Desert Eagle

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Desert Eagle
Photo of the gun in the white background.
Desert Eagle .50 Action Express
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of originUnited States/Israel
Production history
DesignerMagnum Research and Israel Military Industries
ManufacturerIsrael Military Industries, Saco Defense, Magnum Research and Israel Weapon Industries, Magnum Research
VariantsSee Variants
MassMark VII
  • 3.9 lb (1,769.0 g) (.357 Magnum)
  • 4.2 lb (1,905.1 g) (.44 Magnum)

Mark XIX

  • 4.4 lb (1,995.8 g)
LengthMark VII
  • 10.6 in (269.2 mm) (6 in barrel)

Mark XIX

  • 10.75 in (273.1 mm) (6 in barrel)
  • 14.75 in (374.6 mm) (10 in barrel)
Barrel length6 in (152.4 mm), 10 in (254.0 mm)
Width1.25 in (31.8 mm)[1]
Height6.25 in (158.8 mm)[1]

ActionGas-operated, closed rotating bolt
Muzzle velocity1542 ft/s (470 m/s) (.50 AE)
Maximum firing range201 meters (220 yd)
Feed systemDetachable box magazine; capacities:
  • 9 rounds (.357)
  • 8 rounds (.41 and .44)
  • 7 rounds (.429 DE, .440 Cor-Bon, and .50 AE)
SightsIron sights and optional optics

The Desert Eagle is a gas-operated, semi-automatic pistol known for chambering the .50 Action Express, the largest centerfire cartridge of any magazine-fed, self-loading pistol.

Magnum Research Inc. (MRI) designed and developed the Desert Eagle. The design was further refined by (and was also manufactured by) Israel Military Industries (IMI), until 1995, when MRI shifted the manufacturing contract to Saco Defense, in Saco, Maine. In 1998, MRI moved manufacturing back to IMI, which later commercialized its small arms branch under the name Israel Weapon Industries. Since December 2009, the Desert Eagle pistol has been produced in the United States at MRI's Pillager, Minnesota, facility.[4] Kahr Arms acquired Magnum Research in 2010.

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 share a similar visual design.[5]


Drawings from patent 4,619,184 showing the Desert Eagle's gas-operated mechanism
Interchangeable barrels for a Desert Eagle Mark I
Desert Eagle, Mark XIX in .44 Magnum

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 Systems (Israel Military Industries) for production, and this is the form that went into production.[7]

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 that 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, allowing the hammer to fall downward, hitting the firing pin, and causing the chambered round to discharge.

The Desert Eagle uses a gas-operated ejection and chambering mechanism normally found in rifles, as opposed to the short recoil or blowback designs most commonly seen in semi-automatic pistols. When a round is fired, gases are ported out through a small hole in the barrel in front of the chamber. These travel forward through a small tube under the barrel, to a cylinder underneath 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, the piston pushes the slide rearward, with a large pin inside the camming surface in the rear of the bolt causing the bolt to rotate and unlock. A mechanism on the left side of the bolt prevents the bolt from rotating freely as the slide moves, forcing it to remain aligned correctly with the barrel while the breech is open. The spring-loaded ejector is continually being depressed by the case, until the case is free of the chamber and the tension from the ejector is released, causing the case to eject, breaking free of the extractor in the process. The slide reaches its rearmost position, then moves forward again under the tension of the recoil springs. 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.

The rotating bolt has three radial locking lugs (the fourth lug is only for pushing the next round in the chamber), with the extractor on the right-hand side fitting where the fifth lug would be, and strongly resembles the seven-lug bolt of the M16 series of rifles, while the fixed gas cylinder and moving piston resemble those of the Ruger Mini-14 carbine (the original patent used a captive piston similar to the M14 rifle).[4][5]

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 can 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 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.[4][5] 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 nine rounds in .357 Magnum, eight rounds in .44 Magnum, and seven 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.[4][5]


Marks 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 have a 38 in dovetail, to which an accessory mount can be attached. Later Mark VII models were offered in .50 Action Express with a 78 in Weaver-pattern rail on the barrel; the .50 Mark VII later became the Mark XIX. Barrel lengths are 6, 10, and 14 inches[5] for .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, but only 6 or 10 inches for .41 Magnum.

Mark XIX[edit]

Desert Eagle Mark XIX in .50 AE

The most recent model, the Mark XIX, is available in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .429 DE (introduced in 2018) and .50 Action Express. 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 fewer than 500 original .440 Cor-Bon Desert Eagles imported into U.S. in December 2000. These are marked by the number 440 on the left lower side of the barrel, in numerals twice the size of other calibers, and without the preceding period. A number of .44 Magnum barrels were re-chambered to produce .440 Corbon barrels, but these can be identified by the off-centered ".440" (with period) produced by adding the final 0 to the original barrel mark.

Mark XIX barrels are available in 6-inch (150 mm) and 10-inch (250 mm) lengths only.[5] All .357 Magnum barrels have exterior barrel flutes on the left, right and top sides of the barrel. All .44 Magnum barrels have flutes on the left and right side only, not on the top. The .50 AE barrels have no flutes.

All current-production Mark XIX models except for the CA approved models have Weaver rails along the top of the barrels, as opposed to the Dovetail rails on previous models. Selected Mark XIX models have ported barrels or under-barrel picatinny rails.

The DE44CA (Desert Eagle .44 Magnum California) is the only Mark XIX model approved for dealer sales to the public in the State of California.[8] The CA approved version differs from the regular XIX models in that it has an automatic firing pin block and a two-slot Weaver-style rail for mounting optics.

In popular culture[edit]

The Desert Eagle has been featured in more than 600 films, television shows and video games, making it well known in popular culture.[9] The commercial success of the pistol is due in part to its use in films, according to Magnum Research chairman and CEO John Risdall.[10] According to a 1994 newspaper article, the company actively solicited prop houses to use the gun.[10] By 2000, it had been used in over 40 films, including The Matrix,[11] Eraser, Red Heat, Last Action Hero, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Assassins, The Last Boy Scout, Double Impact, and Austin Powers.[10]


A map with Desert Eagle users in blue


  1. ^ a b "Desert Eagle pistols and BFR revolvers". Magnum Research, Inc.
  2. ^ Arnold, Monica (October 31, 2018). "Magnum Research Introduces New 429 DE Pistol Cartridge". Kahr Firearms Group. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Yekutiel, Darom (1991). The Art of the Handgun: An Illustrated Guide to Self Defense and Combat Shooting (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House. p. 245. ISBN 965-07-0076-5.
  4. ^ a b c d Taffin, John (2005). "The Desert Eagle of Magnum Research". Guns Magazine. 30 (8).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. ^ White, Bernard C. (January 4, 1983). "US Patent 4,563,937: Gas Actuated Pistol". US Patent Office. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved June 21, 2007. (The first patent filed, though not the first assigned).
  7. ^ Shalev, Ilan (December 19, 1985). "US Patent 4,619,184: Gas Actuated Pistol". US Patent Office.
  8. ^ "Roster of Handguns Certified For Sale – Firearms Division". California Department of Justice. 2009. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2009.
  9. ^ Rees, Clair (1998). "Multiple Threat Magnum". American Handgunner. Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c Hornaday, Ann (January 17, 1999). "Guns on film: a loaded issue". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on February 3, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  11. ^ "Movie guns: a shot-by-shot guide". The Daily Telegraph. May 17, 2016. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  12. ^ Miernik, Sebastian. "Uzbrojenie i wyposażenie" [Arms and equipment]. Wojskowej Formacji Specjalnej GROM (in Polish). Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Sof, Eric (September 29, 2012). "Grupo de Operações Especiais (GOE): The Portuguese elite counter-terrorism unit". Spec Ops.

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