How to perform a dynamic_cast with a unique_ptr?


The question has been clarified:

sorry I was not clear. I want the ownership to remain with original owner, the called function should only get reference to it, not ownership. Not looking for two smart pointer for the same object.

In that case, the solution is simply:


Done. It throws if the cast doesn’t succeed.

Casting shared_ptr

For shared_ptr there is std::dynamic_pointer_cast<> (

Casting unique_ptr

The simplest way would seem:

#include <memory>

struct A { virtual ~A() = default; };
struct B : A { };

int main()
    std::unique_ptr<A> pa(new B);

    std::unique_ptr<B> pb(dynamic_cast<B*>(pa.release())); // DO NOT DO THIS

As the commenter rightfully points out, this may leak the object if the conversion failed. That’s not very helpful.

A reason why the dynamic_unique_ptr_cast<> doesn’t exist might be that the unique_ptr type doesn’t erase the deleter. It could be hard/impossible to choose an appropriate delete for the target pointer type.

However, for simple cases, you could use something like this:

template <typename To, typename From, typename Deleter> 
    std::unique_ptr<To, Deleter> dynamic_unique_cast(std::unique_ptr<From, Deleter>&& p) {
        if (To* cast = dynamic_cast<To*>(p.get()))
            std::unique_ptr<To, Deleter> result(cast, std::move(p.get_deleter()));
            return result;
        return std::unique_ptr<To, Deleter>(nullptr); // or throw std::bad_cast() if you prefer

auto pb = dynamic_unique_cast<B>(std::move(pa));

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