Sphinx SDP 9mm Compact

I leaned over the truck bed and braced for the first shot with the Sphinx SDP 9mm. I had loaded the magazine with Remington UMC 9mm, locking the magazine home, and lowered the hammer using the frame mounted decocker. The target frame was set at 16 yards. I pressed the trigger double action a single time. The 115 grain bullet struck directly in the center of the X.

This wasn’t a fluke, I repeated this feat time and again. The Sphinx is more than a lucky gun it is practically magic. This is among the most accurate firearms I have owned and certainly the single most accurate double action first shot pistol I have owned bar none. The pistol is exceptionally well made, with a good fit and finish.

The pistol is a close clone of the CZ 75 but with certain improvements making the Sphinx a superior pistol. Among the improvements are excellent combat sights and grip inserts that allow the shooter to find a comfortable, custom fit. Manufactured by Sphinx Systems Ltd. of Switzerland the pistol is a product of a company enjoying more than 140 years as a tool and precision manufacturing company.

For several reasons including currency trades, original Sphinx 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 good 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. At quick check of guns for sale online found one Sphinx SDP for sale at $1055 and an original AT 84 at $2,000, with a highly elevated Sphinx type for sale at some $4800.

The SDP is good enough for this shooter.

There is much that is familiar with the Sphinx pistol. It uses the proven short recoil system and a locked breech design. 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 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 slide is nicely contoured. I am certain this slide demands more machine work than most as the bevels and finish are interesting, unique even. The pistol features forward cocking serrations. The ejection port machine work is well done. In common with other CZ 75 type pistols the slide rides inside the frame. While this results in greater contact between the frame and slide and increases accuracy potential there is also more difficulty in gaining leverage to rack the slide. The deep slide in the frame design limits muzzle flip as the bore axis remains low. This is a difficult feat to achieve with a double-action handgun. Most DA first shot guns have a higher bore axis. While the finger still sweeps down and to the rear to fire the pistol the configuration is ergonomic and works well for most shooters. 

The rear sight is dovetailed in place. The front sight is not a common dovetail but firmly attached in a trough that runs from the forward section of the slide to the rear of the front sight. This 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 well suited to fast combat shooting but also precise enough to allow center hits on man sized targets to 50 yards.

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, relatively short and smooth, breaking at about 11 pounds. The single-action trigger is clean at 4.5 pounds with the modest backlash common to the CZ 75 and its variants. I should note that similar pistols may exhibit a trigger press in the DA mode of 14 pounds but smooth. I purchased this pistol used and since a spare spring set was in the box you may conclude the pistol has been improved with an action spring and trigger return spring. 

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. The decock levers are ideally located for rapid manipulation. The polymer grip frame fits most hands well. I did not change the grip inserts but find them an advantage of the polymer lower frame. The feel, heft and balance are similar to a CZ 75 compact. The grip frame offers a good balance of abrasion and adhesion. Three steel magazines are provided. Each accepts 15 rounds of 9mm Luger ammunition. 

While the mechanical details are interesting the fit and feel impressive compared to pistols with a similar description. The slide rides in the frame with a tight lockup. Lateral play is practically non-existent. The slide and frame are short 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.

During the firing tests I used the Remington UMC 115 grain loading. After the initial impressive shot I moved to making combat runs on multiple targets and firing at man sized targets at 7 and 10 yards. This handgun is heavy enough to making firing very pleasant. No compact 9mm kicks hard but this pistol is docile. Accuracy continues to impress. 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. I have fired a number of groups at a long 25 yards as a test of absolute accuracy using the MTM K Zone firing rest and quality ammunition. The results are below. 

Load                 Average of two five shot groups in inches

Remington 115 grain FMJ                                  2.0 in.

Remington 124 grain Golden Saber                   1.4 in. 

Remington 147 grain Golden Saber                  1.6 in. 

Handload/125 grain RNL/Titegroup powder/980 fps. 2.0 in.

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.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.