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The Iconic Punisher: Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50 AE Review

by Joel Hutchcroft   |  February 14th, 2013 8


Now, I have to admit that I never was much of a fan of the Desert Eagle. And most of you regular readers of Shooting Times know that I have always had a penchant for traditional handguns (1911s, DA and SA revolvers, and such), so a gold, tiger-striped, mammoth hand cannon is just about the last thing I wanted to shoot. But that’s the newest version of the Desert Eagle, and I have to be honest here, after unpacking the new pistol, the more I handled this big, flashy boomer, the more excited I got about taking it out and shooting the heck out of it. So, even if this isn’t your usual interest in handguns, give this report a read. You just might find yourself giving the big Desert Eagle its due.

The Pistol
The current Desert Eagle is called the Mark XIX. Prior models included the Mark I and the Mark VII. All versions are gas operated, and unlike the barrels of recoil-operated semiautos, Desert Eagle barrels are fixed. Here’s a simplified explanation of how the pistol operates:

Upon firing, once the bullet has passed a gas port located near the breech, gases travel through a tube under the barrel and pass to a piston that’s fixed at the front of the slide. The gases force the piston to push the slide assembly toward the rear, unlocking the pistol’s rotating bolt. At this point the extractor removes the fired case, and a spring-loaded ejector throws it out to the right.

The slide assembly is returned to battery via a dual captive recoil spring assembly, stripping a new round from the magazine and chambering it. The bolt then interlocks with the barrel for firing. As you can see in the accompanying photo, the bolt looks like one from a tactical rifle, and you can see how its lugs mate with the corresponding mortises in the chamber end of the barrel.

The trigger mechanism is single action, and it is a two-stage trigger.

Some of the Desert Eagle’s other features include an ambidextrous thumb safety that blocks the firing pin and disconnects the trigger, chrome-plated chamber, combat-style trigger guard to facilitate two-handed shooting, combat-style fixed sights, and an integral optics-ready Picatinny rail. The review sample came with a 6-inch barrel, but you can also get a 10-inch barrel if you prefer. The 6-inch-barreled version weighs 70 ounces and is 10.75 inches long overall. Magazine capacity is seven rounds of .50 AE ammo.

Some of the optional finishes available are black, brushed chrome, matte chrome, polished chrome, bright nickel, satin nickel, 24K gold, titanium gold, and titanium gold with tiger stripes in .50. You can get some of the models with a muzzle brake. Other caliber options are .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum.

The Cartridge
The .50 Action Express has a rebated rim that is the same dimensions as the case head of the .44 Mag. (.460 inches in diameter), but its body is big enough to hold .500-inch bullets. The .50 AE was designed to fit specifically in the Desert Eagle auto pistol back in the late 1980s, and it was “domesticated” by CCI-Speer and offered as a commercial round in 1991. Today, Hornady also produces factory ammo.

The cartridge’s originator was Evan Whilden, and it was created to drop metallic silhouette targets and big game in its tracks. Original ammo was loaded with .510-inch bullets, but production pistols now require .500-inch bullets. Industry maximum pressure is 35,000 psi, and velocities of factory ammunition generally run around 1,475 for 300-grain loadings and 1,400 fps for 350-grain offerings. At those speeds, the big .50 AE auto pistol cartridge has as much downrange energy at 100 yards as a typical .44 Mag. load does at the muzzle.

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