Monday, March 23, 2009

The Desert Turkey

I'm really sick of seeing Desert Eagles in the movies, on TV, in video games, and in books. How many kids have wanted a 'Deagle' so they can pwn zombies or counter terrorists and look awesome doing it? I do not really want to know. It would depress the hell out of me.

The truth is the Desert Eagle is one of the LAST 'weapons' I would want to own for impending zombie hordes, civil unrest, home defense, every day carry, concealed carry, and/or nazis. It should be one of the last ones YOU want either!

The Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic gas operated pistol designed by Magnum Research. Its Wikipedia article is available if anyone is interested in specifics. It is designed to fire high caliber and magnum cartridges. It can be found in .357 Remington Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Remington Magnum, and .50 Action Express.

First off, most of these calibers are rimmed. The .357,.41, and .44 were all designed around use in a revolver rather than a semi-automatic. The protruding rims are not designed for use in a vertical magazine. They have done very well in horizontal magazines such as on lever action rifles. However, inside a vertical magazine there is the possibility for the rims to catch on one other, causing a rimlock jam. The .50 Action Express is rimless as most automatic cartridges.

The size of the cartridges causes another set of problems. The cartridges are all very long. At 33mm for the .357 and only slightly under that for the rest, these cartridges' cases are longer than a loaded 10mm auto or a .45 acp. Having been designed for use in a revolver's cylinder, length was not so much issue. However, in a grip magazine its longer than most people can comfortably can hold.

The next problem is ergonomic. All of these calibers of Desert Eagle are single stack magazines. The capacity is limited to single digits. A mere 7rds for the .50AE version. Despite this, the grips are still massive. They are as wide as many double stack automatics and considerably longer. Considering the problems folks with smaller hands have with Berettas and Glocks, the Desert Eagle is downright unfriendly. Next, the weight of a Desert Eagle is monstrous. At 4lbs 2.5 oz. its heavy enough to break open doors or crush small children. Well, at least its nearly as heavy as the classic m1-carbine! It weights 50% more than a classic steel framed 1911 and nearly double the weight of many modern alloy and polymer framed handguns.

Reliability is going to be a major issue. Care must be taken to select the proper ammunition if the rimmed cartridge versions are used. Revolvers can take just about any shape of bullet and fire reliably. Lead, semi-wadcutter, full metal jacket, jacketed soft point, hollow point or whatever will fit in the hole will work. Automatics are not so forgiving. They must smoothly slide from magazine into the chamber. Anything that might hang is a risk even in the best of autos. If that wasn't enough, the rounds must be powerful enough to engage the slide to go fully back. Revolvers never had to worry about this, so some .44 mag you find in some drawer might be a light load, when your Desert Eagle needs a full house load! The gas system is also unusual and will need watching. Its complex, and will need cleaning.

Cost is another issue that demands attention. The DE starts out at $1,300 USD for any model. Depending on options, it can escalate beyond $2,000. Wait, it gets worse! I think anyone wanting a combat pistol, needs to think about having at least 50rds in magazines and or speed loaders(including in side the pistol) rounding up. For the .357's 9rd mags thats 6 magazines. .41 and .44 mag get 8rd mags so 7. The .50 AE needs 8 magazines to be ready to go. CDNNInvestments has these magazines for any caliber marked for $38.99. We can deduct one from the count for the single magazine that would come with these monsters. $233.94, $272.93, and $311.92 plus shipping! And ammunition? Good lord.

For a minimum of 100rds of quality defensive ammunition we hit up AmmoEngine. For the .50 AE its Hornady HPs, for $1.26 at shot. So $126.00 for quality ammo. Well how about for training? $1.25 per round.

The .44 magnum is much more reasonable. Its only 56 cents per round for the cheap Jacketed Hollow Point. If it works out for you. If you want better like the Speer Gold Dot, expect around $25 a box of 20. For training its FMJ, its .56 cents a round again from Magtech.

The .41 magnum doesn't have a big following, nor do I think they actually make the DE in this caliber anymore, but its still out there. Winchester silvertips will run you $1.14 per shot. Making the 100rds rounds of HPs pricey. The cheapest load for plinking with this semi-auto might be another JHP from Ammo direct for only 63 cents a round.

.357 magnum really has the advantage here. Its less expensive than the others as its wildly used still for self-defense. At a mere .38 cents per round of training ammo its much cheaper to shoot more. Quality defensive rounds are less than double that per round. And theres a lot to choose from! Sadly, the DE cannot take .38special like a .357 revolver can.

The Desert Eagle is not a military weapon, its a big loud TOY. It has a niche in sport shooting, and some utility in hunting. If you want a powerful fighting handgun, either go with a tradition double action revolver or a semi-automatic in one of the more common higher powered automatic calibers such as 10mm auto or .45 super.

The .357 version would be the 'best' choice the shortbus group due to its larger magazine size and the commonness of .357mag. But is it worth it? Why not spend less on the gun, and more on the ammunition and equipment? Why not a nice revolver? Like the 8shot Smith & Wesson 627 line! The subject of my next post.

Edit: I think Turkey is a better word than sparrow.


alan said...

I used to have a DE in .357 back in the 80's.

It was fun to shoot, but the ergonomics sucked and frankly a good S&W .357 was a better gun.

Traded it for something, don't remember. No loss.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to try a Revolver but when I used my DE they all fell apart from fear:-)