handgun in a well-made ankle rig — one manufactured by CrossBreed, for instance.
Still, the CSX is a natural for a quality IWB holster, and the Galco Stow-N-Go for the Glock 43X is a perfect fit. Galco’s Tuck-N-Go works well too; I don’t like tuckable holsters all that much, but the Tuck-N-Go features a belt clip that is absolutely rigid and locks up solid. If you must have a tuckable, this is your best option.
Of two magazines that are supplied with the pistol, the 10-rounder is a flush-fit, and the 12-rounder extends past the frame slightly, but only by an eighth of an inch or so. There is no practical difference between the two magazines when it comes to concealment, either in the gun or on the belt.
The good news is that both of these steel magazines are well-made, but the bad news is that the 12-round magazine is difficult to load to full capacity. I managed 11 at the first range session; only weeks later, after leaving the magazine loaded for days, was I able to force that 12th cartridge in.
This is a subcompact with a short sight radius, so you must take greater care with the sight picture and trigger press than with a full-sized gun or you will throw shots. Accuracy is still well within reach though, as the sights and trigger are both more than adequate. That said, pressing a 6-pound trigger against a roughly 20-ounce pistol is a balancing act (though for comparison, I am able to fire this pistol at least as well as a SIG Sauer P365 and better than a Smith &
Wesson Shield Plus).
The grip isn’t generous, but it is well-designed, and the pistol comes on target quickly. The safety is positive in operation and falls under the thumb easily. Getting on target at 7 yards, I was able to remove the X-ring of a B-27 target. This is as good a shooter as I have encountered in a pistol of this
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the ammunition expended for this assessment was inexpensive ball ammunition. Some cheap (whatever passes for “cheap” these days) ball is pretty good, but most is dirty, and a lot of what we see today is loaded either too light or too hot. I fired a supply of Turkish 9mm FMJ that is clean-burning, accurate and apparently NATO-spec. While snappy, it was controllable in the CSX. I also fired a number of modern jacketed hollow-points, including Federal HST, Hornady XTP, Remington Golden Saber and Winchester Silvertip.
The feed reliability was flawless, and as for absolute accuracy, at 15 yards from a solid benchrest position, I was able to fire three-shot groups of 2.5 to 3.2 inches. This lands the CSX squarely in the realm of “accurate enough for any foreseeable personal-defense problem.”
UPGRADE ON PROVEN PRINCIPLES
The CSX never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. It is accurate, reliable and offers an alternative to generic striker-fired polymer-frame pistols. In short, it is a unique, excellent update on proven principles. The CSX is for the shooter who isn’t finding what he or she likes in a crowded market, and it is a fine option for the concealed carrier who is looking for something a little different.
Smith & Wesson:
COVER AND CONCEALMENT
UTILIZING BOTH DURING AN ACTIVE-SHOOTER INCIDENT
MAUREEN P. SANGIORGIO
You might be surprised by what will (and will not) stop a bullet. This heavy steel fire door certainly looks and sounds formidable, but regular old 115-grain 9mm ball ammo passed right through it without issue.
Learning how to identify cover and how to use that cover to defend yourself are essential self-defense skills.
But before we go any further, it is important that everyone be on the same page as far as definitions go.
While cover and concealment may sound like the same thing, there is a major difference between the two. Cover is defined as any object that has the capability of stopping bullets, such as a solid brick wall, an engine block or bulletproof glass. While some objects may not completely stop bullets, they might deflect them, reducing the extent of your injury if you’re hit. While they may still count as cover, they’re not cover like a poured-concrete wall is.
Concealment is any object behind which you can hide so that your assailant can’t see you, making it more difficult for him or her to shoot you.
Examples of concealment include a tipped-over table in a restaurant and a line of hedges. Whichever you are able to get to, being able to identify and knowing how to use cover and concealment to your advantage can save your life if you’re confronted by a rapid mass murderer.
SOAK IT ALL IN
According to Fred Mastison, president of Force Options Tactical Training Solutions and internationally recognized as one of the top combatives and firearms instructors in the world, situational awareness is vital to identifying cover — which, in turn, will become of vital importance if you suddenly find yourself under attack.
“Whenever you enter a building, restaurant [or] store, or if you are outside, such as walking around a park, you should always scan the area and look for what you could use for cover and concealment,” he said. “It should become part of your nature to do this every time you leave your home.”
“As a matter of fact, it’s best to look for more than one exit because that door that you just came in is the same door that everyone else used, and they’re going to be trying to get out the same door,” he continued.
“Always look for a second [or] even a third exit, such as an emergency exit. When in a restaurant, it may surprise you that there’s almost always a back door or another exit from the kitchen.”
Identify potential threats and anything out of the ordinary. For instance, if you’re dining in a restaurant in the summer and a guy walks in wearing a thick fleece hoodie with the hood up, has sunglasses on and has his hands thrust into his sweatshirt pockets, that should spark suspicion. Why would he need to wear such warm clothing in the summertime? Why is he wearing sunglasses indoors? And if you can’t see his hands, how do you know he’s not holding a gun?
In addition to keeping an eye out for potential trouble, whenever you find yourself in a new environment, it is also important to look around to identify tools that you might be able to use to your advantage.
“After you’ve identified cover and concealment objects, look for items that could aid or effect any escape or defense plan you may have,”
Mastison stated. Whether you’re in a home-improvement center or a grocery store, pay attention to your surroundings so that you can improvise as effective a weapon as you can if need be. Never wait until the last minute to determine what you’ll do if gunfire erupts.
“If it comes down to the last moment when gunshots start to ring out, and now you’re looking for cover or concealment, you are behind the curve,” Mastison warned. “That’s why it’s always important to be looking around where you’re at. It’s not a matter of paranoia; it’s a matter of preparedness.”
You may be forced to return fire to defend yourself or others, so do your best now to make sure that the first time you try to move while firing your gun isn’t during a crisis.
But whether you’re just moving or
moving and shooting, it is more difficult for your attacker to hit a moving target than a stationary one. And if the threat is very close to you, getting behind cover first might be much more important than being able to immediately draw your firearm.
According to Mastison, the next step is to have a plan beyond that. “You can’t just stay in that same spot,” he stated.
“If the attacker is mobile, and they’re moving around and shooting people, there’s a chance that [the shooter] can find you. We need to do our best to break away from there and move to yet another piece of cover. You need to have a plan of ‘Where am I going next?,’ of ‘What’s my next step in order to move even further?’”
For example, if you’re walking down the street and someone starts shooting and you see a car behind you, make a dash to shield yourself behind that vehicle.
Then dash to the next car behind that one. Within seconds, you’re three or four cars away from the shooter. The goal is to move away from the threat as quickly and as safely as possible.
When you do find cover, you don’t want to get too close to it, which is called “hugging your cover.” If you can get around the corner of a brick building, don’t then lean right up against that brick wall. This could rapidly reduce your chances of survival because physically leaning up against a wall compromises your ability to move effectively, specifically in the context of weapons manipulation and reloads.
Worse, if you hug your cover too tightly and then you go to lean out around it to “slice the pie” to assess the situation and possibly return fire, you will be exposing far more of your body to the attacker than necessary. Stay a few feet back from the object to keep most of your body behind cover; an arm’s length is just about perfect. If, however, your assailant is in an elevated “sniper” position and is above you, hug that cover object like it’s your best friend. If you back a few feet away in this situation, he or she can easily shoot over your cover object to hit you.
As for returning fire, you never want to shoot from the same angle and location twice in a row. If you become predictable, you’ve basically given up your tactical advantage. For example, if you’re using a vehicle for cover and you’ve just shot from behind the engine compartment, your next string of shots should ideally come from the rear of the vehicle. Depending on a vehicle’s clearance, you could even lay next to it and send accurate fire under it and into an attacker’s legs or torso.
GET AWAY IF YOU CAN
Exchanging fire with an assailant should always be a last resort. Evasion should be your top priority.
“This is going to be difficult for some people to understand, but if you find yourself in an active-shooter situation and you’re armed, your job is to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones, so I recommend you do your best to get away from the situation,” Mastison advised.
“Some may say ‘I’m going to pull my gun out and run toward the bad guy.’ But if there’s a police officer nearby, and he sees you running toward the gunfire, and you’re not wearing a badge, and you’re carrying a gun, there’s a good chance you’re going to get shot. He doesn’t know who you are.”
ABOVE ALL, LET’S BE HONEST
Be realistic about your training. It won’t do you any good lying to yourself about your level of preparation. Ask yourself not only how much training you’ve had but also what kind of training it was. Have you had classes in defensive tactics or been trained in close-quarter combatives?
Standing at a firing line at a range and shooting at a static paper target is completely different than firing at a flesh-andbone assailant.
“Are you able to hit a moving target in a mall with 60 other civilians around that bad guy, or are you going to start putting rounds into random, innocent bystanders?” Mastison asked. “We want to stop evil, but we need to make sure we’re in the right place, have the right mindset and have the right skill set in order to make that happen.”
Force Options Tactical Training Solutions: