Monday, September 29, 2014

Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mark XIX Titanium Gold .357 Magnum Pistol Review

Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mark XIX Titanium Gold .357 Magnum Pistol Review

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 which started and has maintained cult status since its introduction and probably sold more units to the film prop industry than to actual shooters… and then blather on and on for paragraphs. Yeah no kidding. What a stunningly obvious revelation which any twelve year old movie and TV watcher could make. 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 its an firearm icon, I mean look at the damn thing; its twice the size and three times the weight of almost any typical gun.

I will take a different editorial angle rarely noted on this beast of a gun which is that the Magnum Research Desert Eagle is the quintessential Diva of the gun industry.  It features “f**k 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 created a physically sized XXXL grip sized firearm 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 which 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 divo 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, however 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.

Of course let's not forget the price tag which is a retardedly expensive custom price of nearly $2100; a price 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 a piece. Sure the quality of this precision masterpiece is stunning, in the same way you would admire a fine timepiece, however it is not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. During the OMG they are coming to take our guns times of the last three to four years, Desert Eagles were actually going for up to twice thier full MSRP price and they were selling.

The Magnum Research Desert Eagle XIX delivers a practicality which defies any legitimate rationale for ownership other than a superstar cool factor which no other gun can match. If that is not the definition of a diva'esk gun, I really do not know what else you could ask a shooter to overcome with the exception of 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$2100 handgun which barely anyone under 6' 6' can ergonomically operate, 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 fires rounds which 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 still 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 all 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 up in a Diva’esk design which had little forethought to shooter comfort, hand size or ergonomics. Its the gun that says "stop whining and man-up/girl-up and shoot".

Beyond the "that is the coolest f**king 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.

From an exclusivity perspective, Not everyone has a Desert Eagle and those that do likely will have it chambered in .44 Magnum and not .50 AE and fewer own the .357 Magnum versions, and even fewer a premium finish model. Some folks may even have the optional 8" or 10" barrels. 

Desert Eagle XIX vs Walther PPQ
Owning this pistol makes the same statement as a $10,000 watch with an oversized 2” bezel just to see what time it is, signing your grocery receipt with a $2000 limited edition Montblanc fountain pen, or owning a $125K Porsche so you have something to get back and forth to golf. The Desert Eagle makes the simultaneous statement that I am sophisticated enough to appreciate the art of design and style while still being a rich Gangsta Mother Shucker. The gun defies logic and is owned by people who would walk up and press a strange out of place lighted button on the wall that says “press me for a surprise”.

I of course ordered mine in a very showy Titanium Gold in my favorite caliber of .357 Magnum before the 2013 Shot Show.  Even living the life of privilege as an industry writer with a decent amount of street credibility editorially, I still waited about two years for my order to be filled for this polished Titanium Gold .357 Magnum Desert Eagle model simply because they were that backordered. It had been so long that I had actually given up that I would ever actually get one... but then came the txt from my FFL dealer

Even as someone who has not yet taken possession of the “iconic” Desert Eagle XIX, you still take a lot of crap. My FFL dealer/friend texted me and said:
FFL Dealer - “Your giant gold plated substitution of a penis had arrived”.
Me - “I didn’t know they had to transfer it via FFL, must be a Magnum Caliber from Magnum Research.”

I literally dropped everything I was doing and was at his store in under 15 minutes.
Stunningly I had no idea that the gun had shipped. After dropping a gun porn picture of my new Desert Eagle XIX .357 in Titanium Gold on social media, comments rained into my email: “Really...really?”, “Did Adrian Peterson have a sale?”, “Ahh.. did you beat up a drug kingpin… again?”, “Which setting will you use for home defense, Safe or Vaporize?”, “New CCW gun?”, and in a recent discussion with a few industry gun writers while visiting Timney, one noted that "he had lost all respect for me" and another said "...and yet you are the guy who loathes 300 Blackout". Foghorn from The Truth About Guns was the only writer who giggled and blurted out "Cool".

Every comment was followed by a “When are we going to go shoot it?” You do make friends fast simply because everyone wants to shoot a Desert Eagle… everyone. Even my overly skeptical wife said the gun was insanely badass and can’t wait to shoot it. She did get a little annoyed when I joked that I had bought a matched set.

Although the Desert Eagle XIX is a diva'esk playboy's fun gun, it has all the capabilities to put rounds on target with accuracy most handguns lust for and with truly unique levels of Magnum firepower. There are more than a few serious handgun hunters using scoped Desert Eagles to take some really big game. I am thinking mine needs either a red dot or reflex sight mounted up on that Picatinny rail.

For those with chiropractic fetishes, the Desert Eagle can be carried as a CCW gun, but not in the same ways as a Typical handgun.  Crossbreed holsters does offer a CCW Super Tuck Deluxe, however it was offered originally as a joke. Insiders say they have sold more than a few. The pistol fits perfectly in my CCW 511 Moab Rush and Drago Ipad Sentry packs as a legit CCW carry gun. Yeah it weighs 5 lbs loaded, but you can actually get some use out of the gun if you really feel the need. My luck will be that the one time I will need a defensive handgun, I will be on national news because I defended myself with a 5lb golden auto-loading .357 Magnum handgun. So I guess we can add the inconveniences of owning a Desert Eagle XIX is that it also not the easiest gun to carry without the use of luggage.

The pice may scare some, however the reality is that the Desert Eagle is essentially a custom pistol. On top of the required manufacturing sophistication the premium finishs and stainless models are literally only made when there enough orders in the system to justify the batch plating and finishing process. With all the variations of calibers, finishes, and barrel lengths, there are not 10s of thousands of each individual configuration out there in the market probably more like 500-1000. From my perspective the pistol is legitimately a semi-custom museum piece for my collection which I can still shoot. The fit and finish is stunning premium grade. Each gun and barrel's gas system is hand tuned and test fired before it leaves Magnum Research. My only significant complaint it that after spending $2100 on a pistol, it really should come with more than one magazine - I mean, come on, how am I supposed to work on my speed loads with a 5lb gun which is too big for my hands that I can't even reach the mag release without using my support hand.

It is a big gun, however the ergonomics are a little too supersized for my hands. I can barely reach the not particularly light to switch safety with my thumb, however that safety disengagement maneuver is not what I would term as a tactically sound. The magazine release is basically the same situation, but impossible for me to reach unless I jog my primary hand halfway around the grip. That said I really don't care. This is a gun which puts smiles on faces at the range or on the hunt where all the above maneuvers are not particularly time critical.

Feature wise, the Desert Eagle is one of the most unique pistols on the planet with more going on than what most people know about. Most know that the Desert Eagle has a brutally tough rotating bolt lug design nearly identical to the AR15 platform, but there is so much more. Though its a Diva, its a complex Diva.

Did you know it is the first production gas powered pistol driven pistol? Yep, once a round is fired a gas port at the start of the rifling blows gas pressure down to the muzzle end of the frame where the barrel attached piston is blown back to cycle the action.

Originally, I had been mis-informed that the Desert Eagle had an adjustable gas system - Sorry to mis-inform, however MRI noted the correction and I have updated the article.

Are you surprised to learn that the Desert Eagle XIX features the fastest barrel changing system on the market? The Desert Eagle XIX are designed to allow the shooter to swap optional barrels nearly instantly from a 6" to an 8" to a 10' and back again. Have a gun fashion crisis which requires that all gold pistol be toned down with a black barrel or that deer just trotted out of your 6" barrel's effective iron sight range and need your 10" barrel with the scope? No problem. Hit the takedown button on the left side of the frame and flip down the barrel release switch and lift off the barrel and drop in the other barrel, flip the switch, charge and shoot. Of all the non-ergonomic attributes of this pistol aside, this barrel swap feature is slick as hell and crazy fast. A caliber change from .44 Magnum to .50 AE is just a barrel and mag swap away in less than seconds.

Caliber Interchangeability is also a feature of the Desert Eagle. The 50AE cartridge features the same rim dimensions as the .44 Magnum model so it can be converted to shoot .44 Magnum with just a barrel and magazine swap. If you have a .357 Magnum model and want to go up to the .44 Magnum/50 AE interchangeability, it requires a few extra minutes to swap out the bolt swap in addition to the the magazine and barrel. Buy one Desert Eagle XIX and you have the ability to convert and shoot any of the three offered calibers. A barrel and magazine runs around $550-$650 depending on barrel options and an extra bolt for the .357 to .44 Mag rim size swap is $200.

All these hidden features are far cooler aspects of the pistol than its looks. It was these features unique to the Desert Eagle design which forced the rather unorthodox ergonomics and size.  Even the trigger was designed to deliver a very high grade match grade feel to enhance accuracy. Most would expect a gun this size to have a 100lb trigger pull, however in reality it is a exceptionally light 4lb trigger pull. Most of your match grade bench AR15 target rifles have triggers the same weight.

Many of my friends have already asked why .357 Magnum versus the .44 Magnum or 50AE caliber. Well to be honest I am at the age where I am  not particularly interested in getting beat to death. The .357 Magnum version is a smooth shooting dream of a gun to shoot fast and accurately. Feeding this fun gun .357 Magnum rounds is about 30%-50% less expensive than .44 Magnum rounds and about 1/4 the cost of 50AE rounds. Simply put, I can financially justify the savings round by round and make the shooting experience a lot of fun. The beauty of the design is that I can always convert it to .44 Magnum to use in hunting... in fact that might be a great follow up article down the road.

The Desert Eagle does deliver a velocity advantage over revolvers with similar sized barrel chambered in the same .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum calibers simply because the Desert Eagle does not lose pressure like revolvers do at the cylinder gap. The velocity increase is not double, however it can be around 20% which is not un-noticed.

Out of the factory, the Desert Eagle XIX are function tested with SAAMI spec .357 Magnum rounds to assure proper feeding and functioning however being a long time .357 Magnum shooter, I can attest that there are is a wide spectrum of loads for the .357 Magnum rounds of which some may work and some may not. Choose really hot.

Notably, I have a few  functioning issues with some of my lighter (under spec) hand loaded .357 Magnum rounds and some lower powered factory rounds. Most of these issues were just short cycles, however I did have a few failure to feeds due to the short stroking with the under powered rounds.  The Desert Eagle likes the rounds hot, so bring the heat.

Probably the most awesome part of of this amazing looking Diva'esk gun is that it allows the shooter to actually hit things very accurately. The Desert Eagle's have a long and very established history of delivering 1" 25-yard group with quality ammo and I happily experienced bit better. Even 50 and 100 yard shots on 6" steel was doable. It would have been easier with a scope attached which the Desert Eagle XIX is ready for with the integrated picatinny rail. One thing to note is that when a scope is mounted it is mounted directly to the barrel which greatly enhances shot to shot accuracy and since the optic will travel with the barrel, it allows a perfect zero to be maintained no matter how many times you remove the barrel. The barrel does not reciprocate, just the slide which allows the optic to less of a beating and much faster shooting with optics on the near recoil-less shooting .357 Magnum caliber.
Gas Pressure Adjustment? Unfortunately I was misinformed
This is the gas tube plug.

The .357 Magnum is so easy shooting even with to extremely hot heavy grain'ed rounds. One of the reasons I did want the .357 Magnum round is that with just FMJ rounds, I can take rabbits and similar edible critters without turning a meal into a bloody smudge but jump over to a soft tip round for deer. Likely I will never use this gun for personal defense, however it would send a really interesting message to an attacker.

Everyone asks “Why”? The answer is "Why not?". We as shooters need to loosen up and have some fun. I think we sometimes, or a lot, get all wrapped up in features which really do not mean a thing. I think it says a lot that you can take a grossly over priced, oversized, and overweight gun with questionable ergonomics which demands a lot from the shooter to just use and it is never set down for three hours at the range with a line of friends waiting for their turn. This is probably the most fun I have had since buying a Henry Big Boy or my Ruger SASS Single Action Revolver set of which neither of those guns have any real tactically practical purpose either. My only regrets are not ordering three extra magazines with the gun and not going ahead and ordering the bolt, magazine and barrel for the .44 Magnum conversion, because I am betting those are backordered.

As it turns out, Diva's are a blast to hang around with. They bring character, un-anticipated fun which makes us drawn to such a free uninhibited design... maybe that is the real reason we all love this pistol.

All models feature a full Weaver style accessory rail on the barrel from the end of the chamber to right behind the front sight and standard ambidextrous safeties.

Model .357 Magnum Models
Type Gas-operated, rotating bolt semi automatic
Caliber .357 MAGNUM
Barrel Length 6” / 152 mm
Overall Length 10.75” / 27.3 cm
Groove Diameter .357” / 9.1 mm
Height 6.25” / 15.9 cm
Slide Width 1.25” / 32 mm
Construction High quality carbon steel barrel, frame and slide w/ full Weaver style accessory rail
Finish Black oxide and various custom finishes
Trigger Single action, approx. 4 lb. pull
Trigger Reach 2.75” / 70 mm
Sight Radius 8.5” / 215 mm
Sights Combat type, fixed
Polygonal Rifling w / Right Hand Twist, 6 lands & grooves 1 turn in 14” / 355 mm
Weight (Empty Magazine) 4 lbs. 8.4 oz.
Magazine Capacity 9 rounds
MSRP $ 2070

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am fortunate to own a .50 desert Eagle in gold titanium. At $2/rd. I don’t shoot it as often as my other pistols but when I do it’s a show stopper at the range����