Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special Pistol (VIDEO)


The Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special is a semi-automatic small-frame pistol chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. It’s been branded with the name “Chief’s Special,” which also refers to a line of S&W revolvers (Model 36) that are built for a similar purpose. S&W recommends the Chief’s Special for self-defense, however, the semi-auto line has been discontinued.



Chief's Special
Caliber: .40 S&W<br />.45 ACP<br />9mm
Grip: Rubber/black
Capacity: 6<br />7
Sights: Adjustable
Features: "Chief's Special" printed on the slide<br />Discontinued
Action: Semi-auto
Material/Finish: Stainless steel
Size: Small
Trigger: Double-action only
Weight: 1.4375 pounds
Barrel Length: 3.25"
Length: 6.5"
Height: 4.7"

Editor Review

For a little while Smith & Wesson referred to a line of semi-automatic pistols as the “Chief’s Special", a name more synonymous with their revolvers. Either way some can still be found floating around out there. They look like a stubby 1911 and are more commonly referred to as CS like the CS9, CS40 and CS45.

From what I had heard about it in the forums and other reviews that for being so small the recoil was rather mild – especially on the .45 – so I had to find out for myself. Fortunately a local range in Hammond, IN, called Deb’s Gun Range had one and they were nice enough to let me take a look at it.

How does it handle .45 ACP?

At first I thought shooting the Chief’s Special CS45 would hurt. Despite what I had heard, by at it I got that feeling that it would rattle my wrist bone. I expected hand-aching recoil. But then I fired it for the first time and suddenly all those reviews and forum postings had been confirmed. It seems as if the Chief’s Special was designed specifically for .45 ACP.

The Chief’s Special is a bit heavy for a subcompact pistol, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because if it were lighter the recoil would have definitely hurt. The weight plus the grip really helped tame it though. It’s all-metal and weighs a hair more than two pounds with a full six-round magazine.

But what I think helped more than the weight was its stout grip. It was long enough for my 3.5” wide hands to grip for positive control, but what contributed to its girth are the thick wraparound rubber grips. The Hogue grips had a nice texture to them the really clung to my palm. Really soft and sticky rubber. It provided a cushion that pressed against my hand and allowed me to easily absorb the violent backward force, however it didn’t do anything for muzzle flip. Unless I kept a really tight grip – tensing my muscles and such – it would jump several inches. Despite the flip, I rarely had to readjust my hold because of how well it clung to my hands, but it did throw off sight picture, or alignment of the sights with the desirable target.

Although it had unfavorable muzzle flip, the sights were easy to keep aligned. Unlike other compact or subcompact .45s, it was easy to maintain correct sight alignment even with the short sight radius. Perhaps it’s because the Chief’s Special has a rather flat profile and balanced frame.

The trigger was quite awful. I typically like double-action especially a light double, but on the CS45 it was way too heavy for my taste. It was rather difficult to get a feel for. Typically you can tell when the trigger will break, but it was difficult to tell on the Chief’s Special. It lasted well into my natural pause.

It’s labeled a concealed carry self-defense gun, and sure the size is there, but not the functionality. I had trouble rapid firing it because of the double-action trigger.

Also, if one were in a firefight they may want to change magazines because he or she used up the six rounds too quickly. To do so, one would like to utilize the slide release, but the slide release is way too far up on the frame for effective use. To release the slide with the slide release I had to either grab the frame with my passive hand or rotate my action hand so I was holding the gun sideways. It was just too much of a finger crawl to use it comfortably.


I ended up with rather wide patterns, however, I think the gun is capable of getting tight and consistent groups (because most guns can). Here's what I did at 25 yards.

Otherwise the groups ranged from 1.5" to 3" at 25. I tried 50 feet once and it wasn't pretty. Based on three sets, the average group was 4".

The Verdict

I wouldn’t recommend it. Not for the asking price, but since they’ve been discontinued they can be found for significantly less (like less than $400). I’m still not sure it’s worth it though. If .45 ACP is your favorite round, there are still other options. However, it makes one hell of an airsoft gun!