Magnum Research Desert Eagle

By Mike Schoby

Gun geeks love gathering esoteric bits of firearm film trivia to one-up each other with their encyclopedic (read in, never been with a woman) knowledge. They will discuss at length: the period correctness of the Remington Model 8 Kevin Costner sported while lighting up Bonnie and Clyde’s 1934 Ford in The Highwaymen. The accurate sound of clips being ejected from M1 Garands during the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Thomas Magnum’s 1911 chambered in 9mm not .45 or Sonny Crockett’s unique choice of Detonics and Bren Ten handguns.

But when asked, “Not considering Glock, what is the most common firearm used in film of all time?” They often scratch their collective heads. Colt Single Action Army might have been a fair choice in the 1950’s when Westerns were all the rage, or Thompson submachine guns during our country’s collective fascination with gangster films. A case could be made for the M16 and 1911–as both span generations and numerous cinematic conflicts. But I would suggest the most seen firearm of all time on the silver screen is also one of most esoteric and rare in real-world use: the Magnum Research Inc. Desert Eagle.

The Desert Eagle (in various iterations) has appeared in over 300 films, and television shows since the mid-80’s. Yeah, some were crap, such as Bulletproof Monk, Hell Comes to Frogtown, or the top of the dung heap—Barb Wire where Pamela Anderson sports a Desert Eagle in each hand, collectively weighing more than her breasts.

But there were lots and lots of great movies, too. Arnold (the only man appropriately-sized for a DE) has an affinity for them and uses one in Commando, Last Action Hero, and Eraser, (and they also appear in the Predator and Terminator franchises). Desert Eagles have been seen in such classics as Snatch, Point Break, Boondock Saints, and Natural Born Killers. The huge handgun even transcends to the comedic in Austin Powers, Borat, and Ali G.

So why are the movie bona fides important? Because, I believe collecting firearms based on film is a honorable endeavor. If it is acceptable to collect guns from the Civil War, WW2, and the American West, then I would argue that guns of cinema should be an equally revered collectable category. As I like to say, if it is good enough for Burt Gummer to keep in his arsenal in Tremors, it is good enough for me. So, if you don’t own a Desert Eagle, based on film fanfare alone, you should.

But play with a Desert Eagle and you will learn it is more than a pretty face with an IMDB profile. At first glance it is huge, tipping the scales at four and a half pounds—rivaling the weight of some ultralight rifles. And of course, it is powerful. It is one the few semi-autos to be chambered in such behemoths as .44 Magnum, .50 Action Express and .429 DE, not to mention wimpy calibers such as .357 Magnum. Of all the calibers offered over the years, the .50 AE is the most associated with the platform. Ammo can be had from several manufacturers including Hornady and Buffalo Bore with most loadings producing around 1,500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy or about 50% more than a standard .44 Magnum.

The design is likewise unique. It is a gas-operated closed rotating bolt, which few semi-auto handguns can claim. It also features easy caliber interchangeability. Since the .44 Magnum and .50 AE share the same rim diameter, all that’s required is a barrel and magazine. For calibers like the .357 a new bolt is also required. Desert Eagles are extremely accurate, due to the locking nature of the bolt, the optic directly mounting to the barrel, and the barrel construction itself. They are polygonal rifled, which looks vastly different from standard lands and grooves but has several advantages, such as less bullet deformation, longer barrel life, and easier cleaning.

Leaning into the bling nature of DE customers wanting to make a statement, the company has taken notice and offers more customizable options than any other manufacturer to my knowledge. I think there is something like four million different configurations possible. But the best part is you can design it yourself. Hop onto the site and pick the model, caliber, color of frame, barrel, grips, sights, and accents to see in real time what it would look like.

I spent several hours with my six-year-old daughter doing just this. She loved it and we designed several versions including: a My Little Pony color scheme, one model she dubbed the Rainbow Unicorn, and one that matched her favorite cat. We finally settled on a configuration heavy on the gold accents that I privately call the Cartel Kingpin—her kindergarten teacher doesn’t need to explain to her class the finer points of narco trafficking, so she and I refer to it as the Golden Smurf.

Shooting the Golden Smurf has been impressive. I ordered it with two barrels; one .50 AE and one .44 Magnum and two grips—one walnut and one rubber, both Hogue. Both calibers are very accurate, and reliable as long as you know how to shoot a DE. Due to the nature of the gas-operated mechanism it needs a firm hold and stiff stance to cycle effectively. You will know when you do it wrong, as the hot empty case will generally hit you smack in the middle of the forehead. Apply a bit more forward pressure (and possibly swap to the rubber grips) and the case will clear just over your right shoulder.

In short, do you need a Desert Eagle? Probably not. Should you own one? Absolutely. Of your collection it will be the most discussed, admired, and fondled by your friends. Just don’t be surprised if they start referring to you as Gummer.

Pros – Extremely accurate, extremely powerful, extremely awesome

Cons—Hard to appendix carry

From the FE Films Archive

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