If size is your only criterion for what makes a great handgun, the Desert Eagle pistols from Magnum Research will rank at the top. These guns are large and chambered in powerful cartridges. Current production pistols are chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and the daddy of them all is the .50 AE. One out of production variation of the Desert Eagle was chambered in .41 Magnum.
Desert Eagle pistols come with either a 6-inch barrel or a 10-inch barrel. You can also get the 6-inch model with a muzzle brake. However, adding the muzzle brake makes the pistol weigh nearly five pounds, before loading with ammo.
Unlike most other pistols, the Desert Eagle is gas operated instead of recoil or blowback operated. The patented system uses elements that would appear familiar to shooters with knowledge of the AR-15 and Mini-14 platforms.
Ergonomics and Recoil
You will find that for its size, the ergonomics of the Desert Eagle are pretty nice. The gun is big and heavy, so it is well suited for those who have larger hands and good upper body strength. The recoil is surprisingly mild when compared to other handguns chambered for the same rounds. This is largely due to the mass of the gun and the gas operating system.
Trigger and Accuracy
Shooters will find the accuracy with the Desert Eagle is pretty good. You can also add scopes for precision shooting and hunting to the current production of Desert Eagle pistols. With the right load and a good scope, these guns are very accurate.
Reloading and Disassembly
Reloading is accomplished by pressing a release button, allowing the magazine to drop from the grip and then inserting a new magazine into the frame.
Disassembly is a little more complex than on other modern pistols, but not very difficult. After you ensure the gun is empty, you will push in on a pin located on the left side of the frame. Simultaneously, you push down on the barrel lock, which is located on the right side of the frame. You can then slide the barrel forward and up, out of the slide. Once you remove the barrel, you can remove the slide, piston and recoil spring assembly by pushing them forward and off of the frame.
Reliability and Durability
Generally, the Magnum Research Desert Eagle is considered reliable and durable. However, you may find that gas systems can be more finicky than recoil operated systems. You must use care when selecting the correct ammunition for these pistols. Most .50 AE ammo should work without problem in the Desert Eagle. The .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum cartridges are typically designed for use in revolvers, so you may need to experiment some in order to find the right load for the your personal needs.
You will find that there are few guns that compare to the Desert Eagle in the terms of size or sheer fun. However, as a practical gun for self-defense, it does fall short. The overall worth of these guns is largely dependent on what you plan to use it for. For hunting or sport, they will likely please, but with a large price tag.