About a year ago Kahr Arms purchased Magnum Research Industries (MRI), a company best known for its .50 AE Desert Eagle hand cannon. According to Frank Harris, Kahr Arms vice president of sales and marketing, MRI fit their niche marketing template. “While their numbers aren’t huge, they have an iconic product in the Desert Eagle and little competition. It just made sense to us.”
With an absence from the marketplace for over three years, MRI is once again importing Baby Desert Eagle pistols. Made in Israel by the prolific Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI), the semi-auto pistols include some updates since they last reached our shores. In all there will be 18 different models of Baby Desert Eagle II pistols. The primary difference between the earlier Baby Desert Eagle pistols that MRI imported and the new Baby Desert Eagle II pistols is enhanced sights and the addition of a Picatinny rail. The new Baby Desert Eagle II pistols are available in three different chamberings—9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Shooters have their choice of full-size guns, semi-compact guns with a full-size frame and abbreviated slide and barrel, and a compact model with shortened frame and slide. Each model is also available with a polymer frame for those that want the weight savings and corrosion resistance over the standard steel frame.
MRI sent two samples of their full-size Baby Desert Eagles II pistols—one with a steel frame in 9mm and the other with a polymer frame chambered for .40 S&W. Savvy students of firearms will quickly recognize that the Baby Desert Eagle II pistols are clearly inspired by the very popular CZ-75 pistol. Before the Iron Curtain fell, this Czech-made pistol had a cult-like following since being introduced in 1975, but was near impossible to find in the United States. The unavailability of the pistol and its novel features made the pistol attractive to American enthusiasts.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Action Arms was able to import a version to satisfy hunger for the handgun. Now, various companies are making pistols inspired by the CZ-75, with Israel, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and China being the most prolific. IWI changed the frame and slide profiles on its version to look more “Desert Eagle-ish,” hence the name Baby Desert Eagle. It’s interesting to note that with this design (and IWI’s) the slide rides inside the frame rails rather than outside like with the 1911, which contributes to a tight frame-to-slide fit and helps ensure good accuracy.
Lockwork of the MRI import is conventional double-action first shot with each subsequent shot single-action (DA/SA)—at least until the slide-mounted safety/decocker is applied. Doing so decocks the hammer and places the gun on “safe.” Baby Desert Eagle II’s have ambidextrous slide-mounted safety/decockers, compared to the original CZ-75 design that has a frame-mounted safety that allows the gun to be carried with the hammer down for first shot DA or carried with the hammer cocked with the safety applied—“condition one” as 1911 aficionados will tell you. On the IWI version, when pushed to its down position, the mechanism decocks the hammer and disengages the trigger bar so that the gun can not fire. There is no provision with this system to carry the gun cocked and locked. To fire the weapon the shooter simply pushes the safety forward and up with the thumb.