Handgun Review: Sphinx SDP

Handgun Review: Sphinx SDP
The Sphinx 9mm pistol is well made of the finest materials and exhibits first-class performance.
The Sphinx 9mm pistol is well made of the finest materials and exhibits first-class performance.
The Sphinx 9mm pistol is well made of the finest materials and exhibits first-class performance.

The 9mm Sphinx SDP is a product of a desire to produce a world-class handgun, a goal that has been achieved.

Three supplied grip inserts allow the shooter to find a comfortable, custom fit.
Three supplied grip inserts allow the shooter to find a comfortable, custom fit.

The handgun covered in this report is arguably among the finest finished and fitted handguns in the world. It is manufactured by Sphinx Systems Ltd. of Switzerland, a firm that is enjoying more than 140 years as a tool and precision manufacturing company.

The present pistol is the result of long experience in producing quality handguns, including the original Sphinx and a number of CZ 75-inspired clone guns. These handguns have proven accurate and reliable. However, for many reasons, including currency trades, the pistols are often very expensive. Quality handguns are not inexpensive, but as the price reaches $2,000 or more, buyers are few. Sphinx set out to develop a handgun with excellent performance but which might be sold for a price in the middle range—in this case about $1,350. Sphinx developed the SDP series to fill this role.
The handguns are well-finished by any standard and offer excellent performance. They are not inexpensive, but they are affordable.

There is much that is familiar with the Sphinx pistol. It uses the proven short recoil system and a locked breech design that began with the Browning patents. The pistol’s construction is interesting. While the slide, barrel and critical parts are of steel, the upper portion of the frame is aluminum. The lower receiver is of a modern polymer. This is an unusual construction. While polymer is lighter than steel and less expensive, this mix of materials isn’t easily mastered.

The Sphinx 9mm features a front rail to allow the use of a modern combat light such as the Viridian.
The Sphinx 9mm features a front rail to allow the use of a modern combat light such as the Viridian.

The appearance of the slide is a clue to the pride with which this handgun was produced. In a day when many gunmakers are attempting to cut corners and limit machine work, the Sphinx slide requires extensive machine work. The bevels are very well done. The slide features forward cocking serrations, and the ejection port machine work is artfully accomplished.

Another feature is that the slide rides inside of the frame. This gives the practiced eye a clue to the lineage of the Sphinx handgun. It is based upon the durable and well-respected CZ 75 handgun. The slide’s position inside of the frame limits muzzle flip, as the bore axis remains low. This is a difficult feat to achieve with a double-action handgun. The contact between the slide and frame is tight, resulting in high accuracy potential.

As for the sights, the rear sight is dovetailed in place. The front sight is not a common dovetail but is firmly attached in a trough that runs from the forward section of the slide to the rear of the front sight. This is an excellent setup that anchors the sights well. The rear sight may be drifted to adjust the point of impact for windage. The sights provide a good sight picture.

The action is contained in the aluminum section of the receiver. The double-action first-shot trigger is similar to that of the CZ 75, with a recurved trigger offering good leverage. The double-action trigger pull is tight, long and heavy, as these often are, breaking the sear at about 14 pounds. The single-action trigger is clean at 5.5 pounds with the modest backlash common to the CZ 75 and its variants.

The only controls are the slide lock and the de-cocking lever. There is no manual safety.
The only controls are the slide lock and the de-cocking lever. There is no manual safety.

Controls include a slide lock, a frame-mounted de-cocker and a magazine release. The hammer is bobbed with no hammer spur. The de-cocker is ambidextrous. There is no manual safety and no provision for carrying the pistol cocked and locked. The frame is bobbed to prevent snagging on covering garments. The frame features a light rail for mounting laser aiming devices or a combat light.

Unlike most CZ 75-based handguns, the Sphinx can be adjusted for hand fit. This is due to the inclusion of the polymer grip frame component. Additional grip inserts are included in the hard plastic box supplied with the Sphinx.

The polymer grip frame feels good in the hand, with the heft consistent with a quality CZ 75 handgun. When you look at the de-cocker and the magazine release, it is obvious that a lot of care goes into producing high-grade checkering on each of these parts. The grip frame offers plenty of abrasion as the result of a serrated finish. There is a removable backstrap that allows for good hand-to-gun fit. There is a total of three straps. The front strap features slight finger grooves.
Three steel magazines that hold 15 rounds of 9mm Luger ammunition are provided.

The Sphinx in every detail is an impressive piece of Swiss workmanship. No corners have been cut. It exhibits high precision in the detail work and excellent slide-to-frame fit. This is a tight handgun. The slide rides in the frame with excellent lockup. Lateral play is practically non-existent. The frame feels good, and the pistol is well balanced. The slide is short, giving the pistol a squat appearance. The 3.7-inch barrel is well fitted into the slide and locks up by butting the barrel hood into the slide.

The Sphinx is supplied with a total of three magazines and three grip inserts along with other accessories.
The Sphinx is supplied with a total of three magazines and three grip inserts along with other accessories.

The heft and balance of the handgun is good, coming in at 28 ounces unloaded. When beginning the firing sessions, I loaded the magazines with Black Hills 115-grain Blue Box re-manufactured loads. These loads are an excellent resource for training and practice. I fired at man-size targets at five, seven and 10 yards. I started the drills in the double-action mode. After the first shot, I fired the subsequent single-action shots as quickly as I could reacquire the sight picture, and the Sphinx gave excellent results. The sights are good combat sights that are quickly picked up by the eye.

The grip frame is comfortable while firing. I am not a fan of finger grooves in the front strap, but I have to admit, in this case, the modest grooves seem to be an aid in control. The pistol proved to be more than combat accurate.

During one session, firing at seven yards, I put a magazine of 15 rounds into the same ragged hole. Double taps were easily delivered and the pistol is easily the most capable double-action/first-shot handgun I have fired in some time. During the initial firing tests there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. Felt recoil was light.

Moving to personal defense loads, a number of popular JHP loads were fired in the Sphinx with good function. Among these was the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP. This load isn’t loaded to +P pressure but instead for the greatest velocity possible, hence the term, Extra Power.

At well over 1,200 fps this load gave good function and control, virtually the same as the 115-grain practice load. I also fired a quantity of the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain +P service load. If I were back in uniform, this would be my favored 9mm service load. The slight difference in recoil was noticeable, but the Sphinx remained controllable.

In single-action mode the trigger pull is short and crisp.
In single-action mode, the trigger pull is short and crisp.

A good test for any handgun and shooter is firing at small targets at known and unknown ranges. The Sphinx proved accurate at long range, connecting on the Innovative Targets steel gong at a long 50 yards. This target is an excellent training resource that I use often. (InnovativeTargets.net)
Moving to bench rest firing, I collected a number of loads that have proven accurate in the past.

Taking a careful rest, with attention to every detail, I fired two 5-shot groups with four different loads. These loads were from four manufacturers and in four different bullet weights, so the results were excellent by any standard. The single most accurate load, the Fiocchi 124-grain Extrema, produced a 5-shot group of 1.9 inches. That is target-grade accuracy. The Black Hills 124-grain +P is about 100 fps faster and posted a group of 2.25 inches.

The Sphinx is indeed an accurate handgun. Remember, this is a compact handgun designed for concealed carry or all-day uniformed carry. The Sphinx isn’t inexpensive, but it is clearly worth its price.

The author found the Sphinx lively in the hand.
The author found the Sphinx lively in the hand.

Manufacturer:    Sphinx Arms
Distributor:    Kriss USA
Model:    SDP Compact Alpha
Action:    Double-Action/Single-Action
Caliber:    9mm
Slide:    Steel, Matte Black
Upper Frame:    Anodized Aluminum
Grip Frame:    Black Polymer
Grips:    Polymer/Synthetic Inserts
Sights:    White Dot Front, Drift Adjustable Rear
External Safety:    None, De-cocking Lever
Barrel Length:    3.7 inches
Overall Length:    7.4 inches
Height:    5.35 inches
Width:    1.06 inches
Weight:    28 ounces
Capacity:    15 rounds
Accessories:    Pistol is provided with three magazines, magazine loader, cleaning kit, hard case, lock, owner’s manual and grip inserts.


Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.


  1. Sure, most posts about the Sphinx criticize its price. But, that is like criticizing the price of a high-end car. After all, a Chevy will get you from point A to point B, as will a Mercedes. If one is going to be “practical” then only Glocks make sense. My only concerns about the Sphinx is that getting one with night sights is tough, no one seems to make a holster for it (that I would buy at any rate) and I worry about Kris’s USA customer service. Sig has GREAT customer service, matched only by S&W in my limited experience. I have owned a Sphinx and it is a very good gun. I still kinda prefer my CZ Custom SDP, which is another expensive gun. However, it is the best shooter I own in a compact carry piece.

  2. $1300?! I don’t think so.
    Ruger, Sig, CZ and several other companies already make more than comparable handguns at 1/2 to a 1/3 of this ridiculous Sphinx MSRP.
    I can get the new P320 and a P250 with a helluva night on the town thrown in for one Sphinx.
    I’ll pass.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.