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Handgun Reviews Semiauto Tactical

Desert Eagle .50 Action Express Review

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  December 4th, 2013 13

Desert Eagle .50 Action Express Being rather a practical sort, my reaction to the big .50 AE Desert Eagle semiauto handgun has always been “Why?” It’s too heavy to carry comfortably, it’s too big to even pretend to conceal it, and it’s much too powerful for the average shooter to fire comfortably. Shooting one rapid-fire is impossible, no matter what Hollywood portrays. Not to mention the fact that .50 AE ammo is expensive—if you can find it.

While that’s all true, it’s also the most powerful semiauto handgun in the world, at least that I’m aware of. It’s got the good looks of a military Humvee: big, rawboned and very capable. It has the distinction of being almost a legitimate bear stopper—and I mean charge stopper, not just killer. So when offered the chance to review the reintroduced version with a 10-inch barrel, curiosity got the best of me, and I jumped at the chance.

The Desert Eagle is foundationally different than most semiauto pistols—in myriad ways. It’s gas operated rather than recoil operated. It has a rotating bolt that locks into the breech of the barrel when it goes into battery. The barrel itself is of fixed design, and it’s a complex, machined arrangement with an optic rail on top and gas port and piston housing below.

Here’s a closer look at each of these unique characteristics. Unlike most semiauto pistols, which harness recoil to function the slide, the Desert Eagle bleeds off a small amount of gas through a port at the bottom of the barrel and harnesses it to drive the action.

The port is 5.95 inches in front of the breech of the fixed 10-inch barrel and is housed in what I’m going to term an integ­ral gas block. A piston protrudes from the front of the slide assembly, fitting inside that integral gas block when the handgun is in battery. When the pistol is fired, gas bleeds from the barrel after the bullet passes the gas port, acting against the front of the piston and pushing it rearward, causing the slide to retract and the bolt to rotate out of battery.

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