Shooting the Desert Eagle is quite an experience! In fact, when I was assigned this article I was really not looking forward to shooting the gun. My theory has always been is a .45 does not offer enough power I’m going to go straight to a rifle. That being said, I don’t spend time fishing or trekking around bear country where carrying a rifle could be a real encumbrance and having a Desert Eagle in a shoulder holster might be the only deterrent from having a bruin turn your leg into a tasty drumstick.
So shooting a handgun chambered for a cartridge that generates roughly the same energy as a 5.56mm NATO round or twice the energy of a .45 ACP or three times that of a 9mm has to be unpleasant right? Actually, it’s not that bad. Once you get used to the huge explosion that happens two or so feet from your face you’ll be fine. There is nothing about the Desert Eagle that makes it hurt to shoot. First of all it weighs 4.5 recoil-absorbing pounds. Additionally the gun is gas operated and that spreads the recoil impulse over a longer period as the gun cycles. Just like shotguns, gas operated semi-autos always shoot softer than pumps or break action guns. By design and necessity the grip is overly large with wide front- and backstraps that distribute the recoil over a wider surface area. It took a few magazines of ammunition to get used to the way the gun feels and after that I was able to settle down and start firing some groups for record. I have to say, shooting the Desert Eagle is the most fun that I’ve had with a handgun in recent memory.
The Desert Eagle manual warns shooters that they need a firm grip for the gun to operate properly. Big bore revolver shooters that are used to letting the gun roll in their hands will have to change their shooting styles to more of a locked “Weaver Style” hold. It is imperative that the pistol has a firm grip to recoil against otherwise it will stovepipe.
Magnum Research ships the Desert Eagle with a 5 in 1 tool. It can be used to ream accumulated fouling from the gas cylinder of the autopistol.
CorBon’s 165-grain JHP was downright pleasant to shoot with the light projectile generating comparatively light recoil. However, it was the only load I tried that did not function 100% in the Desert Eagle. While it extracted and ejected 100% it short stroked and did not feed a new cartridge into the chamber about 30% of the time. I’m sure that if you need your Desert Eagle to function with this load that the springs could be adjusted or replaced. Probably a copious amount of good lubricant would also be helpful but honestly if you need to download your .44 Mag that much maybe you’d be better off with a .45?
Designed for heavily muscled and thick boned game the 180-grain CorBon Hunter had surprisingly light recoil yet churned up 1,122 foot pounds of energy (fpe). The 240-grain Hunter load produces a little more energy but also has a little sharper recoil. Its accuracy was phenomenal and this would be my selection if I were carrying the Desert Eagle into bear country.
Hornady loads some 240-grain XTP bullets specifically for the Magnum Research Desert Eagle. This load shoots well and functioned 100% however at 25 yards most of my groups printed about 4 inches high. It wasn’t just this load though—almost all of my loads printed groups that were high at 25 yards. Thinking that maybe the sights had been regulated for a longer distance I moved my target out to 50 yards. These groups were between 6 and 8 inches high so it became apparent that I need a taller front sight for pinpoint accuracy at between 25 and 50 yards. One pleasant surprise was that I fired a number of 50-yard groups under 3 inches. In fact, most of my 25-yard groups showed better accuracy than some of my custom built 1911’s. I was impressed.
The good news is that there is a rail on top of the barrel to facilitate the mounting of optics. While a scope of some sort may help the shooter realize the Desert Eagle’s wonderful accuracy potential it will add bulk, make it harder to comfortably carry and ruin the racy lines of the gun.
The Desert Eagle is an incredibly versatile platform. Once you’ve purchased a Mark XIX Desert Eagle you can change the barrel length or the caliber in seconds—providing that you have the right components. MRI’s Desert Eagle is available in six different configurations—.357 Mag, .44 Mag or .50 AE, each with a 6-inch barrel (standard configuration) or with a 10-inch barrel. Purchase one Desert Eagle and you have the platform to build the other five guns. Barrels, magazines and in some cases the bolt assembly need to be changed to convert to another caliber.
I can’t decide what I like best about the Magnum Research IWI-made Desert Eagle. It is one of those guns whose design I marvel at each time I pick it up. Then too it is impeccably machined with each part possessing superior fit and finish. It is wonderfully accurate. But probably what I liked most about the gun was that it was just a ton of fun to shoot! For more information on the Desert Eagle and the rest of the Magnum Research product line, call 508-635-4273 or check out their website at magnumresearch.com.