Firearms Handguns Reviews

Revisiting the Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX

It’s big. It’s heavy. It makes big booms. And it jams. That’s the Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX in a nutshell and I’m here for it.

Some of y’all have noticed that I’ve been going through the collection and purging a few items from it recently. Why am I doing this? Well, I consider myself more of a shooter than a collector. Most of the firearms in the safe have a purpose. Not all of them, but most of them. Given there are plenty of firearms I want to shoot and other activities I want to try, I require funds. As a result, I’ve been looking at the firearms in the safe that are collecting dust and evaluating whether or not I want to hang on to them or sell them to fund other acquisitions or activities. As I’ve been doing that, I came across the tungsten finished Desert Eagle and remembered that it was one of the early pistols I reviewed when I started the blog. Those early day reviews were something else and I figured the Desert Eagle deserves another review given I consider it to be an exquisite hand cannon. A hand cannon that will most likely survive the purge.

Perhaps the best place to begin is with how the Desert Eagle ended up in the safe. This took place back in 2016 a little after Deadpool the film was available for home viewing. I remember telling my wife I would love to have Desert Eagle after pointing out those were the pistols Deadpool was dual wielding in the opening scene. Mind you, I knew next to nothing about firearms in general at that point in time. My wife asked if I knew where to get one and I informed her that I thought I had seen one at our local Cabela’s. Next thing I know we drove to Cabela’s and picked up the only Desert Eagle they had in stock. 

As I mentioned, the Desert Eagle doesn’t get much range time. It never really has. This is in part due to the price of ammunition. Another part has to do with the fact that I never managed to get through a full magazine with a failure to feed malfunction. To Magnum Research’s credit, their customer service was phenomenal and they paid for me to ship it back to them so they could verify that the malfunctions weren’t due to a defect. Their findings concluded that it was either the ammunition I was using or my technique (or lack thereof). 

All of this begs the question, “Why keep it if it’s expensive to shoot and I can’t shoot it reliably?” The simple version of the answer is, it’s a cool gun and it brings about a lot of smiles. Almost every time this gun comes out of the safe is because a friend learns that I have one and expresses a long held desire of shooting one ever since they saw one in one movie or another. That nostalgia combined with a fun time shooting it is extremely gratifying and consistently yields ear to ear grins. 

The Desert Eagle isn’t exactly a frugal purchase. I don’t recall paying what the current asking street price of $1,700 to $2,200 for one of these, but that’s only the beginning as the MSRP can approach upwards of $3,500 for a multi-caliber combo kit or a one of the fancy titanium gold finished variants. One could also opt for a custom built Desert Eagle with enough bells and whistles to reach the $6,000 mark. Want extra magazines? Those start at $50 and go up to $130 a pop. 

What one gets with the purchase is going to depend on the package, but from what I recall with the purchase of a pistol one can at least expect:

  • The pistol itself,
  • A hard foam-padded case,
  • A manual,
  • An approved ammunition list,
  • A 5-in-1 universal cleaning tool,
  • And one magazine.

The massive 10.75” long (or 14.75” long for the 10” barrel variants), 6.25” tall, 1.25” wide, 71.4 ounce pistol is an engineering marvel to behold. 

Starting at the business end we have the barrel which is adorned with a dovetailed front sight followed by a Piccatiny like rail on the top and the cartridge stamp on the left side. The cartridge stamp on the one I picked up reads “44 MAG”, but Desert Eagles are also available in .50 Action Express, .357 Magnum, and the .429 Desert Eagle. Looking back on it now, I should have waited and picked up a .50 AE variant since that is the cartridge that is most often associated with the iconic Desert Eagle, but hindsight is like that and I didn’t know better. 

Surrounding the bottom half of the sides of the barrel begins the slide which features serrations on the side towards the back half of it. At the rear, the ambidextrous safety levers which I imagine are only reachable by folks gigantic hands using the firing hand thumb. On the top rear of the slide, we have a fixed dovetailed blacked-out rear sight. Some variants feature an adjustable rear sight. Behind the slide is the hammer.

Below all of that we have the frame which begins with the barrel lock pin on the left side and the barrel lock on the right side. Pressing in the pin while rotating the lock counterclockwise will “unlock” the barrel from the frame for pretty straight forward disassembly for routine cleaning. 

Under the barrel lock and pin we arrive at the front of the trigger guard which is smooth, but straight and contoured in a way that it can be used to place the support hand grip index finger. I’ve heard some folks may find using this grip technique to yield more reliable operation of the pistol. However, I suspect mileage will vary as using that grip did not improve operational reliability for me. 

Surrounded by the trigger guard is the trigger. The single action trigger is a curved hinged trigger with vertical serrations on the front of the shoe. The trigger pull is nice. It begins with about a ⅛” of pre-engagement travel before reaching the wall which breaks crisply with just about 4.75 lbs of pressure. The reset is very positive but a little long measuring right around ⅜” by my estimates.

Right behind the bottom rearmost end of the trigger guard is the button magazine release on the left side and it is not reversible. Not that it really matters because the grip is so large that most of us will have to either use the support hand or make significant grip adjustments to manipulate it anyway. North of that is slide catch, or release depending on one’s preferred nomenclature. Like the magazine release button, it requires either a long firing hand reach, use of the support hand, or dramatic grip adjustments to operate.

The rubber grip that wraps around the sides and the back for the frame provides very little grippiness, which is a shame since a grippy texture would probably lend itself to more folks being able to operate the pistol more reliably. Nevertheless, the rubber does provide a bit of recoil absorption which I suspect improves the enjoyment experienced from shooting this pistol. Just above the back of the grip we have an exaggerated beaver tail.  

Even though the occasional jam is frustrating and precludes this pistol from uses beyond collecting or recreational shooting, it really is a pleasure to shoot. I attribute this to its size, grip material, and operational design which do wonders to minimize the recoil that is transferred to and perceived by the shooter’s hands. Even the venerable .44 magnum, which is a handful, is tamed down so much that it can be enjoyed by most anyone who shoots it out of a Desert Eagle.

The pistol driven operation is quite interesting as well. It’s an operational design that is common amongst semi automatic rifles, but not pistols. In fact, I can’t recall another pistol that uses this form of operation. The locked barrel has a gas port that transfers gas from the spent cartridge to a piston that runs below the barrel and drives back the slide. That process unlocks the bolt which is reminiscent of something one would expect to see on an AR platform rifle. It really is neat to look at and fairly unique among handguns in the market.

If I had to pick a single word to summarize the Desert Eagle, then I would pick the word sublime. It is an imposing weapon that is spectacular to hold and shoot. It’s not something I would suggest to anyone looking for defensive, competitive, nor hunting applications, but wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to someone who is looking for something nifty to add to a collection that is an iconic conversation starter.

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