This Israeli-made Mark XIX Desert Eagle .44 Mag is a classic example of ingenuity combined with brute power and force.
There are very few guns that are as iconic as Magnum Research’s massive Desert Eagle. But in the last few years the Desert Eagle has been tough to find on dealer’s shelves. That’s all about to change. Kahr Arms purchased Magnum Research Inc. (MRI) in summer of 2010 and is doing their best to fill the pipeline and satisfy the demand for the Desert Eagle.
In 1979 Magnum Researcher’s founders, Jim Skildum and John Risdall started the process of transforming paper blueprints into a behemoth autopistol. Pistols were originally manufactured in Israel by Israel Military Industries (IMI) until 1995 when MRI relocated manufacturing to Saco Defense in Maine. In 1998 MRI moved its manufacturing back to IMI, which had been reorganized as Israel Weapons Industries (IWI). In 2009 MRI started manufacturing the Desert Eagle at their Pillager, Minnesota factory, but to help bolster their supply of guns while they were bringing domestic production fully on line, MRI contracted with IWI to again produce guns. My test sample is a version of this Israeli-made gun. It should be noted that while the gun is machined overseas that MRI controls the specifications, patents and all licenses for the Desert Eagle. IWI is simply a contractor to help MRI satisfy the seemingly endless demand for this gun.
The slide-mounted ambidextrous safety of the Desert Eagle is swept up to disengage.
If you’ve never picked up the Desert Eagle you’re in for a surprise. It is a monster! Weighing close to 4.5 pounds it is truly a handful. But what makes the Desert Eagle a truly unique gun is its design. The Desert Eagle uses a short-stroke piston not unlike that used in the M1 Carbine. Gas passes through a hole underneath the bore into the gas cylinder where it pushes the piston. This inertia drives the slide back where the bolt unlocks after the pressure subsides and the extraction, ejection and feeding cycle begin. The Desert Eagle uses twin recoil springs to retard the slide’s rearward movement and then push it forward to strip a cartridge from the magazine.
Also unique to the Desert Eagle is its rotating bolt lockup that is reminiscent of the AR-15/M16 family of weapons. The bolt head locks into the barrel extension to provide a solid lockup at the moment of cartridge ignition. Once the bullet has left the barrel and the pressure has dropped, the bolt unlocks to cycle the action. It is a hearty system developed to handle the significant power of the .44 Mag cartridge.
Desert Eagles are renowned for their accuracy and its fixed barrel is partially responsible for their precision. The barrel does not move when the slide reciprocates so it is in the same position shot after shot. Also aiding in accuracy is the polygonal rifling MRI specifies for this pistol. There are a number of benefits to this type of rifling besides improved accuracy—greater barrel life is claimed as well as increased velocity as it is easier for the bullet to get a better gas seal. Polygonal barrels are also easier to clean. Most residue is removed with a patch with little scrubbing needed as there are no sharp edges to gouge the bullet jacket.
One enhancement that makes the Desert Eagle so easy to shoot accurately is its trigger. Although single-action in design it has a decidedly two-stage feel to it. The first-stage is all take-up until you get to a point of increased resistance. This second stage broke crisply at 4 pounds on my test sample. MRI calls their trigger the Adjustable Trigger Mechanism (ATM). The location of the transition between stages may be adjusted to be at any point within the trigger travel, by travel adjustment. The trigger travel adjustment is achieved by inserting a screwdriver through the magazine housing opening to turn the ATM adjustment. This type of trigger for this pistol makes all the sense in the world. There should be a certain amount of take up for the shooter to prep before the hammer falls. While the Desert Eagle can be carried with the hammer cocked and the thumb safety engaged the MRO manual recommends carrying the gun with the chamber empty. I found the easiest way to disengage the thumb safety was with my weak hand thumb as this did not require me to change my shooting grip.