Worldwide, the CZ 75 pistol is almost as famous as Browning’s iconic 1911. It’s the handgun of choice among many European police and military organizations. More than a million of these guns have been manufactured and sold since Ceska Zbrojoka introduced them in 1975.
Because Czechoslovakia was an Eastern Bloc country at the time, it suffered import restrictions that made it difficult for American shooters to get their hands on a CZ 75. Inevitably, other manufacturers began copying the popular CZ 75 design. Variations include the Sphinx AT-2000, the Italian Tanfoglio, European American Armory’s Witness pistols and Israel’s Jericho 941. A number of different importers made these CZ 75 clones available. Some, like Charles Daly, have since gone out of business, eliminating one supplier.
Magnum Research is now offering an updated variant of the CZ 75 pistol, the Baby Desert Eagle II. The latest Baby Desert Eagle can be had in three different chamberings (9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP), and with a steel or polymer frame. It’s also available in compact, semi-compact and full-length sizes. The full-sized gun has a 4.52-inch barrel, while my compact test gun sports an abbreviated 3.64-inch tube.
Like both the CZ 75 and the Browning Hi-Power, the new Baby Desert Eagle II Compact features a short recoil-operated, locked-breech action. When fired, the barrel and slide are locked together as they begin moving rearward. After recoiling a short distance, the barrel cams downward and stops. The slide continues moving rearward, ejecting the fired cartridge. As it returns to battery, it strips a fresh cartridge from the magazine and feeds it into the chamber.
The new Baby Desert Eagle has an ambidextrous manual safety mounted at the rear of the slide. This allows you to carry the gun with the hammer cocked and the safety engaged. All non-double-action-only CZ 75 variants feature a “half-cock” notch. One interesting feature is that the slide rides inside—not outside—the frame. The result is a snug slide-to-frame fit and solid lockup when the gun is in battery. This increases accuracy.
While the new Baby Desert Eagle is closely related to the CZ 75, it has a whole different look and feel. The CZ 75 has a stepped-down slide that narrows near the muzzle. The Baby Desert Eagle’s slide has an unbroken appearance except for the cocking ribs, ambidextrous safety and sight at the rear of the slide. In my opinion, the Baby Desert Eagle Compact looks more like a modern pistol than its CZ 75 predecessors.
Engaging the safety locks the firing pin, decocks the hammer and disconnects the trigger mechanism. The sear is held down by the firing pin safety, while the trigger bar moves downward and can’t engage the interrupter. The safety also pulls the firing pin inside the firing pin channel before the hammer is released. The blocked firing pin cannot reach a chambered cartridge, preventing the gun from firing if accidentally dropped on its hammer or muzzle. This appears to be a very safe design.
The 9mm Baby Desert Eagle II Compact I’ve been using isn’t all that compact until you compare it with the semi-compact and full-sized Baby Desert Eagles in the same chambering. The Baby Desert Eagle II Compact is 7.25 inches long, while the semi-compact and full-sized versions are a half-inch or an inch longer, respectively. Unloaded, the Baby Desert Eagle II Compact weighs 33.9 ounces. In contrast, Kahr’s PM9 is only 5.42 inches long, tips the scales at just 14 ounces, and its slide is a svelte 0.9 inches wide. The Baby Desert Eagle Compact’s slide is a considerably wider 1.125 inches.
The new Baby Desert Eagle may be considered “compact” compared to early CZ 75 pistols, but it’s a tad too large for comfortable concealed carry. The Baby Desert Eagle is also offered with a steel instead of a polymer frame, which increases weight by from 8 to 10 ounces. All told, you have a choice of 10 distinct versions of the new Baby Desert Eagle you can buy.