Brass Tacks: The Magnum Research Desert Eagle

The Deagle Desert Eagle round throws the flame.

When you think of “big” handguns, it’s hard not to mention the Magnum Research Desert Eagle. I’ve been tinkering with one, and here’s the net-net.

Deagle Desert Eagle

While available in other calibers, the Magnum Research Desert Eagle really hits its stride with the .50.


The Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic pistol that operates more like a rifle. The barrel is fixed – it doesn’t move during recoil. This allows the “Deagle” to have a top rail over the barrel. There is a slide that contains a rotating bolt system sort of like those on AR series rifles. Also, like those, the system is gas-operated. All of this manages the power of the 50 AE round and creates a workable semi-automatic design.

Desert Eagle .50 AE

A couple of 50 Auto Express cartridges next to 9mm cases for scale.

The Hornady Custom 50AE cartridges are enormous, almost 1.6 inches tall. It would leave a mark if someone threw one at you. Due to cartridge size, the single-stack magazine only holds seven rounds. The ambidextrous safeties allow you to safely carry one in the chamber for a total capacity of eight.


So What?

This pistol falls squarely into the category of… why not? Some people like sports cars, others trucks, others still those ones that ride low and bounce. It’s the same with handguns I suppose.

Deagle Desert Eagle .50 AE

The Desert Eagle 50 uses a seven-round, single-stack magazine. I used the red dot for accuracy testing.

The Desert Eagle is all about big. I have size large hands and it’s hard for me to get a proper grip. I can reach the trigger with ease, but let’s just say there’s lots of exposed grip on the support side. Flipping the frame-mounted safety up to fire is doable with the firing hand, but it’s a stretch. When you do reach the safeties, they feel heavy and industrial, consistent with the overall “big” everything theme.

Deagle Desert Eagle .50 AE

Look familiar? The Desert Eagle is gas operated and used a rotating bolt like modern sporting rifles.

As for power, it’s not the most powerful handgun when compared to calibers like 500 S&W and 460 S&W Magnum. It’s in the same ballpark as 475 Linebaugh with just shy of 1,500 foot-pounds. That’s more than a standard 5.56mm round but less than the 2,800 of a .30-06 rifle.

50AE Auto Express Desert Eagle Round

This Desert Eagle round might not be the most powerful handgun cartridge available, but it’s certainly no varmint round.


.50AE Desert Eagle Round

Deagle bullets in .50 AE next to 9mm casings for comparison.

How does it feel to shoot? The picture here tells a thousand words, but let’s just say it’ll wake you up in the morning! It didn’t inflict real pain with every shot, but after shooting some groups my hands were somewhat red from the repeated recoil. If you hold on tight, it’s still gonna muzzle flip, but not uncontrollably so. As for dual-wielding with one in each hand like the movies?

Umm, no.

Desert Eagle Deagle

Yes, that’s real. Magnum Research Desert Eagle + Hornady Custom XTP 50 AE. This sort of display is one of the reasons the Deagle is so popular in movies and games.


Desert Eagle 50ae magazine

This article originally ran in May of 2018. 



Tom McHale is a committed learning junkie always seeking a new subject victim. As a lifelong student of whatever grabs his attention on any particular day, he thrives on beating rabbit trails into submission. In between his time as a high-tech marketing executive, restaurant owner, and hamster cosmetology practitioner, he’s published seven books and nearly 1,500 articles about guns, shooting, and the American way.

  • Pingback: Brass Tacks: The Magnum Research Desert Eagle – Ammo Agent()

  • Pingback: Brass Tacks: The Magnum Research Desert Eagle | My Gun Culture()

  • BonesJones Gunny

    Hot Rod Caliber, Hot Rod Pistol 👍

    • JJJingleheimerSchmidt

      A real lead sled…lol

  • supergun

    Only in America can you order such a gun online and own it. Long Live the 2nd Amendment. We shall remain Free with it and will become slaves without it.

    • will

      Well say your prayers tonight as his announcement is at 10am. Build a wall and take the 200 billion saved for mental health and drug treatment. A simple solution that the left will never allow. Mentally ill people are wanted by the dems on the streets not in institutions. They are a integral part of the lefts war on Americans. They need them killing in order to support of repealing the 2nd. I am praying this is all about rebuilding the mental health system. A system that has been systematically shut down since the 60’s. Thank LBJ for Vietnam. Send the 60,000 (2017) rapist and murderers currently in our prisons back to their countries and fill American prisons with American criminals. The rule of law now protects aliens but not citizens.

      • supergun

        People have been killing each other since Adam and Eve.

      • B.J. McCord

        Extremely well said, Will, and Very True.

  • James Guidry

    I had a Model XIX for awhile. After two trips back to the factory for FTF issues, I traded it off. Yeah, it’s a big gun and fit well in my XL paw. When it was running right, it was fun, but definitely not ‘practical’ by any stretch. I had my “fun” with it and moved on…

  • 11C1P

    LOL – “The ambidextrous safeties allow you to safely carry one in the chamber for a total capacity of eight.” So a non ambidextrous safety means you wouldn’t be able to carry w/ one in the chamber? Psst. I EDC a Glock w/ NO external safety. Relying on a safety to keep you “safe” is just ignorant. Where do they find the people who right this crap?

    • Paul Durry

      I scratched my head on that also. The safety has nothing to do with capacity….