For the past 25 years, MRI USA has been responsible for the design and development of the pistol. Original Desert Eagle pistols were manufactured by IMI (Israel Military Industries, now Israel Weapons Industries) Israel and the design was refined all under contract of the inventors, designers, and owners of the rights MRI USA. Both Saco, IMI/IWI were strictly contractors.
The Desert Eagle is chambered for many different cartridges, the most common being .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 Action Express. A .41 Magnum was originally offered, but pulled from the market due to the .41 Magnum falling from favor among shooters. Custom shops also offer other chamberings, such as .440 Cor-Bon, .44 AutoMag, and others.
The latest iteration of the Desert Eagle, the "Mark XIX", is now made completely in America by Magnum Research. It features a M1913 rail on the barrel for the mounting of optics, more ergonomic and easily activated ambidextrous thumb safeties, and quick-change capabilities between calibers. Caliber conversion is possible by switching out the bolt assembly, barrel assembly, and the magazines. Conversion of the .50 Action Express to the .44 Magnum (and vice versa) do not require a bolt change; the rim diameter on both cartridges is the same, thus enabling the extractor to grab the cartridge.
The Desert Eagle is a gas-operated, semi-automatic, magazine fed pistol. It is unusual in the pistol world in that it is operated by means of a piston with a rotating bolt, similar to some modern gas-operated rifles.
As the bullet travels down the barrel, expanding propellant gasses pass through a small port drilled into the underside of the barrel near the muzzle. The gas travels through until it impinges on a small cup-shaped piston, which in turn drives the slide assembly to the rear. A cam pin on the bolt rotates the bolt out of its locking lug recesses in the barrel, and a spring-loaded extractor draws the empty cartridge from the chamber. A spring-loaded ejector in the bolt flips the empty brass almost vertically and out of the gun, and as the slide assembly reaches the end of its travel, the compressed dual recoil springs drive it back to the forward position, stripping a new round out of the magazine (if present), chambers the round, and rotates the bolt head back into alignment in its locking lug recesses, locking the breech.
The Desert Eagle features polygonal rifling and a fixed barrel, as well as a single-action trigger; the slide cocks the hammer during rearward travel.
Customizations to the Desert Eagle are just as popular as the gun itself. There are numerous customization possibilities, most popularly the gun's finish. There are variants from Matte black to Chrome finishes to Titanium gold, and even 24 karat gold plating. The Magnum research website includes a long list of upgrades to this pistol, including sights, barrel assemblies/caliber conversion units, new magazines, grips, holsters, etc. Thanks to its fixed headspace and interchangeability of parts, the Desert Eagle can mix and match parts of differing finish for a unique look. The only limiting factors for appearance are the imagination and bank account of the owner.
Appearances in Media
The Desert Eagle is a common weapon used in shooters, being featured in every modern day Call of Duty, Army of Two, Resident Evil, Battlefield, Grand Theft Auto, Rainbow Six, the main sidearm in Counter Strike and many others. It is also a very popular weapon used in film, given its power and imposing look.