Weighing over four pounds and almost a foot in length, the Desert Eagle was designed in America as early as 1979 yet produced in Israel by IMI, creator of the Uzi submachine gun. The Desert Eagle was originally designed to pierce an engine block if there was a bomb on the vehicle but due to its large size and expensive price, it was never actually adopted by a military outside of Israel's IDF, despite common media perception. The only special forces groups that have used the Desert Eagle are Poland's JW GROM and Portugal's Grupo de Operações Especiais. However, the Desert Eagle did become a popular sporting weapon, novelty gun, movie gun in hundreds films such as Commando and The Matrix, and a gun forever famed with Call of Duty video game fans as the "Deagle".
The Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic pistol that relies on a gas-operation mechanism usually found on assault rifles like the AK-47, with a light single-action trigger similar to the 1911 and a slide-mounted safety, similar to the Beretta 92FS. 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 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. It also features a triangular muzzle, which helps with accuracy. Another downside to a large-caliber automatic is the size of the grip and magazines. As a result, it allows for small magazine capacity and almost completely eliminates users with medium to small hands. However, gas operation allows for much lower recoil than traditional revolvers, also being able to incorporate more powerful revolver or wildcat cartridges not seen in revolver platforms previously. It also allows for larger capacity than a revolver, but not by much.
Switching a Mark XIX 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. 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, although few actually put more weight on a four pound handgun.
- Mark I
- Mark VII (seven)
- Mark XIX (nineteen)
The Mark I began in 1982 but is no longer produced, as it was discontinued in 1989. It 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.
The Mark VII was introduced in 1989 and discontinued in 1995. It 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 3/8" dovetail, to which an accessory mount could be attached. Later Mark VII models were offered in .50 Action Express with a 7/8" 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 for .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, but only 6 or 10 inches for .41 Magnum.
The Mark XIX series began in 1995 and is still produced. All Mark XIX models are can come in either scope rail or Picatinny rail-equipped barrels. Most American-made models come with Picatinny rails, although this is an unpopular change. Most only collect the Israel-made models without Picatinny rails. The Mark XIX model comes in a variety of different finishes, such as brushed chrome or titanium gold. Magnum Research offered this model in .440 Cor-bon, 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. Both the .357 and .44 Magnum XIX version have exterior barrel fluting, whereas the .50 AE versions do not. 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 both the .50 AE and .44 Magnum versions to help reduce recoil. All the American slides for Mark XIX models are cast, while the Israeli models are forged.
- .50 Action Express (Mark XIX only)
- .44 Magnum (Mark VII to present)
- .357 Magnum (Mark I to present)
- .440 Cor-bon (discontinued, Mark XIX only)
- .41 Magnum (discontinued, Mark VII only)
- .357/44 Bain & Davis (IMI Mark I prototype only)