The Swiss have long been known for the quality of their watches, chocolates, machine tools and firearms. I recently had the opportunity to try out a pistol that was, to use the well-known expression, “built like a Swiss watch,” the Sphinx SDP Compact.

Sphinx Systems is a Swiss manufacturer of high-quality military, police and sporting firearms. In the 1980s the company introduced a pair of pistols based upon the Czech CZ 75 design: the ITM AT-84 and ITM AT-88. Since then it has expanded its line and today its pistols are used by municipal police departments and elite law enforcement agencies in Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Malaysia. They have also become favorites of European sport shooters and feature prominently in continental International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) matches.

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Sphinx advertises the SDP Compact as a general-purpose police/military sidearm suitable for both holster wear by uniformed personnel or concealed carry by undercover operatives. Obviously, it would be quite well suited for licensed civilian use as well.

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The SDP Compacts’ construction can best be described as a hybrid composite of today’s best ideas. When viewed from the muzzle end, the machined steel slide has a pyramidal contour with a black PVD finish that provides good resistance against wear and environmental extremes. Sharply cut grasping grooves fore and aft enable the shooter to rack the slide from a variety of positions, even when wearing gloves. A generously sized ejection port ensures that spent cases get out of the way reliably, and the rear sight is dovetailed into the slide and can be adjusted for windage.

The sights fitted to the SDP Compact pistols are first rate: A generous, plain black, square-notch rear is mated to a square blade front that is adorned with a white dot. This setup provides fast alignment and a precise sight picture without the shooter unconsciously attempting to line up three dots. Adjustable, fiber-optic and night sights are offered as optional equipment.

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The hardcoat anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum upper frame uses Teflon inserts to reduce wear on the internal slide rails. A feature typical of a number of Swiss pistols since the 1930s, the SDP Compact’s slide fits inside the frame, where full-length frame/slide rails provide smooth operation, support and consistent lockup, all for enhanced accuracy. In addition, a captive recoil spring on a full-length guide rod helps ensure reliable functioning.

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Ambidextrous levers grace both sides of the upper frame but do not function as safeties, and only serve to lower the hammer safely to the half-cock position before automatically moving back into position. This allows the shooter to carry the pistol safely with a round in the chamber. With typical Swiss thoroughness, additional safety is provided via a loaded-chamber indicator, an internal firing pin safety, a drop safety and a magazine disconnect safety that prevents the pistol from firing unless the slide is in battery. For those who want to mount lights, lasers or other tactical devices, the SDP Compact has an integral Picatinny rail built into the frame for just this purpose.

A roomy triggerguard allows firing the pistol with gloves and features the typical curved European-style finger rest. The polymer lower frame incorporates an interchangeable rubber grip system to accommodate different hand sizes, while the frontstrap is textured and has modest finger grooves. A high grip tang places the pistol very low in the hand, allowing it to point very naturally. This also reduces muzzle rise during recoil.

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Controls consist of a slide stop, ambidextrous hammer-drop levers and a magazine release that can be switched to the right side to accommodate left-handed shooters. All are well located and can be manipulated without moving the pistol around in the shooting hand.

The flush-mounted hammer has a grooved top. If the shooter desires to set the pistol for SA, all he or she needs to do is pull the trigger to start the hammer back to the half-cock position and then remove their finger from the trigger and cock the hammer manually.

Steel, double-stack magazines hold 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition and have tough polymer basepads to prevent damage when they are dropped on the ground during combat reloads. A magazine loading tool comes with the pistol to ease the task of recharging the cartridge containers.

Alpha On The Range

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The SDP is imported into the U.S. by KRISS USA of Chesapeake, Virginia, which offers six variations: the Compact Black edition and Compact Alpha edition (these two are identifiable by the former’s straight cuts milled in the frontstrap while the latter has a textured polymer grip), the Krypton green line, the Black line, the Sand line, the DuoTone line and the Stainless Steel line. The Alpha features a PVD finish, while the finishes of the next four lines are indicated by their names.

RELATED STORY: KRISS’ Subgun-Like Vector SDP .45 Delivers Dead-On Accuracy

I tested the SDP Compact Alpha for accuracy by firing a series of five-shot groups from a rest at 15 yards. The first round sent downrange broke the edge of the red dot in the center of the 10-ring, while the next four followed it inside the confines of said circle. Of the nine groups I fired, none was larger than 3 inches, while several of them came in under the 2-inch mark.

I found the Sphinx SDP Compact Alpha to be a pleasure to shoot. The pistol’s ergonomics were first-rate while the excellent sights and above-average recoil control allowed me to make fast, accurate follow-up shots. While a bit large for a “pocket pistol,” the SDP Compact Alpha provides everything you might need in a concealable handgun, and then some.

For more information, visit or call 855-574-7787.

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