Letter Re: Magnum Research

Pat Cascio product review on the Magnum Research 1911C generated an interesting conversation with a SurvivalBlog reader:

There are a plethora of 1911s on the market, many of them suitable for combat. If I am going to own a gun from Magnum Research, it would have to be a Desert Eagle. – B.P.

o o o


I have owned a Desert Eagle in .50AE. It wasn’t one of the plated weapons but just a plain parkerized version. I will have to admit that the “fun” factor was second to none on that handgun. However, the reality is that it was the most impractical hand gun I have ever owned. I eventually sold it as fodder to standardize the weapons and calibers that I had.

My complaints with the Desert Eagle are many, but include:

  1. It has a rotary bolt. The torque of the bolt unlocking meant that there was significant rotation of the weapon in your hand. The more rotation you allowed through your grip, the more energy was absorbed in the recoil and resulted in less reliable slide lock-up. I’m not a small guy (220 pounds), and I couldn’t reliably fire it one-handed. One-handed drills resulted in about a 50% failure rate. I experienced either incomplete return to battery, extraction failures, or failure to strip a new round from the magazine. (These problems occurred even with off-the-shelf IMI gold/black box ammo.)
  2. The safety level has the worst design… EVER! The thumb-activated safety (not a decocking lever) was a slide mounted, push forward design. This meant that to carry it for combat, you have to carry it in condition one. Drawing, safety-off, and firing was not a smooth progression, as it is for 1911 types. You had to deliberately push the safety forward and get your thumb out of the way before firing, which is not a natural action, I assure you. The extended nature of the safety (due to the size of the slide) meant that if you accidentally fired the weapon before consciously removing your thumb, you were going to lose part of your hand (as the safety would grab your thumb, and the slide would then rip your thumb backward). If your hand is big enough, you get sore. If you have a small hand, you get damage to your thumb and webbing of the hand. In both cases, the gun rips itself out of your grip and falls to the floor. (Hopefully, it has a failure to return to battery at this point.) The only way around this was to carry in condition three. There were so many sharp edges on the model I had, you would rip your hands apart trying to do an Israeli draw with it. The sharp edges could probably be remedied, but I was reluctant to add to the already ridiculously high cost.
  3. The thing was massive and tiring to shoot and hold. A large thigh holster is the only reasonable way to carry it.
  4. While take-down was simple and easy, cleaning was not. Also, the powders used in commercial ammo tended to be shotgun powders and burned extremely dirty. Due to the gas-operated design, powder residue is all through the weapon. Plan on an hour or two of cleaning it after shooting.
  5. .50AE might as well be a custom caliber. It’s expensive to purchase new and expensive to reload. Brass is relatively rare and pricey. The rebated rim means no usage in a Dillon RL650 or similar progressive with auto case feeder. $2.00/pop is a bit much for plinking. (Can you really call a .50 plinking?)

Those negatives aside, there is no replacement for the fun factor. I hate indoor shooting ranges, but I used to take my boys to one with this pistol, just for the fun factor. You could line up on the firing line with the other shooters. (The ones that have dividers between them are the best.) You could pretty much tell what the other shooters were shooting. The “pops” were the 9mm. The “booms” were the .45s. The “Bangs” were things like .40S&W or .357sig. You get set up and pull the trigger. My Desert Eagle made a “KA-BOOM!!” with a 5-foot flame. Suddenly, the range falls quite. You’re not sure if there is no other shooting or if you just damaged your hearing, because even double hearing protection (foam plugs and ear muffs) is woefully inadequate. “KA-BOOM!!!” again. Now, lean back in your shooting area to see around the divider, and every eye in the place will be looking at you 🙂 Like I said, the fun factor is off the charts.

I had my fun. Sold it. Now, I wouldn’t go back there. Good memories are enough for me. 🙂 – Hugh

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Yes, I have to agree with you (Hugh) on pretty much all counts. I prefer the DE in 44 mag, as too many broken bones in my hands preclude anything more powerful these days.

The DE is not an effective combat gun. I would never want to tote one on patrol. That said, it could make a suitable platform for handgun hunting, especially with the extended barrel length. In speaking to like-minded engineer types (also big shooters), one could compensate for torque by porting the barrel to counter the twist, with moderately good results and decreased FTF problems.

The fun factor is definitely the primary reason to have/shoot one of these cannons, but it is a niche gun, expensive, and the only production semi-auto I know that truly shoots magnum power. I do not have one in my arsenal because, like you, I have standardized most of what I own (although I can’t seem to let go of my Super Redhawk). Up here in Big Bear country (Alaska), I feel more at ease having a six gun in a chest rig over my waders loaded with “Buffalo Bore” 340 grain flat tops pushing 1,400 fps. That’s still wimpy when facing a big grizzly, but better than throwing rocks or swatting at it with my fly pole. LOL.

Otherwise, I carry one of my Glocks in either 45 or 40 S&W. I got the 45 because I am from the old school on stopping power, wanted something more than seven rounds to a magazine, and the Glock sits in my hand better than a 1911 frame. I have two of the 40 S&W because that is what LE carries around here, and if I need to scrounge or scavenge that is the best bet for re-equipping, should things go very bad, and the wife can grasp that grip better than the 45. I could afford to have both. Plus I scored a Kel Tech Sub 2000 that uses the same mags as the model 22 Glocks, so it makes an interesting tuck away platform for me. I would prefer my AR 15 or better still my AR 10, but as a civilian neither are as portable or convenient. – B.P.

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