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The Suisse Sphinx 3000 Service Pistol

Posted in Firearms

By the 1930’s the great northern facing slopes of the European Alps had all been conquered, with one exception. Deemed as being unclimbable, it was 1938 before the Eiger North Wall was finally scaled by a four man Austrian and German team. In its history the Eiger has claimed the lives of over 60 experienced climbers. Many a time I have stood at Kleine Scheidegg and ran my eye over the traditional route that climbers take to the summit. From the Starting Point to the First Pillar, Shattered Pillar and Difficult Crack.

The Summit

Along the bottom of the Rote Fluh and across the Hinterstoisser Traverse. Up and across the First, Second and Third Ice Fields. From the Ramp to the Traverse of the Gods and the White Spider; the Summit Ice Field and finally the Summit itself. You have to admire the skill and bravery of those who have scaled a hill that has such a fearsome reputation. Ski from Kleine Scheidegg down to Alpiglen and then look up and up. At this point you are 2000 metres directly below the summit of Europe’s largest continuous vertical rock wall that has come to define extreme mountaineering.

Shifting your gase from the Eiger and skiing down into the valley you arrive at thevillage ofGrindelwald. Following the natural course of the valley downwards you finally reach the town ofInterlaken, so named as it sits between the lakes of Brienzer See and Thuner See.Interlaken is the gateway to one of the world’s most stunning mountain views and is also the home of the Sphinx 3000 Service Pistol.


The Eiger North Wall from Kleine Scheidegg

Sphinx Systems Limited are a manufacturer of high quality pistols used mainly by military Special Forces, elite police units and sports shooters. The Sphinx pistol is an ongoing development of the original Czech designed CZ75 pistol, which has been evolved into the Sphinx 2000 and 3000 designs.

Sphinx 2000

Sphinx started its work with pistols based on the CZ75 design when they redesigned the AT-84 pistol. The AT-84 was a development of the CZ 75 that had been manufactured in Switzerland by another production company who later went out of business. I have examined and shot a few samples of the AT-84 with satisfactory results.The earliest AT-84 pistols were licensed copies of the Czech CZ 75 pistol, manufactured during the 1980’s. The AT-88 introduced several modifications, including the firing pin safety and slightly different barrel / slide locking mechanism. The Sphinx 2000 pistols were based on the earlier ITM AT-84 and AT-88 pistols in both full and medium sized defense and sports pistol that clearly showed their CZ75 heritage. The Sphinx 2000 pistols in various models were used byAustralia,Belgium,Norway, Swiss and Venezuelan police forces.


Remo Schraner crouches to engage targets through a low window. As well as being used in Switzerland the Sphinx pistol in various models are used by police forces in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Sphinx 3000

The Sphinx 3000 pistol has evolved from the Sphinx 2000 pistol and appeared in 2003. The Sphinx 3000 Series are full and medium sized defense and sports pistols that come in three versions; compact, tactical and competition. The 3000 has overtaken the SIG P210 as the premier Swiss made pistol, as the 3000 offers the same accuracy and reliability combined with much more modern ergonomics and twice the ammunition capacity. The 3000 was designed as a modern combat pistol with features like a Picatinny M1913 equipment rail, extended magazine release, various safety system options, and various finishes, pistol sizes, sighting systems and manufacturing materials to choose from. The Sphinx sees use around the world and are issued to;

    • Swiss Police
    • SingaporeSpecial Forces
  • Royal Malaysian Air Force

The Sphinx 3000 pistol is made in a variety of models and modifications, suitable for self defense, police duty, military duty and practical pistol shooting competition under IPSC and IDPA rules. Sphinx pistols are extremely well made, with superb finish with a tough all steel construction. These pistols are quite expensive, but offer probably the best quality and reliability the money can buy. The 3000 is a recoil operated, locked breech pistol. The barrel locking mechanism is operated using a cam system, and is locked into slide by a single lug via the ejection port in the slide. Each slide is machined from a solid steel billet for maximum rigidity. The pistol is fitted with a high quality barrel. Every component part is machined to very close tolerances and assembled by Sphinx master gunsmiths.


This Production 3000 has the adjustable rear sight and has a two tone finish with a matt blue slide and a matt satin chrome frame. The 3000 is held in a Ghost competition holster.


Sphinx took the CZ75 / AT88 and developed it into the 3000. Note this Production 3000 has a fixed plain black rear sight. The finish is matt blue/ black for both models.


All Sphinx pistols feature a double action / single action ( DA/SA ), or double action only system ( DAO ) trigger with external hammer. Various models can be fitted with standard safety which can lock the hammer in the cocked position or a decocking lever that lowers the hammer from the cocked to the decocked position. The safety and decocking levers can be installed on either side of the frame or on both sides for ambidextrous use. The slide stop lever also can be installed on either or both sides of the frame. Compact models are designed for police or plain clothed carry and are similar in design but have a shorter slide and barrel, and, in some versions, also slightly shortened grip, which accommodates the shorter magazine, with its corresponding slightly lower ammunition capacity. Standard and police models are fitted with fixed sights with white inserts. Tritium night sights are also available. The models intended for competition shooting are fitted with an adjustable rear sight and plain black front sight. Front sights with a red or green coloured fibre insert are also available. In any case, both front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide and can be easily changed to suit the user’s requirements.


The front sights are interchangeable and are attached to the slide by a hex screw.

Modular Designed Frame

The frame is a modular design in two parts, an upper receiver / trigger guard unit that contains the firing mechanism and the lower receiver which locates the grips and magazine well. The two piece frame construction allows different materials, such as aluminium, steel and titanium to be combined. All parts are computer numerical controlled ( CNC ) machined from blocks of raw material. The seam between the two parts is almost invisible. They are attached securely, and the feel of the grip is excellent in your hand, a good point that has been carried over from the CZ75. The grip width measures 33 mm at the widest part. The slide thickness measures just 24 mm and the slide rails ride within the frame, and run the entire length of the slide, making for a very smooth fit. There are cocking serrations at the front and rear of the slide to assist in its manual operation. In fact, there is absolutely no discernable looseness of the slide to frame fit. The same with the barrel to slide fit. The fit of the parts on the Sphinx is equal to any custom grade hand fitted target pistol.


Field stripped into its component parts. From the top are the slide, slide lock lever, barrel, recoil spring and guide and the frame.

The 3000 Competition Production model has a 115 mm long barrel, and has an overall length of 210 mm. The overall height measures 138 mm. The steel magazine holds 18 rounds of 9mm ammunition. The operation of the pistol is of the double action/single action design, meaning that the first shot can be fired simply by pulling the trigger without the need to manually cock the hammer, with subsequent shots fired with a shorter, lighter single action trigger pull, as the slide cocks the hammer as the gun is cycled. The 3000 can also be carried cocked and locked with a round in the chamber and the safety applied. The single action trigger pull measured a crisp 1.5 kilograms after about six millimetres of slack is taken up. The double action trigger pull measured 3.7 Kg and is feels very smooth due to the excellent shape of the trigger and the grip. The trigger guard is of generous size to accommodate a gloved finger.

The magazine release is in the traditional position on the left, just behind the trigger guard, and protrudes about five milimetres past the grip frame to allow rapid magazine changes. The magazine release button can be switched to the opposite side of the frame to allow it to be more suitable for left handed users. The front and rear of the grip frame has vertical grooves for a better grip on the pistol, without digging into your hand. Finger shaped groves can also be machined into the front of the frame. The black rubber grip panels have checkering molded into them. Grips are also available in aluminium, brass and wood.

Cycling Mechanism

The barrel under lug is of the integral cam cut design, and the chamber area locks into the slide when in battery. The barrel and slide use a modified Browning short recoil locking system where the locking lug on the barrel locates against the ejection port in the slide. During firing the barrel and slide move back together as one for a short distance until they unlock. Unlike the M1911 that uses a swinging link to unlock the barrel and slide, the 3000 uses a kidney shaped enclosed lug under the chamber of the barrel. This enclosed lug reciprocates on the slide lock lever to lock and unlock the barrel and slide during the firing cycle. There is also no separate barrel bushing. This improved locking system was first developed by John Browning for his last pistol design, the Browning High Power and was modified into its present form in the Sig P210 and has been used in a number of pistol designs, such as the CZ75 over the years. The recoil spring rides on a sturdy, steel full length guide rod. The Sphinx has an external type extractor, and a fixed ejector. There is a M1913 Picatinny rail milled into the underside of the frame forward of the trigger guard to which lights, lasers or other devices can be attached.

The outside finish on the Sphinx is as close to flawless as you can get, and the inside is finished just as well. The machining on this pistol is excellent, with no tool marks, inside or out. The slide is finished in a matte blue/black, with the stainless frame finished with a smooth matt satin appearance. As well as a matt blue/black finish, matt satin chrome and stainless steel finishes are also available. This gun is very well made. I had a good look around several samples and could not find any flaws in their construction. A few tool marks will not affect the functional reliability, but it is great to see a pistol that does not have any.


The Sphinx is available in several finishes such as all matte blue or a two tone matte blue / satin chrome finish.

Calibre Options

The 3000 is available in a variety of calibres, such as 9mm Parabellum, 9mm x 21, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The magazine capacity for 9mm and 9mm x 21 are 18 rounds. In .357 Sig and .40 S&W it will hold 16 rounds and 10 rounds in .45 ACP calibre. Extended threaded barrels are available to which a compensator to reduce the muzzle climb or a sound suppressor to reduce the muzzle can be attached. For IPSC competition shooting the 3000 sees a lot of use in Production Division. Models to suit IPSC Modified, Open and Standard Divisions are also available.


The Sphinx is available in several finishes such as all matte blue or a two tone matte blue / satin chrome finish.

Accuracy and Reliability

At the STI European Open in Germany I had the opportunity to examine test fire several Sphinx pistols. For testing the Sphinx for both function and accuracy, I tried a variety of factory and reloaded ammunition. Due to the shape and smoothness of the feed ramp, any type of bullet shape I tried cycled perfectly through several pistols. Shots grouped in a tight cluster in the center of the target. A few magazines does not give you the full picture, so I kept an eye on the four man Suisse IPSC Production Team shooting at the STI Match and the Czech European Extreme Match a few weeks later. Both competitions had a minimum ammunition requirement of 350 and 550 rounds respectively. Watching these guys shoot several stages at both IPSC matches saw each Sphinx pistol give a flawless performance. The accuracy of the Sphinx pistol is very good. From a bench rested position at 25 metres loads will group at around 50 mm.


This 10 shot rapid fire group was fired as quickly as the sights could be aligned and the trigger pulled. From a fixed rest at 25 metres the 3000 will group its shots within 50mm.


The STI and Czech European Extreme competitions gave the opportunity to see the reliability of the Sphinx in match conditions.

Sub Compact Sphinx

As well as full size and compact versions, a sub compact pistol called the AT380 Sphinx is available in .380 Auto calibre. The trigger pull is in double action only ( DAO ), which gives a longer trigger pull. This pistol was not designed for competitive target shooting, but as a concealable self defense pistol. The tolerances on this pistol are very precise and the quality is to as the same standard as all other Sphinx pistols. The AT380 is similar in size to other .380 Auto calibre pistols, such as the Walther PP/ PPK. Safeties fitted include an automatic firing pin block type which precludes the striker from being hit unless the trigger is pulled and a manual firing pin block safety.

There are a large number of different service pistols available today from different manufacturers to suit any need. However, occasionally a pistol will come along that is a cut above the average semi auto pistol that is well built with to precision tolerances with quality materials. One such pistol is the Sphinx 3000. Made in Switzerland, and like the proverbial Swiss watch, it is manufactured to precise tolerances and is built to last. I appreciate lightweight polymer framed pistols as working tools, but when you pick up a Sphinx you quickly realise that it has a bit of steel in it. Weighing in at 0.85 Kg, it is not overly heavy, but has that good solid feel when you pick it up. The only parts that are made from plastic on the Sphinx are the magazine follower and the grip panels. The remainder of the pistol is steel, either blued or stainless. An aluminum frame is also available. This would be more suitable for police or plain clothed carry, as any reduction in weight is a bonus for these users.

Sphinx pistols are extremely well made, with a superb finish and almost indestructible all steel construction. They have extremely smooth single and double action triggers. Sphinx 3000 pistols in various models are used by police forces in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland.

The Sphinx 3000 pistol was introduced in 2003, and is available in various versions and calibers, for sport (IPSC and IDPA), self defense and military and law enforcement organistaions. Sphinx 3000 pistols offer extremely high workmanship and reliability, top class accuracy and reliability, almost indestructible all steel construction.

The frame and the slide are machined from steel for maximum rigidity and precision. The frame is completely machined from two separate metal blocks, using aluminium, titanium and steel and then permanently assembled. The grip and trigger guard are shaped for comfortable two hand hold. The frame on the Sphinx 3000 pistols has an integral accessory rail under the barrel. Sphinx 3000 pistols feature a double action trigger with external hammer. The Sphinx 3000 was designed as a modern combat pistol with features such as an equipment rail, extended magazine release, various safety system options, various finishes, pistol sizes, calibres and manufacturing materials to choose from. Sphinx pistols are imported into the USA by Sabre Defence Industries.

The Sphinx 3000 is one of the best built auto pistols available anywhere. The gun comes with an extra magazine and instruction manual in a padded case. The Sphinx combines quality materials with precision manufacture, resulting in a reliable, accurate, and elegantly crafted handgun.

All Sphinx pistols are shipped with a factory test target, which confirms the accuracy of each pistol. These pistols are not mass produced and are built to exacting tolerances. A lot of development and production experience gives each of the different models unique performance characteristics. The user can expect reliability, precision parts, robust construction, and an optimised functional design.

On the basis of their flexible development and production, as well as the concept of a modular assembly system, all needs of the customer concerning quality and individualism can be fulfilled. Regardless of the size of an order Sphinx gives a responsive customer service. The patented design features one of a kind material concepts like titanium and aluminum, make each Sphinx pistol a high performance pistol. All pistols must go through stringent quality control process. Each design has been subjected to drop testing, exposure to sand and mud, extreme temperatures, overpressure testing, a parts dimensional inspection, and long duration firing tests, just to name a few.

Sphinx Systems Limited products are officially accepted and registered as “Suisse Ordnance Pistols”. In order to obtain this certification, Sphinx went through official governmental quality tests and trials. Now more police units, as well as special operations teams and IPSC shooters around the world use Sphinx pistols.

Located in the Bernese Oberland in the heart of the Suisse Alps amongst the world famous mountain scenery of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, Sphinx Systems Limited are manufacturing precision made pistols for law enforcement organisations, military forces and the shooting sports community, as well as for individual clients. For many years now, IPSC shooters and police officers and special operation soldiers around the world have placed their trust in Sphinx pistols.

Sphinx 3000 Competition Production Technical Specification


9mm, 9mm x 21, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, .45 ACP

Magazine capacity

18, 16 and 10 rounds depending on calibre

Barrel length

115mm ( full size model )

Overall length

210mm ( full size model )


138mm ( full size model )


33mm ( full size model )


0.85 Kg ( depending on model )

Trigger pull weight

3.7 Kg Double Action / 1.5 Kg Single Action


Adjustable rear / Interchangeable front


Manual / Decocking / Double Action Only

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