The traditional double-action pistol, which generally begins with a long, heavy double-action initial pull then cycles to a lighter, better single-action trigger pull, remains popular. The long double-action trigger press is seen as a safety feature that doesn’t require extra manipulation of the controls. For example, the DA/SA pistol may safely be thrust into the waistband for to-the-mailbox carry or placed beside the bed for defense use. On the other hand, the DA-to-SA trigger action is like the stick shift of modern handguns — some don’t get it, and a legitimate criticism of the handguns is the sometimes difficult-to-manage double-action first-shot trigger.
That said, there have been improvements in the double-action trigger, and we recently tested three compact pistols that promoted some promise of an upgraded initial trigger pull. The trio are arguably among the best choices at a popular price point, around $1000, to just a little more. Our test guns were as follows:
Kriss Sphinx SDP Compact S4-WSDCM-E018 9mm Luger, $999;
and the SIG Sauer P229 Elite-Compact E29R-9-BSE 9mm Luger, $1313.
Firing tests were conducted primarily with Remington UMC 9mm 115-grain FMJ ammunition. We also used a new brand to us Sierra 124-grain JHP, and added the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP. We fired the FMJ loading for combat shooting and all three loads in the accuracy stage.
For the Beretta, CZ, or SIG fan looking for a carry gun to be all it can be, these three pistols should be at the top of the list. We rated the Kriss Sphinx and Langdon Beretta more improved than the SIG P229 Elite over their original factory-delivered templates, largely due to the superlative action job found on each worked-over pistol.
The Langdon Beretta, however, was easily the most elevated action job, over the original 92-Model pistol. A buyer looking for a superior carry gun will find good performance from any of these handguns.
Gun Tests Grade: A-
Manufactured in Switzerland, the Sphinx is a highly upgraded version of the CZ 75 Compact pistol. Some of these handguns were cloned to sell cheaply and are inferior to the CZ. Others are upgrades. The Sphinx may be the most desirable upgrade of the original platform. Though the Sphinx resembles some CZ models, it is much modified over the original. The pistol features a steel slide with an interesting design and well-machined flats and useful forward cocking serrations. Because the Sphinx features reverse rails — the slide rides inside the frame — CZ-type handguns are sometimes more difficult to rack than competitors. On the other hand, this design results in a tight, positive contact between the frame and slide. The difficulty in racking the slide is true of the Sphinx as well, but not to the extent of the original.
|Action||Semi-auto, double action to single action, locked breech|
|Overall Length||7.4 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.37 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||29.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||34.4 oz.|
|Slide||Stainless, front & rear serrations, PVD coated|
|Slide Retraction Effort||16.0 lbs.|
|Frame||Black nitride aluminum alloy, hard coat anodized, enlarged trigger guard, railed dust cover, beveled magazine well|
|Front Strap Height||2.4 in.|
|Rear Strap Height||3.6 in.|
|Barrel||3.7 in. long; 1:10 RH twist, 4140 steel, black nitride finish|
|Grip Thickness Max||1.2 in.; interchangeable grip inserts|
|Grip Circumference||5.5 in.|
|Magazines||(3) 15 round|
|Rear Sight||Drift adjustable, two tritium dots|
|Front Sight||Replaceable post, single dot tritium|
|Sight Radius||5.7 in.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Double Action||10.1 lbs.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Single Action||4.75 lbs.|
|Trigger Span Double Action||2.8 in.|
|Trigger Span Single Action||2.45 in.|
|Safety||No manual safety; ambidextrous decocking lever|
|Warranty||2 years with registration|
All controls are positive in operation. The slide lock is easily manipulated, and compared to the SIG, out of the way of the thumb. The ambidextrous decock lever is the best of the test. This lever falls under the thumb and is easily manipulated by either the thumb or forefinger.
The trigger guard features a squared front. There is a dip behind the trigger guard that helps lower the bore axis in the hand. The frame features a light rail for mounting combat lights or lasers. The trigger action is smooth, with the double-action press breaking at 10 pounds. The single-action press is clean at 4.75 pounds. The hammer is spurless. While it is possible to cock the hammer for single-action use with a slight tug on the double-action trigger to bring the hammer to the rear and then grasping the hammer to bring it to full cock, we don’t recommend doing that.
The take-down process is our least favorite. The slide is retracted to the rear a short distance, and lineup marks in the slide and frame must align for the slide lock to be removed. The slide lock is a tight press fit and must be rapped with a tool or magazine base for removal. Then the slide may be run off the frame. Next, lift out the recoil spring and then the barrel. Like the SIG P229, the Kriss Sphinx locks and unlocks by using angled camming surfaces. While this takedown isn’t difficult, we prefer the SIG and Beretta systems.
The pistol features a grip that some preferred over the SIG, while some did not. The Sphinx features the only grip frame with interchangeable grip inserts. This is possible because the upper frame is aluminum and the lower frame is polymer. The front strap features modest finger grooves. The pistol is finished in TiAnn coating. Three 15-round magazines are supplied. In completing our research, it was noted that the Sphinx, due to its different trigger guard, doesn’t fit CZ 75 P01 or Compact holsters. We were able to obtain a concealment design from Crossbreed holsters and a belt holster from Safariland for the Kriss. Fit and workmanship in each holster was good, and the companies got it right with good fit for the Sphinx. Holster availability must be a concern when considering any handgun purchase. Spare magazines are plentiful for each of the three pistols tested, another important advantage.
The pistol features well-designed three-dot sights. The rear sight is serrated on the back face. During firing, we noted the trigger doesn’t quite have the same leverage as the flat trigger fitted to the SIG P229 Elite. Just the same, double-action groups ran neck and neck with the SIG. During combat firing in single action, the Sphinx was at least as useful as the other pistols. Combat shooting is more difficult to measure and qualify than accuracy off the bench, but the Kriss seemed as accurate as the other pistols, with perhaps a slight advantage in some drills. In bench accuracy, the pistol exhibited a group as small as 1.8 inch at 15 yards, so accuracy is good to outstanding.
Our Team Said: The sights are properly regulated. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. While we would have preferred high-visibility night sights, the pistol is clearly a superior personal defense firearm. We rated the pistol down a half grade on its more difficult take down and relative lack of holsters.
The SIG was the most accurate handgun tested, but it was close.
A U-notch rear sight on the SIG P229 Elite offers fast target acquisition. Combined with a bright-orange round dot, the SIG P229 Elite’s tritium front sight is a good choice for personal defense.
The SIG P229 Elite’s field strip is simple enough. Adding a flat trigger (arrow) to the SIG P229 Elite aided in trigger control. The SIG P229 Elite proved both reliable and accurate, and it exhibited good workmanship and material. The new-style SIG P229 Elite grip was rated the best of the test.
On the SIG P229 Elite, one shooter’s firing-hand thumb rode the slide lock, so the Elite did not lock open on the last shot.
All groups were fired at 15 yards from a braced benchrest position using an MTM K Zone pistol rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity. The first chronograph screen was 10 feet from the muzzles of the firearms.
|Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ L9MM3BC||SIG P229 Elite||Langdon Beretta||Kriss Sphinx|
|Average Velocity||1110 fps||1120 fps||1124 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||315 ft.-lbs.||320 ft.-lbs.||323 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||1.5 in.||1.7 in.||1.8 in.|
|Average Group||1.8 in.||2.0 in.||2.2 in.|
|Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P 90224||SIG P229 Elite||Langdon Beretta||Kriss Sphinx|
|Average Velocity||1180 fps||1166 fps||1174 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||383 ft.-lbs.||374 ft.-lbs.||379 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||1.7 in.||2.0 in.||1.9 in.|
|Average Group||2.0 in.||2.4 in.||2.4 in.|
|Sierra Outdoor Master 124-grain JHP A8124||SIG P229 Elite||Langdon Beretta||Kriss Sphinx|
|Average Velocity||999 fps||1023 fps||1011 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||275 ft.-lbs.||288 ft.-lbs.||281 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.3 in.||2.5 in.||2.7 in.|
|Average Group||2.7 in.||3.0 in.||3.4 in.|