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Preview – Sphinx SDP Compact

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Photography by Shin Tanaka
Illustration by Ced Nocon

The Riddle of the Sphinx
The SDP Compact Is Like a Swiss Watch — Only Louder

I had first heard of the Sphinx family of pistols 20 years ago through several write-ups in various gun magazines. The rave reviews and stellar photos made me seriously consider purchasing one, until I started asking about them at the local gun shops, shooting ranges, and people I knew in the industry. Most people had never heard of them, and the Internet was not the resource then that it is now.

In making my weekly visits to the local gun stores back in the day, I came across a used Sphinx in a pawnshop. It was a used compact version in .380 ACP called the AT-380 and had an $800 price tag on it. I loved the fit and finish, but could not justify the price for one at the time. It was the last one I would see for sale anywhere until I recently got my hands on the Sphinx SDP Compact.

Sphinx is currently owned by the KRISS group, which is now importing these pistols while hoping to make inroads to the military and law enforcement communities. Pistols by Sphinx have been used in IPSC competition for decades and have served as the sidearms of the Danish, Malaysian, Norwegian, and Singaporean special operation forces, as well as a handful of municipal police departments in Switzerland, including the regulatory agency that provides security at nuclear power plants.

The Sphinx SDP Compact is a mid-size, double/single-action 9mm pistol based on the venerable CZ-75 family of pistols. In the hand, it feels nothing like a typical CZ pistol and is more akin to a Smith & Wesson M&P. The storage case in which it shipped was impressive. The SDP Compact came with three magazines, a magazine loader, and a small cleaning kit.

The upper half of the frame and dust cover (which, in true CZ fashion, encloses the slide) is made from hard-anodized aluminum and features a four-slot Mil-spec Picatinny rail for the attachment of light and lasers. The lower part of the frame is made from polymer and makes use of interchangeable back straps to accommodate an individual shooter’s hand size. The front strap is textured and has nice, gentle finger grooves. Another area where the pistol differs from the original CZ design is in its lockup — while the kidney-shaped Browning cam slot under the barrel is retained, the barrel hood is used to lock into the ejection port, similar to just about every handgun since SIG SAUER adopted it for their lineup in the ’80s.

The fit and finish on the test pistol was simply flawless and a testament to the high quality of Swiss craftsmanship. There was not a single machining mark or sharp edge to be found anywhere inside or outside the Sphinx SDP Compact.

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