IMI Desert Eagle: Tank among the pistols

IMI Desert Eagle pistol
IMI Desert Eagle pistol (Photo: XY)

The Desert Eagle was designed by the American firm Magnum Research Inc. in a factory in Minneapolis and has been produced by former Israel Military Industries (today IMI Systems) since 1984. The standard model of Desert Eagle pistol is available in the calibers, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 AE (Action Express), and since 1998 also in .440 Cor-Bon.


The weapon has a gas-operated repeating system, initially developed for army rifles. There is a hole for releasing the gas in the bottom of the barrel, just after the chamber. This hole opens into a gas channel, which runs parallel to the weapon up to the muzzle. The channel curves away there and enters a cylinder via a gas block. There is a piston in this area.

The pistol locks with a rotating head with three lugs. These lugs engage in corresponding recesses around the chamber of the barrel. The first model in 1984 still had six bolt lugs. When a cartridge is fired in the chamber, the bullet takes a few milliseconds to shoot through the barrel. For this brief period, there is enormous pressure in the barrel. Some of this gas pressure enters the cylinder through the gas release hole. This causes a sharp blow against the piston in the cylinder area, and it is struck back against the bottom of the barrel block. This produces the backward movement of the slide.

IMI Desert Eagle pistol
Israeli Military Industries Desert Eagle pistol (Photo: XY)

As a result of this movement, the bolt rotates to disengage the bolt lugs. The slide containing the bolt can then move back. At the same time, the empty cartridge case is extracted from the magazine and ejected. As a result of the movement of the slide, the hammer is cocked again.

The two recoil springs are now almost entirely compressed, stopping the backward movement of the slide and bolt. As the recoil springs start to go back to their original position, the slide and the bolt are pushed forward, taking a new cartridge from the magazine. As soon as this is pushed into the chamber, the angled locking lugs come into contact with the recesses in the chamber.

The bolt’s head then turns through about one-eighth of rotation so that the slide and barrel are locked. The gun is now ready to fire a second shot. One disadvantage of the gas release hole is that it is impossible to use lead bullets. This material is too soft, and lead particles could block up in the hole.

Desert Eagle with fixed combat sight

The Desert Eagle comes standard with a fixed combat rear sight, but Millett makes an extraordinary micrometer sight for this pistol. In addition, Trijicon makes a three-dot tritium sight set. There is an ambidextrous safety catch at the back of the slide. This blocks the firing pin and disconnects the trigger bar. The trigger bar is the connection between the trigger and the sear. The Desert Eagle has a polygonal barrel profile.

IMI Desert Eagle with fixed combat sight
IMI Desert Eagle with fixed combat sight (Photo: XY)

Several interchangeable barrels are available for this weapon, with lengths of 152 or 254 mm. Up to 1999, IMI also made an extra-long barrel for Desert Eagle, 356 mm long. There is a rail to secure telescopic sights or other systems for all the barrel lengths. There are several finishes for The Desert Eagle: a matt black epoxy layer, a mat or polished nickel-plated finish, and a chrome or blued finish. Up to 1998, the Desert Eagle was also available with stainless steel or light metal frame. The pistol comes standard with an enclosing rubber grip, but a walnut stock is sold by Herrett’s.

Technical specifications

Technical specifications of the Desert Eagle depend on the caliber. The Desert Eagle in .357 Magnum caliber has a magazine capacity of 9 rounds. The total length is 269, 371, or 472 mm. The barrel length is 152, 254, or 356 mm; the height is 142 mm, and the width is 32 mm. The polygonal barrel has a thread of 355 mm. Depending on the material of the frame, the .357 Desert Eagle with a 152 mm barrel has the following weight: with a light metal frame, 1355 g, and with a steel or stainless steel frame, 1653 g.

Desert Eagle in .41 Magnum or .44 Magnum caliber, the pistol has a capacity of 8 rounds. The total length is 269, 371, or 472 mm. The barrel length is 152, 254, or 356 mm. The polygonal barrel has a twist of 457 mm. The height of the .41/.44 Magnum pistol with a 152 mm barrel is 1483 g with a light metal frame, and 1780 grams with a steel or stainless steel frame. The Desert Eagle in .50 AE has a magazine capacity of 7 rounds. The weapon is only available with a 152 mm polygonal barrel with a twist of 483 mm. The total length is 267 mm. The height is 149 mm, and the pistol weighs 2053 grams.

Manufacturer: IMI (Israel Military Industries) and Magnum Research Inc.
Type: gas-operated repeating system
Caliber:  .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .50 AE (Action Express), .440 Cor-Bon
Barrel: 6in (152mm), 10in (254mm) or 14in (356mm)
Weight: from 1653 to 2053 grams, depending on model
Magazine capacity: 9 rounds in .357 caliber (8 rounds in .41 or .44 Magnum caliber)



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