Self Defense Training Articles
Self Defense Training Articles
Ok so to begin, my wife and I have carried all three guns. I generally carry one of three firearms on a daily basis: Shadow Systems CR920, Shadow Systems MR920, or a Wilson Combat SFT9. My wife generally carries the Shadow Systems CR920. Those are our personal favorites and have our obvious bias. However, I will say that we came to the conclusion of our favorites by carrying, training, competing, and teaching so this is not just on a whim of what felt good or what looked coolest.
For the purposes of the Glock 43, there are a lot of similarities between the 43 and 43x. At the time we purchased ours, a 43x was not an option but the firearms is effectively the same only the 43x has a substantially higher round count without increasing the size of the gun noticeably.
The first thing we always have to look at as non multi millionaires is price. At the date of this article the Glock 43 comes in at $537.58; a Glock 43x is $582. That is the listed MSRP price and a short google search finds each approximately $100 cheaper. The Smith & Wesson CSX MSRP value is $609 while Shadow Systems is the most expensive at $699 for the Elite model or the about $150 cheaper for the combat variant (discontinued). The MSRP is generally at the $800 range but almost every store I checked advertised $699.
Of the three firearms, Shadow Systems utilizes what they define as a match grade barrel. Glock Gen 5 have been making the same claim however the I did not find that claim regarding the smaller pistols. Truthfully it is realistically a moot point with a barrel this short since you wouldn’t truly achieve match grade accuracy.
Lets briefly look at some of the individual product specs:
The technical specs above yield to the general size of the firearms being relatively similar. The Glock and SS pick up roughly a 1/2 inch on barrel length, while the weight difference is within about 1 ounce for each gun and is a negligible difference. Extended magazines for the CSX bring the round count to 12+1 and the SS to 13+1. The 43 has some extended magazines but none attain the capacity of even a standard magazine for the other three.
In practicality the wearability of each gun is relatively the same. The shadow system seems to ride a touch nicer than the others but that is truly a subjective call and there is very little difference. CR920 and Glock 43x share holster sizes so the world is your oyster as far as options. Neither of the other two were particularly hard to find holster options for unless you like to rock a TLR6 light on your guns. After market support for sights was substantially better for Glocks and SS again since the sights are interchangeable.
From the factory, Glock sights are garbage and I know of no serious shooter competitive or defensive that keeps factory sights on. Ok that might be a little hyperbolic language since I can think of one but as a general rule shooters take that junk off and put quality sights on. The CSX sights are about as bad, but at least they are metal instead of plastic so they will do in a pinch. However, they are poorly designed for defensive shooting (which is an article all to itself). The CR920 takes the cake here with quality tritium combat sights straight from the factory. No need to swap these out in fact you can purchase them to install on your Glocks.
All three use their own proprietary magazines and the quality is about equal for all three, with one big advantage going to the CSX… at the time of this writing there’s a mail in rebate for 3 spare mags at no cost to you. Simply by the feel of them, the CR920 seems to be slightly higher quality but again it is a subjective call. This is the main part that is not interchangeable between the Glock 43, 43x and Shadow Systems firearms. Most Shadow Systems can use Glock mags except this one and the Glock 43 and 43x utilize different magazines.
How's The Trigger?
The CSX is a “1911’ish” design firing single action with a thumb safety and should arguably have the best trigger. The other three models are striker fired and typically have poor triggers in comparison. Personally I have never been a trigger snob as long as the trigger can keep up with the speed at which I shoot. However my main reason for truly disliking the CSX is the trigger.
The Shadow Systems trigger is better and more refined than the Glock but since the design is the same it still has that spongey feel 1911 guys hate. The CSX should in theory have a clean trigger break but truthfully it is worse than the Glocks and that isn’t even my problem with it.
The biggest problem with the CSX is the reset of the trigger. For those of us that shoot competitively and train a lot we get to the point that triggers sometimes struggle to reset as fast as we can with rapid shots. In this case the trigger has a false reset so you will let it move forward to the reset point and try to send another round downrange only to have the trigger not move back. Of course this issue could be trained out of someone that wanted to carry the gun but why would you do that?! The trigger just sucks and Smith & Wesson has a reasonability to the consumer to fix it and provide a quality product, if they want to see this model continue.
Having to train a specific issue for a specific gun that would not apply to any other firearm is a bad idea and will build bad habits that would then be hard to break. The simply fact is I am not going to carry this gun and I recommend you do not either until S&W fixes the issue. One final note on the trigger, it may be possible to have a competent gunsmith fix some of the reset (though it will always have a poor trigger reset) but then you are dealing with the legalities in court of having a trigger modified on a carry gun. Can you explain it to a jury? Probably. But why put yourself in that position?
Grip & Feel
The Glocks and Shadow Systems have polymer frames while the S&W has an aluminum frame. Theoretically the polymer should make the gun lighter however in practicality the guns are small enough that it only makes about 1.5 ounces of difference. In truth, it probably just serves to increase profit margins on a pistol this size. All three have changeable grips and the CSX has the most aggressive texture resembling sandpaper.
Glock uses there rear backstrap interchangeable feature that doesn’t seem to do much but make the grips feel fat which has always been everyones complaint with Glocks in the first place so I don’t know where the secret society is of people that use that but I find them completely unnecessary. Shadow Systems has a similar feature that changes out the rear of the grip rather than just adding an overlay theoretically changing the grip angle to a 1911 or Glock. However, neither of these companies offer this feature on the smaller size Glock 43 or CR920.
The CSX comes with two sets of grips. I found one to be worthless since it leaves a lot of slick aluminum available for your grip. The texture is not bad and I prefer guns with really aggressive texture so if you do not, you may find it annoying. The texture feels like grip tape often added to handles of other firearms. My personal preference is something like the Wilson Combat pattern that is incredibly edgy and grippy without grabbing cloth like the grip tape does which is the only problem I have with the CSX.
From a shooting standpoint I would say they all feel about the same. There was no noticeable difference in the felt recoil and perceived recoil for any of them. All three have sharp snappy recoil typical for what you would expect of a micro subcompact firearm. The only way to reduce this effectively would be to make the gun heavier or bigger with porting which defeats the purpose of this type of gun since by their design they have to be small.
Glock needs no introduction to its reliability and Shadow Systems running the same internals has shown to have similar reliability with some exceptions. All three guns have gone through at least 1000 rounds in our testing and since I have carried a CR920 since their release, my personal one has well over 10,000 rounds through it.
Glock 43/43x is typical Glock, they’ll run with just about anything you put in them and are prone to malfunctions if you limp wrist them. Lacking serration and texture on the slide, you have to get a firmer grip when clearing malfunctions but the operation mechanism is incredibly reliable. All in all I have not yet had a malfunction with this gun, some beginner students have because their grip is not firm enough but this is a very solid 9.5/10 on a reliability scale.
The Shadow Systems utilizes the same internal design as Glock and even has a majority of parts that are interchangeable. The firing pin has the same 5.5 pound spring as the Glock but utilizes a lighter firing pin (I believe its titanium) and in theory should yield to more issues with light primer strikes. From a pragmatic standpoint I did see an occasional light primer strike on low quality ammo since primers have been in short supply. Does it affect its ability to be combat ready? Not really since we would go into combat with quality ammunition. No issues with my own reloads since I use CCI primers but the cheap Turkish primers LAX Ammo was using for a while caused a malfunction about 1/400 rounds.
SS quality control is not as tight as I would like for the cost of the gun and they let things through that really should be found with a good QA process. However, their customer service has been very good about just sending parts and repairing issues without asking too many questions. On the same note, LAX Ammo was not willing to work with us on the large batches of ammo we purchased with primer issues and I have been a customer for 15 years. They have lost me, my school, and my students due to their poor quality service. Reliability rating 8.75/10.
The CSX being a completely different design does not generally have the historic reliability rating of a Glock design but from a functional standpoint we had no reliability issues in 1000 round test. This design gun will however have more reliability issues if you were using it without proper maintenance and care. Letting dirt into the components, not cleaning and changing springs etc.
However, I am not of the opinion that you should own a firearm that doesn’t get maintained so I’ll be the first to say I think that has always been a dumb argument. Toyota has a great reputation for reliability however if you are not changing fluid and components at recommended intervals you’ll still be left stranded at low mileage. Your firearm is no different; reliability should be tested under real world situations that you will find the gun in with proper maintenance as is appropriate with that firearm. My Wilson Combat SFT9 requires more maintenance than my Shadow Systems MR920 or my Glock 17 that doesn’t equate to it being less reliable. In fact the SFT hits primers harder than either and will set off even poor quality primers. But being a hammer fired gun, it is more prone to dirt getting in the mechanism.
Would I take the SFT to war? Absolutely. Would I take it on a Navy SEAL insertion traveling through mud and muck for 3 hours to target? Probably not. But if I was fighting in Bosnia with low quality ammunition it would be my preference. Reliability is on a spectrum based on operating environment and maintenance.
One more final note. People that look for reliability as a primary factor in buying cars lean towards Toyota. Because they know they have a car that will last a long time they take more meticulous care of it. So it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You end up with similar issues with firearms though sometimes on the opposite end where guys brag about a gun running yet never cleaning it. CSX reliability 8.5/10.
Final thoughts, my wife and I personally carry the Shadow Systems CR920. It is a comfortable carry with a respectable round capacity, with good solid reliability, that shoots well, has a nice price point and the gun is good to go after a 200 round break in. We will never again carry the CSX and use it only for teaching due to the trigger issues, and we also will no longer carry the 43 and use it only in our classroom due to the poor round count. A better comparison of equivalent firearms would be the Shadow Systems CR920, Smith & Wesson Shield, and the Glock 43X.
is an entrepreneur and content creator. He lives on a small homestead in central Alabama where his wife and three children raise livestock and enjoy the quit life on their farm. He served as an Infantry Officer in the United States Army from Alaska to Afghanistan and currently owns, along side his wife, Timberline Security Solutions LLC based in Birmingham Alabama.
Amandalyn has spent her professional career doing a little bit of everything from being a licensed real estate agent, to a Private Investigator. Currently she operates, along with her husband, Timberline Security Solutions LLC to train civilians, military and police officers for the battle they may one day face. Together with Mackay they work as Private Investigators and conduct executive level protection details.