Almost every review of the Magnum Research Desert Eagle will start with something like, “The Desert Eagle is probably one of the most iconic semi-auto firearms in cinematic history and has probably sold more units to the film prop industry than to actual shooters…” and then blather on and on for paragraphs. Yeah, no kidding. My 14-year old could tell me what gun I had picked up from my FFL dealer just because I told him it was gold. Of course it’s a firearm icon. Just look at the thing! It’s twice the size and three times the weight of almost any typical gun.
I will take a different editorial angle, which is to say that the Magnum Research Desert Eagle is the quintessential diva of the gun industry. It features “blank you and the horse you rode in on” ergonomics, size, and weight, which demands a significant amount of shooting compromises from the shooter to actually operate the gun. The unique gas piston driven semi-automatic action creates an XXXL-sized grip for the hands of giant Greek gods more than mere human hands. Combine the enormous hunting power of the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 AE chambered models with the stunning showy finish options, and you have a gun that has bling’tastically voided its only valid hunting purpose.
If those features and design barriers are not enough to dissuade you from ownership, maybe its scarcity will. On top of being a diva of a handgun, the Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX rarely even makes an appearance in gun stores. I can count on one hand the number of gun shops who have had more than two of these pistols in their case at any time, and even more rare is seeing any of the premium nickel, cerakote, stainless, 24K gold, and titanium gold models. Maybe you have been lucky to see a couple, but I can assure you that it is rare.
The .44 Magnum models are by far the most common, but if you happen to want one of the more rare .357 or .50 AE models, you get the opportunity to wait, and wait, and wait. In the last 10 years, I have only seen one .357 Desert Eagle XIX in a dealer case, and it was used in the standard black finish. In fact, Magnum Research was nice enough to contact me after nearly a year to let me know the it was unlikely my originally ordered Titanium Gold Tiger Stripe finish in .357 Magnum would be made in the foreseeable future and offered me the Titanium Gold version instead, but there was still another six month wait.
And let’s not forget the price tag, which is a ridiculously expensive custom price of nearly $2,100, which would buy you a set of three-four Glocks in almost any caliber including 10mm, seven of the new value price Kahr CT9 or CT45s, or a really nice set of insanely expensive H&K P30 pistols. Even the Desert Eagle magazines are not cheap at $45 apiece. Sure the quality of this precision masterpiece is stunning in the same way you would admire a fine timepiece, but it is not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. During the “OMG they are coming to take our guns!” panics of the last three to four years, Desert Eagles were actually going for up to twice their full MSRP price and they were selling.
The Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX delivers a practicality that defies any legitimate rationale for ownership other than a superstar cool factor that no other gun can match. If that is not the definition of a diva-esque gun, I don’t know what is. What else you could ask a shooter to put up with? Maybe chambering it in .45-70 and mounting spikes on the back of the grip and adding a note that the gun could only be shot a dozen times before it explodes?
It absolutely stuns me that Magnum Research has a constant backorder of a $2,100 handgun that barely anyone under 6′ 6″ can ergonomically operate. It requires two hands to securely shoot for almost all shooters, is one of the heaviest production handguns at 4.5lbs (excluding rifle caliber pistols) in existence, and it also fires rounds that on average deliver around 2-5 times the ft/lbs of energy of most typical defensive handgun cartridges. In the case of the .50 AE 1800 ft/lb energy round, this behemoth of a gun is punishing to shoot. There are loads of YouTube videos out there with shooter sledgehammering themselves in the forehead with the barrel due to the 50 AE’s recoil.
All these features and design attributes are illogically the reasons why everyone wants to own a Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX, and if you are to buy one, why not go all the freaking way with the premium finish models. The Desert Eagle is the epitome of gluttony and excess wrapped in a design that has little thought for shooter comfort, hand size, or ergonomics. It’s the gun that says “stop whining and man-up/girl-up and shoot.”
Beyond the “Tat is the coolest freaking pistol on earth!” justification, we all want this pistol because it is a very exclusive and rare pistol. After all, if everyone had them, they would not be that cool.