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Desert Eagle Handguns: Why They’re Unique

An innovative handgun became a gun celebrity in the mid-1980s. In an innovative design, the Desert Eagle carried heavy revolver rounds on a semiautomatic pistol frame. While expensive and not widely adopted by military services, the Desert Eagle pistol was featured in dozens of action movies.

In the past, revolvers were exclusively used to fire heavy caliber bullets such as .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. Revolvers are stronger mechanically because they have fewer moving parts, which can withstand the pressure of heavy calibers. A semiautomatic pistol could only fire a .45 ACP round or a smaller caliber. The only handgun available in .357 or .44 Magnum for a gun enthusiast was a revolver.

Due to reader interest, this was originally published earlier.

All of that changed with the Desert Eagle. It was the first pistol of its kind when it was introduced in 1983. From the M-16 and AR-15 family of rifles comes the bolt face, which incorporates multiple teeth to lock into the battery. As opposed to other pistols, the Desert Eagle used the Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle’s gas piston system rather than a blowback system. This was necessary to accommodate the high chamber pressures and recoil associated with heavy caliber cartridges. After picking up a new round from the magazine, and cocking the pistol, the slide scoops up the empty bullet casing and spits it out.

To make the blowback system practical (or safe), designers developed a system that could control how much energy is drawn from the rounds in order to cycle the weapon. Gas from the desert eagle’s barrel is diverted to drive a piston that cycles the action when a user pulls the trigger. However, gas piston systems are not common among handguns, mostly due to the fact that they are unneeded. There are aspects of the Desert Eagle that are similar to revolvers, pistols, and rifles.

The rifle characteristics of the Desert Eagle have the advantage of reducing recoil, an important consideration for a handgun of this caliber. There is no difference between pulling the trigger on this .357 Magnum and on a Glock 19. According to a well-known gun reviewer. A diverting gas softens recoil.

Its manufacturing history was tumultuous: initially manufactured by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) for American firm Magnum Research, it was then moved to Saco Defense of Maine in 1995. In 1998, production moved to IMI and Israel, but in 2009, it moved again to Magnum Research of Minnesota. The company was purchased by Kahr Arms in 2010 but continues to produce Desert Eagles in its original facility.

As originally produced in 1985, the Desert Eagle was chambered in .357 Magnum. There are six-inch barrels and a nine-round magazine on the .357 Magnum version, as well as an accessory rail for mounting red-dot optics and telescopic sights. There are nearly eleven inches between the length and height of the Desert Eagle, and it weighs four and a half pounds unloaded-more than twice what a loaded Glock 17 would weigh.


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