A departure from your traditional gun review, what follows is more of a “shootout.” It’s a review of the SPHINX SDP Compact Alpha through the lens of how it compares to the CZ P-07 and the popular CZ 75 line. You see, in the 80’s SPHINX began producing pistols for the first time, and it did so by licensing the CZ 75 design. Since then it has modified and adapted CZ’s platform, all with Swiss precision and the attention to detail, finish, fitment, and materials that SPHINX has been known for. To some, it’s an upscale CZ. The question, then, is what can you expect from a $1,295 SPHINX that you don’t get from a $510 CZ? . . .
In the past year, the SDP Compact has been in the hands of all of the reviewers you know and love on YouTube. I don’t recall seeing any negative comments (other than the sticker shock), and I concur that it’s an excellent pistol. Ergonomic, accurate, reliable, high-quality… all of it. Really, really nice. Of course, the CZ is all of those things as well. Awesomely enough, both companies (CZ-USA and KRISS USA, importers/distributors of the SPHINX line in the U.S.) agreed to send TTAG loaner pistols with the understanding that a direct comparison would result. After spending a few months with them, a comparison we shall make.
Conclusion Up Top
That’s right, spoiler alert. The following gets more complicated if we start considering other CZs like the P-01 or something from the custom shop like a P-01 SDP, but for the sake of argument we’re just comparing to the standard P-07 here.
The $550-$750 price spread (depending on “street” to MSRP variance) will mean different things to different people. In many categories, the SPHINX and CZ are basically a wash. In some aspects the SPHINX wins and in some ways the CZ could be seen to win. Which pistol you’ll want to purchase comes down to how you weigh the differences between them and how much the extra ~$650 means to you. However, I know how much everyone hates wishy-washy “we just couldn’t pick a winner” comparisons, so I’ll give you my personal opinions here as succinctly as possible.
If this were my primary or only pistol and I was shooting it a whole lot, I would probably buy the SPHINX. Over thousands of rounds, the extra accuracy would make up for the extra money and there would probably be a bit more pride in ownership. I’d put some work into the trigger (easily done, just like on a CZ 75).
However, if I were to purchase one of these now I would get the P-07. It’s simpler, at least as rugged if not more so, exceeds “combat accurate,” and offers everything you need in a compact or “duty sized” pistol at a price point that belies its quality. Although taken on its own it lacks nothing in the fit and finish department, it still comes across as the tougher, more utilitarian option when compared to the SPHINX. In some cases that can be very desirable.
To drive home the “personal decision” part of this, my investment banker (well, PE now) buddy — and I mention his occupation because the price difference is less of a deal for him than it is for me — actually just purchased the P-07 rather than the SPHINX as an upgrade to his previous-gen P-07 Duty. Despite really liking German and Swiss things (cars, firearms, watches, etc.) and admittedly enjoying and shooting the SPHINX just a bit better, he didn’t feel it was worth the extra dough since he only shoots a few times a year and the rest of the time his pistol lives in a safe on home defense duty. If he shot a lot more, he explained, he’d have gone for the SDP instead.
So…no winner. Or everybody wins, depending on your outlook. Sorry.
The write-up below is going to be a slightly abbreviated version. If you’re truly curious about the mechanical differences between these two guns and what on the SPHINX is similar to the P-07 vs. what is carried over from the traditional CZ 75 design, watch the video as I get into the guts of all that with the help of my SP-01 and previous-gen P-07 Duty for comparison. Plus, as always, there are close-up, slow trigger pulls to try and show how they behave.
CZ’s P-07 is a fairly standard plastic framed pistol design. The frame is molded polymer with steel inserts front and rear on which the slide rides and the trigger and sear/hammer components are affixed. Quality is high, with minimal mold markings and no warping (think GLOCK dust cover). Machining on the steel components is basically flawless, which is interesting coming from CZ as it usually doesn’t bother to polish out tool marks in non-visible, non-essential places.
Distinguishing the P-07 and P-09 from most of your plastic fantastic pistols are the metal trigger, metal mag release, and external hammer (no striker here). I have high confidence in the durability of the P-07 and was quite pleased by the sharp and precise machining.
SPHINX’s SDP Compact Alpha, along with some other SPHINX models, has a very unique design that I can’t say I have ever seen before. The slide is steel, the upper frame is billet aluminum, and the lower frame is polymer. From the full-length slide rails down to the bottom of the accessory rail and straight back from there it’s a block of aluminum. Under that, at the top of the trigger guard and back along that same line across the top of the grip, it’s polymer. Star-head bolts affix the poly part to the aluminum part. Alignment is perfect, as you can see but really cannot feel the line between plastic and aluminum.
Slide-to-frame fitment and barrel-to-slide locking fitment is quite precise. Machining is extremely good and very precise and clean everywhere except for a couple of places I’m actually used to seeing machine marks from CZ but don’t on the new P-07 — in the underside of the slide, basically, where there is no metal-to-metal contact. Just very light swirls (and some lovely color case hardening rainbows).
No, I don’t care but some people definitely do. As you can see above, SPHINX did polish out the underside of the slide where it drags along the top round in the magazine whereas CZ did not. Actually, there was one more place where I noticed machining marks on the SPHINX but not the CZ: the muzzle.
Off-vertical striations from, presumably, the bar stock being cut to length. Of course, the CZ has a dang “3” stamped on the front sight so hey. Again, I’m really not concerned with these nit picks but I know plenty of folks are so it needs to be mentioned. As a general rule, you probably shouldn’t be staring at the muzzle of your pistol too terribly much anyway.
CZ puts a “nitrated finish” on the P-07’s slide, barrel, and some of the other metal parts, which is very similar in look and feel to Tenifer/Melonite. I think the lack of machining marks in the normal CZ places is either due to aggressive media blasting before the finishing process or the finish itself just adds enough texture to hide it.
SPHINX does a TiAIN finish on the SDP’s slide and uses some form of QPQ treatment on internal parts subject to wear. The aluminum upper frame is hard anodized. The slide is clearly heat treated and coloring of the sort seen on color case hardened steel is apparent in a few internal locations.
Both barrels use what I’ll call a GLOCK-style lockup, in that the entire barrel hood locks into the slide (into the huge ejection port). This is opposed to the CZ 75-style lockup, which has lugs on top of the barrel that lock into the inside of the slide just like a 1911.
The CZ has a GLOCK-like (i.e. BHP-like) barrel lug that’s open on the bottom, whereas the SPHINX has a closed CZ 75-style groove/channel in the lug — see two photos up. Yes, I realize how awkward it is to say that the SPHINX has a CZ-style lug while the CZ doesn’t, but what can you do?
The most notable difference here is that the CZ’s cold hammer forged barrel sports traditional rifling, while the SDP’s barrel has polygonal rifling. I have come to think that the benefits of polygonal rifling are blown out of proportion (although interestingly enough I don’t see it mentioned anywhere in any of SPHINX’s material), however I must say that the SDP turned out to be ridiculously accurate. Also, it gives a distinct “whump” to your neighbors on the range.
When my buddy and I were shooting it we also shot the previous-gen and the current P-07 along with a 1911 (in .45) and a .22 LR pistol, and, as the bystander off to either side of the pistol, only the SPHINX hit the you in the chest with a sonic thump on every shot. Obviously I’m not entirely sure why, but I think the polygonal rifling and the alleged better gas seal that comes with it is primarily responsible. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to compare velocities.
Steel sights all around, with a 3-dot arrangement on the Czech contender and a blacked out rear and white dot front on the Swiss. The P-07’s sights are not tritium but they do glow in the dark once charged by a light source. I do like the 3-dot better than the old P-07’s white U outline (GLOCK-style) rear notch, but my preference for target shooting is still a blacked out rear as on the SDP and on my SP-01, which is on the right in the photo below.
One of the biggest practical differences between the P-07 and SDP is the backstraps. As you can see in the photo above, the SDP has pronounced palm swells. Swapping the backstraps not only changes the front-to-rear length of the grip and the shape of the backstrap curve, as is, by far, the standard in the industry and the case with the P-07, but it also changes the size of the palm swells.
If you’ve noticed they look pretty darn smooth, you aren’t wrong. Their grip comes from the fact that they’re rubber, not hard plastic. Well, rubber on top of a plastic frame. Tacky and grippy when things are dry, I found them a little slick when wet or with sweaty hands. Still, the shape of them is conducive to a secure grip.
Above all else, the SDP’s grip is incredibly comfortable. Hands down one of the best feeling pistol grips anywhere at any price. The understated stippling/pebbling texture on the front strap is nice, as are the understated finger grooves. I’m normally not a fan of finger grooves in general, but SPHINX nailed this one.
The P-07, however, is no slouch and it holds its own against the competition with an ergonomic and simple grip with effective but comfortable texturing. It feels good and it offers great control.
On both pistols, a pin must be driven out at the bottom rear of the backstrap to remove it from the frame. It’s very easy to do but it can’t be done without tools. Both pistols ship with a S, M, and L backstrap.
The new P-07 gets the ‘race style,’ angular hammer first seen on the P-09. I dig its looks. It works as you’d expect.
On the SPHINX, however, it’s something pretty unique. At rest, the hammer is flush with the back of the slide. It basically cannot be manually cocked from this position, and it sure as heck can’t snag on anything. When visible, it’s kind of like a solid club shape.
The SPHINX is decocker-only while the CZ can be converted back and forth between decocker and safety (for “cocked-and-locked” carry), and ships with the parts needed to do so. On both pistols, these controls are mirrored on both sides. With the hammer fully cocked, pressing down on the decocker lever will safely drop the hammer to a half-cocked notch as in the top right photo inset above.
In both cases the slide stop and magazine release are not ambidextrous, although the mag releases can be swapped from one side to the other.
Here’s where we get into the first CZ 75 comparison, because the SPHINX uses the traditional CZ 75B trigger mechanism and FCG design while CZ seems to be moving towards its simpler, possibly stouter, and better-out-of-the-box Omega system.
I like the shape of the new P-07 trigger — carried over from the P-09 — a lot. Not just in looks but in how it feels. The SDP has a more traditional curved trigger, although it has a great side-to-side radius to it and the subtle vertical grooves feel nice. In this case I do prefer the CZ.
Both triggers are steel.
Both are over 10 lbs in double action and 3-4 lbs in single action. CZ’s new Omega trigger is pretty smooth out of the box and felt just as nice as the SDP’s in the full DA pull, but it stacks a bit at the end of the pull whereas the SPHINX’s was more consistent. In single action, the CZ had just a bit more creep but I actually preferred it, as it was smoother and lighter and, again, I like the feel of the trigger blade better.
No difference, and traditional CZ 75 in both cases. Pull the slide back so the line on the slide lines up with the line on the frame, and push the slide stop out. The slide will now slide off the front of the frame. Captured recoil springs and barrels come out just like you’d expect. That’s field stripped.
Basically the same here. Both made by Mec-Gar, just like the factory CZ 75 mags. Both 15-round capacity. However, the P-07’s magazines are a true double stack and are wider than the ‘staggered’ SPHINX mags, which means the CZ carries that capacity in a slightly shorter grip. It also means the P-07 (or P-09) mags will not insert into the SPHINX frame. However, the P-07 will accept the SDP’s magazines as well as standard CZ 75 magazines, albeit with some wiggle room — they do typically function flawlessly, though.
Yes, CZ 75 mags fit in the SDP. In fact, the SDP’s mags may be identical to CZ’s compact 75-series magazines (e.g. for the P-01) but I don’t have one handy to test at this time. The factory and Mec-Gar-branded full size mags from my SP-01 fit and functioned perfectly in the SPHINX.
Other than the magazines working one way, the only other parts swapping I tried was between slides. Fitment of either slide to either frame worked just fine, actually, but a difference in the location and width of the ejectors prevented them from going all the way on. Not that I would have tried firing it swapped anyway with the different barrel lugs and sear systems, etc (and the barrels wouldn’t swap between slides).
In the Box
Okay this probably should have been up top. Hmm. Regardless, not a huge difference here other than the SPHINX’s cleaning kit is more comprehensive and the SDP comes with a little mag loader tool.
5-shot groups, butt (the gun’s) rested on a table at 15-20 yards distance.
In case you can’t read my handwriting there, the ammo I grabbed for accuracy testing was PMC Bronze 115 grain (top left targets), Aguila 124 grain (top right targets), and American Eagle 147 grain (center targets).
The SDP has a bit less muzzle flip and felt recoil, probably due to the heavier slide as well as the aluminum upper frame. I shot it more accurately and originally credited most of that to my preference for its sights, but after doing the accuracy testing above it’s clear that the SDP is actually more accurate than the P-07.
Enjoyment factor was about the same. As mentioned, I do prefer the feel of the trigger on the CZ, however the grip on the SPHINX is freaking amazing. That said, it’s a bit “slippery when wet.”
I wouldn’t hesitate to toss the CZ around, get it dirty, “run and gun,” draw it and holster it a zillion times, and otherwise treat it like a real tool. I think that, irrespective of price, there’s something in the look and feel of the SPHINX that makes me want to baby it a little. Maybe it’s the smoother finish and the large, flat areas on the upper frame that I wouldn’t want to scratch up.
I’m actually not a huge fan of this compact/duty size for a pistol. It’s too big for me to CCW in normal attire and it’s too small for me to shoot well in competition. For instance, I absolutely prefer shooting the P-09 to the P-07.
I mention this because my go-to pistol — my gun — has been a CZ SP-01 for many years. Nothing has ever come along that made me consider replacing it with a different pistol. It’s my favorite gun to shoot on the range and it’s my favorite gun to shoot in competition. But… if I were to replace it with something else, it would require a shootout between the full-size SPHINX with steel frame and a version of the CZ Accu-Shadow.
Specifications: SPHINX SDP Compact Alpha
Caliber: 9×19 mm
Barrel Length: 3.75 inches
Overall Length: 7.4 inches
Height: 5.35 inches
Width: 1.37 inches
Weight: 27.5 ounces empty
MSRP: $1,295 (street price from $995 up)
Specifications: CZ P-07
Caliber: 9×19 mm
Barrel Length: 3.8 inches
Overall Length: 7.2 inches
Height: 5.3 inches
Width: 1.46 inches
Weight: 24.5 ounces empty
MSRP: $510 (street price from $439 up)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
(I’m only rating the SPHINX here, as the P-07 was already reviewed by TTAG. I’ll just add that the new version of the P-07 is unquestionably even better than the previous version.)
Accuracy: * * * * *
From a compact pistol, this thing is a tack driver for sure.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Amazing. Grip ergos are [adjustable] perfection. Controls placement is great for me.
Reliability: (not rated)
I don’t feel that I put enough rounds through this pistol (about 250) to really vet reliability personally. Although I had zero issues or hangups whatsoever and I’m fully confident in the CZ 75 design and SPHINX’s excellent reputation, I just don’t have enough personal experience here to feel comfortable rating it for reliability.
Customization: * *
Obviously the swappable backstraps are great, but I don’t know of any aftermarket support for SPHINX in the U.S. yet. Replacement sights (not sure about possible compatibility w/ any CZ models), trigger components, custom work, holsters, etc. They’re all going to be hard to find.
Overall Rating: * * * *
Really freakin’ nice gun. Great shooter. Feels amazing in the hand. Very good looking. Costs a lot.