Desert Eagle 50: just how powerful is ithis handgun really?

The Desert Eagle is famed as one of the world's most powerful handguns, but is it really? Let's take a quick look at this fearsome "handcannon."
Christopher McFadden
  • The Desert Eagle 50 is probably one of the best-known handguns ever.
  • It has appeared in films, computer games, and popular culture for many years.
  • But just how powerful is it?

If you've ever watched "Last Action Hero," "Snatch," and "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," then you've seen the Desert Eagle in action, in fiction, at least. Although some revolvers can deliver a higher velocity, this handgun is about as powerful as a semi-automatic handgun gets!

Let's see if all the hype lives up to reality. It is, after all, claimed to be one of the "most powerful handguns."

The Desert Eagle's gubbins

In 1983, Magnum Research and the Riga Arms Institute submitted a patent application for the gun. This patent laid down the basic plans for the Desert Eagle as a gas-actuated pistol, much like the famous AK-47. This patent was refined in 1985 after Israel Military Industries (IMI) refined the weapon's designs. The Desert Eagle's basic concept is that the gun is fired using a single action hammer and has a manual side "safety" switch on the slide.

What makes the Desert Eagle 50 so potent is its use of a gas-operated mechanism that you would typically expect to find in a rifle. Most semi-automatic handguns tend to utilize short recoil or blowback designs. Effectively, this uses gas ported from a fired round to assist a new bullet being loaded into the firing chamber. Without going into too much detail, this system allows the gun to use more powerful cartridges than other semi-automatic handguns.

Because it is gas-operated, the barrel can be fixed in position, just like rifles. The barrel also boasts a six-rib polygonal rifling like medium-bore Glock pistols. For this reason, the Desert Eagle 50 does indeed deserve its "infamy" as a very powerful handgun.

So much so that both the Magnum and the Desert Eagle are often mentioned in the same sentence as notoriously powerful revolvers! The Desert Eagle's design allows guns to be readily and easily converted between .50 and .44 calibers. You only need to switch out the barrel, bolt assembly, and magazine.

Does the Desert Eagle live up to the hype?

You've seen from the gun's design that it is elevated above most semi-automatic pistols for one key reason. The size of the bullet it can fire. The very fact that this gun can handle 0.50-caliber rounds certainly gives it some "bang for your buck."

As an aside, 0.50 caliber is the largest "legal" caliber allowed for a handgun in the U.S. Its magazines can go from 0.357 to 0.50 AE, where the smallest has a 7-bullet capacity, and the largest has a 9-bullet capacity. Don't be fooled by these small numbers, severe because you can do some serious damage with a complete cartridge. Not only can the Desert Eagle 50 handle big rounds it's not a tiny weapon either.

The average .50-configuration weighs just over 2 kilograms, or about 4.5 pounds (the Mark XIX, to be precise).  That is a pretty big weight for a handgun. The Desert Eagle has a long history. The first model, The Mark I, usually had a steel frame and was no longer produced. The Mark VII added an adjustable trigger, and it also introduced accessories.

The later model would add a weaver-pattern rail. When the company decided to create a new series, it focused on a product that would cater to everyone. With the Mark XIX, you can change custom parts and pick a cool finish, such as gold or black. The iron sight was also a nice feature.

Reviews from gun users show that it is challenging to master. However, it is undoubtedly fun to fire, by all accounts. It does suffer from frequent jamming, at least for the inexperienced welder, but its fame seems more due to its glamor than actual functionality. That being said, the gun is a very powerful handheld firearm.

What is the stopping power of a Desert Eagle?

You'll probably see many videos testing guns and ammunition against various targets. Often, they tend to involve fruit for some reason. In many games and films, you may even see it being used to shoot and disable car engines, blow through building materials, or "open" locked doors. Even a meme suggests .50 caliber rounds can shoot an intruder through a refrigerator in your neighbor's house. Is this true? The following video involves the Desert Eagle and .50 ammo to see if it's true.

Well, it certainly can nail fruit. And it seems to make short work of a refrigerator; this meme might have some "legs." It can be argued that this penetrating power is more to do with the size of the bullet and the amount of gunpowder it packs rather than the gun.

But remember that the gun's design enables the weapon to accommodate and fire rounds of this size. Plus, don't all handguns, all firearms' power, rely on the type of projectile they use?

The Desert Eagle was primarily developed for use as a battlefield weapon rather than one for self-defense or casual use. It represents one of the best tactical handguns regarding high penetration. When loaded with .50 AE ammo, its power conceivably allows the user to defeat personal body armor and penetrate cover-like walls.

Holy cow, don't believe us? Watch it obliterate some rocks!

The Desert Eagle has quite the cult status. It has many notable appearances in popular culture, like films and video games, and is undoubtedly a fearsome handgun.

The weapon has some serious penetrating power when configured and loaded with .50 AE ammunition. We have seen how it can easily rip through fridges and obliterate rocks. Power aside, the weapon seems relatively useless for the casual user at a gun range or, indeed, as a weapon for self-defense. You might as well carry a rocket launcher around with you.

The Desert Eagle 50 is a cumbersome handgun but certainly very powerful. Most experts view it as a clumsy piece, but there is also a case to be made for purchasing it. So what do you think? Is the Desert Eagle more bark than bite? Does it live up to its reputation as one of the world's most powerful handguns?

And that is your lot for today.

The Desert Eagle is a true testament to the power and performance of a firearm. Its exceptional build, unique design, and impressive firepower make it popular among gun enthusiasts and professionals. Whether you're a collector or a shooter, the Desert Eagle is an undeniable force to be reckoned with, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who experiences its power firsthand.

Have you ever fired one, or do you own one? We'd love to hear your stories and experience, so please share them in the comment section below!

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board