IMI Desert Eagle

The IMI Desert Eagle is a powerful Semi-automatic pistol designed by Israel Military Industries in Israel and redesigned by Magnum Research Inc, of the United States of America. It has become an icon of both films and video games the world over, with its triangular barrel and gaping muzzle. Over the past 25 years, MRI has been responsible for the design and development of the Desert Eagle pistol. The design was refined and the actual pistols were manufactured by Israel Military Industries until 1995, when MRI shifted the manufacturing contract to Saco Defense in Saco, Maine. In 1998, MRI moved manufacturing back to IMI, which later reorganized under the name Israel Weapon Industries. Both Saco and IMI/IWI were strictly contractors: all of the intellectual property, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, are the property of Magnum Research. Since 2009, the Desert Eagle Pistol has been produced in the United States at MRI's Pillager, MN facility. Kahr Arms acquired Magnum Research in the middle of 2010. The Desert Eagle has been featured in roughly 500 motion pictures and TV films, along with several video games, considerably increasing its popularity and boosting sales.

Magnum Research has marketed various versions of the short recoil Jericho 941 pistol under the Baby Eagle and Desert Eagle Pistol names; these have no functional relationship to the Desert Eagle and bear only a moderate cosmetic resemblance.

IMI Desert Eagle
Class Manportable
Type Handguns
Manufacturer Magnum Research
Origin Israel
Country Name Origin Year
Israel 1982
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Israel View
Poland View
Portugal View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Magnum Research 1982 View
Israel Military Industries 1982 View
General Dynamics 1982 View

The design for the Desert Eagle was initiated by Bernard C. White of Magnum Research, who filed a US patent application for a mechanism for a gas-actuated pistol in January 1983. This established the basic layout of the Desert Eagle. A second patent application was filed in December 1985, after the basic design had been refined by IMI (Israel Military Industries) for production, and this is the form that went into production.

The Desert Eagle uses a gas-operated mechanism normally found in rifles, as opposed to the short recoil or blow-back designs most commonly seen in semi-automatic pistols. When a round is fired, gases are ported out through a small hole in the barrel near the breech. These travel forward through a small tube under the barrel, to a cylinder near the front of the barrel. The separate bolt carrier/slide has a small piston on the front that fits into this cylinder; when the gases reach the cylinder they push the piston rearward. The bolt carrier rides rearward on two rails on either side of the barrel, operating the mechanism. Its rotating bolt strongly resembles that of the M16 series of rifles, while the fixed gas cylinder/moving piston resemble those of the Ruger Mini-14 carbine (the original patent used a captive piston similar to the M14 rifle).

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.

Switching a 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.

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 pistol is primarily used for hunting, target shooting, and silhouette shooting.

Type Semi-Automatic Pistol
Place of origin  Israel
Production history
Designer Magnum Research and Israel Military Industries
Designed 1979–1982
Manufacturer Magnum Research
Magnum Research
and Israel Weapon Industries
Israel Military Industries
Saco Defense
Produced 1982–present
Variants Mark I
Mark VII
Mark XIX
Weight Mark VII
1,766 g (3.9 lb) (.357 MAGNUM)
1,897 g (4.2 lb) (.44 MAGNUM)
Mark XIX
1,998.6 g (4.4 lb)
Length Mark VII
10.6 in (269.2 mm) (6in barrel)
Mark XIX
10.75 in (273.1 mm) (6in barrel)
14.75 in (374.6 mm) (10in barrel)
Barrel length 6 in (152.4 mm)
10 in (254.0 mm)
Cartridge .50 Action Express
.44 Magnum
.357 Magnum
.440 Cor-bon
.41 Magnum
.357/44 Bain & Davis (IMI prototype only)
Action Gas-operated, rotating bolt
Muzzle velocity 470 m/s(.50AE)
Maximum firing range 200 m
Feed system Detachable stick magazine; capacities:
9 rounds (.357)
8 rounds (.41 and .44)
7 rounds (.440 Cor-bon and .50 AE)
Sights Iron sights and optional optics

End notes