Desert Eagle (Chambered for .50 AE) Review

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on November 3, 2008 at 12:23 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Gun and Accessory Reviews > Desert Eagle (Chambered for .50 AE) Review

My review of the Desert Eagle pistol, chambered for .50 Action Express (.50 AE) is below:

Basics
The Desert Eagle is one of the larger, heavier, and more powerful handguns available.  The Desert Eagle’s barrel length options are 6″ or 10″, and the overall length is between 10.6″ and 14.75″.  Depending upon barrel length and caliber, the Desert Eagle weighs in between 3.9 lbs and 4.4 lbs.  It’s action is gas operated, which is rare for a pistol, but allows for the use of relatively powerful cartridges that would not work well with a short recoil or blowback type of action.  Magazine capacity varies between 7 and 9 rounds, depending upon caliber.  The distinctive look, large size, and powerful cartridges makes the Desert Eagle popular in movies and the benchmark for a powerful handgun.

Cartridges
The Desert Eagle comes chambered for .50 Action Express, .44 Magnum, .440 Cor-Bon, .41 Magnum, or .357 Magnum.  Of these, the .50 AE is seen as the quintessential cartridge for the Desert Eagle.  Driving a 325 grain bullet to to about 1300 feet per second, the .50 AE packs over 1200 foot pounds of energy (about 4 times that of a 9mm round).  Recoil from the .50 AE is therefore quite substantial for a handgun, despite the fact that the Desert Eagle’s gas action helps reduce felt recoil somewhat.  .50 AE rounds cost about $2 each.

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Build Quality
The Desert Eagle feels solid, and is the heaviest handgun I’ve held.  It is a well put together pistol, as I would expect given its relatively high price tag.  The action is smooth, and more like that of a gas operated shotgun than an ordinary pistol, which I like.  A variety of finishes are available, including nickel, black, black chrome, and titanium gold.

Effectiveness for Self Defense
The Desert Eagle is a large pistol that holds relatively few rounds and recoils severely.  The sharp recoil can cause the less-experienced user to flinch, which adversely affects accuracy.  Follow-up shots may be slower and less accurate as well, due to the recoil.  Furthermore, the relatively low magazine capacity could leave the user a few bullets short in a life or death situation.  While any one hit from the Desert Eagle’s .50 AE cartridge would be very effective, the overall effectiveness for self defense is lower than for most ordinary pistols.  Those looking for a self defense gun would do well to consider a gun that has less recoil and a larger magazine capacity.

Conclusion
Those who want one of the largest and most powerful pistols will love the Desert Eagle, especially those chambered for .50 Action Express.  However the recoil is strong, the magazine capacity is relatively low for semiautomatic pistol, and the gun is rather large & heavy.  Ammunition is also on the expensive side.  The Desert Eagle is not a gun I would want to carry around or to use for home defense, but it is a fun gun to own and shoot, and rounds out a pistol collection quite nicely.

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  • Dudejo

    is it true that holding the wrong posture while firing can lead to malfunctions?

    that's another thing to consider in self-defense scenarios.

    if i understand the review right, this is a basically a shooting competition pistol?

    • Matt

      The problem you're refering to is called limp wristing and it's a result of the shooter's hands and arms not providing enough resistance when a weapon recoils. This can happen with virtually any semiautonatic pistol, although some are more prone to it than others. It can be a problem for inexperienced shooters and people with little upper body strength. Ensuring that a weapon is properly lubricated can help prevent this type of malfunction.
      Your comment on self defense was a good point and anyone planning to use a pistol for self defense should practice firing it with their weak hand and from awkward positions.
      I don't know whether the Desert Eagle is particularly prone to limp wristing but the main reason it isn't commonly used as a defensive weapon is because of its weight and bulk (it's about three times heavier than a Glock 17). It's generally used as a recreation or hunting gun, most competition shooters wouldn't use it because of it's heavy recoil and the price of the ammunition it uses.

      • Dudejo

        could it also cause problems if the shooter is mostly used to revolvers? another review i've seen was saying that shooting the Desert Eagle the same way you shoot a large caliber revolver would lead to problems.

        so it's not even recommended for competition shooting? even in the lighter .357?

        and is the Desert Eagle really solid enough for outdoors abuse?

        because from what i've learned about this gun, if it was a car, it'd be a sports car. not especially useful but pretty flashy.

        • Matt

          A shooter who is able to control a large caliber revolver should be able to manage a Desert Eagle in the same or equivalent caliber as long as they are able to truly control the former as opposed to just not dropping it. The only problem I can think of would be if the shooter's thumbs were interfering with the slide since that isn't an issue with revolvers.
          Technically it could be used for competition shooting but that is generally done with either practical sidearms, such as Glocks and 1911s, or pistols designed or modified to give maximum accuracy and minimum recoil.
          Given it's tank-like construction, I imagine the Desert Eagle could cope with rough treatment and I have heard of people hunting with them.
          Your point about it being like a sports car is accurate, although I'd have compared it to a Hummer.

          • Dudejo

            Hummer…yeah, that works too.

            thanks for the info, good to see the weapon isn't just a Hollywood muscle gun.

  • Mike

    I own an Eagle in 50AE and I have to say that the above comments are pretty accurate (definitely the hummer 😉 ). The gun is the least forgiving of nearly all semi auto pistols when it comes to limp-wrist problems as nearly any error in form will typically result in either the gun failing to feed properly, or causing an ejected cartridge to hit you squarely in the forehead. The long barrel and high quality riffling makes the pistol very accurate – even for first time shooters but the afore mentioned problem will make that all important second shot problematic at best. The recoil of the pistol is equitable to a 44mag shot from a revolver – it’s stout but manageable. The pistol itself is of the highest quality and these problems can be resolved with a little range time.

    • Lloyd

      I want one.

  • Mike

    On the bullet: The biggest reason to not use this gun as a primary self-defense choice is due to the sheer power of the rounds it fires. A 50AE round over-penetrates severely for a human sized target and is better used for defeating civilian body armor (LVL-3) and vehicle skin, target shooting, and hunting applications. If you do use this for defense, take strong consideration of what is behind your target.

    All things considered, I love my desert eagle, but pick something more sensible for self-defense. It is however an acceptable bear defense gun (black bear size) but not the best choice due the gas operated system’s susceptibility to clogging from FOD.