The Swiss Elite


Steve Coulston goes hot with the SPHINX SDP Compact Alpha pistol.

The Swiss are known for their ingenuity, precision and craftsmanship. If you have ever owned a Swiss Army Knife or worn a Swiss time piece, the quality and attention to detail is evident. This same precision and keen design can also be found in their firearms. SPHINX has taken 138 years of tooling experience and quality craftsmanship and applied them to the art of firearms development and manufacturing.

SPHINX can trace its roots back to 1876 in Solothurn, Switzerland. Over the years they have moved locations and changed names, but their dedication and attention to detail has never wavered. In 1996 SPHINX acquired Industrial Technology and Machine (ITM) where they developed the AT 2000, which was an improvement of ITMs CZ 75 pattern pistol. Shortly after, in 1997, they moved again. SPHINX currently resides in Interlaken, Switzerland. In 2010 SPHINX partnered with the KRISS group to create the SPHINX SPD Series of pistols.

The SDP line of pistols comes in all shapes and sizes that range from the sub compact to the full size as well as a variety of finish options. For this writing, the SPHINX SDP Compact Alpha line is the subject. The SDP Compact comes in a hard case, with three removable back straps, two 15 round magazines, reload assist tool, cleaning kit and instruction manual. At first glance the SDP shares many similar attributes, both external and internal to the CZ 75 and the CZ P-07. These similarities are design evolutions to the venerable CZ 75.

The SPHINX SDP is a very impressive pistol. The SDP Compact weighs in at just under 28 oz. and feels very substantial in the hand or holstered. The machine work is second to none and the ergonomics are fantastic. The Compact Alpha Line version has a Black TIAIN coated steel slide with rear slide serrations and front press check serrations. These are very effective for gripping the slide as the slide is fairly minimal in regards to height above the frame. The slide runs on full-length rails that mate perfectly with the machined rails in the aluminum frame. The result is butter smooth operation. The tolerances between the slide and the lower frame are extremely tight, yet fit together like a Swiss watch… Ok, bad pun.

The SDP Compact is chambered in 9×19 mm and has a 3.7 inch barrel and can also be had with a longer threaded barrel for running suppressed if desired. The sights are simple yet effective. The front blade is fixed with a contrasting white dot while the rear sights are serrated black and adjustable for windage. The frame of the pistol is made of an anodized aluminum upper frame and a polymer lower frame. Note: If one desires an all aluminum frame, the Black Line would be the route to go. The dustcover has an integral accessories Picatinny rail for mounting of lights and lasers. The trigger guard is very generous for use with gloves, sports a serrated front face and has a generous undercut. The grip on the compact is large enough to keep all fingers on board. The back straps can be removed and replaced by simply punching out the pin at the base of the grip. Once the pin is removed, the back straps can be removed and replaced with another size. The back straps themselves are made of polymer and rubber and are quite comfortable to grip.

The controls are simple and straightforward. On the left side of the frame are the slide catch which also can be removed to separate the slide from the frame. Both sides of the pistol have a de-cock lever that is easily accessible with either thumb. The magazine release can be used on either the left or right hand side and sits right above the ring finger without getting in the way. Once depressed the magazine drops freely very quickly without any sticking. The hammer on the SDP is bobbed however it can be carried in the half-cocked position. When in this position, the top of the hammer is visible revealing serrations. These serrations give the user positive purchase on the hammer should there be the need to depress the hammer rearward into the fully cocked position in anticipation for single action operation.

The competition grade trigger has a generous curve that can operate in both double action and single action. The trigger pull weight is 3.3 lbs for single action and a hefty 10.14 lbs for double action. In double action the trigger has about a 1/16th of an inch take up before meeting resistance. The remainder of the press is smooth and consistent. The reset is short and crisp and the single action trigger pull breaks nice and clean. It should be noted there are no external safety features on the SDP other than the heavy double action trigger pull. Another noteworthy feature is that when the de-cocker lever is activated, the bobbed hammer returns to the half-cocked position. The internal safety features include a drop safety, internal firing pin safety, loaded chamber indicator, hammer safety and integrated slide position safety.

The SDP breaks down really simply, however due to the tight tolerances, things may be a little stiff at first. Simply, align the slide and frame take down lines up by slightly moving the slide to the rear, push out the slide release lever from the right to the left and remove the slide from the front of the frame. Remove recoil spring and barrel from the slide and that concludes the basic field strip.

After inspecting the SDP and breaking it down, I gave it a quick Froglube treatment. At the range the pistol functioned perfectly. It ate every type of 9mm I fed it from re-loads to factory plinking ammo to hollow points. I didn’t have the chance to run any steel case ammo through it, however I have no cause to believe it wouldn’t digest them like a champ. The SDP is a pleasure to shoot. Recoil management is very easy in part due to the weight of the pistol, The integrated recoil spring and the fact the firing hand can get fairly high on the frame allowing for better recoil control. As noted before the pistol is very ergonomic and points very naturally. It draws from the holster and presents quickly and is a very accurate handgun.

I only have a few criticisms of the SDP line of pistols. The first is the slide release. Why not make it ambidextrous like the de-cock lever? Two, while I like the feel of the rubber back straps, they have a tendency to get slippery when wet. Additional texture would be nice. If this were my personal gun, I would stipple the back strap and the front of the grip for a rock-solid purchase. Like a Ferarri, Les Baer 1911 or any other hand made custom item, there is a premium to be paid and for good reason. This gun is intended for someone who respects craftsman ship, attention to detail and high quality handmade items and while not for everyone, it is well worth it. Once you have shot the SDP you will understand. I had the opportunity to shoot the entire line at a private shoot hosted by KRISS/SPHINX in Las Vegas during SHOT SHOW and I can honestly say they are some of the nicest semi-auto pistols I have had the pleasure to shoot. They are even nice to shoot suppressed. Bottom line, the SDP is a very fine handgun that the Swiss can be very proud of. Now thanks to SPHINX and their partnership with KRISS, us Yankees can now enjoy the SPHINX SDP experience.


  1. Great review of a very interesting pistol! The angle of the extractor caught
    my eye, right off the bat. Looks to me like it grabs the case towards the bottom..5 o’clock..? All the pistol’s I’ve owned or fired, have the extractor grab the case at 3. Just pondering here though. Spud in the Kaw Valley,Ks.

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