Story and photos by Russell Purcell (@RoadTestRuss)
Few handguns are as imposing as the Desert Eagle, a single-action, ultra-powerful, semi-automatic that was originally designed by American small arms manufacturer Magnum Research Incorporated. Early on in its development the guns were manufactured and refined by Israel Military Industries, but all current production is now based in Pillager, Minnesota.
The Desert Eagle features an oversized frame and a triangular barrel with polygonal rifling. But what truly makes the Desert Eagle unique is the fact that it is a gas-actuated pistol. What does this mean? It means that the Desert Eagle operates more like a rifle than a typical semi-automatic pistol- It is a locked breech weapon that employs a stationary barrel.
When the trigger is pulled and a round is fired the gases expelled by the explosion of the gunpowder are ported forward through a small tube that is housed beneath the guns’ barrel. These gases fill a cylinder located near the front of the barrel where they push a small piston rearward on a separate bolt carrier / slide mechanism.
One of the main advantages of this design is that it permits the use of more powerful cartridges such as those used by the larger magnum revolvers. Desert Eagles can be ordered in a number of calibres, but the most popular variants include the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and the potent .50 Action Express (AE). The latter has proven to be a popular choice with some American special forces operatives for breaching doors, as a .50AE round will make short work of most lock mechanisms and hinges, and will even disable most car engines.
DVC maintains two Desert Eagles in its rental fleet, both chambered in .50AE, and both are available for public use. The chrome version is an older model that would be a worthy addition to Tony Montana’s collection. This gun delivers quite the kick, so it is important to really focus on your grip when firing this weapon. The second variant is a new acquisition, the Mark XIX Pistol. This imposing pistol is constructed of stainless steel and features tactical rails top and bottom, as well as an integral muzzle brake. In theory the brake should help reduce the recoil, but I found this model to have even more kick.
Most Desert Eagle models come fitted with a six-inch barrel, but Magnum Research also manufactures a ten-inch model for those more focussed on target shooting or hunting. The company offers models with both fixed and adjustable sights.
The gun has a two-stage single action trigger, exposed hammer, and ambidextrous safety. Magazines are a single stack design, and capacity changes with each calibre. The .357 Magnum holds nine rounds, the .44 Magnum carries eight, and the .50AE gets by with a mere seven.
Feeding the Desert Eagle .50AE ammunition is expensive, but handling and shooting this monster is well worth the price of admission. This is especially true if you bring along a range mate to take a few pictures of the experience as both of DVC’s examples produce a huge muzzle blast of flame and fury, not to mention a sonic boom loud enough to render most ear protection useless.