IMI Desert Eagle

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"Desert Eagle" redirects here. For other uses, see Desert Eagle (disambiguation).
Desert Eagle
DesertEagle 50AE.jpg
Mark XIX Desert Eagle in .50 Action Express with Picatinny rail
Type Semi-Automatic Pistol
Place of origin  USA
 Israel (redesign)
Service history
Used by see Users
Production history
Designer Magnum Research and Israel Military Industries
Designed 1979–1982

Magnum Research

  • (2009–current)

Magnum Research

and Israel Weapon Industries

  • (2005–2009)

Israel Military Industries

  • (1998–2005)
  • (1982–1995)

Saco Defense

  • (1995–1998)
Produced 1982–present
Variants Mark I
Mark VII
Mark XIX

Mark VII

  • 1,766 g (3.9 lb) (.357 MAGNUM)
  • 1,897 g (4.2 lb) (.44 MAGNUM)

Mark XIX

  • 1,998.6 g (4.4 lb)

Mark VII

  • 10.6 in (269.2 mm) (6in barrel)

Mark XIX

  • 10.75 in (273.1 mm) (6in barrel)
  • 14.75 in (374.6 mm) (10in barrel)
Barrel length 6 in (152.4 mm)
10 in (254.0 mm)

Action Gas-operated, rotating bolt
Muzzle velocity 470 m/s(.50AE)
Maximum firing range 200 m
Feed system

Detachable stick magazine; capacities:

  • 9 rounds (.357)
  • 8 rounds (.41 and .44)
  • 7 rounds (.440 Cor-bon and .50 AE)
Sights Iron sights and optional optics

The IMI Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic handgun notable for chambering the largest centerfire cartridge of any magazine fed, self loading pistol. It has a relatively unique design with a triangular barrel and large muzzle. MRI is the most recent company to design and develop the Desert Eagle, having done so for more than 25 years. The design was refined and the actual pistols were manufactured by Israel Military Industries until 1995, when MRI shifted the manufacturing contract to Saco Defense in Saco, Maine. In 1998, MRI moved manufacturing back to IMI, which later reorganized under the name Israel Weapon Industries. Since 2009, the Desert Eagle Pistol has been produced in the United States at MRI's Pillager, MN facility.[2] Kahr Arms acquired Magnum Research in the middle of 2010.[3] The Desert Eagle has been featured in roughly 500 motion pictures and TV films, along with several video games (especially the Resident Evil series, Counter-Strike series and Grand Theft Auto series), making it well known in popular culture. [4]

Magnum Research has marketed various versions of the short recoil Jericho 941 pistol under the Baby Eagle and Desert Eagle Pistol names; these weapons are not directly related to the Desert Eagle but do share a similar visual design.[5]

Design details[edit]

Drawings from patent 4,619,184 showing the Desert Eagle's gas-operated mechanism
Mark XIX Desert Eagle pistol with a box of Speer 325-grain .50 AE ammunition
Interchangeable barrels for a Desert Eagle Mark I.

The design for the Desert Eagle was initiated by Bernard C. White of Magnum Research and Arnolds Streinbergs of Riga Arms Institute, who filed a US patent application for a mechanism for a gas-actuated pistol in January 1983.[6] This established the basic layout of the Desert Eagle. A second patent application was filed in December 1985, after the basic design had been refined by IMI (Israel Military Industries) for production, and this is the form that went into production.[7]

The Desert Eagle uses a gas-operated mechanism normally found in rifles, as opposed to the short recoil or blow-back designs most commonly seen in semi-automatic pistols. The pistol is fired by a single action hammer, and has a manual safety switch on the slide. The ambidextrous safety switch rotates a drum mechanism which sits over the firing pin, causing the firing pin to lock in, which prevents it from moving forward and reduces the possibility of the gun discharging accidentally. With the safety off, pulling the trigger releases the hammer to fall downward, hitting the firing pin and causing the chambered round to discharge.

When a round is fired, gases are ported out through a small hole in the barrel near the breech. These travel forward through a small tube under the barrel, to a cylinder near the front of the barrel. The slide which acts as the bolt carrier has a small piston on the front that fits into this cylinder. When the gases reach the cylinder they push the piston rearward. The slide rides rearward on two rails on either side of the barrel, both with action springs around them, with a large pin inside the camming surface in the rear of the bolt that causes the bolt to rotate and unlock. A cylindrical mechanism on the left side of the bolt, called the bolt stabilizer assembly, prevents the bolt from rotating freely as the slide moves, enabling it to align correctly with the barrel again as the slide moves it forward. The spring loaded ejector pin is continually being depressed by the case, until the case is free of the chamber and releases tension from the ejector, causing the case to fly out, becoming released from the extractor claw in the process. The slide reaches its rear-most travel, then rides forward again under tension of the springs around the slide rails, the bottom lug of the bolt pushes a new round into the chamber, then the bolt locks up and the gun can be fired again once the trigger is released.

The rotating bolt has four radial locking lugs, with the extractor on the right hand side fitting where the fifth lug would be, and strongly resembles the 7-lug bolt of the M16 series of rifles, while the fixed gas cylinder/moving piston resemble those of the Ruger Mini-14 carbine (the original patent used a captive piston similar to the M14 rifle).[5][2]

The advantage of the gas operation is that it allows the use of far more powerful cartridges than traditional semi-automatic pistol designs. Thus it allows the Desert Eagle to compete in an area that had previously been dominated by magnum revolvers. Downsides of the gas-operated mechanism are the large size of the Desert Eagle, and the fact that it discourages the use of unjacketed lead bullets, as lead particles sheared off during firing could clog the gas release tap, preventing proper function.[5]

Switching a Desert Eagle to another chambering requires only that the correct barrel, bolt assembly, and magazine be installed. Thus, a conversion to fire the other cartridges can be quickly accomplished. The rim diameter of the .50 AE (Action Express) is the same as the .44 Remington Magnum cartridge, consequently only a barrel and magazine change is required to convert a .44 Desert Eagle to the larger, more powerful .50 AE round.[5][2] The most popular barrel length is 6 in (152 mm), although a 10 in (254 mm) barrel is available. The Mark XIX barrels are machined with integral scope mounting bases, simplifying the process of adding a pistol scope.

The Desert Eagle is fed with a detachable magazine. Magazine capacity is 9 rounds in .357 Magnum, 8 rounds in .44 Magnum, and 7 rounds in .50 Action Express. The Desert Eagle's barrel features polygonal rifling. The pistol is primarily used for hunting, target shooting, and silhouette shooting.[5][2]


Mark I and VII[edit]

The Mark I, which is no longer produced, was offered with a steel, stainless steel or aluminum alloy frame and differs primarily in the size and shape of the safety levers and slide catch.[5] The Mark VII includes an adjustable trigger (retrofittable to Mark I pistols). The Mark I and VII are both available in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum; the Mark VII has been chambered for .41 Magnum. The barrels had a 38" dovetail, to which an accessory mount could be attached. Later Mark VII models were offered in .50 Action Express with a 78" Weaver-pattern rail on the barrel; the .50 Mark VII would later become the Mark XIX platform. Barrel lengths were 6, 10, and 14 inches[5] for .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, but only 6 or 10 inches for .41 Magnum.

Mark XIX[edit]

The most recent model, the Mark XIX, is available in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 Action Express (or .50 AE). This model comes in a variety of different finishes, such as brushed chrome or titanium gold. Magnum Research offered this model in .440 Cor-bon caliber, a .50 AE derived case. There were less than 500 original .440 Cor-bon Desert Eagles imported into U.S. in December 2000. Mark XIX barrels are available in 6-inch and 10-inch lengths only.[5] Both the .357 and .44 Magnum XIX version have exterior barrel fluting, whereas the .50 AE versions do not.

The DE44CA (Desert Eagle .44 Magnum California) is the only XIX that is approved for dealer sales to the public in the State of California: it differs from standard XIXs in that it has a firing-pin block incorporated in its design.[8]

Current-model Mark XIX Desert Eagles now have a new-style Picatinny rail along the top of the barrel, as opposed to the dove-tail style rail on previous models. Magnum Research also now offers a proprietary muzzle brake for the .50 AE, .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum versions to help reduce recoil.

Little Tiny Eagle[edit]

The Baby Desert Eagle from the private company, Israeli Weapons Industries. Imported by Kahr Arms circa 2012

While IMI makes a cosmetically similar pistol, originally called the Jericho 941 and marketed by Magnum Research as the "Baby Eagle", the guns bear no functional equivalence: the Jericho/Baby Eagle design is a standard double action, short-recoil design derived from the CZ-75. The one functional similarity is in the IMI developed cartridges. The .41 Action Express (or .41 AE) developed for the Jericho 941 used a rebated rim, so that the pistol could switch between 9 mm Luger and .41 AE with just the change of a barrel. This is because the .41 AE was based on a shortened .41 Magnum case with the rim and extractor groove cut to the same dimensions of the 9 mm Luger. This allowed the same extractor and ejector to work with both cartridges. The .50 AE has a similar rebated rim, cut to the same dimensions as the .44 Magnum. This is what allows caliber changes between .44 Magnum and .50 AE with just the change of the barrel and magazine.[5] Beginning January 1, 2009, KBI began importing the Jericho (using its original trade name). KBI Jericho pistols can be distinguished from earlier Jericho models by the addition of an accessory rail just forward the trigger guard. The Jericho 941's name was derived from the two cartridges it chambers, with the conversion kit.[5]

Micro Desert Eagle[edit]

In 2009 Magnum Research introduced a pistol called the "Micro Desert Eagle," designed to resemble the Desert Eagle. This pistol has a different functional design and does not support swappable barrels and ammunition but does share the gas-assisted blowback design of the IMI Desert Eagle. It is a pocket pistol, in the same class as the Walther PPK and SIG Sauer P230/232 available in .380 ACP caliber. It is meant for personal protection in close quarters and is assembled in the US by Magnum Research from imported parts. Its average weight is 14 oz depending on the type of ammunition loaded. The original design is licensed from a Czech company ZVI (which manufactured it under name the Kevin).[9][10]

Customized versions[edit]

Magnum Research and aftermarket suppliers provide custom coatings and finishes on the Desert Eagle.


In popular culture[edit]

The Desert Eagle in .50 AE is the weapon used by Bullet-Tooth Tony in the movie Snatch, made memorable in the "Drowning Trout" scene. The Desert Eagle was used by Eagle Choi in the 2013 HKTV drama The Borderline.

The Desert Eagle .50 AE is the main sidearm used by Agent Smith and the Agents in the movie trilogy The Matrix

This pistol has also been featured as a side arm in various installations of the Counter-Strike series.

In the movie form of Resident Evil, Albert Wesker was shown with dual Desert Eagles.


  1. ^ Yekutiel, Darom (1991). The Art of the Handgun: An Illustrated Guide to Self Defense and Combat Shooting (In Hebrew). Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House. p. 245. ISBN 965-07-0076-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d Taffin, John (2005). "The Desert Eagle of Magnum Research". Guns Magazine 30 (8). 
  3. ^ "Gun Review: Magnum Research IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE". 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  4. ^ Rees, Clair (1998). "Multiple Threat Magnum". American Handgunner. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hartink, A.E. (2002). The Complete Encyclopedia of Pistols and Revolvers. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc. pp. 165–167. ISBN 978-0-7858-1519-8. 
  6. ^ US Patent 4,563,937, Gas Actuated Pistol, the first patent filed (though not the first assigned).
  7. ^ United States Patent 4,619,184
  8. ^ "Roster of Handguns Certified For Sale - Firearms Division". CA Dept. of Justice. May 2004. Retrieved 6 December 2009.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  9. ^ "Micro Desert Eagle" (Press release). ESPN Outdoors. January 16, 2009. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. Retrieved January 3, 2010. 
  10. ^ Annual report of ZVI company for year 2010 (in Czech)
  11. ^ "//- Strona powicona Wojskowej Formacji Specjalnej GROM -//". 
  12. ^

External links[edit]