The .50 Caliber Desert Eagle

Desert Eagle pistol handgun

By Duncan Long

Although an American idea, the "Desert Eagle" was developed in Israel by the IMI (Israel Military Industries) in the early 1980s. The first Desert Eagles were manufactured in Israel and started appearing on gun dealers' shelves in the US around 1985. Following a problem in meeting demand for the pistols in 1992 (and probably fearful of the prospect of government import limitations), Magnum Research started assembling parts of the gun in the US and currently is working toward full assembly and possibly manufacture of the guns stateside.

Given the fact that the IMI is best known for the Uzi series of submachine guns and the Galil rifles, it isn't surprising that the Desert Eagle departs radically from many other semiauto pistol designs, though the exterior belays this. The basic layout is like that of most other modern semiauto pistols (with the magazine release on the side of the grip, slide release on the left side of the frame, and a thumb-activated slide safety).

Internally things are different. The pistol is gas-operated with a system that is more like a rifle than the delayed blow-back systems used with most other semiauto hand guns. The gas system employs a fixed, shrouded barrel which stays in position on the frame during firing, with gas coming up a port just ahead of the chamber to operate a three-lug rotating bolt that rides in the slide assembly. The fixed barrel gives the gun a lot of potential accuracy, a potential realized with most of these pistols when fired with quality ammunition.

In addition to .357 Magnum, .41 AE, .41 Magnum, and .44 Magnum chamberings, the Desert Eagle is also available chambered for the .50 AE (Action Express).

The .50 AE uses a rebated cartridge head of 0.514 inch - the same dimension as the .44 Magnum rim. This made it practical to create a cartridge with a .50-caliber bullet without necessitating the production of a new slide assemble or bolt. The same slide assembly created for the .44 Magnum fits with the .50 AE. All that's changed is the barrel and a few other odds and ends of parts.

The .50 AE (also known as the .50 Magnum) is currently available from CCI and IMI with the latter ammunition being imported into the US by Magnum Research under the "Samson Ultra" trademark. The bullets with this cartridge are generally around 300 grains and have a muzzle velocity of around 1,380 feet per second (with a 6-inch barrel). This gives the bullet 1,260-plus foot pounds of energy, placing the cartridge well above the .44 Magnum in terms of power.

While the hammering of the shooter by a cartridge like the .50 Magnum can be awesome, the weight and gas operation of the Desert Eagle does a good job of reducing this kick, making it considerably less than might be experienced with a revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum. Muzzle blast and flash from the .50 Magnum is also extreme; for this reason it is best employed with a longer barrel whenever this is an option.

Unlike most other Desert Eagle pistols, the .50 Magnum models have a contoured barrel with an integral scope mount grooved into its top. There are currently three barrel lengths in all chamberings available for the Desert Eagle: 6, 10, and 14 inches long; earlier models also were available with an 8-inch barrel, but this length has since been discontinued. At the time of this writing, barrels with Mag-na-porting compensation vents are also available to cut recoil to even more manageable amounts.

When the various grips, barrel lengths, finishes, and chamberings available for the Desert Eagle are taken into consideration, there are about 5,000 possible configurations of this pistol right from the factory, without any modifications by a gunsmith or owner other than exchanging a barrel assembly, sights, or grip panels. While this makes these guns a collector's nightmare, they are ideal for those wanting a "custom" pistol without the high price tag such one-of-a-kind guns normally carry.

For a more detailed look at the Desert Eagle variants as well other .50 caliber and other large semiauto pistols, revolvers, single-shot pistols, etc., see Duncan Long's book, Hand Cannons, available from Paladin Press P. O. Box 1307, Boulder, CO 80306-1307 Phone: 800-392-2400.

If the article above was of interest, chances are you'll also enjoy these books by the same author:

Hand Cannons a book about the .50 Caliber Desert Eagle and similar large-bore, powerful hand guns by author Duncan LongHand Cannons by Duncan Long This book gives a detailed look at the Desert Eagle variants as well other .50 caliber and other large semiauto pistols, revolvers, single-shot pistols from the famous .44 Magnum cartridge on up to the mammoth .50 BMG. Long evaluates these massive pistols and reveals how to tame their recoil and muzzle blast to improve their accuracy. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, photos, illus., 208 pp., Marketed by Paladin Press.

spacer for Duncan Long's page about the Desert Eagle 50AE

Protect Your Privacy book by Duncan Long gives you secrets for avoiding snoops and identity thievesProtect Your Privacy: How to Protect Your Identity as well as Your Financial, Personal, and Computer Records in an Age of Constant Surveillance by Duncan Long Identity theft is at an all-time high. Protect Your Privacy gives you everything you need to know about protecting your computer security, financial and telephone privacy, identification, freedom of movement, and more! Learn to safeguard your privacy in virtually every situation—on the Internet, telephone, face-to-face, even with the government enforcing the Patriot Act. Stop scam artists before they have a chance to compromise your private information. From Lyons Press.

spacer for Duncan Long's page about the Desert Eagle 50AE

ar15 M16 - Sourcebook from Science Fiction short story writer and gun book author Duncan LongAll-new, 2nd Edition of AR-15/M16 Sourcebook by Duncan Long This carefully researched, newly revised manual covers the history, military and custom spin-offs, grenade-launchers, SAW versions, and accessories of this popular firearm. If you own an AR-15, or would just like to learn more about this firearm, you need this book. Marketed by Paladin Press.

spacer for Duncan Long's page about the Desert Eagle 50AE

Duncan's Short Stories and Articles

Duncan's Digital Artwork "1st Encounters"

Duncan's Digital Music

Duncan Long's Home Page

Copyright © 1996, 2007 by Duncan Long. All rights reserved.