The Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic handgun notable for chambering the largest centerfire cartridge of any magazine-fed, self-loading pistol. It is also (according to most sources) the most powerful magazine-fed semi-automatic commercial handgun, by virtue of the muzzle energy it can generate. Magnum Research Inc. (MRI) designed and developed the Desert Eagle. The design was refined and the pistols were manufactured by Israel Military Industries until 1995, when MRI shifted the manufacturing contract to Saco Defense in Saco, Maine. In 1998, MRI moved manufacturing back to IMI, which later commercialized its small arms branch under the name Israel Weapon Industries. Since 2009, the Desert Eagle Pistol has been produced in the United States at MRI's Pillager, Minnesota facility. Kahr Arms acquired Magnum Research in 2010.
Desert Eagle Mark XIX, with new-style Picatinny rail, in .44 Magnum
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||See Users|
|Designer||Magnum Research and Israel Military Industries|
|Variants||Mark I (Introduced in 1983)|
Mark VII (Introduced in 1990)
Mark XIX (Introduced in 1995)
|Barrel length||6 in (152.4 mm), 10 in (254.0 mm)
|Action||Gas-operated, rotating bolt|
|Muzzle velocity||1542 ft/s(.50AE)|
|Maximum firing range||220 yd|
|Feed system||Detachable stick magazine; capacities:
|Sights||Iron sights and optional optics|
Magnum Research has marketed various versions of the short recoil Jericho 941 pistol under the Baby Eagle and Desert Eagle Pistol names; these weapons are not directly related to the Desert Eagle but do share a similar visual design.
The design for the Desert Eagle was initiated by Bernard C. White of Magnum Research and Arnolds Streinbergs of Riga Arms Institute, who filed a US patent application for a mechanism for a gas-actuated pistol in January 1983. This established the basic layout of the Desert Eagle. A second patent application was filed in December 1985, after the basic design had been refined by IMI (Israel Military Industries) for production, and this is the form that went into production.
The pistol is fired by a single action hammer, and has a manual safety switch on the slide. The ambidextrous safety switch rotates a drum mechanism which sits over the firing pin, causing the firing pin to lock in, which prevents it from moving forward and reduces the possibility of the gun discharging accidentally. With the safety off, pulling the trigger releases the hammer to fall downward, hitting the firing pin and causing the chambered round to discharge.
The Desert Eagle uses a gas-operated mechanism normally found in rifles, as opposed to the short recoil or blow-back designs most commonly seen in semi-automatic pistols. When a round is fired, gases are ported out through a small hole in the barrel near the breech. These travel forward through a small tube under the barrel, to a cylinder near the front of the barrel. The slide which acts as the bolt carrier has a small piston on the front that fits into this cylinder. When the gases reach the cylinder they push the piston rearward. The slide rides rearward on two rails on either side of the barrel, both with action springs around them, with a large pin inside the camming surface in the rear of the bolt that causes the bolt to rotate and unlock. A cylindrical mechanism on the left side of the bolt, called the bolt stabilizer assembly, prevents the bolt from rotating freely as the slide moves, enabling it to align correctly with the barrel again as the slide moves it forward. The spring loaded ejector pin is continually being depressed by the case, until the case is free of the chamber and releases tension from the ejector, causing the case to fly out, becoming released from the extractor claw in the process. The slide reaches its rear-most travel, then rides forward again under tension of the springs around the slide rails, the bottom lug of the bolt pushes a new round into the chamber, then the bolt locks up and the gun can be fired again once the trigger is released.
The rotating bolt has four radial locking lugs, with the extractor on the right hand side fitting where the fifth lug would be, and strongly resembles the 7-lug bolt of the M16 series of rifles, while the fixed gas cylinder/moving piston resemble those of the Ruger Mini-14 carbine (the original patent used a captive piston similar to the M14 rifle).
The advantage of the gas operation is that it allows the use of far more powerful cartridges than traditional semi-automatic pistol designs. Thus it allows the Desert Eagle to compete in an area that had previously been dominated by magnum revolvers. Downsides of the gas-operated mechanism are the large size of the Desert Eagle, and the fact that it discourages the use of unjacketed lead bullets, as lead particles sheared off during firing could clog the gas release tap, preventing proper function.
Switching a Desert Eagle to another chambering requires only that the correct barrel, bolt assembly, and magazine be installed. Thus, a conversion to fire the other cartridges can be quickly accomplished. The rim diameter of the .50 AE (Action Express) is the same as the .44 Remington Magnum cartridge, consequently only a barrel and magazine change is required to convert a .44 Desert Eagle to the larger, more powerful .50 AE round. The most popular barrel length is 6 in (152 mm), although a 10 in (254 mm) barrel is available. The Mark XIX barrels are machined with integral scope mounting bases, simplifying the process of adding a pistol scope.
The Desert Eagle is fed with a detachable magazine. Magazine capacity is 9 rounds in .357 Magnum, 8 rounds in .44 Magnum, and 7 rounds in .50 Action Express. The Desert Eagle's barrel features polygonal rifling. The pistol is primarily used for hunting, target shooting, and silhouette shooting.
Mark I and VII
The Mark I, which is no longer produced, was offered with a steel, stainless steel or aluminum alloy frame and differs primarily in the size and shape of the safety levers and slide catch. The Mark VII includes an adjustable trigger (retrofittable to Mark I pistols). The Mark I and VII are both available in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum; the Mark VII has been chambered for .41 Magnum. The barrels had a 3⁄8" dovetail, to which an accessory mount could be attached. Later Mark VII models were offered in .50 Action Express with a 7⁄8" Weaver-pattern rail on the barrel; the .50 Mark VII would later become the Mark XIX. Barrel lengths were 6, 10, and 14 inches for .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, but only 6 or 10 inches for .41 Magnum.
The most recent model, the Mark XIX, is available in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 429 DE (introduced 2018) and .50 Action Express (or .50 AE). This model comes in a variety of different finishes, such as brushed chrome or titanium gold. Magnum Research offered this model in .440 Cor-bon caliber, a .50 AE derived case. There were fewer than 500 original .440 Cor-bon Desert Eagles imported into U.S. in December 2000. These are marked by the number 440 on the left lower side of the barrel, in numerals twice the size of other calibers, and without the preceding period. A number of .44 Magnum barrels were rechambered to produce .440 Corbon barrels, but these can be identified by the off-centered ".440" (with period) produced by adding the final 0 to the original barrel mark.
Mark XIX barrels are available in 6-inch (150 mm) and 10-inch (250 mm) lengths only. .357 Magnum barrels have exterior barrel flutes on the left, right and top sides of the barrel. .44 Magnum barrels have flutes on the left and right side only, not on the top. The .50 AE barrels have no flutes.
The DE44CA (Desert Eagle .44 Magnum California) is the only XIX that is approved for dealer sales to the public in the State of California. It differs from standard XIXs in that it has a firing-pin block incorporated in its design.
Current-model Mark XIX Desert Eagles now have a new-style Picatinny rail along the top of the barrel, as opposed to the dove-tail style rail on previous models. Magnum Research also now offers a proprietary muzzle brake for the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 AE versions to help reduce recoil.
Magnum Research and aftermarket suppliers provide custom coatings and finishes on the Desert Eagle.
In popular culture
The commercial success of the pistol is due in part to its use in motion pictures, according to Magnum Research chairman and CEO John Risdall. According to a 1994 newspaper article, the company actively solicited prop houses to use the gun. By 1999 it had been used in over 40 films, including Eraser, Red Heat, Last Action Hero, Rambo III, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Assassins, The Last Boy Scout, Double Impact, Snatch, The Matrix and Austin Powers.
It is also featured in a number of various video games and series, including Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, Far Cry, Call of Duty, Killing Floor, Counter-Strike, Player Unknown's Battlegrounds and Hitman.
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